The Importance of Self-Awareness
Eric Hoffer, American author and moral philosopher, once inspired his audience with this insight: “To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are.”
DO YOU KNOW what you are? Have you ever taken a good, hard look at yourself, inside and out?
“Self-awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong, good or bad.” - Debbie Ford
DO YOU UNDERSTAND the inner you as well as the outward portrayal of yourself?
“By becoming self-aware, you gain ownership of reality; in becoming real, you become the master of both inner and outer life.” - Deepak Chopra
DO YOU LIVE each day even remotely aware of your moral tendencies, social proclivities and emotional drivers?
“Self-awareness is our capacity to stand apart from ourselves and examine our thinking, our motives, our history, our scripts, our actions, and our habits and tendencies.” - Stephen Covey
Daniel Goleman, author of several books on social and emotional intelligence, refers to self-awareness as the “keystone” of emotional intelligence, or EQ. As we age and experience more and more of all that life has to offer, one of the most important factors in maturing well and increasing our EQ has to do with increasing one’s self-awareness, especially regarding emotional responses such as sadness, anger or crying.
The Advantages of Self-Awareness
1. Self-awareness enables us to remove our blind spots as we increase our knowledge and understanding. How?
- By reflecting on and becoming more aware of our behaviors, thoughts and emotions
- By understanding our best self, worst self, and the real self (that part of you which doesn't change)
- By managing the inner you that is ultimately the public display of you
- By seeking feedback and honestly evaluating the perspectives of others
- By monitoring our progress and recording the details of our response during any emotionally-fraught situation
Personal Example: I am a blogger. I read constantly, research, take notes, organize, rationalize, write, and tell my stories. In so doing, I am becoming more self-aware. I find myself labeling my patterns of behavior and evaluating my interactions with others. And I continue to hold in high regard the opinions and viewpoints of my closest friends and family members.
The follow-through needed: Seek wisdom and understanding about yourself, your strengths and any weaknesses, then resolve to grow, to change, to mature, and become all that you can and should be.
Increasing our emotional intelligence means that we are learning to recognize negative reactions in ourselves (and others) and that we are striving to manage ourselves better during those stressful, challenging situations which every life entails. The goal is to exercise control over our emotions by maintaining an attitude of respect when others are involved, accepting personal responsibility, and expressing our thoughts and feelings more appropriately in those pivotal moments. Success in this area alone has the potential to greatly impact our friendships, marriages, workplace relationships, and more.
2. Self-awareness can transform fear and resistance into an openness to what is as yet unknown. How?
- By breeding greater confidence, motivation and fulfilment
- By exploring new experiences, people and places
“Fear comes from uncertainty; we can eliminate the fear within us when we know ourselves better.” - Bruce Lee
The Honesty of Fear: We can talk big, brag with the best of them, tell some great tales, but in many of us lurks some fear. It can be fear of literally anything – death, spiders, germs, heights, deep water, roller coasters, people not like you, making a mistake and getting into trouble, being too slow or too overweight, driving in big cities, etc.
Suggestion: Know yourself and your fears. Write down what you are honestly afraid of and then work to conquer those fears one at a time. Allow yourself to experience all that life offers, even the determination and learning experience that failures and successes, both big and small, can boast.
3. Self-awareness provides greater insight into one’s personality, habits, needs and values.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” - Carl Jung
Did you ever . . . ? Have you ever worked with someone who got on your very last nerve? Sure you have, and so have I. In my case, it was my immediate supervisor. She was not necessarily a micro-manager, which happens to be one of my pet peeves; she just had a lazy streak, in this one respect, anyway. She consistently left hundreds of sticky notes asking me to do the most mundane, annoying tasks which she could have easily done herself (like the other ten people in the office did) in about the same time it took to write the note. Drove me crazy!
My point? You probably guessed it. I can be equally lazy and must sometimes remind myself to take care of the seemingly petty stuff myself as often as I can. That irritating, unattractive trait your co-worker, manager, or spouse displays constantly . . . there's probably a similar version of the same trait concealed somewhere inside of you just waiting to rear its ugly head (and probably already has - many times over).
4. Self-awareness creates better decision makers whose choices will line up with his or her values and belief system - by helping you discover what truly motivates you.
Our search for motivation: For this point, let me address something that matters to many of us – physical fitness and our weight. What motivates you to lose those extra pounds and get in shape?
- Is it the perfect diet?
- Is it a gym membership?
- A morning run/walk with a friend or spouse?
- Maybe it’s a sports related activity or a workout at home.
- Do you want to read books and soak up information from various internet articles about what a body needs as you perfect a plan for yourself?
Whatever it is that motivates you, that is what will usher in weight loss success. If you join a gym but aren’t motivated by “going” or “getting out of the house” or “social interaction”, it is highly unlikely that you will go more than a few times, if that many.
Truth: Real motivation is inward not outward. Discover what your core motivators are in life and find a way live life well both in and out of the office, making solid decisions and doing what you must do in a way that lines up with the real you.
5. Self-awareness can help you improve your leadership skills.
- By leading a more disciplined personal and professional life, people will come to respect you
- By improving interpersonal skills, you will become a) less authoritative yet still in control, b) less controlling but still the final decision maker, and c) less forceful yet have a greater positive effect and long-term impact on others
Personal Narrative: As a teacher, I never preferred a totally "quiet" classroom, but I did want my music students to pay attention and participate. I did not want them chatting incessantly. But this time the talking was out of control. I found myself frustrated with them. So, I asked what they wanted. What would motivate them to listen better and sing out? They said ice cream and games, so that's what my music classes became - a game with periodic ice cream parties as a reward. I have never had so much fun singing and celebrating with elementary kids. And the discipline took care of itself because they earned or lost their daily point by how well they did two things during each class: how successfully they played the game, "Name That Tune," and by how well they all paid attention and sang. Rarely did I have to ask them to be quiet or sing; they reminded each other. They wanted to earn the day's point, not lose it.
The Lesson Learned? I became aware of my own frustrations with these students and met them where they were. I discovered their motivators. Changes were made, and the transformation began. I exercised less authority, yet I enjoyed a disciplined group of students. I maintained control without being obnoxiously controlling. I seldom, if ever, had to enforce or remind them of the rules. And the outcome was impressive: joy and lots of great music. Plus, my former students still remind me about what fun my music classes were. Best of all, after a while, it was not so much about winning the ice cream party but about the personal pleasure experienced by each student through their interactions with me, each other, and the music itself.
1. Don’t be so ego-driven or close-minded.
Be more curious. Ask better questions. Be truly open to others and their ideas.
“The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, person and family history, belief systems, and often nationalistic, racial, religious, and other collective identifications. None of these is you.” - Eckhart Tolle
2. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Face them head-on.
“Self-awareness is one of the rarest of human commodities. I don’t mean self-consciousness where you’re limiting and evaluating yourself. I mean being aware of your own patterns.” - Tony Robbins
3. Stay focused and use your time wisely.
Are you a slow-mover or even a procrastinator? If so, have you ever taken the time to simply write down what you do all day? It can be a real eye-opener! I am a thinker who can easily spend endless hours merely pondering tasks or problems without moving forward with my other responsibilities. Time just seems to slip on by, and I let it. Even composing an email can take an inordinate amount of time if I allow my perfectionist tendencies to get the best of me. My goal is constantly to be more aware of the time I spend dwelling on (considering and procrastinating versus completing) specific tasks, large or small.
4. When stressed, be extra aware of your emotions.
When you find yourself in the middle of a volatile or emotionally-charged situation, take time to breathe and think through the situation before you attempt to communicate your thoughts. You may have been advised that counting to 10 before responding is the best rule of thumb, but it's actually best to wait 20 minutes or longer before responding. Click HERE to learn why your brain needs more than 10 seconds to respond rationally, especially when emotions are running high.
Learn to identify and manage the negative emotional reactions which may tend to rule you when faced with stress and conflict.
“If your emotional abilities aren't in hand, if you don't have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can't have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” - Daniel Goleman
5. Talk to others and get their feedback on your common facial expressions, tone of voice, and word choice(s).
Years ago, I spoke to one of my bosses in passing and asked, “Why are you smiling so big today?” His shared comment made me laugh out loud. He had just had his yearly evaluation, and there had been complaints about his moody, often scowling or sad, facial expressions. So, he was trying to make a change, and good for him! Sometimes what seems “natural” to us in how we express ourselves is actually a thing that needs to change and can change if we will simply make the effort to do so.
How to Assess Your Self-Awareness
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TTI Success Insights® - Personal Insights, Attitudes and Values (PIAV) Assessment
The PIAV assessment offers insight as to why a person behaves a certain way. The assessment report will reveal your top motivators so you can discover the passion behind your choices of behavior, especially when it comes to decision-making, social interactions, your need and appreciation for particular things in life, and dealing with challenging, stressful situations.
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