How self-aware are you?

“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.

Understanding Self-awareness..

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.

Practice Self-reflection

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.

Practice Mindfulness

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.

To conclude,

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.

Related reading

https://sscascades.org/2019/04/10/enhance-your-emotional-quotient/

https://sscascades.org/2018/08/10/harness-the-power-of-what-is/

https://sscascades.org/2019/02/24/how-to-build-new-empowering-beliefs/

 

Embrace your inner leadership abilities

“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.

Self-awareness

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.

Integrity

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.

Right Purpose

“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.

Self-discipline

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.

Right Focus

“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.

Empathy

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

Passion

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

Persuasion

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.

Flexibility

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.

Determination

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.

To Summarise,

• 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.

How to get your thoughts working for you

The decisions and choices we make determine the direction we take in our lives, and we do so by our thoughts. Thoughts if aligned with our goals and with what we want to achieve can take us forward—and, obviously, this is the direction most of us want to take. But many times, we go in the opposite direction because of various negative factors. We must be able to Identify and get these thoughts working for us,

Instead of they moving us away from our goals and shifting our direction. With conscious effort, we can correct their alignment by making them more harmonious with our desires and get these thoughts work for us and not against.

Your thoughts have huge influence on the choices you make.

We are all engaged in a continuous internal dialogue in which the meaning and emotional associations of one thought triggers the next, without we being consciously aware of the process. We launch our desires in the form of a thought and they are an important part of our inner wisdom. A thought held long enough and repeated enough becomes a belief. We shape our lives by the choices made around these beliefs and build our identity without even realising it. Every choice you’ve made – the big or small ones – have lead you to this moment in your life. We contribute towards the creation of every condition in our lives with our internal thought process influencing us. But when we get involved in negative emotions and feelings, we begin to compare, criticise, form opinions, and we fall out of tune, and tend to make wrong choices thereby making them work against to what we want to achieve.

Your thoughts have consequences

Everything that has or had not happened in your life is because of the choices you have made so far and your thoughts play a major role. Our mind has a tendency to dwell on the past or stress about the future and can often cause us more confusion and stress leading to negative and stressful thoughts. When your mind is untrained, it can lead you to a negative path based on past memories and perceptions. More negative thoughts, more are the chances of making bad choices and this can further sabotage your efforts of creating the life you would dream of. It is simple fact that positive thoughts lead to better choices and thus to a positive life. Negativity leads to limited and wrong choices,

You are the creator of your thoughts

You are the only person who is in charge of your thoughts. You get to have whatever you choose to think. So rather than trying to stop thinking, it is important to train yourself to a habit of thinking the sort of thoughts you want which help you make better choices. By changing your thoughts you can change your reality. According to science, our brain is highly flexible and have the ability to reset its circuit through what we choose to focus our thoughts on. You have the power to use your thoughts to rewire your brain to positive pathways.

Why is it important to get your thoughts working for you

We say we want to be happy, but we make choices that bring us the opposite. It’s your choices that create your experiences.

“ your mind is a tool you can choose to use any way you wish.”

If you believe that you can change a thought, then your choice of this thought will make it true for you.

Your thoughts are shaped by your memories, your goals, your desires, your beliefs that makes you who you are. But your thoughts can’t always be trusted as some of them might be created by your negativity of emotions and feelings. For instance, you might want things to be, rather than accepting whatever might happen when you put forth your best effort. You get frustrated because you are attached to how you want them to be, rather than accepting them as they are. You might choose to procrastinate, as you are attached to things being easy and comfortable rather than accepting that to do something, you have to push into discomfort and so on.

Acquiring a positive mental attitude can:

Free you from your negative self

By making positive choices you precisely free yourself from all the negativity inhabiting your mind. Negative thoughts and choices prevent you from making a step forward because they make you feel incapable of doing something. You surrender to them each time and never consider going against them. This makes you take poor and limited choices. With positive thinking, you can liberate yourself from negativity rooted inside you.

Open up different possibilities

Negativity compels you to behave in a specified manner and you tend to restrict yourself from taking action as you are frightened of certain outcome. Hence, you cannot go beyond that outcome and cannot increase your possibilities. Your mind gets conditioned to see the bleak side of thing. By making your thoughts positive, you can see different possibilities and resolve a situation in the best possible manner.

Help in self-empowerment

Positive thinking empowers you by identifying your unique skill set and talents which otherwise you would have never explored due to your negative thoughts and choices. Positive thinking boosts your confidence to find out what you are good at and helps you make good choices. You can refine your raw talents and make them help you to achieve your goals.

How to get your thoughts working for you

“ you are what you are and you are where you are because of what has gone into your mind. You change what you are and you change where you are by changing what goes into your mind.” – Zig Ziglar

A positive thought process can help you focus on the positive and productive by shutting out the negative and unrewarding. Choose your thoughts to take yourself from where you are to where you want to be. Acknowledge and transform your negative thoughts and get them aligned with your goals and not against.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to reinforce your positive thoughts and choices.

Stop blaming

Stop blaming your past, or people for how your life is. Nobody has a perfect life and many have lived through bad phases. You cannot change your past, however you can choose to change how you feel about it and how you allow it to affect you. Don’t choose to hang on to your old story as your excuse for how awful your life is right now. You don’t have to blame yourself for negative experiences. Let go of all guilt, blame and do not hate yourself for having negative thoughts. Learn from these experiences and use them to build you up to take you towards your goals.

Challenge your negative thoughts

Identify your negative thoughts and challenge as to how realistic your current concerns are and their logic. Test the illogical thoughts. Analyse how likely each of those thing is to actually happen and how you would deal with the problem if it were to occur. You need to keep reinforcing positive thoughts. This will open up your possibilities. “When the negative weeds grow, pluck them out as quickly as you can.”

At the same time do not punish yourself for making negative choices, you’ll find it difficult to let them go and move on to more positive choices.

Avoid being delusional

Your life is a result of the choices you make. If you don’t like your life, it is time to start making better choices.”

If you don’t like the choices that have gotten you up to this point, face the truth and identify what isn’t working in your life. Take a step back and figure out why. Do not delude yourself that things are going to get better to make you happy. Don’t fall victim to fake hope syndrome by setting unrealistic expectations and making frequent attempts to change them.

Practice positive mental diet

When you feed your mind with positive affirmations, information, conversations, books and thoughts, you develop a more positive attitude and can make positive choices. ‘Good-in, Good-out.’ When you make a clear decision to eliminate negativity, you can choose to make positive choices that make you more capable and competent. A positive mind keepe the thoughts in sync with your goals, plans and dreams.

Stop complaining

If you want something different from what you have right now, then you have to do something different from what you’re doing. If you want others to treat you differently, start yourself treating differently. Stop complaining and start taking responsibility for the way things are in your life. If you want different outcomes, make different choices. Desires and goals can produce anxiety, stress, and competitiveness and you need to recognise those that do. you can choose to rearrange your thoughts to make the situation better instead of wasting time in complaining.

Practice positive self-talk

Just because you say you want something different or better, your inner being is not going to go along with you. What you believe about yourself and your worthiness or ability to have what you want is important. It is important to build self-worth and value in yourself because when you feel not good enough, you choose ways to keep yourself miserable, choose to procrastinate, and might opt for unhealthy food choicesnand habits. Positive self-talk is programming yourself to change. Using positive affirmations and positive statements to control your inner dialoguelets you make better choices.

Practice mindfulness

In mindfulness, you will essentially be looking at your own thoughts and can assess them. Be persistent in giving yourself few quite moments each day to reflect on your process of change. Become aware of negative thoughts and nurture the willingness to let go of them.

Nourish and affirm your intentions to keep you on track and enable you to meet your goals.

Finally, take full responsibility for where you are currently in life. If you’re not happy with what you have today and make a choice right now to make a change in your life by changing the way you think in order to make your thoughts work for you. Recognise the power of the freedom of will which allows you to change anything that you do not agree with.

“We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things, we can accomplish those goals.” —Stephen Covey