“We make assumptions, and believe we are right about the assumptions; then we defend our assumptions and try to make someone else wrong.”- Don Miguel Ruiz
In today’s world, we are always under pressure to act now, rather than spend time reasoning things through and thinking about the true facts. We are often influenced and impacted by our friends family, our goals and aspirations. Our desire to lead a successful and healthy life can affect our habits, behaviour and how we live. But most of the times, we are also influenced by our expectations and assumptions as they too tend to influence our actions, behaviours and lives. We all have a tendency to make assumptions about everything, people and situations all the time and draw conclusions from them. We make assumptions about people’s feelings, needs, thoughts, motives and behaviours. Sometimes we guess about morality or credibility or goodness or badness in others. Despite facts and information, we bring our selective focus, our assumptions and our beliefs to what we think we observed. This not only derails us from our goals and stops progress in tracks but also creates self-imposed limitations, self-fulfilling prophecies, distorts motives and damages relationships. Also leads to wrong conclusions, results in conflicts, and impedes your creativity.
What are Assumptions?
An assumption is “something that you accept as true without question or proof.” They are often preconceived misconceptions about a situation, person, group or a task mostly based upon prior experiences with others or such situations. Assumptions are assuming the best or worst in people and believe them to be as absolute truths or swear they are real. Some examples are assuming that you are not good enough if you don’t get into a job you want or because you failed to get a promotion. Or you assume that most people are bad so don’t trust anyone you meet. Your parents never understood your choices, so you assume they don’t love you. At workplaces, assumptions lead to miscommunications, conflicts and affect your trust and productivity. For instance, assuming that a coworker has a full understanding of a project when they don’t Or assuming that people know why you came to a particular conclusion. Here is how certain assumptions lead to wrong actions.
• We make assumptions based on selective facts , beliefs and prior experiences.
• We then apply our existing assumptions and interpreted reality without considering facts and draw conclusions.
• We allow them to get embedded in our belief system and allow them take over based on these conclusions.
• We then take actions that seem ‘right’ because they are based on what we believe.
• This creates a vicious circle and can lead us to ignore true facts altogether thereby narrowing your field of judgment.
Why do we make assumptions?
When we are overwhelmed by fear of unknown or being unable to understand and prepare for certain events, we tend to make assumptions as they provide hope and direction in confusing times. But most often they are based on our emotions, superstitions, or misinformation and breed anxiety, hurt, anger and despair. They often lead to conflicts because of lack of shared understanding and agreements of the facts. According to cognitive science, in some ways, our brain is designed to make pattern or mental models to make it a more efficient machine. But most of our assumptions are actually learned behaviour. We tend to take on our parents’ or others’ assumptions such as assuming that we ‘do’ or ‘don’t’ deserve certain things or we ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ do certain things. As a result, we end up approaching our goals, objectives or relationships using patterning we learn from others.
We assume negative story lines when we feel left out or unacknowledged or when information we receive is incomplete. Our mind does best to make it a complete story or comes up with an answer to satisfy our questioning mind to return to a place of emotional safety. Sometimes, we are afraid to ask for clarification, so we make an assumption about what others are doing or thinking. We believe we are right about the assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally and we end up either reacting or defending and blaming others. Our need to justify everything, to explain and understand everything in order to feel safe is the reason why we make assumptions in the first place. In the absence of complete information, instead of asking questions, we tend to fill in the blanks with our interpretation of what we see and hear from past experiences, that seem similar. In trying to make sense of situation, we make assumptions.
How assumptions make you unproductive
Most of us like to think that when we assume, that we are right about our assumptions and that we have complete understanding of the situation. We think we know others’ skills, motives, abilities or competence. Because of this, we stop communicating and listening. Negative assumptions make us self-limiting and drive our behaviour in a negative way by creating spirals of self-doubt and black and white thinking. If we buy in to our assumptions – our mind is closed to various possibilities thereby disengaging us with others or opportunities. Instead of weighing up the information or evaluate the evidence, we draw unfounded conclusions in support of our assumptions or expectations both in personal or professional relationships. Especially in workplaces, we jump to conclusions without proper understanding of what Information is given or how that is understood or whether our goals are aligned with others.
In a work environment or in your personal life, when you make assumptions about others’ words, actions and motivations, you run a risk of being wrong and this can lead to unproductive habits, miscommunication and wrong decisions. We imagine that we understand why a person has taken a particular course of action and make a guess based on our past experiences, imagination or wishful thinking. Often we make the assumption that our partners in a business or personal relationship know what we think and that we don’t have to say what we want. If they don’t do what we assume they should do, we feel hurt, react or blame them damaging our professional or personal relationships. Assumptions change our attitude and outlook towards change or achieving any challenging goal. You can have vast knowledge and experience in the world, yet if you harbour the wrong assumptions, you become unproductive, stifle progress and are doomed to failure as they create lot of inner and outer conflict.
Many times we give into our assumptions like ‘we can’t do it’ or ‘it is too difficult’ and allow ourselves led by our limits, fears and give up on our goals. The problem with assumptions is that we make them as absolute truths and turn them into our beliefs. Here is why you should avoid making assumptions.
• Assumptions are an easy way out and are the major hindrance to your personal growth.
• Stifling negative assumptions show up as resistance to change and create no movement, no action therefore no results.
• They allow you to hide behind your version of the story and stop you from taking responsibility for your life.
• They keep you stuck in the past.
• Instead of asking questions to get to the facts, they make you jump to wrong conclusions.
• They lower your effectiveness in decision-making.
• They foster a negative and biased mindset and make you think that the others are there to get you.
• When making assumptions becomes a habit, we are less grounded in reality and more prone to creating problems for ourselves and others.
How to challenge your assumptions?
“The hardest assumption to challenge is the one you don’t even know you are making.”- Douglas Adams
Challenging and letting go of assumptions begins with willingness to let go of your rightness and revisit the thoughts you are holding onto. It is important to recognise how much your assumptions distorts things for you. Achieving workable and productive outcomes requires challenging such assumptions. The more you know what you are assuming, the more you can learn to get back to the facts and use your beliefs and experiences to a positive effect rather than allowing them to narrow your field of judgment. Here are some strategies to challenge yours and others assumptions.
‘Question’ your assumptions
A lot of times, we have trouble admitting that we assumed certain things. We tend to stick to our interpretation as an objective truth. Questioning gives space for other possibilities and gives you power to challenge your assumptions. A step by step reasoning process helps you remain objective when working or challenging your assumptions. Instead of drawing conclusions and making your decisions based on what you think you know, ask questions to challenge your thinking to get more clarity. Better questions include:
How do I know this? Is this the right conclusion? Why did I draw this conclusion? Why am I making these assumptions? Why do I think this is the right thing to do? Is my conclusion based on all the factsWhy do I believe this? Test your assumptions and conclusions. Analyse your reasoning by asking yourself WHAT you are thinking and WHY. Why have i chosen this course of action?What belief lead to this action? Are there other actions I should have considered?What am I assuming, and why? Are my assumptions valid? What are the facts that I should be using? Are there other facts I should consider?
Shift from expectations to ‘shared understanding’
If you are challenging someone else’s assumptions, it is especially important to be able to explain it to that person in a way that helps you reach a shared conclusion and avoid conflict. Expectations are just assumptions about the future. Many conflicts occur when your expectations differ from those of you work with. Do not assume that others know what is on your mind, know your tendencies or understand what your goals and expectations are. Take time to uncover the assumptions and expectations that are the root cause of conflict and convert them into shared understanding of facts. Trust others and be sure to encourage teamwork by clarifying your goals, expectations and their roles in achieving a task. Appreciate others’ contributions and communicate to avoid negativity. If you aren’t sure what someone’s intentions are, ask them. Develop a mindset of seeing people’s good intentions instead of always thinking that they are out to get you. Most of them may have different goals but they usually come from good intentions.
Most of our assumptions are our thoughts we are so used to thinking and they can go by without us even noticing. If you aren’t sure where you are making assumptions, then look at places where you are stuck. Inevitably there will be an assumption you are holding on to or hiding out. Pay attention to when you are making assumptions and start to recognise that they are assumptions. Be mindful of moments where you feel yourself getting angry or feeling hurt by comment that someone makes towards you. Become self-aware of how many assumptions you make everyday by asking yourself as to whether your thinking is based on facts or are you filling in the blanks?
Being mindful and drawing your attention to the present to your thoughts can train you to catch more of your assumptions. Being mindful opens other possibilities and makes you unstuck from assumptions. Reflect on the following questions to challenge your assumptions. What facts do I have to prove this thought is true or isn’t true? What is a more realistic way of seeing this?Is this really my own opinion or did someone else teach it to me? Is this even really what I think or want to think in the future? What would it be like if the opposite of this assumption were true? What if I don’t need to know the answer about the person or situation?
‘Respond’ to others’ assumptions
Very often we find ourselves on the receiving end of other people’s opinions, perceptions and assumptions. When this happens, it can be tempting to react impulsively and become defensive. Or perhaps, if someone assumes the worst of us, we simply walk away from that person or situation, choosing to disconnect from them all together. When someone assumes wrongly about you, instead of reacting or arguing, use awareness to respond to them. Sometimes conflict can bring up tough emotions like anger. If you react in anger you can easily lose control of yourselves. Instead strive to understand why they are saying things they are.
When you feel hurt or angry about a comment that another person said to you, you should ask for clarification. It is better to clear your doubt to prevent misunderstandings. Give effective feedback to other person by listening effectively and being assertive in your response. Identify what you feel around the over-assuming person and focus on your emotions as they point what you need like to vent, learn, discuss, confront, or to set a limit to correct the other person’s assumption. Be modest, composed, and curious in your conversations and be willing to forgive for being imperfect. Communicate to the person and make your choices about how to respond. Base your response on true self in charge with clarity on your feelings and needs while maintaining mutual respect and attitude.
‘Communicate’ to challenge others’ assumptions
When someone reveals a negative assumption about you, communicate with the person with open-ended questions to question their assumptions:
I notice you are assuming that…
What led you to that conclusion?
Why do you think it will happen that way?
Where might that assumption come from?
How did you arrive at that assumption? What if that assumption is untrue?
What might happen if you choose a different action?
How can you verify or disprove that these assumptions are true?
Follow a non-judgmental approach to work with their negative assumptions about you to shift their perspective to build new insights.
Do you tend to make assumptions about your abilities or about others? Are your conclusions based on facts or assumptions? Does your opinions about a person or situation influence your conclusions? Have you ever had the experience of being in communication with someone who assumed you wrongly? Do you become defensive or respond to such conversations ? Note your tendencies so that you can learn to test your assumptions. Identify one or two assumptions you hold or heard and spend time challenging them. Ask yourself: what if it was untrue? What would happen if you let go of it? Are your insecurities colouring what you are thinking or feeling?
What you think more about, you create more of it. So if you dwell on your assumptions, your outer action will reflect them. In the beginning, it can feel uncomfortable to challenge that goes inside of your mind. Apply and practice the above strategies to successfully challenge your assumptions and to create awareness of how they are holding you back. Have open and honest communication in your conversations to develop trusting relationships in order to achieve your goals. When you change your assumptions from negative to positive, you unleash a stuck, blocked energy and can take action steps towards the results you seek.
“Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in.” – Alan Alda
“There is nothing like success to blind one to the possibility of failure.” – Roger Lowenstein
Every day we hold onto certain kind of expectations about ourselves, others and about our circumstances. These expectations we hold about ourselves directly influence our attitudes, decisions, behaviours, perspectives, as well as interactions with others. To succeed in our goals and to achieve our objectives, we must have a realistic assessment of our expectations. Being confident that your expectations will be met is important in business or work and life in general. But confidence is not about having it all. Instead, it’s about being okay with whatever you have and using it to its best potential. However, If you don’t use it wisely, it turns into overconfidence which then turns against you. It is important not to be overconfident. For instance. being overconfident while making a decision, you may overlook something important or might not look at all because you are confident that you already know what to choose.
You might be creative, hardworking, ambitious and might think you are much better in what you do. At the same time. you also might allow the confidence you gain from your talents to delude you into believing that you could do everything else to the same level of success in other areas. As a result, you become overconfident in your abilities. Such thinking can make you think that you’re invaluable to your company or in the work you do where in fact almost anyone could do your job. Research shows that we overestimate our precision of information that we have about a situation and thus tend to believe something is much more likely to occur than it really is. Such bias from overconfidence is quite prevalent where most of us believe that our judgments and decisions are better than they really are.
So, what is a overconfidence bias?
Overconfidence bias is in which people demonstrate unwarranted faith in their own intuitive reasoning, judgments or cognitive abilities. It is a tendency to hold a false and misleading assessment of our skills, knowledge, intellect or talent. You might come across such bias in yourself or in people around you in your personal or professional environments. You may see yourself a more capable than your colleagues, more knowledgeable or even ethical and talented.
What causes overconfidence bias?
Emotional and cognitive distortion that creates overconfidence can be a major hindrance to any form of success. Overconfidence bias might occur after recent success or because of a sense of self-importance. Sometimes it may be due to social pressure when the stakes are high as people tend to act on pretended knowledge as a preferred solution. It is also caused by doubt-avoidance, inconsistency-avoidance, incentives, denial and due to believing first and doubting later.
Sometimes, we all become victims of our own delusions of self-confidence where we begin to see ourselves valuable, honest and intelligent. We start viewing our successes as the result of our own efforts attributing it to our natural abilities thereby forgetting the others contributions or timing and other factors. We fail to recognise that skill in one area doesn’t always translate to skills in another. Each success confirms our heightened self-image creating overconfidence bias.
Overconfidence is something that can make us blind to the mistakes in our decisions and thought processes. It further manifests into overestimation where you overestimate your actual abilities, performance, the amount of control you have , or your chance of success. It also can manifest into overplacement where you believe that your position is higher than those of around you. Like for instance, you think you received higher score than your friend and in reality, your friend receives better scores than you do, in this situation, you have overplaced your scores. And it also manifests into overprecision when you are confident that you are correct.
Why overconfidence bias is bad for you?
Overconfidence affects your judgments and decisions in different ways. Here are some ways in which it does.
Overconfidence affects a people’s judgment as it relates their own personal performance as higher than it actually is. Generally, most of us think we are better at something than we really are and we are less likely to admit when we are not as good as we would like to be. This can cause problems as it can make you feel more valuable within a team or group or workplace and may end up taking too many risks. This creates a pattern for failure as your skills do not match up to your beliefs.
Illusion of control
This happens with the idea that if we can quantify something, we can measure it, understand it, and thus manage it.
Believing that you have more control over a situation than you actually do leads to you taking unnecessary risk, or inability to assess the risk involved in the situation. Also, this can lead to wrong decisions and choices in both personal and professional matters. Failure to accurately assess risk leads to failure in managing and accomplishing your goals.
The desirability effect happens when people overestimate the odds of something happening simply because the outcome of a situation is desirable. This is also a type of overconfidence bias. Many times, this leads to many mistakes and faulty behaviours simply because we believe our desired outcome is more probable just because that’s the outcome we want.
This occurs when we are too optimistic about how quickly we can perform a task and underestimate how long it takes to get things done. One outcome of over-confidence is missed deadlines and delayed projects on account of the planning fallacy. When is the last time that you finished any task or project early? And this leads to creating unrealistic project plans in hopes that the future will somehow be different than the present.
Overconfidence bias can do a lot of damage to your relationships, career, financial or investing choices, business and your productivity levels. Overconfidence bias leads to many errors in various walks of our daily lives. It becomes a major hindrance when it comes to improving your understanding of a situation.
• You misjudge your value, opinion, beliefs or abilities or you may oversimplify things.
• You may not prepare properly for a situation or may get into a situation that you are not equipped to handle.
• You may procrastinate to failure because of your timing optimism.
• Overestimating your abilities causes missed deadlines, shoddy performance and stress at the cost of your money, time, and your well-being.
• You may take excessive risks and make decisions that are not beneficial to you or your team.
• Being overconfident can affect your work, attitude and behaviour towards others.
• Leads to unreal expectations and makes you more vulnerable to disappointment.
How to avoid overconfidence bias?
Biased way of looking at a situation is considered as the most pervasive and potentially damaging of all the cognitive biases to which most of us fall victim. Almost all of us suffer from some kind of overconfidence bias in various situations. Here are few ways to stay unbiased.
• Past successes inflates our perception of our own abilities. When your self-image becomes tied to your last success, you may tend to overlook your mistakes and become judgmental. Success in past or expertise is no guarantee of future success. Just because you had a string of correct decisions has no bearing on the one you face now. Treat each new decision as if it were your first. Discuss the matter objectively and make a thorough assessment of the risk involved.
• Overconfidence by its very nature, distorts your own image of reality. It is important to recheck your facts about a situation. Disregard your initial judgment about a situation and check the validity of your assumptions. Develop habits and systems that provide feedback to stay connected to reality. Each success brings you closer to overconfidence and complacency. Cultivating a realistic attitude towards your successes and failures prevents you from untoward consequences.
• With overconfidence bias, you tend to ignore criticism and you might get into a false sense of security. Acknowledging your mistakes instead of blaming others helps you clear your heads of any hubris that might cloud your judgment. Reflecting as to what plans worked and what decisions yielded good results and what decisions ended up wrong, you can use your mistakes and failures as learning opportunities. When you get criticised, instead of defending, deal with it constructively to help improve yourself.
• As we accomplish more and more things, it is easy to believe that what we are doing is right. Trying to control every situation or believing that your contribution to a decision is more valuable than it actually is or trying to handle everything yourself or insisting that your way is the only way is a recipe for disaster. Recognising the role that others had in your success will keep you grounded and focusing on your specific role in failures will remind you that you have areas that you can improve.
• Look at multiple perspectives and think through the implication and consequences of a belief or an action. Alternate perspectives push you out of your comfort zone and force you to think critically and you may discover better way of doing things or improve yourself instead of giving into your overconfidence bias. Healthy discussions always give you new perspectives and let’s you see ways of doing things or improving yourself. So when making decision, be humble, seek out new perspectives and be well-informed to take into consideration of all the factors and risks involved.
• During our decision-making process or while making a choice, we first assess the familiarity of the options or opinions and search for facts in order to construct an explanation about why the familiar option is true. An explanation forms in our mind that really seems right and we tend to focus on that first familiar option which may not be right. Instead of option-fixation, make a best possible guess, then assume that guess is inaccurate, and then generate plausible reasons for why the guess was inaccurate. Research shows that overconfidence is reduced after listing the arguments that contradict the reasoning that lead to the guess and often the more estimates that are averaged the better, so long as they are based on different reasoning. This will minimise risk. Keeping your thinking in present instead of outcome lets you focus on what is needed right now and much more realistic and more achievable.
• The inherent state of overconfidence is strong when projecting our beliefs about our future. We tend to overestimate our ability to predict the time frame as we tend to put higher probability on desired events than undesired events. Work is always better done when more time is spent on it. Try to give yourself a bit more time than your first estimate. Double it if you can for completion of your tasks or projects. The more time you give yourself, the less chance you take of missing deadlines.
We all fall victim to moments and sometimes stretches of over-confidence which often end with disappointment or failure. And yet, despite what we think we have learned for next time, we continue to be over-optimistic about our abilities and the state of the future. The same mistakes occur again and again. We often take into account only our planning and generally ignore external factors and tend to indulge in over-assessment of our expectations and capabilities. We rate our competence too high and plunge into overconfidence bias. If over-confidence is not constantly checked, it leads to poor outcomes, failures and disappointments. To overcome this bias, you need to install objectivity into your systems and thinking. Keep yourself responsible and objective and try the above techniques to consciously confront overconfidence bias before it distorts your view of reality.
“Experiencing one’s self in a conscious manner–that is, gaining self-knowledge–is an integral part of learning.” — Joshua M. Freedman
Being self-aware is being conscious of your own identity and how you come across others. Your experiences, abilities, habits, feelings and preferences influence your behaviour. How well you truly know yourself and your effect on others is essential in today’s ‘me’ focused society, where we are seemingly becoming more self-obsessed and self-interested. We give into convenient labels and the opinion of others and tend to put on a social mask to make a definite impression upon others and conceal the true nature of ourselves. Constantly seeking and finding external validation replaces our authenticity with superficiality thereby diminishing our sense of true genuine self.
Many of us face difficulty in defining who we truly are on the deepest level because we don’t have a proper understanding of our thoughts, feelings and are prone to various biases and pre-existing beliefs that affect our ability to have a correct understanding of ourselves. We tend to believe narratives that support our pre-conceptions. Most of our behaviour stems from such biases, preconceptions, limiting belief or thought patterns. Many issues like stress, worry, negative beliefs, and moods can be understood more clearly by becoming more self-aware. The more you know about your existing negatives, the easier it is to improve them or create new positive habits.
Studies have shown that people who understand themselves and how others see them are generally better decision-makers, are more creative and collaborative. Being more self-aware also increases your emotional intelligence by changing your thoughts and interpretations. Even though self-awareness is correlated with many positive attributes like overall success and happiness, it never occurs to most of us to ask if we know ourselves as well as we think we do.
According to the theory of self-awareness proposed by Shelly Duval and Robert Wicklund, “When we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current behaviour to our internal standards and values. We become self-conscious as objective evaluators of ourselves.” Your inner ‘self’ is something that is central to who you are, how you relate to others and to your standards of correctness or values or ideals.
According to Dr.Tasha Eurich, author of the book, Insight, there are two categories of self-awareness, internal and external self-awareness. The ability to monitor your thoughts, feelings, behaviour, strengths, weaknesses, values, passions and aspirations, and how well they fit with your present environment is internal self-awareness. You feel happy or discontent depending on how you measure up to your inner standards. For instance, recognising whether your current job matches your true passion makes you either happy or dissatisfied. The ability to see how others perceive you or how you relate to others is external self-awareness. Knowing how you are perceived and your understanding of others makes you more empathetic and ups your leadership abilities.
“Self-awareness is our capacity to stand apart from ourselves and examine our thinking, our motives, our history, our actions, our habits and tendencies.”
⁃ Stephen Covey
Why is it important to be self-aware?
An accurate self-assessment can help you figure out your blind spots and unknown spots. Having self-awareness means that you have a realisation of your personality, your strengths and weaknesses, your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, your motivations, likes and dislikes. The more you understand yourself, the better you will be able to accept some of your weaknesses and can improve those areas. Self-aware people manage stressful situations without giving into the thoughts or emotions that are influenced from external events or situations. It is an important tool in developing leadership skills as it is easier to understand others and how they perceive you. You can increase your work motivation by seeking your true passions and lessening tasks you don’t want to pursue.
Self-awareness is different from self-focused attention which consists of simply thinking about yourself. It is more about paying attention to your inner state with a beginner’s mind. Our mind is skilful in storing information about how we react to certain events. Such information often ends up conditioning our mind to react in a certain way when we encounter similar situation. Being self-aware makes you conscious of such conditioning of mind and preconceptions.
Self-awareness & Productivity
If a particular habit or behaviour or mindset of yours that is self-destructive is holding you back in achieving your full potential, and for whatever reason, you are not aware of it, you end up supporting such behaviour or habit or mindset. But if you develop self-awareness, you can work around such habits and can better evaluate your values, passions and goals which fit and align thereby making yourself more productive and focused. With realistic introspection, you can see where your thoughts, emotions and behaviour are leading you, so you will be able to take control of your actions and can make necessary changes in the direction of your future goals. These changes may include building positive habits, or altering the way you respond to challenges, or to increase your Emotional Intelligence.
Self awareness provides you clear understanding of your skills be it managing, leading, or team-building. It gives you an opportunity to identify any gaps that you might have and areas in which you are effective and where you might need to improve by weighing your choices. You can create better work life balance as you become more aware of your emotions. It can increase your effectiveness in your decision-making and you can be more productive and focus on what you want to achieve.
How to become more self-aware?
Developing self-awareness is like building any other skill, it can be strengthened through practice. Here are some ways to improve your self-awareness.
Gain a different perspective through honest feedback
Gaining a different perspective is important to get a true sense of who you are. Seek honest feedback from people whom you trust or work with or lead. Ask for honest and valid response that is insightful and helpful. Formalised feedback allows you to know your strengths and weaknesses. Be open to receive constructive feedback without feeling attached. Listen to it without justifying, evaluating or defending yourself. This way you can learn to become more self-aware. It is impossible to be completely self-aware without gaining a different perspective on who you are as this will help you shore up some of those unknown traits. You will also be able to differentiate a biased and dishonest feedback from real and genuine one as you learn more about yourself and others.
Daily self-reflection is important to improve your self-awareness. Develop a regular practice of reflecting on your strengths and core values. Also reflect on your fears, insecurities and limiting beliefs. Try to identify your perceptions. Write down things that you think you are good at or that you need to improve. Write about the thoughts that you come across in stressful situations and how do you react in such situations. Reflect on how people you work with perceive you. Write down your plans, goals and priorities to get a better idea of who you are and what you want to achieve. Self-reflection is a way to connect and pay close attention to your inner world –what you are feeling or saying to yourself.
Becoming self-aware is about bringing conscious awareness into your everyday living through the process of mindfulness. Paying attention to your inner state in the present moment non-judgmentally allows you to observe your thoughts without suppressing them. By simply being present in the moment teaches you to observe, identify, and respond to underlying emotions and thoughts in a constructive way rather than to recoil and react impulsively. Meditative mindfulness helps you in making choices that add up to help you build the life you want. Be mindful and accept everything that arises in your inner awareness to experience your unchanging inner self. You can practice regular meditation through mindful daily activities like while communicating, eating, walking or listening.
Ask ‘What’ instead of ‘Why’
Most self-aware people are those whose introspective thinking is based on ‘what’ rather than ‘why’. Studies have shown that asking yourself ‘why’ when introspecting can cause you to ruminate in negative feelings. Self-evaluation through ‘why’ could leave you feeling more depressed, anxious and unproductive. For instance, when you think of a situation that made you feel bad, if you ask yourself ‘“why do I feel bad?” makes you feel self-depreciated. Instead asking yourself ‘’what are the situations that are making me feel bad?’ can help you recognise the factors outside your control that are making you experience that particular emotion and you can come up with necessary changes. When it comes to developing self-awareness, asking ‘what’ questions are more productive to help you focus on your future goals and to come up with solutions.
Acknowledge and own your personal narrative
Everyone has a personal narrative that shapes our personality and gives a direction to our purpose. Our narratives help us discover our strengths, our experiences and guide us towards our future goals. Your personal narrative includes your opinions, reactions, experiences, emotions, your vulnerability and your strengths. It is important to understand your narrative to frame your life experiences. Focus on your life and highlight the times you felt something deeply – happiness, anger, excitement, grief, anxiety or fear. The emotions you experience act as your guide to repeat the positive times and avert the negative ones. Your personal stories not just help give a shape to your purpose, but also gives you the strength and guidance for the future. How do you frame your challenges and setbacks? What are the values you stand by? Which people and events have had the greatest impact in shaping the person you have become? Knowing your personal narrative and owning it can help you gain more self-awareness.
Finally, Reframe your limiting beliefs
Self-awareness is not about simply thinking about yourself. It means that you shouldn’t ignore the assumptions you hold about yourself or your thoughts, habits, behaviour or beliefs that are holding you back. If you have some negative or limiting beliefs about yourself, spend time to think about how these limiting thoughts made you feel about completing your goals or objectives. Did such beliefs caused a hindrance in the past? Reframe such thoughts to preferred positives to try in similar situations in the future.
How well do you know yourself? How deeply do you understand your strengths, motivations or flaws? What do you need to improve? Are you emotionally intelligent?What are you doing that is in alignment with your values? What thoughts are holding you back? What is your narrative identify?
Reflecting on such questions and accepting your thoughts and feelings unconditionally and without judging yourself can help you bring awareness in to your daily tasks to achieve your goals. Like any other skill, developing self-awareness takes time and also at times it can be quite challenging to achieve an honest self-assessment, but by adopting a mindful approach without harsh self-judgment and building the above mentioned practices into your daily activities can help you become more self-aware.
“True leadership of self and others starts with the mind and it is best thought of as a behaviour, not as a role.”
Everyday you come across your inner leader while making choices, decisions or in getting work done or in guiding others in your workplace or chasing your goals. It becomes very important to lead others in a positive way wherever you are or at whatever place you find yourself in life, be it personally or professionally. The true leader in us is always facing work reality day in and day out where we are constantly distracted by external forces, people and tasks, information overload, and are often interrupted by matters that are not in your control which needs your immediate attention. The pressure is always on as you are always drifting and trying to catchup living on autopilot without a clear sense of purpose and direction.
Whether you are aware of it or not, on some level you are continually leading and managing yourself and others. If you come under the day to day limitations and distractions no matter how expert your capabilities, skill and competence may seem, you fail to connect and inspire the people you lead in an organisation or in your personal life and would fail to value and flourish. You cannot manage or lead others if you have never learnt to manage, lead and discipline yourself. The first way to encourage the assets of others is to develop these within yourself first. In order to do this, you should be able to:
• Take yourself beyond your routine ways of thinking and behaving and lead yourself to higher levels of focus.
• Cultivate optimism, persistence, openness, high emotional quotient, and better interpersonal skills.
• Grow your inner focus which attunes you to your intuitions, guiding values and better decisions.
• Show self-restraint to inhibit your impulses and develop will-power and self-discipline.
• Have long-term goals to be able to focus on without getting distracted from all the clutter and distractions around.
• Shed your old habits, beliefs and older ways of working by asking whether the presumptions you are holding onto are true or not.
• Leave your comfort zone once you realise there is no growth and should be prepared to do or learn newer ways by adapting to change.
• Create an inspiring shared vision and the drive to achieve goals.
• Pursue a plan for improvement of self and others.
Performing right and required actions is the foundation for everything you want to achieve in life in general. You should not be predefined by what you are now, rather you should be able to recreate yourself by what you do. Your inner leadership skills further depend on achieving results in your own life or for your work place or for your people who believe in your goals. From this perspective, the ability to manage yourself and things you pay attention becomes important. By developing your awareness of self and others and applying it to manage your inner world and your relationships with others can improve your decision-making abilities and control your choice-making capabilities.
‘Success on the outside really does begin from within’. Here are certain qualities to develop to embrace your inner leader.
In order to lead and inspire others successfully, you must be in tune with your inner leader by understanding your strengths and weaknesses. You must devote yourself to you own self growth to find meaning and live each day with purpose and intention. The more you come to know who and what you really are as a person, the more value you will be able to create. Identify what is most important and what makes you meaningfully different and authentic. Self-awareness will enrich your judgment and makes you aware of the consequences of each of your choices or decisions. This will help you to develop new strengths and have a positive impact on others.
Your values determine whether or not you are in control of your inner leader. Align your actions to what you believe and say. Having high integrity helps you in doing right by making right choices. Sharing your values help others understand what motivates you and strive to learn and understand the values of the people you work with. This reduces the chances of future conflict and strengthens your interpersonal relationships.
Every time you avoid doing right, you fuel the habit of doing wrong. Always take a high road and make a tough and right choice based on your values rather than the easy road. Decisions aligned with your values help you to become more effective in leading yourself and others.
“One cannot do right in one department of life whilst he is occupied in doing wrong in other. Life is one indivisible Whole – M. K. Gandhi.”
When you pursue right purpose, it leads you to do things that are meaningful to you and whatever is relevant to that purpose gets priority thereby eliminating distractions. Get people around you excited about a meaningful cause that contributes to the lives of others. Make decisions that support your purpose and focus on liberating their full potential through the work they do. Align and prioritise your actions to achieve results that matter most to you and to people you work with. Your commitment to right purpose and adherence to it will improve your leadership ability.
If your goal is to lead and create the most value for your organisation or for yourself, then you must be able to perform to the best of your abilities. This can be achieved by cultivating self-discipline. More often, it’s not that achieving your goals is physically impossible, it is the lack of self-discipline to stick to them that keeps you from reaching your full potential. Self-discipline improves your will-power to overcome obstacles and moves you onwards towards your goal. Every act of discipline strengthens your confidence and helps you control your impulses while staying focused on what needs to get done. The strong desire for your purpose can act as a self-motivator to discipline yourself and to channel your energies in appropriate ways.
“Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things.” – Peter F. Drucker
The ability to manage your attention and having right focus is the key to bring out the leader in you. Increase in ‘on task’ time could have a significant improvement in leading yourself effectively to get more focused attention. Focusing your attention on right things and directing attention toward where it needs to go is a primal task of leadership. The ability to shift attention to the right place at right time can refine efficiencies and improve yours and everybody’s performance. By maintaining right focus on goals that matter to you , you can seize opportunities and can improve yourself to be innovative and productive.
As important it is to know yourself, to bring out the leader in you, you need to like people and should have a passion to interact, listen and understand them. Develop a deeper understanding of people around. Be empathetic and sensitive to their needs. Understand what drives them and demonstrate genuine concern for their welfare. Guide them through challenges and always be on the lookout for solutions to help them get through their personal challenges. Paying attention to others needs and listening to advice and expertise helps you make right decisions that transform fear to hope by questioning your assumptions. Learn to listen and communicate with care.
“When you start to develop your powers of empathy and imagination, the whole world opens up to you.”- Susan Sarandon
Have genuine passion and enthusiasm for the work you do. Be excited about what you do and find the best in others and surround yourself with positive people. Pursuing a vision that makes you feel worthy and meaningful and helping others ṭo liberate the fullness of their talents makes you more passionate. Being passionate opens up new possibilities, this in turn, would lead to new choices and new changes and action. Your passion becomes an anchor to keep you from drifting during turbulent times. Being passionate helps you to see good in every circumstance and creates positive attitudes to the opportunities.
“Good leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” – Jack Welch
Develop the ability to communicate persuasively. It’s easy to get others to do what you want them to do if you’ll see things from their perspective. Avoid thoughtless actions and look for ways to passionately stimulate and energise people and deliver right messages that motivate and reassure. Praise them for every effort they put forth. When something isn’t going right, point out the one thing at the moment that they could do better and help them find the way without making them feel small. Motivate and steer them in right direction and help them be successful too.
There is no singular path towards solving a problem. Rather than rigidly adhering to traditional and outdated ways of doing things, remain flexible in your thinking and in management of others by adapting to change. Adopt new habits and cultivate new attitudes to embrace change. If your old ways are not proving to be of value, it is important to have the flexibility to re-examine and change the course as needed. Sharpen your skills, develop your talents to help you turn your weaknesses into strengths.
Be determined not to give up easily when things don’t go your way. Never run yourself down. View failure as opportunity and seek to better yourself and your circumstances. Esteem yourself not with egotism but with humble, realistic self-confidence. If you possess genuine confidence and live with an unshakable sense of who you are, you can be determined to achieve your goals. Make your decisions with clarity and act despite risk and doubt.
• Be inspired by great purpose.
• Remain flexible and maintain openness to change.
• Accept responsibility.
• Be resilient in the face of obstacles.
• Create a sense of direction in your life having the foresight to anticipate problems or needs before they arise.
• Increase your mindfulness by constant questioning and listening.
• Have impeccable integrity.
• Listen to advice and expertise
• Be collaborative and make decisions by consensus.
• Motivate, influence and help people in developing new strengths or refining their abilities.
• Be receptive to insights, perspectives from other people and their perception.