Self-awareness is the bedrock of self-improvement. If you are serious about self-improvement the big question is “How well do you know yourself?” Without self-awareness, you have no “road-map” for improvement. In the busyness of business, many have never taken the time to do the “inner work,” it takes to build a foundation for improvement. We have talked about self-awareness before on this blog because it is essential to any self-improvement. But, before we start, think about this: how self-aware are you right now?
But, wait a minute. Before you start, get a notebook or journal book that works for you, and answer the questions in writing. You will want your answers for future reference. Your answers are not set in stone and reviewing them occasionally will give you significant insight into your self-improvement progress. So let’s get to it
What is self-awareness?
In his book, Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman says Self-awareness is “knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources, and intuition.” He goes on to say, “The ability to monitor our emotions and thoughts from moment to moment is key to understanding ourselves better, being at peace with who we are and proactively managing our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.” Take a moment to think about that. How good are you at managing your thoughts, emotions, and behavior? Most of us would respond, “I may need a little help here.” To help you become more self-aware, here are six critical questions to ask yourself.
Six Critical Questions
1. Who am I?
This is not an easy question to answer because we have a number of roles—wife/husband, parent/child, occupation, hobby and more. Taking away all of these definitions, who are you? What is your essence? Do the best you can with it now and come back to it after you have answered the other questions. Don’t be surprised if you change your definition as you go along. (You may be grumbling to yourself, “Not THIS question again. I know who I am. I am me. Hang on and give it a shot. You may be surprised and pleased). It might help you to read these articles in Psychology Today and the Huffington Post. (And good news. There is no wrong answer).
2. What is my purpose?
Do you have a clue what you are “supposed” to do with your time on this planet? Some agonize that they cannot recite a clear statement of purpose when someone asks them to do so. I’m one of those. I believe that we have an evolving purpose. We start out one place and evolve into one that may be a complete opposite.
For example, I wanted to be a nurse from the time I was eleven years old. All the aptitude tests I took in school said I was supposed to be a teacher or a linguist. So what? I wanted to be a nurse. That was that! I became a nurse and loved it. But subsequently, I became a nun. Leaving that I became a teacher of nursing, then an administrator of a nursing department in a hospital. During that time I met my politician husband and I became a Congressman’s wife and a mother of two sons. Subsequently, I have been the head of a division of the Arizona Department of Health Services, an entrepreneur, a hypnotherapist, a radio show host and a blogger.
My purpose? It might be to help others through teaching and serving. Perhaps it is to learn what love and happiness are. Or it might be to find what Rumi talks about when he said: “The soul is here for its own joy.” With hindsight I could say, my purpose is to find my soul’s joy through teaching and helping others.
If you struggle with this here are two articles that may be helpful: one from the Psychology Today by Dr. Susan Biali and one by Mark Manson. It is great to know your purpose, but don’t let it become a point of stress. Be easy with it. Let your life give you some clues.
3. What do I want? (What do I long for?)
Quick! Get a pen and paper and write down five things that you really, really want. Now take a look at it. Is it a list of stuff? Maybe it’s a list of accomplishments or titles. Is it tangible or intangible or Is it long term or short term? If/when you get it, how will it impact your life and the lives of those around you? Why do you want it? Do you want it to fulfill a life-long dream or because someone told you it would be good for you? Do you want it because someone else has it and you need it to “keep up?” Is it realistic and within a realm of possibility?
4. What are my strengths?
There was a time in the not-too-distant past that children were taught not to acknowledge their strengths. It was an ego thing. And, “Pride goeth before a fall” was often quoted. Children were taught to be humble (not a bad thing) but that humility included not talking about our good points. They were taught to put others first and themselves last. Again, a good idea for times that required it but not all the time. One of the predominate maxims was “Children are to be seen and not heard.” Sometimes that is correct. And sometimes that applies to any one of us. Sometimes children need to be both seen and heard.
The question is, “If you don’t know what your strengths are, how do you know how to develop a career or an avocation? If YOU don’t know your strengths, take some time to think about it. Ask yourself, “What am I good/great at?” “What makes my heart sing?” It’s easy to identify strengths such as high IQ, ability to express yourself well, good with your hands, and other skills. Character strengths are a bit tougher. If it becomes a struggle, you can find some help from Positive Psychology. Go here and select the test for character strengths. https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/testcenter
You can also find lists of strengths to prepare your resume or use in a job interview. Here is one as an example from Job-Interview-.Site.com
Being objective about your own strengths can be a challenge but give it a shot.
5. What are my weaknesses?
Ah, now you say, “Here’s an easy one.” I’ve got lots of weaknesses.” Really? Be as objective as you can. Sometimes we think we have a weakness because someone said we did. Parents often pick out certain characteristics and make a big deal of them—and children believe it and carry it with them into adulthood. “You aren’t as smart as your brother” is a classic. “Your sister can sing, but you don’t have the voice she has,” is another (substitute other skills in place of sing). My grandmother told me I could not sing and shouldn’t even try.
If you need a list to help you, go here. But if you truly have no affinity for math, for example, you won’t want to become an accountant. If you can’t carry a tune or keep time you probably won’t want a career as a singer or musician. We all have weaknesses. It is essential to know what they are. You can work to develop them if you choose or you can work around them, concentrating on your strengths.
6. What do I believe?
There’s an old saying, “If you don’t know what you stand for, you’ll fall for anything.” In an article in Psychology Today, Alex Lickerman states, “Simply, a belief defines an idea or principle which we judge to be true. When we stop to think about it, functionally this is no small thing: lives are routinely sacrificed and saved based simply on what people believe.”
We live—and die—for what we believe.
So What do you believe?
So I ask you—what do you believe that you were not told you HAD to believe? What have you examined and accepted for yourself? If you have not done this, isn’t it time that you do? What do you believe about:
- And more
These are the basic questions, and you can spend a lifetime answering them. They are not stagnant. You answers may change as you learn more and develop a deeper understanding of who you are. But if you want more questions to ponder, work on these:
What am I grateful for?
What are my boundaries?
How about Love? Am I loved, loving and lovable?
What gives me the greatest joy?
What do I appreciate?
The point is, there is no end to what you need to explore to enhance your self-awareness. It is a journey, a challenge, a quest. The result depends on you and what you do with it. It can enrich your life and, at the same time, help you appreciate and accept the differences in others.
So I ask you again, “How self-aware are you?”
Enjoy. It’s a journey with many rewards.