self-awarenessSelf Awareness is having a clear understanding of who you are in terms of your personality, strengths, weaknesses, way of thinking, beliefs, behaviors and emotions. It is this clarity of perceiving yourself that enables an understanding of how you come across to others…

A Definition of Self-Awareness

Daniel Goleman who is known for his best-selling book “Emotional Intelligence” suggested a definition of self-awareness as “knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources and intuitions”.This basically means that in order to be self-aware, we need to be able to monitor in real-time our thoughts, emotions and the resulting behavior.

So Why Does It Matter?

Being self-aware makes us stronger. When we know who we are and are aware of our strengths, weaknesses and tendencies, we realize that we are distinctive and unique human beings. We can find ways to address our weaknesses, build on our strengths and modify our behavior. This is enriching and empowering. Compare this with someone who is not aware of their weaknesses and who blindly carries on without realizing the negative impression on those around.

We have all heard how important emotional intelligence is but few people realize that the key route to emotional intelligence is via self-awareness. Knowing what emotions we encounter on what occasion is what helps to manage and control those emotions rather than letting those motions control us.

Why Is It Hard?

What is the issue then? Why isn’t everyone more self-aware? One reason of course is that our basic calibration is looking outwards to observe what is around us but we do not find it easy to pay attention to what is going on within us. As someone put it very well: “most of the time we are simply not there to observe ourselves”

In general, it is true that we operate on “autopilot” most of the time. A classic example of this in presentations when the “autopilot” or unconscious behavior makes us put our hands in our pockets as we face an audience.

How Does One Become More Self-Aware?

The best way to become more self-aware is to become less “autopilot” driven and more deliberate. You have to be aware that you need to be aware. It is almost like some entity outside of yourself starts observing you. This is what is also known as “awareness” or “consciousness”.

This is of course easier said than done and requires practice and experience. Keeping some kind of journal or notes on the following sequence can be helpful in identifying your triggers:

your thoughts or beliefs —– create these emotions —- that trigger this kind of behavior

Remind Yourself With a Cue

But it is easy to forget so in order to remember this in real-time, when it matters, it is best to identify first the occasions where you want to be more self-aware. Take for example a particular kind of situation at work that makes you really upset. Now think of a key word – maybe it is “upset” or a cue like taking a pen and preparing to write something. This will remind you that your autopilot trigger emotion is getting angry and it is better to take notes about the situation to deal with it later when you are not angry.