• Sarah Tottle

Building Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is simple. It essentially means knowing yourself more, having greater insight into what makes you tick, what your triggers are (what provokes you), and what makes you feel your best or your worst.

Many people struggle to comprehend why they behave and react the way they do, and, oftentimes, they don’t even take the time out to evaluate their personal behaviours and reactions in life. Self-awareness helps individuals not only understand themselves better, but also helps them gain greater insight into others too. This, in essence, generates higher levels of emotional intelligence, meaning better relationships, overall.

According to Dr. Pat Jordan, a U.K business psychologist who advises on government policy, self-awareness is crucial to, not only performing at our best, but also getting the most out of our careers. Rather than focusing on weaknesses, Jordan argues that it is our strengths that we must focus on. Strengths-based approaches often help us become more passionate at work and ensures that we focus on the positives in ourselves and others.

Psychologists define the development of self-awareness as a personal exploration of the self, with the focus being on taking time out to answer the questions or existential queries you have about life, and thus gaining greater clarity into your psychological make-up. Cultivating self-awareness is not a selfish pursuit, as it means you learn how to respond to life’s challenges in a more diplomatic (and healthier) manner. This is essential for encouraging better relationships and workplace conduct. Think about it, if you know what you are best at, what triggers and provokes you, and when you work most optimally, then you’re more able to engage in constructive relationships with colleagues, work at times that suit your energy levels, and are less likely to fall fowl to life’s daily ups and downs.

Why Self-Awareness is Important to Your Organisation

Self-awareness promotes pro-social behaviour: we understand ourselves better and this means we are more likely to think before we react. When we’re more self-aware we can respond in more insightful ways. When we react to life’s situations based on our own personal perception- which can often be clouded by fluctuating emotions, energy levels or hunger- potential conflict may arise. Taking time out to understand what triggers you is key to harnessing healthier behaviours. More self-awareness means better working relationships. But, having greater self-awareness doesn’t just help at work, it helps with all relationships. Family life often improves when individuals are more mindful of their actions and have a deeper understanding of the potential consequences of their behaviour.

Judgement regarding situations is often clouded by a range of factors. These include beliefs about the world, personal perceptions, past experiences, and the physical, social and environmental factors that an individual finds themself in. Past experience can be a powerful hindrance to seeing a situation clearly and may be the reason why one colleague may respond to a workplace stressor in a completely different way to another colleague.

Being Mindful and Cultivating Self-Awareness

We never really take time out to sit alone with our thoughts, to question our actions or our assumptions and beliefs about life. Having alone time is an important investment we need to make, not just for ourselves, but for the health and wellness of our organisations too. The odd- but consistent- five minutes alone, or a solitary lunch hour can help gain a sense of clarity and greater vision.

Mindful leadership is on the rise, with many leaders taking time out to prioritise alone time in favour of non-essential meetings. For some, it is the difference between focused and clear decision-making, rather than reactive and impulsive responses. Making a small daily or weekly change, for instance, or scheduling an hour in the diary for self-development, can make the difference between success or failure in the workplace.

Because self-awareness can reduce unnecessary conflict at work, give you greater insight into your own productivity and performance, reduce impulsivity, and cultivate positive working relationships, developing it is imperative.

Tips to Building Self-Awareness

1) Journal: write down your thoughts on a daily basis and reflect back. What specific situations make you feel the way you do? Write about what gave you joy and what made you angry, defensive, frustrated or sad. These insights can be incredibly useful in cultivating your self-awareness.

2) Develop a list of healthy behaviours: what changes can you make to the above? How can you respond better next time?

3) Be still: how do you feel? Note what emotions come up. What are these emotions? Write them down. What could these emotions be telling you? For instance, do you feel restless or bored? Are you completely relaxed or do you feel deadbeat?

4) Be Mindful: a growing trend in leadership is mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us become more aware of our thoughts and bodily responses and allows us to hit the pause button on our reactions, giving us time to think of healthier responses, rather than emotional reactions.

5) Seek feedback: Ask trusted sources to provide you with polite, but honest feedback on how they see you in your role. This feedback loop will bring in greater awareness of your ‘blind-spots’, the areas of yourself that exist, but you lack awareness.

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©2019 by Sarah Tottle Coaching and Counselling.