You come into the world alone and you spend every minute with yourself until you depart the world, yet you may not know yourself as well as you think you do.
Unfortunately, if you don’t know yourself, it’s hard to make progress. It’s like driving a car that doesn’t run well, but you refuse to look under the hood to optimize the engine. Unfortunately, those issues won’t repair themselves. They may well get worse and stop your car from running.
When I think of self-awareness I’m always reminded of the Johari Window developed by psychologists Joseph Luft (1916-2014) and Harrington Ingham (1916-1995), which is a tool used to demonstrate four levels of self-awareness:
Clients are often prompted to seek me out and work with me when they have become aware of parts of themselves that they don’t understand and they’re looking for understanding; or, they don’t like something they have become aware of and they would like to change it as quickly as possible; or, they see something in someone else that they would like to develop too. Each of these are examples of where self-awareness has helped someone improve their situation.
Here are some ways you can develop self-awareness so that a lack of self-awareness doesn’t derail your plans.
1. Take a reputable self-awareness test. There are plenty of tests available online. Some are better than others, so do your research and the more it costs doesn’t necessarily mean the more you’ll learn. The more sophisticated and useful tests aren’t free, but you’re worth it.
There are two types of tests; self-report, where you use your responses to questions to develop a profile, or 360 degree where you and others respond to the pre-determined questions. Both can be useful to start a dialogue where you learn more about how others experience you.
Many organisations have identified their tool/s of choice and have trained people to take you through the results. If you would like to complete a test outside of your organisation, I am accredited in a number of self-insight tools if you would prefer an external person take you through the process.
2. List your values. What matters to you? What do you stand for? Often we only become aware of our values when they are violated in some way. Make a list of your top five values and put them in order of which are most important to you. Do you live your life according to your values? What examples can you turn to that demonstrate your top 5 values?
3. Whom do you admire? Who are the people you admire the most? Why do you admire them? What character traits and skills do you admire in others? What you admire in others but it currently unacknowledged.
4. Whom do you dislike and why? Just as informative are the people you strongly dislike. Why do you dislike them? What exactly about them is it that you dislike? Do you see any of those traits in yourself?
5. Ask your friends, family and trusted others for input. Your friends, family and trusted others know more about you than you think. I can bet that they will identify things you are not yet aware of. Ask them for assistance in learning more about yourself. Be prepared to be surprised and accept the feedback with grace.
6. Imagine watching yourself. Imagine observing yourself for a day. Imagine watching yourself eat. Imagine seeing yourself in your typical clothing. Note how you interact with others. Many people who are building their self-awareness are often surprised that they are not being received or experienced in the way that they intended.
7. If you could be granted one wish, what would it be? Imagine being given a wish that could come true. What would you do with it? What can you infer from the wish you chose to wish?
8. What do you believe is the meaning of life? If you had to sum up the meaning of life in one sentence, what would it be? How did you come to that decision?
9. What is your biggest regret? What is the one thing you wish you could go back in time and do over? Why do you regret it so much? How would your life be different if you could redo a few decisions?
10, What makes you anxious? What causes you stress? What makes you worry? Why do these things upset you? What does your anxiety cost you? How does it limit you? How would your life change if you felt much less anxiety?
Knowing yourself is a great challenge and if it’s a new concept to you, be gentle with yourself. You’ve probably never seriously considered why you think and behave the way you do although you may have been prompted at pivotal points in your life. We spend a lot of time contemplating other people and their situations, and little time investigating ourselves.
If you knew yourself better, you could make a few adjustments and enjoy an easier and more successful life. You’d also be in a better position to deal with old emotional wounds.
Be courageous and take a long, hard look at yourself. Getting to know yourself is challenging, but in the long run, you’ll find that it’s worth the effort.
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