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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

What Is Self Awareness (And How to Increase Yours)

What Is Self Awareness (And How to Increase Yours)

What is self awareness?

As it turns out, self awareness can mean many different things, depending on who you ask.

In this article, we will look into the true meaning of self awareness, why it is so important to everyone of us, and what you can do to increase your self awareness to live a happy and successful life.

What Is Self Awareness?

Self awareness could be as simple as getting in touch with, and then understanding your thoughts and feelings. For some, it might mean connecting with your innermost beliefs and values and then living a life that is congruent with those values.

For people focused more on professional development, self awareness is understanding their strengths, weaknesses, personality types, and leadership styles.

According to Google’s Dictionary, self-awareness is:

“Conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.”

According to Psychology Today, self-awareness:[1]

“involves monitoring our inner worlds, thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. It is important, because it’s a major mechanism influencing personal development.”

Since publishing his book, Emotional Intelligence in 1995, Daniel Goleman’s idea of Emotional Intelligence (a.k.a. EQ or EI) and self-awareness have taken the world by storm. And as you can see, there are a wide array of meanings, definitions, and interpretations.

The two larger questions, in my mind, are 1) Why does self-awareness matter so much and 2) How can we become more self-aware in our lives?

Those are the two questions we’re going to dive into today.

Why Does Self-Awareness Matter?

In a study undertaken by Green Peak Partners and Cornell University, 72 executives at public and private companies ranging from $50 million in revenue to $5 billion in revenue were studied. Here’s what the study found:[2]

“The executives most likely to deliver good bottom line results are actually self-aware leaders who are especially good at working with individuals and in teams.” The study went on to say, “A high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success.”

So there it is!

Higher self awareness equates to higher levels of success. But this goes beyond our professional lives—it also applies to our personal lives.

In his book Emotional Intelligence, Goleman saw emotional intelligence as a vital factor in success, especially for children. He proposed that emotional intelligence would not only improve their learning abilities, it would also help them succeed in school by reducing or eliminating some of the most distracting and harmful behavioral problems.[3]

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Since 1995, there have been countless studies on self-awareness and EQ as a whole. Some have shown that improved EQ could help college students succeed, both academically and socially.

Other findings have shown that self-awareness can improve communication and reduce conflict in relationships, especially in married couples.[4]

As you dive into the rabbit hole of research online, you’ll find that self-awareness affects everything you do. It affects your leadership, your relationships, how you treat others, how you communicate, what you expect of people, how you respond to situations, and so much more.

Self awareness is, without a doubt, a critical skill that everyone should seek to improve upon.

And here comes the good news! Self-awareness is something you can learn.

In 2009, Delphine Nelis and colleagues conducted a controlled experiment to test whether or not it’s possible to increase Emotional Intelligence.

Participants of the experimental group received a brief empirically-derived EI training while control participants continued to live normally. At the end of the experiment, they proved that improving emotional intelligence is possible.[5]

How to Become More Self-Aware

If I’ve done my job correctly, you should be 100 percent sold on the importance of self-awareness, and you should be hungry to know how to improve on this area of your life.

That’s great because I have six strategies to help you do just that.

1. Create Space for Yourself

Have you ever heard the saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees?”

Sometimes, when we have our heads down, and we’re immersed in our everyday lives, it’s hard to see what’s really going on. Life is busy, so if you want to become more self-aware, you have to create space for yourself.

I don’t necessarily mean a meditation room, although that might help.

What I mean is, you need to carve out time in your day to reflect on your life:

How are you feeling?

Are you stressed, worried, or upset? Are you filled with joy and passion? Or, are you somewhere in between? It’s important to touch base with your feelings every day; otherwise your feelings can build and emerge in unpleasant ways.

What are you thinking about?

Do you have big problems but no time to think of solutions? Could things be going better in certain areas of your life?

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What are you focused on?

What is getting the most of your time? Should that thing or those people be getting so much of your time? Are you drifting through life, or are you attacking your life plan with passion and energy?

Most people are far too busy running through the motions of everyday life that they forget to pause and reflect. But not you! You’re on a quest to become more self-aware.

Maybe you can reflect during an early morning walk or meditation. Perhaps you could reflect during an hour in the gym, on the treadmill, or on a hiking trail.

It really doesn’t matter where you create the space for yourself—all that matter is that you make the time.

I’ve tried meditation, and it doesn’t work for me. Instead, I tend to check in with myself the most while I’m mowing the lawn, jogging, lifting weights, or journaling. Those are the times it happens naturally for me. There’s just something about being engaged in repetitive activity that clears my mind.

Find what works for you and create some space in your life. You need it!

2. Practice Mindfulness

For me, this is a tough one!

Google’s Dictionary defines mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”

I’m bad about moving through life at hyper speed, fueled by copious amounts of coffee while trying to crush my goals as quickly as possible. Stopping to smell the roses every once in a while is just plain hard for me.

It’s easy to be so future-focused that you lose track of the present, but by creating space in our lives, we essentially carve out dedicated times to practice mindfulness.

During these times, it’s important to listen to your inner voice, tune into what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it, and to acknowledge and understand yourself better.

How many times have you been upset and had no idea why?

This has happened to me, but then later on, when my mind became clear, it was easy to see why I was upset and what I needed to do about the situation. But we can’t always wait until our mind clears on its own!

In today’s fast-paced environment, the time may never come on its own. We have to make time for it.

Find some space in your life and use it to practice mindfulness each day. Here’s a beginner guide to try: Meditation Can Change Your Life: The Power of Mindfulness

3. Keep a Journal

What better way to create some space for yourself and practice mindfulness than to develop a daily journaling habit?

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According to Psych Central,[6]

“The act of writing accesses your left brain, which is analytical and rational. […] In sum, writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around you.”

I had no idea! Did you?

In addition to that, journaling can help you clarify your thoughts and feelings, get to know yourself better, reduce overall stress, solve problems more effectively, and even resolve disagreements with others.

If it helps, think of journaling as practicing mindfulness on paper.

Take some quiet time to think about your inner world, how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, and so on. While you’re analyzing your inner world, write down all of your thoughts as they occur to you. I call this a stream of consciousness.

If you can, do this at least once a day, either in the morning or in the evening. If you want to take your self-awareness to an even higher level, try journaling your observations every hour throughout the day.

According to the National Science Foundation, we have an average of 50,000 thoughts per day, most of which we are not self-aware enough to notice.[7] Imagine if you took a little time to practice mindfulness and wrote some of those thoughts down.

4. Become an Excellent Listener

Stephen R. Covey, the author of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, once said,

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Do you fall into that category?

For the longest time, I absolutely did. As people were talking to me, I was trying to hold onto as many of my own thoughts, replies, and rebuttals as possible. Then, moments later, I couldn’t recall a single thing I had been told.

A couple of years ago, I became aware of this phenomenon when I read John Maxwell’s Becoming a Person of Influence. There was an entire chapter on listening, and I learned that I was a terrible listener!

When you stop to listen to someone, your goal is to do a lot more than just hear their words better—you need to observe their tone, their body language, their emotions, and their attitude. You need to become acutely aware of how they feel and how you’re making them feel.

Instead of evaluating and judging what the other person is saying, connect with them, and listen and observe what they have to say. As you become a better listener to those around you, you will learn to listen to your inner voice better as well.

5. Seek New Perspectives About Yourself

Most of us think we have ourselves pretty figured out, don’t we? We spend more time with ourselves than with anyone else. We know all of our own intimate secrets, hopes, dreams, and guilty pleasures.

How could we not know ourselves inside and out? Well, I would argue that it’s tough to honestly know ourselves, at least entirely.

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Here’s why:

I think we often know ourselves as the person we aspire to be, not the person we are in the present.

My favorite show of all time is NBC’s The Office. In one episode, Michael Scott is introducing a new salesman to the staff. The new salesman is highly skilled, attractive, charming, and so on. Michael says this to his team:[8]

“I respect him, because he reminds me of somebody. Can anybody guess who that is?”

The staff takes their round of incorrect guesses, and Michael responds, “No, me. Right? Sorta like, a little younger version of me?”

In his eyes, he and the new guy were very similar, but Oscar replies, “It’s hard to judge ourselves accurately isn’t it.”

Oscar sees Michael through a completely different lens than Michael sees himself. And if you’ve seen the show, Oscar’s perspective is dead on.

It’s difficult to get pure, honest feedback free of bias and fluff, but by asking our friends, family, and coworkers for 360-degree feedback, we can gain a new perspective about ourselves that would be challenging to get on our own.

If you want to become truly self-aware, seek feedback from those you know and trust. The insights may surprise you, but the new perspective will be incredibly valuable.

6. Live and Breathe Personal Development

The last strategy I’ll leave you with for increasing your self-awareness is to consume as much personal development content as you can.

I love to listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos, read books and blogs about leadership, mentorship, goal setting, high performance, building good habits, and so on. The more I dive into personal development, the more I learn about myself.

A year ago, I didn’t know about scarcity mindset or risk aversion, let alone that I suffered from both. Now that I know I suffer from these things, I can work towards overcoming them in my life.

The more you learn about the world around you, the better you can begin to understand yourself, and that’s why self-awareness is so incredibly critical to success.

Final Thoughts

The impact that self awareness has on success is undeniable, but mastering self-awareness is going to take some effort from you. Are you up for it? I think you are!

You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: What Is Self-Awareness, and How Do You Get It?
[2] American Management Association: New Study Shows Nice Guys Finish First
[3] Positive Psychology Program: What is Emotional Intelligence? +18 Ways To Improve It
[4] Fatherly: How to Become More Self-Aware in Your Marriage
[5] Delphine Nelis: Increasing emotional intelligence: (How) is it possible?
[6] Psych Central: The Health Benefits of Journaling
[7] National Science Foundation: Thoughts
[8] The Official Quotes: The Sting

More by this author

Austin Bollinger

Austin is the founder, blogger, and podcast host at Daily New Years. He's on a mission to help people identify, set, and crush their goals.

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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

7 Steps to Start Living Your Dream Life Right Now

7 Steps to Start Living Your Dream Life Right Now

Have you ever heard the question, “what would you do if money was not a factor?” It is one of those questions that people often brush aside, because quite frankly, money is a factor. The doubters will mock you as naive or foolish, but deep down you know it is possible to start living your dream life. You know there is more to life than working and paying bills.

It seems as though most people are just trying to get by. They work because they need to make an income to support their life.

People not only settle in the workplace, but also in their relationships with their friends and family. You may even know people who settle by compromising their integrity and core values.

That is why it is not naive or foolish to start living your dream life, it is essential.

Living your dream life is more than being rich, it is the belief that you are living a life aligned with your purpose. If you are ready to free yourself of the fears that cause you to live your life according to the expectations of others, then follow the below 7 steps found in the book – Champion of Change, the 7 Instrumental Laws of Change:

1. Construct a Plan of Action

The foundation for you to create your dream life is for you to take the time and visualize what that life will look like.

This is more than the normal vision board you may have heard before. This form of visualization requires you to use all your senses. Olympians are well-known for their visualization practices as they prepare for competition. The reason they do this is because everyone is very talented by the mere accomplishment of qualifying for the Olympics.

To gain an edge, Olympians will visualize themselves competing in their actual event. Emily Cook, of the United States free style ski team is quoted as saying she engaged all her senses in her visualization. She moves her body as if she is skiing down the slopes, she feels the air as it blows through her hair, and she hears the roar of the crowd as she crosses the finish line.[1]

Olympians visualize in such detail because they understand they only have one opportunity every four years to compete. The best way they can be ready for the moment is by continually competing in their mind. Studies support this belief as they show you can literally gain muscle by visualizing yourself working out [2]

2. Focus Your Attention

If you want to start living your dream life right now, you are going to need to adjust the way you see the world. Your beliefs create your consciousness, and your consciousness creates your reality, and your reality is maintained by the way your mind filters information.

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Everyday, you receive millions of sensory inputs and your mind filters out most of them to keep you from going crazy. The ones you receive are the ones that your mind believes matter to you based on past experiences.

One of the most popular examples is when you purchase a new car. As soon as you purchase that car, suddenly you notice that car everywhere. Now you probably know that everyone did not purchase the car the same day as you, but what happened?

Well, when you purchased your new car, you told your mind ,”this car matters to me”. As a result, your mind is now showing you the car that has always been there.

Your mind blocks out most of the stuff that is going on while you are driving to help you stay sane. Imagine if you were consciously aware of every line, tree, car, deer, squirrel, reflector and sign while driving.

The same way your mind can adjust your filters based on the action of purchasing a new car, you can take actions to create your dream life. As you take action, your mind will show you new opportunities that were always there (just outside of your previous filters).

    Learn more about how to focus here: How to Improve Focus: 7 Ways to Train Your Brain

    3. Put the Systems and Processes in Place

    Once you have the proper mindset to start living your dream life, you are ready to shift your focus to maintaining your early wins.

    The mistake most people make is they are excited in the early going, but they are working solely off discipline and willpower. Your willpower and discipline are exhaustible resources that will fade over time. That is why most people quit their New Year’s Resolution 30-days after starting. That is also why people who are on a diet will make nutritious decisions throughout the day, and fail miserably late at night.

    Each time you withstood the tempting call of sweets, the likelihood of you withstanding another call decreased.

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    This is why it is so important that you put systems and processes in place that limit the need for you to use discipline and willpower. In the case of our dieter, it would be better for them to trash all the candy they no longer want to eat.

    The reason is simple:

    Whatever food that is in your house, you are going to eat at some time or another. The only way to truly ensure you will not eat the candy is to throw it away.

    This is also true when it comes to you and your dream life. If you want to ensure that you follow through on your vision, you have to be willing to limit the ability for you to revert back to your previous life.

    If you want to stop relying on your willpower and start making things happen, these tips will help: How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop

    4. Accountability Is a Must

    When you are accountable to someone or a group, you will find yourself more motivated to continue. Deep down, we all want to be accepted by others. Even though this can work against you sometimes, this particular occasion is not one of them.

    When you proclaim your goal to other people, it improves the likelihood of you following through.

    You may be surprised to know, but you experience accountability on a regular basis.

    • If the CEO asks you to provide a report, you are going to make the best report of your life. You understand the opportunity and value of making a good impression with the CEO.
    • Now imagine if your coworker asked for the report. Will there be a difference in quality?
    • How about if you were going to a class reunion? Would that improve your commitment to get in shape?
    • Even when you know you are going to have company over at your house, you are going to clean better than if you knew no one was coming.

    Accountability works because you want to keep your word and make a good impression of yourself in front of others.

    5. Catalyst for Change

    There are things you can control and things that you cannot control in life. Do not allow the fear of failure or fear of uncertainty keep you from living your dream life. Everything is not going to go smoothly on your journey. You are going to face challenges and setbacks.

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    The good news is failure is a part of success. They are two halves of the same coin. What tends to happen is people spend so much time trying to avoid failure, that they never realize they are undermining their ability to find success.

    By understanding that failure is a part of success, you understand your goal is not to avoid failure, but to build on it: 10 Famous Failures to Success Stories That Will Inspire You to Carry On

    Your dream life does not necessarily need a positive event to start. Oftentimes, it is the negative events (or perceived negative) and a sense of desperation that drives people to reach further than they ever have before.

    Your catalyst for change may be exactly what you wanted or it may be the worst thing that could have happened. Either way, your focus is on what to do next. You want to build on that event by stacking positive events on top of it.

    Positive events are anything that move you closer to your goal. In your case, anything that moves you closer to your dream life. Whether you quit your job or your boss fired you, it is all about what you are going to do next.

    Choose to respond to each situation by taking another step towards your dream life.

    6. Character Matters

    In a study between two schools on opposite ends of the economic spectrum, positive psychology experts created a list of character strengths they believed essential to success.

    Their list included grit, self-control, zest, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism, and curiosity.

    Some of the character traits were common with how most people view success; such as grit, curiosity or self-control. However, gratitude, zest, optimism, and social intelligence (compassion) were on the list, but their relation to success is often overlooked.[3]

    It is important to remember that change comes from the inside-out. Your core values are the prism through which you accomplish your goals.

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    7. Muster up the Courage

    Once you have completed the first six steps, you have everything you need to start living your dream life.

    Do not allow yourself to procrastinate on your transformation. The fear of change may disguise itself as a thoughtful plan to wait for more information or better timing.

    Keep in mind that you are not looking for the perfect situation, you are only looking to start. One you get started, you are going to be better equipped to make any changes.

    I often compare starting your journey like walking through a fog. If you stand on the outside of the fog trying to see to the other side, you are going to find it very difficult. But if you are willing take the first few steps, you are going to realize that you can see a few more steps into the fog.

    If you are willing to continue walking, before you know it, you can see clearly because the fog is behind you.

    You have an idea of what your dream life looks like and you have an idea of the effort it is going to take to make it happen. However, you do not really know how realistic your expectations are until you experience it.

    Final Thoughts

    There is a lot of work that goes into living your dream life, but you will find it well worth your time.

    Most people regret the things they did not do more than anything they have ever done. Therefore, do not settle for a life that is less than your dream life. Pursue your dream life with effort and resolve.

    More About Living Your Dream Life

    Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

    Reference

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