Most people think they know themselves pretty well. However, self-awareness is a very rare trait to find in the wild. Most of us are often guilty of a lack of self-awareness, which can render us inefficient and ill-prepared to relate to others.
The more self-aware you are, the easier you’ll find it to pick your battles and navigate work and personal relationships. In this article, we’ll dig in deeper into what self-awareness is and why it matters. Then we’ll go over some tips to help you cultivate it.
Let’s get to work!
An Introduction to the Importance of Self-Awareness
In a nutshell, self-awareness is the ability to gauge your emotions, character, and skills correctly. As basic as it may sound, you’d be surprised at how many people walk around lacking this basic skill.
Let’s say you work in an office and you’re tasked with completing a project by next Friday. However, instead of getting to work right away, you procrastinate until the last second, and rush the entire project. The result is a project that could have gone much better.
If you’re self-aware, you’d likely acknowledge that you dropped the ball and would make an effort not to do so again. Taking it a step further, you may even analyze the causes for your procrastination, then try to fix them. On the other hand, a lack of self-awareness could see you avoiding responsibility for your actions, or even ignoring the character traits that put you in the position.
Putting examples aside, let’s break down how a high level of self-awareness can benefit you both in and out of the workplace:
- It enables you to assess your skill set and character traits accurately.
- You can become better at your job since you know what your weak points are.
- It can enable you to navigate relationships in the office and your personal life better.
At the risk of sounding like a self-help book, a big part of being self-aware has to do with honesty. If you keep making excuses for your faults, you’re not being honest with yourself, and could signal a lack of self-awareness.
Cultivating self-awareness is essential if you want to improve yourself as a person. Once you know what your flaws are, you can put all your self-discipline into action to tackle them. This in turn should improve your life all around.
How to Cultivate Self-Awareness (4 Tips)
As we said, becoming more self-aware is tied to honesty. However, there’s a bit more to it than that. Let’s go over several methods you can use to cultivate self-awareness.
Before we get into the tips, it’s worth noting you’ll likely be more comfortable with some of them than others, which is fine. The initial goal is to put at least one of them into action and stick with it for a while. It’s only after some time that you’ll begin to see the benefits.
1. Practice ‘Mindfulness’
The concept of mindfulness is tangled up with self-awareness in general. When people talk about the modern version of mindfulness, they’re referring to the idea of being aware of your surroundings, thoughts, and feelings.
In other words, many try to ignore their thoughts and feelings throughout the day. Modern life is stressful, you may end up ignoring certain aspects of yourself in the hope they will go away on their own.
However, this approach seldom works. Cultivating mindfulness, means acknowledging those negative feelings and thoughts, and dealing with them. Here’s how it can help you:
- Mindfulness can help improve your focus since you won’t spend as much energy trying to ignore things.
- It can help you avoid premature judgments since you’ll judge events and people on their own merits.
- According to some studies, practicing mindfulness can decrease your stress levels.
There are plenty of ways you can practice being more mindful. However, we’re going to go out on a limb here and recommend you give mindful meditation a try. We know meditation isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it offers a lot of benefits. Dipping your toes into the world of meditation isn’t as complicated as you might imagine. Plus, you don’t need to buy into the mysticism aspect unless you want to.
2. Ask for Feedback From Your Friends and Work Colleagues
In many cases, you’ll have negative personality aspects that only become apparent once they’re pointed out to you. The reverse is also true – you might be knocking the ball out of the park metaphorically, yet haven’t stopped to notice how great you’re actually doing.
If you’re serious about becoming more self-aware, one of the best things you can do is look to the people surrounding you, and ask them for their honest opinions about your character and skills. Often, you’ll get responses you weren’t expecting, which can force you to take a closer look at yourself.
However, asking for feedback can be tricky, as many people won’t want to offend you. This means you need to be careful about how you navigate the approach. Here’s what we recommend:
- Don’t just ask people what they think about you. Instead, opt for more pointed questions that don’t leave room for open-ended responses.
- Try to avoid asking your coworkers for personal feedback, unless you happen to be close to them.
- Don’t try to force friends to answer your questions if they feel uncomfortable giving you feedback.
Admittedly, asking people for honest feedback will make a lot of them uncomfortable. You need to understand this and not force the issue in those cases. Even if you walk away with only the opinion of a handful of friends, it’s often enough to give you valuable information about the way people see you.
Finally, if you want this process to work, you need to remain open to feedback you might not agree with. You’re likely to run into some opinions you don’t like, but if they aren’t subjectively true, there’s no reason for conflict.
3. Keep a Journal to Track Your Feelings and Thoughts
A lot of people think journals are for younger people. However, they’re not just a place to document who you’re crushing on or what some jerk did to you during recess. Instead, journals can be development tools to help log your state of mind.
We’re often prone to pushing past events out of mind so we can better focus on our day-to-day tasks. This is often a positive thing since dwelling on the past can impact our productivity and emotions. However, tracking your feelings (even occasionally) can help give you a better picture of who you are.
If you used to keep a journal in the past, we encourage you to dig it out and take a look. For most of us, going through an old journal is an exercise in reflection, as it reminds us of our old thought processes. Of course, if you don’t have any old journals, there’s nothing stopping you from starting one now (you can even use WordPress for it). Here are some of the things we recommend you try and make notes of:
- Any significant events in your life and the way you felt about them.
- How you reacted when a difficult situation came up (and if you could’ve done better!).
- Any conflicts you have with other people and how you dealt with them.
Your journal can be as detailed – or straightforward – as you want. Just make an effort to stick with it, and take the time to go through the last few days regularly every week. This ‘recap’ process should give you a great idea of how you’re doing, and help you consider ways you can improve your personal and work life.
4. Track Your Goals and Your Progress Towards Them
In the last section, we talked about how keeping a journal can give you insight into your personality and the way you react to things. However, we also think it’s important to keep track of what your goals and how close you are to accomplishing them. Tracking data to help you make an informed decision is going to vastly increase your self-awareness.
Setting goals and maintaining them is a fantastic skill to cultivate. Keeping score of your goals can also help you ascertain whether your priorities shift over time. This is key to cultivating self-awareness, as the person you were even a year ago is probably very different from who you are today.
If at any point you feel like your long-term goals don’t reflect who you are or what you want anymore, it’s fine to change things up a bit. After all, part of becoming more self-aware is learning how to adapt to change.
As for how to track your goals more efficiently, the SMART system is tried and tested. They’re all about setting a finish line you can visualize, so it’s easier to monitor your progress. Motivation is often a big reasons for lacking progress, so in these situations it’s probably a good time to review your priorities.
The best leaders are often highly self-aware. If you know what your strengths and weaknesses are, it can help you establish better work relationships. With enough discipline, you can even shore up your weaknesses, so you become a more well-rounded person.
On top of being a boon in the workplace, self-awareness is also key to a meaningful personal life. This is why you should put these four tips into action to help you become more self-aware:
- Cultivate mindfulness.
- Ask for feedback regularly.
- Keep a journal to track your feelings and your thoughts.
- Track your goals and your progress towards them.
Do you consider yourself to be a self-aware person? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!
Article thumbnail image by inamar / shutterstock.com
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