In one of my previous blogs, ‘Developing confidence as a personality trait’, I spoke about how improved self-management leads to higher confidence levels in the individual. One need not be a genius to feel confident. One need simply manage one’s self better.
Before one manages one’s self, there is a more basic step and that’s self-awareness. All transformation begins with an awareness of the self. I want to talk about what that is.
Popular culture labels self-awareness and those involved in it as ‘philosophers’ and they often misjudge the process to be similar to something called ‘analysis paralysis.’ This is untrue. To those who have never introspected about themselves, any form of self-awareness will appear like philosophical speculation or even narcissism. But a healthy measure of self-awareness is vital for personal achievement, interpersonal relations, dealing with stress, and sustainable living. All these things – in the absence of self-awareness – will only take one so far.
So what is self-awareness?
It is the process of being in tune with one’s inner self.
1. What are we thinking?
2. What are we feeling?
3. Why do we think and feel those things?
4. How do they inspire us to act with ourselves and with others?
5. What are the consequences?
If one can, during a difficult situation, take time to think of those questions and answer them honestly, then one takes the first and most difficult step towards self-awareness and that is an acknowledgment that
1) something is going on inside our heads and
2) this affects our lives and
3) we are not passive recipients of these thoughts; we can change our thoughts to change our reality.
The minute you realize this, you have taken a big step. What you have done – without realizing it – is change the locus of control from outward to inward.
Awareness is often mistaken as a preoccupation with what’s outward: the effects of what people say on us, the effect of the environment on us, and so on. Many people react to all these external stimuli and as a result, their lives are a constant pageant of emotional reactions as opposed to rational responses. They become slaves to external stimuli. But in increasing self-awareness – the thoughts and feelings inside us – we start to understand a very important truth: life is 90% what happens to us and 10% how we react to it.
To take an oft cited example, the same boiling water hardens the egg but softens the potato. So what matters is not the external circumstance. What matters is what goes on inside and this is what self-awareness is all about.
So true awareness is inward-focused and it realizes that all our reactions are basically reflections of our own inner hopes and fears. If we know what is going on inside us better, we can respond better and feel calmer.
Here are some ways to develop self-awareness:
1. Write a journal every day. In it, make some rough notes on what happens during the day to you, and how you react. Analyse your notes and you will see that a pattern emerges. You will gain awareness of your stress triggers, happiness factors, work, moods, etc. If you knew how you act, it is possible to manage it. Research also shows that people who regularly maintain journals are more in touch with their inner lives, are calmer, and feel less stressful in the long run. Writing can be therapeutic and clarifying.
2. List your strengths and think about how you would like to develop on them.
3. List your weaknesses and see how you can reduce their negative effect on your career and personal life.
4. List the habits that have a negative impact on your life, and try to understand the triggers that lead you to committing the act, be it smoking, losing your temper, eating excessively, etc. Quite often our behaviour as consumers reflects some frustrated inner need. Once we know the need better, we can regulate ourselves better and not be slaves to our natures.
5. Question everything. Question processes, self-proclaimed gurus, inflexible methods, and routines. If something feels wrong, question it. Don’t be afraid to find the truth and re-engineer your life around it.
6. Play the ‘why game.’ Here are some interesting questions that when answered can give you insights about yourself. Play the game here.
What’s the point of this self-awareness?
For starters, you will feel more in control of who you are and how you respond to the world.
You will be more productive at work.
You will handle your personal life and relations better.
You will have access to leadership positions.
In the end, you become the best, fullest version of yourself, one where your strengths are amplified and your weaknesses mitigated, and where your mind, body and spirit are acting in unison and without fragmentation.
About the Author:
Sandhya Reddy is a Life coach and Leadership coach based in Bangalore, India. She is the Founder and Principal Coach at Chapter Two Coaching, a coaching consultancy that enables everyone from CEOs to work-from-home parents to achieve their goals by replacing self-imposed limitations with enabling stories.
Sandhya, a life coach in Bangalore, who runs a life coaching academy, can help individuals with a desire for change to examine their beliefs – or their ‘stories’ – and change them for the better, so they can achieve their goals.
Many of us in our thirties experience a disquieting realization: what brought us to middle-management may not take us to senior-management. This is true. To chart a new career path, one needs to think and do things differently. This is where Sandhya can help. She is a coach. Life coaching, executive coaching, personality development, leadership coaching… they are all part of her forte. Her Executive coaching programs helps tomorrow’s leaders set new goals, make new plans to achieve those goals, get that elusive promotion through a blend of knowledge, action and image-building, enhance influence among the leadership team, be more productive, get more out of one’s team, and be known in the company as an indispensable performer and future leader.