abstract art of woman standing on seashell looking at giant compass for self discovery.

20 Thought Provoking Questions for Self-Discovery

Anyone on a journey of self-discovery needs to ask themselves questions to stir up thoughts and emotions that lead to reflection. Growth comes with challenges—to yourself and for yourself.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and be honest with yourself. It will lead to understanding, acceptance, change, and growth.

What Three Words Describe Me Most?

Woman writing in notebook.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Start with a list that has no limits. Go all in and write down everything that comes to mind. Ask friends, family, and even co-workers what three words they would use to describe you. Once you’ve exhausted the list, narrow it down. Then, if these aren’t words you like…choose three new words that capture the essence of who you want to be and begin the process of becoming that person by asking more of these questions for self-discovery.

What Matters Most in My Life?

hand writes with a pen in a notebook.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Take the time to reflect and write down what matters most to you. If you are honest with yourself, you will be able to develop a list that highlights various areas of your life. These might include:

  • family
  • friends
  • faith
  • education
  • and career.

List at least 5-7 values in each category.

Am I Living True to Myself?

Woman pondering with hand on chin.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Once you’ve listed the values in each category, honestly assess yourself. Are you living a life that reflects your values? 

You may be surprised to discover that your actions arent' matching the values you wrote down. Many people hold on to their perceived values only to discover they are living a life that doesn’t resemble their beliefs.

What Are Some Skills I Need to Improve On?

Man looking at self in mirror.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

As you discover your values, you will need to make adjustments to move towards a life you desire. What are some skills you need to improve or develop to live out the life you most desire? What skills will help you amplify what matters most to you? 

How Do I Handle Criticism?

Black and white woman being pointed at by hands.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

No one wants to face criticism. It’s not enjoyable. It makes us uncomfortable. It can even make us upset and angry. But criticism is part of personal growth and self-discovery. It can be used as a point of reflection to identify what we need to change or adjust in our daily lives in order to be who we want to be.

How Do I Handle Unexpected Situations?

expect the unexpected text.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

You’ve heard it said: Expect the unexpected. Throughout your life, there will always be situations that arise, causing discomfort. Your response reflects the core of who you are. Do you remain calm or fly off the handle? Do you freeze or react? Explore your responses and determine whether or not they are in line with the person you want to be.

How Do I Define Success?

Man thinking about extra arms.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Success is different for everyone and changes over time. Begin with defining what success will look like for you today, then work your way out. Or, identify your ultimate success and work backward to find the steps you need to take today to begin achieving your success. In a year, you’ll be in a different place if you commit to the steps to reach your success.

How Do I Start My Day?

Woman getting out of bed in sunny morning.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

There are countless books that provide a framework to live your life. But it all starts with your waking hours. Many experts say starting your day before the sun rises is the best time to kick off the day. But it’s not for everyone. Whenever you wake up, do it with purpose. Once your feet hit the floor, declare, “This is going to be a good day!” Then, before going on with the routines, make your bed. You will have started your day positively and completed a task.

How Do I Cultivate a Growth Mindset?

Female Great Mormon (Papilio memnon) butterfly life cycle show turning from catapillar into butterfly.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Commit to daily improvements by setting aside time each morning – morning is best to set the stage for your day – to read about personal development or listen to podcasts that spur you on to be your best. Little by little, through tiny steps, you can discover who you are and be who you want to be.

Did I Make Time for Myself This Week?

Woman in Bath with wine glass and candles relaxing.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Self-care is vital, though often neglected. Self-care is defined as the practice of looking after one's own basic health needs or the practice of looking after one's own emotional well-being. It’s not something that “just happens” but rather a deliberate action to care for yourself. Dedicate time during the week to engage in an activity that builds you up and restores your positive feelings.

How Important Is My Physical Health to Me?

Man's feet and legs shown from behind on a trail run.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

There’s no dispute that physical health is vital to your well-being and that contributes to your journey to self-discovery. How much time do you need to spend each day to feel good and to clear your mind? A clear mind—through physical health—helps you focus on self-discovery and improvement.

How Important Is My Mental Health to Me?

Woman doing meditation
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Mental health, or mental well-being, is more than just feeling happy. Your ability to manage a wide range of emotions and circumstances is vital to self-discovery. With the vast number of options for mental care, no one needs to be alone. If you’re not managing the way you’d like, seek assistance. You’d be in good company; more than 55 million Americans sought counseling in 2022 (SAMHSA).

What Could I Do to Be Happier?

Bucket of sand on beach.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

You may have heard that everyone has a “bucket.” Your bucket only holds so much, and the more you give to others, the more depleted your bucket becomes. To fill the bucket, to feel happy, and to discover the true you, your bucket needs to be filled. Explore activities that you might enjoy. From learning the ukelele to painting ceramics, from playing cards to reading books, there’s something to make you feel happier and fill your bucket.

What Am I Doing About the Things That Matter Most in My Life?

Family birthday party in a garden. People laughing and having dinner at table while kids run around.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Usually, people identify family and friends as mattering most in life. Determine if your actions reflect that. Look at your schedule. What does it show? Where are you spending your time? Is your energy being spent on the things that matter most? If not, it’s time for a rescheduling of your time.

Am I Letting Matters That Are Out of My Control Stress Me Out?

Sad man stressed holding his head.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

With age comes wisdom. Usually. Many of the little things we worried about in our younger days never occurred. There’s very little that we actually control or have any power over. Focus your energy on what truly matters and set aside the things you have no control over.

A great first step to this is to stop watching and reading all the negative news. You don't have to shut yourself off from the world, but being intentional about how you take in news is a huge step for reducing stress, especially during elections or other tumultuous events.

What Is My Calling?

Creative woman painter with brush and palette.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

This question trips up nearly everyone. But looking at it differently is freeing. Your calling isn’t your job, career, or profession. Your calling is in you. Discover what makes you tick. Identify your traits. These could be curiosity, creativity, or compassion. These few traits translate into a calling that can take you anywhere.

Do I Feel Fulfilled at Work?

Collegues having a quick meeting.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Many don’t. But many do. These people tend to find ways to keep their jobs interesting and fresh. Go the extra mile, learn a new skill, or try something different. Discover new ways to practice your calling. Explore ways to be creative by developing a method to complete your tasks or take the time to mentor a colleague as they learn the ropes in a new position.

Do I Feel Challenged at Work?

man pulls rope and let himself acrobat walk to achieve target.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Without challenges, we grow stagnant. We won’t discover our true selves if we maintain a status quo. Ask for new opportunities. Ask for new assignments. Seek new positions that will challenge you to learn new skills. The average person has 12 jobs in their lifetime. Don’t be afraid to change and be challenged.

How Do You Prioritize Tasks?

female employee with conflicting priorities.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

We tend to prioritize what’s fun or what matters. As you work through your own self-discovery, ask yourself how you prioritize your tasks. Are you avoidant of certain tasks? If so, ask yourself, “Why?” It could be valid, or it could be that what you thought was important to you actually isn’t. That’s okay. Build your tasks around your priorities in life.

How Am I Holding Myself Back?

Woman journaling looking out a window.
Image Credit: Depositphotos.com.

Taking responsibility is tough. Most people don’t enjoy it. But ask yourself, on your journey to be the best person you can be, the journey to reach goals and experience joy in life, “How am I holding myself back?” Be honest with yourself. Write another list. Be blunt and put it all out there. Once done, you probably won’t feel great, but you’ll have an incredible resource. Select one, two, or three behaviors and focus on eliminating them from your life. Your journey of self-discovery isn’t easy. But it’s worth it.

Sources: USA.edu, Positive Psychology

Mindfulness Journaling for Stress Reduction

close up of a person's hands doodle journaling their day.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Journaling is a helpful way to process emotions, take time for self-reflection, and discover new parts of yourself.

Mindful journaling doesn't have to be complex – just getting thoughts out of your head and onto paper gives perspective. It doesn't have to be all writing either. If you'd like to try something different, doodle journaling can be both fun and impactful for stress reduction. 

Author: Todd Rowley

Title: Copywriter

Expertise: social services, transportation, mental health

Todd Rowley is a copywriter and content writer. He’s an unabashed introvert, an only child with a curious spirit, and a lover of the Oxford comma. Originally educated as a Child and Youth Worker - spending more than 25 years in the field - he also dabbled in Religious Education and Communications Studies.