It Starts with You
Having self-awareness means that you have an acute realization of your own personality, including your thoughts and beliefs, your strengths and weaknesses, your emotions, and your motivations. If you are self-aware, it is easier for you to understand other people and detect how they perceive you in return.
The truth is, you can’t be a good leader without strong self-awareness.
It lies at the core of strong character, giving us the ability to lead with a purpose, openness, patience, authenticity, and trust. It directly correlates to our successes and our failures. And by giving us a better understanding of ‘who we are’, self-awareness lets us better understand what we need most from other people, to complement our own deficiencies in leadership. You cannot be socially aware without being self-aware.
So, here’s the question, how can we create, develop, and nurture it further? There are numerous ways to do this but I thought I would share 5 of my favorites that I recommend to my clients and use myself.
5 Ideas to help groom Self-Awareness
Create space for “YOU”:
It’s the most important relationship you will ever have so why not create space for it! You would for a spouse or friend so treat yourself with the same respect. The space you create for yourself is where you allow light to shine on the dark places of your “self”. Leave yourself some time and space every day – perhaps first thing in the morning or half an hour before sleep when you stay away from the digital distractions and spend some time with yourself, reading, writing, meditating, and connecting with yourself.
Mindfulness is the key to self-awareness. “Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally” is how Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness. Mindfulness practice allows you will be more present with yourself so that you can “be HERE” to observe what’s going on inside and around you. It is not about sitting cross-legged or being religious. It is about paying attention to your inner states as they come forth. You can practice mindfulness at any time you want, through mindful listening, mindful eating or walking. You can do all things with Mindfulness!
Writing crystalizes things for us and helps us process our thoughts. It can also make us feel connected and at peace with ‘Who We Are’. Writing can also create more headspace as you let your thoughts flow out onto paper. Research shows that writing down things we are grateful for or even things we are struggling with helps increase happiness and satisfaction. Why? Because in writing it down we create the awareness that brings gratitude. You can also use the journal to record your inner states.
Practice being a good listener:
Listening is not the same as hearing. Listening is about being present and paying attention to other people’s emotions, body movement and language. One of my favorite quotes about communication or listening is from Alan Greenspan. It says “I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”. It’s demonstrative of how we don’t really listen to people but hear what we are saying to ourselves about what someone is saying, placing meaning to words according to our current filter. But that’s not listening. Listening is about showing empathy and understanding without constantly evaluating or judging. When you become a good listener, you will also be better at listening to your own inner voice and become the best friend of yourself.
Explore multiple perspectives:
Ask for people’s feedback. Sometimes we can be too afraid to ask what others think of us – yes sometimes the feedback may be biased or even total bullshit, but you will be able to differentiate them from real, genuine and balanced feedback as you learn more about yourself and others. Research has shown conducting 360 evaluations in workplace is a useful tool to improve a leader’s self-awareness. We all have blind spots, so it is helpful to gain different perspective to see a fuller picture of ourselves.
In the end, we all seek a greater self-awareness. Without it, we can never fully live or lead effectively. It’s only with a strong self-awareness that we can take the adventure closer to a state of “self-congruence”. A state in which what we say, think, and feel are consistent with who we are. Initiating and Cultivating self-awareness is a life-long effort. We’re never “done.” My hopes are that these 5 practical practices help you move fluently along the way.
Live and Lead Exceptionally,