Self-awareness has been a bit of a topic for me lately. I recently gave a talk about raising our Emotional Intelligence that – naturally – included self-awareness and saw people were taking notes. Most of us aren’t as self-aware as we could be – we may believe we know ourselves, but often don’t pause for thought about it. And when it comes to how aware we are of how others see us, many of us are in the dark.
Why does self-awareness matter? Because when we have greater self-awareness we:
- Have a more grounded and realistic idea of our strengths and weaknesses.
- Have more self-confidence.
- Are less likely to repeat mistakes.
- Are more likely to treat those around us better
All of which should add up to a boost in our performance. So if self-awareness is good, how can you boost yours?
1. Reflect on the day
This is a simple practice, best done towards the end of the day. Simply hit ‘pause’ and ask yourself:
- What went well today?
- Who have I helped today?
- What didn’t go so well today?
- What have I learned?
- What will I do differently tomorrow?
You can simply be aware of the thoughts and feelings that come up as you reflect on each question, and you might also like to note your responses in a journal.
2. Get in touch with your thoughts and feelings
Tune into your inner dialogue; that voice in your head that can be both your inner cheerleader – and your fiercest critic. Notice what you’re saying to yourself and if it’s helping or hindering, and as you build your awareness of that, remember that the only person writing the script for this inner dialogue is you. OK, some the words may have been learned long ago, but right now it’s you saying this stuff to yourself for good or ill. What this means is that you can change the soundtrack.
Beating yourself up? Ask yourself what a wise friend would say to you and notice how that alters your inner dialogue.
Bigging yourself up? Great – get clear on HOW you’ve achieved what you’ve done, and maybe notice who helped you so you can thank them. Notice too how your thoughts and feelings are related – they influence each other. That inner soundtrack has a big impact on our emotions.
3. Get feedback
It’s not all about what’s going on inside us. Knowing how others experience us is a big self-awareness raiser: it opens a window to things we may have no idea we’re doing and the impact that has. Feedback comes in many forms: it may be a brief conversation in the corridor, or a quiet word after a meeting; it may be more formal as in appraisals and performance reviews with 360-degree feedback; it may simply be in the form of how others respond to us, so long as we’re careful to observe it.
Christine Porath’s Harvard Business Review blog post, ‘Half of employees don’t feel respected by their bosses’, demonstrates the perils of low self-awareness and its impact on engagement and performance – and the bottom line.