Who has time to reflect on the day, the conversation, the week, month or year? I’m often asked this question, and my response is always the same – Who has time not to? Socrates cautioned us to “Know thy self” and Aristotle once said “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”.
When thinking about our EQ, self awareness must be the bed rock of all we build upon. Until we grow our self awareness, we cannot learn to regulate, grow empathy or increase our social skills.
Often we are unaware of how we show up in the world, how our presence impacts others. We can often find ourselves complaining about the behaviours of others and yet never truly understanding our impact in the equation. We are unable to control the attitudes and actions of others – and to think otherwise is troublesome! However – we are always responsible for our own attitudes and actions!
So how do we – as busy people, often spinning many plates – grow our self awareness?
I have been practising intentionally growing my self awareness for over a decade and it has been one of the greatest causes of my success in personal relationships as well as my professional progress.
As an accredited coach I get the great honour of sitting alongside many individuals and walking the journey of self discovery and self awareness with them. There are times on our path when we need others to hold up mirrors to our lives because often much of our growth lies in our blind spots! You don’t know what you don’t know – also a favourite quote of Socrates!
But what if you don’t have a coach – what if you are new to the world of personal development and self awareness is an area you have never given much thought to…. Where would you start?
The greatest place to begin self awareness is with intention – ! want to know me – and why do I want to know me?
Maybe you want to show up better in the world, maybe you want to better navigate your relationships, maybe it’s been said to you that you have an unfavourable way with people, maybe you want more success in your business or work interactions or maybe you just have a deep gnawing sense that you are on this planet – in the body of someone you have never really taken the time to know and understand.
Once you have uncovered the reason you want to grow your self awareness you now have a clear purpose – I want to develop self awareness so that…
The next question to ask is – if I grew and developed my self awareness what impact would that have on my life? My business, my family, my kids, my day to day experience. As we begin to go a little deeper we start to see all the areas that could be improved or altered by our commitment to learning and understanding ourselves better. Finger pointing is a big part of our society. We talk about living in a blame culture and that certainly sums up a lot of our world – I am why I am because of “them” what they did to me, what they didn’t do to me, the opportunity I wasn’t given or the circumstance that came my way.
I spent 8 years working in a women’s prison. I was in my very early 20s and had a passionate commitment to help the women I was working with move their lives forward, write a different script and make life changes that would have a profoundly, positive impact on their futures.
I learnt very early on that before any of this could take place we needed to begin with personal responsibility. All the while I blame others and don’t take responsibility for my life, where I am and the decisions I have made – I am unable to move forward in growth and self awareness.
So that’s just where we began. Taking personal responsibility is tough – especially if life has dealt us some tough hands – although I will let you in on a secret – life deals out tough to everyone if we live long enough – yes your story might not look like the next, and certainly some stories we wince as we hear the injustice – however life does send challenge, injustice and difficultly to us all.
So we begin with taking full responsibility – and ceasing all blame. Sounds easy – but can certainly be a journey for many!
So now we have committed to intentionally developing our self awareness, we have understood why we want to do this and the impact it will have on our lives and those connected to us, we have also taken full responsibility for who we are, where we are and what we are. We are now ready to begin…
A journal – It doesn’t need to be flashy (although come on, we all do love a gorgeous fresh paged smart journal!) and a pen. You have – wait for it, this is MIND BLOWING (excuse the pun) on average 50,000 thoughts per day, and it’s estimated that 70-80% of them are negative. How can you possibly manage, unpick and get clarity on so much going on in that fascinating brain of yours! Here’s where a journal will become your best friend.
I have heard some call it a daily dump, others call it downloading and some call it a dear diary moment! Whatever you decide to name it, you’re journal can become your greatest confidant, your dearest companion, your best memoir of memories and your most treasured therapist.
If you are new to journalling I advise you pick a time in the day that’s best for you – maybe first thing in the morning or last thing at night and begin building the habit of daily putting some words on paper. You could even set an alarm reminder on your phone for this. Journals can be filled with the reflections of the day – how this went – how that went. As we are learning to develop self awareness we may notice throughout the day certain feelings or thoughts and we can begin to journal them – always staying curious and out of judgement. Sometimes it might be a one word for all you are feeling that day, other times it might be a poem or a quote that touched you, and sometimes you may find the pen running away with yourself as you write chapter and verse – however your mind needs to express on paper – go with it – there is no right or wrong!
Why did I feel like that in the meeting at work?
Why did the small thing my partner do earlier this evening get on my last nerve?
Why am I feeling awesome and like I can take on the world?
Why am I feeling overwhelmed today?
After my gym session I felt..
When I had a confrontational meeting I felt
The parent teacher meeting has left me feeling ..
What behaviours was I displaying when I was arguing with my teenager?
What was my tone and body language in the meeting with my boss?
These are all ways to pause and check in – becoming more aware of the moments in your day and the impact they have on you. As you develop the habit of checking in with yourself for your “pause” in the journal carve out some time at the end of the week to read back over your entireties. Again, without judgment – you are becoming more self aware – you are learning more of yourself – maybe you are asking questions of yourself like why, how or what and it’s ok not to have the answers.
Congratulations – you are on the journey of self awareness which will impact every area of your life profoundly and deeply. Remember – to instil a new habit experts tell us it takes approximately 66 days, so keep committed for the long haul, carve out that time of reflection through journalling and begin getting to know thy self.