How Well Do You Know Yourself? Take This Quiz.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.

This Wednesday: Quiz–Answer these questions to boost your self-knowledge.

A key–perhaps the key–to a happy life is self-knowledge, because as the Fifth Splendid Truth holds, I can build a happy life only on the foundation of my own nature. In my own case, I’ve found that the more my life reflects my real interests, values, and temperament, the happier I become.

But it’s very hard to know ourselves; it’s easy to be distracted by the way we wish we were, or think we ought to be, or what others think we should be, until we lose sight of what is actually true. There’s a sadness to self-knowledge.

As Christopher Alexander observed: “It is hard, so terribly hard, to please yourself. Far from being the easy thing that it sounds like, it is almost the hardest thing in the world, because we are not always comfortable with that true self that lies deep within us.”

Here is a list of questions meant to help you think about yourself, your daily habits, your nature, and your interests. There are no right or wrong answers; they’re fodder for reflection.

If something is forbidden, do you want it less or more?

Is there an area of your life where you feel out of control? Especially in control?

If you unexpectedly had a completely free afternoon, what would you do with that time?

Are you comfortable or uncomfortable in a disorderly environment?

How much time do you spend looking for things you can’t find?

Are you motivated by competition?

Fill in the blank: “I really wish I could make consistent progress on my project to _______.”

Do you find it easier to do things for other people than to do things for yourself?

Whom do you envy? Why?

What do you lie about? For instance, a friend told me he’d been telling people that he walked to work, when in fact he almost never does.

What did you do for fun when you were ten years old? Do you still do that activity–or would you like to do it?

Do you work constantly? or think you should be working?

Do you embrace rules or flout rules?

Do you keep New Year’s resolutions?

Do you work well under pressure? Deadlines?

What would your perfect day look like?

How much TV do you watch in a week (and yes, this includes computer time spent watching videos, movies, YouTube)?

Are you a morning person or a night person?

What’s more satisfying to you: saving time or saving money?

Do you like to be in the spotlight?

Is your life “on hold” in any aspect? Until you finish your thesis, get married, lose weight, move?

What would you do if you had more energy?

If you suddenly had an extra room in your house, what would you do with it?

What people and activities energize you? Make you feel depleted? For instance, as an under-buyer, I very much dislike shopping.

Is it hard for you to get rid of things that you no longer need or want?

On a typical night, what time do you go to bed? How many hours of sleep do you get?

If at the end of the year, you had accomplished one thing, what is the one accomplishment that would make the biggest difference to your happiness?

Is there an activity that you love to do–yet somehow never seem actually to do it?

The process of answering these questions is meant to help spur ideas for possible change. I often find that once I start paying attention to an area of my life, it becomes natural and easy to make helpful alterations in my everyday habits.

Here’s a final question for you: What questions would you add to this list, to help other people know themselves better? It’s so important, and so elusive.

  • Kanchan

    Very good list of questions. I realised I never give importance to my priorities & grudges a lot afterwords,I am always after making people happy?

  • Very stimulating exercise.

  • LizCat

    These are very thought-provoking. I would add, “Is your ideal vacation adventurous or completely relaxing?”

  • Mara

    “If something wonderful happened to you, with whom would you really want to share the news with?” Some people in your life will increase that joy– it’s great to think about who they are.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great addition.

  • “What do you feel right now?”

    As an alternative to the many (excellent) questions focused on doing things.

  • Amy H.

    “Are you a planner, or do you prefer to be spontaneous?” Highly applicable to travel and social life/entertainment, but the rest of life as well.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great addition

  • AliB

    I feel like one big conflict of interest – comfortable in disorder yet project is to tidy up, spending hours looking for things and yet desperate for more time, feel I should work more yet here I am answering your questions!! Thanks for getting me thinking – love the additions below too

  • Silvina

    Thank you, good exercise 🙂

  • Susanne

    Love this, Gretchen — one of the best I’ve seen. And the questions added by your readers are wonderful! Thanks everyone for a very insightful exercise.

  • Julie

    Do you care more about what others think than your own gut tells you?
    I always trust my own experience over other peoples’ opinions.

  • Monica

    What is one biggest thing that you regret in life?

    • HDM

      Nothing ~ It has all made me who I am.

  • These are highly stimulating questions. They make me realise how strongly my values centre on work. Free afternoon? Do some personal work (ie write a blog post). Extra room in the house? Turn it into an office. Happily, my favourite activities when I was 10 – reading and dancing – I still engage in with gusto! Lots to think about. Many thanks!

    • gretchenrubin

      I really appreciate it.

    • Kevin Walsh

      My first thought when I saw the ‘extra room’ question was to sell the house and move to a smaller one, LOL. I think I must be a natural downsizer (I’m definitely an under-shopper).

  • Shi Liang Peng

    When you live with a person who has deep contradiction with you ,how do you deal with it?

  • MC

    If your life was a movie, …. Would you enjoy watching it?????

    • Tracey

      This is brill I’m going to keep it and make sure I start enjoying watching!

    • dd

      that sounds like a tall order; I would be bored to tears watching a movie of my life, but I am very calm and relaxed; to me that’s more important than being interesting

  • Kevin Walsh

    “What’s your biggest fear?”

    And a related one:

    “What’s your biggest secret? The one you think you’ll never tell anybody? Why not?”

  • This is one I just learned (from Mark McGuinness via – “What’s your obvious?” What is something about you that seems dull or unremarkable to you, but others see as special? This is your talent.

  • Nancy

    What do you like and value in a true friend? I really thought about it, and realized my favorite people are openminded and willing to try new things. Makes new friends easier to spot!

  • Anna Pham

    Nice list of questions, which I have never really ask myself before. Thanks for sharing Gretcher.

  • Laura J

    Loved these questions and I took quizzed my husband over dinner on our date night … made for great intimate conversation! He had a couple of good questions to add:
    1 – “How do you define love?”
    2 – “If you could know when you’re going to die, would you want to?”

  • Alexia Anastasio

    I always like asking, “if money was no object what would you do with your life?” Especially interesting to ask high school students.

  • Charles Bradford

    Tough quiz. I don’t think I passed.

  • Caroline

    If I had a extra room I would want to give a child that needs help a chance in life and foster

  • Andrew

    “Whats do you usually think about before you go to bed?” Really shows where your mind is, in my humble opinion.

  • Ondecision, Inc.

    These are fantastic questions — thanks for sharing! I also like, “When you hear or read about other people’s lives, what do you notice yourself admiring?”

  • Ivan Jericho Panaguiton

    Which part of your life you really know better?

  • Ashley Barbee

    I’m on chapter 5 of The Happiness Project and LOVING it! This book came to me just when I needed it…”when the student is ready to learn…”
    Also, this quiz was great. I’ve very carefully thought out each question and answer, recorded them in a notebook, and dated it. I want to keep fleshing out this exercise as I develop my own Happiness Project and refer back to some of my answers as I get to know and become more myself.

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so happy to hear that it strikes a chord with you!

  • Holly


  • Neha Chhabra

    If something comes up unexpectedly on a preplanned day, do i take it in my stride.. Or does it upset me to the extent that the day only gets worse from there? Eg: If I have plans for a movie and guests arrive. Would I have a good time with them, or would I be bitter all day? Am I flexible?

    • Sara Smith

      This is a great question, it really can tell a lot about a person.

    • Kelly OBrien Burford

      WOW what a great question Neha!

  • Searching myself

    One more ques. can be
    Am I satisfied ?

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