“Make the most of yourself. for that is all there is of you.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
We’ve all made mistakes throughout our lives that haven’t exactly put us in the best light–like bullying someone in school or telling what seemed like a little white lie. Chances are, however, you probably felt a little guilt and grew because of the situation.
I’m an average guy trying to become better in both my work and home life. I’ll never be perfect, but it doesn’t mean I won’t try.
If you want to continue to grow as a person, here are 15 ways to make the most of yourself.
1. Compliment Yourself
Every morning before you go on with your daily routine, take a couple of minutes to give yourself a compliment. Whether you compliment your outfit, haircut, or how you recently completed a task using your unique skill sets, giving yourself a little emotional boost will make you happy. And, when you’re happy with yourself, that emotion can be contagious to those around you. Inspirational speaker Tony Robbins has a mantra he says aloud to himself most days to put him in a peak performance state.
2. Don’t Make Excuses
Blaming your spouse, boss, or clients is fruitless and won’t get you very far. Instead of pointing fingers and making excuses about why you aren’t happy or successful in your personal or professional life, own your mistakes and learn from them. When you do this, you will become a better person. When I personally started living up to my mistakes and downfalls, my life turned itself around. I became happier and healthier, and my relationship with my wife improved. We are happier than ever.
3. Let Go of Anger
Letting go of anger is easier said than done. While anger is a perfectly normal emotion, you can’t let it fester. When this happens, you may make unwise decisions, and more important, it may affect your health. Research suggests pent up anger can cause digestive problems, difficulty sleeping, and even heart disease.
To help you let go of anger, Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD, suggests you write your feelings down, pray or meditate, or begin to manage your thoughts.
4. Practice Forgiveness
Joyce Marter, LCPC, suggests you forgive and let go of resentment. She notes, “If for no other reason than for yourself, forgive to untether yourself from the negative experiences of the past. Take time to meditate, and give thanks for the wisdom and knowledge gained from your suffering. Practice the mantra, ‘I forgive you and I release you.'”
5. Be Honest and Direct
How would you feel if a loved one or business partner lied to you? Chances are you would see that as a violation of your trust. If you want to be a better person in either your personal or professional life, you should always tell the truth and state as clearly as possible what you are trying to convey. Learn to articulate your thoughts, feelings, and ideas in an open and honest manner.
6. Be Helpful
Whether giving up your seat to an elderly person on the subway, assisting a co-worker on a project, or carrying in the groceries when your spouse comes back from the store, being helpful is one of the easiest and most effective ways to practice becoming a better person. I find that the more I help others, the better I feel about myself and everyone around me.
7. Listen to Others
As Jeet Banerjee notes on Lifehack, “listening to people and giving everyone a voice is one of the greatest things you can do.” He adds that he “got to meet some of the most amazing people, close some of the biggest deals, and develop connections that will last me a lifetime all because I took time to listen to people. Being a good listener can change your life in a positive manner.”
8. Act Locally
It may not seem like a big deal, but supporting a local cause, donating clothes, or buying from local farmers’ markets or businesses are simple ways you can help your specific region. You may not be able to save the world, but you very well could make a difference in your neck of the woods. Get to know and care about your community.
9. Always Be Polite
How much effort does it take to say, “Thank you,” or to hold the elevator door open for someone? Not much at all. However, these acts of kindness can make someone’s day. I decided a few years ago that it doesn’t matter if someone is ultra rude, condescending, or worse. The way someone else behaves is not going to determine my behavior.
10. Be Yourself
Tiffany Mason has five excellent reasons on Lifehack why you should be yourself. These include being able to align yourself with your values and beliefs, establish your identity, build courage, create boundaries, and find focus and direction.
11. Be Open to Change
Whether trying a new restaurant, traveling to an unknown part of the world, or doing something that has always scared you, you should always be open to change. This allows you to grow because you experience something new. It helps you be high functioning and self-confident if you are not wary of change.
12. Be Respectful
How would you feel if you had just cleaned your home and someone came in and tracked mud everywhere? You’d probably be a little ticked that they hadn’t taken off their shoes. Take this mentality and apply it to everyday life. For example, don’t toss your trash or cigarette butts on the floor of public restrooms or sidewalks just because someone else will clean it up. Be respectful of others’ time, thoughts, ideas, lifestyles, feelings, work, and everything else. You don’t have to agree with any of it, but people have a right to their opinions and yours is not necessarily correct.
13. Don’t Show Up Empty-handed
Going to a party this weekend at your friend’s apartment? Make sure you don’t arrive empty-handed. Even if you’ve been assured that there will be plenty of food and drink, bring along a little something to show you appreciate being invited.
14. Educate Yourself
If you don’t understand why one country is invading another, take the time to educate yourself on the current event. Ask a person intimately connected with the event for his or her thoughts. Remember, we’re all interconnected, and being aware of different cultures, different people, and what their lives are like can make you a more well-rounded individual. This will also help you understand points of view different from your own.
15. Surprise People
How good does it feel to make someone smile? It feels pretty good, right? Surprise your loved ones or co-workers now and then, with a gift, a night out on the town, or by offering help when you know they could use it.
Becoming a better person doesn’t happen overnight, but it is possible. Believe in yourself and know that it is possible!
What other tips have you found useful for becoming a better person?
Why is it so difficult for people to accept who they really are? In a word, pressure. There’s so much pressure — especially in today’s hypercompetitive and hyper-informed society — for people to be something they’re not. You get it from parents, from friends, from spouses, from television, from the Internet, from magazines, from advertisements you pass in the street, from nearly everything you see and do in any given day.
With all of the pressure that exists in today’s hypercompetitive, hyper-informed society, how does one truly accept themselves holistically? As Abraham Maslow highlighted, we all follow our own paths, it matters only how completely we dedicate ourselves to achieving the personal and psychological greatness that lies at the top. At the top of the self-acceptance pyramid lies the concept of self-actualization.
With self-actualization, you achieve expert control of your creativity, spontaneity, and problem-solving skills. You have assumed a comfortable and sensible morality. You operate with the ability to separate fact from fiction, while eliminating prejudice. It is, in its own way, the clearest definition of what it means to be enlightened as a person and as an entrepreneur.
The first part of self-actualization is accepting your true self, but the second part is understanding that the journey has no end point. To self-actualize, you must always strive to expand your horizons as a human being. To achieve success, you must always seek it. The potential to self-actualize is something that lies within us all. You must only make yourselves willing to progress and then take the steps necessary to unlock that self-actualization. Having stated this, here are four important steps to consider on your path to self-actualization:
1. Stop measuring yourself against others.
Most of us have the tendency to measure our self-worth by comparing our accomplishments and abilities to those of the people around us. If you want to see how you’re doing, the easiest way is to see how you measure up with your counterparts. It’s the surest way to demonstrate how far along are you on the path to achieving success. If you’re farther than others, you deem yourselves achievers. If you’re not, you tend to stress and work on ways to improve.
The problem is that self-actualization doesn’t have anything to do with the people around you. Notice the “self” part of the term. The only thing that matters is your progress, not the progress of others. If you hope to self-actualize — or at least get on the path to self-actualization — you must stop gauging yourselves against other people’s accomplishments. Whether it’s education or material things or even beauty standards, you cannot consider this as your standard. You must not work from a standpoint of how you compare; rather, you must work from a standpoint of where you are personally and independently of everyone else.
To achieve this step, you must be able to look in the mirror and say, “This is my portrait. This is who I am. This is my canvas.” With that canvas in mind, do everything in your power to not let your perception of others color that canvass. Only you can paint the picture of who you want to be. No one else is in control of your destiny.
2. Learn to accept yourself holistically.
It’s so easy to become dissatisfied with who you are and what you have accomplished. Oftentimes, when you look in the mirror, it actually serves to increase the negativity with which you think about yourself. You cannot fall into that trap. In order to self-actualize, you must accept your whole self — your strengths and weaknesses — and you must embrace them all. You cannot downplay your weaknesses or exaggerate your strengths if you hope to get anywhere in life. If progress is to be made, you must operate first from truth.
3. Understand that you are in control.
No matter how much influence an external factor might have on the people around you, the self-actualized remain unaffected. This is because they know exactly who they are, and can therefore always adapt (and adapt quickly). Because they do not lie to themselves about their own identities, strengths, and weaknesses, they have an immediate and clear picture of the adjustments they need to make to render the external factor irrelevant. Understand that the power you possess in terms of your outlook is absolutely astonishing. If you are realistic, honest, and above all, authentic, there is nothing you can’t achieve.
4. Don’t stop growing.
Those who self-actualize understand that the journey is never over. To self-actualize requires self-awareness, and self-awareness requires an understanding that there is no such thing as a finished product. There is no such thing as perfection and no such thing as an endgame. To be self-actualized means to understand that you must never stop growing as a person and learning as a professional.
To achieve self-actualization, when you conquer one thing, you must move on to the next. Self-actualization does not require any tricks or tools. To reach this level, you need only to accept who you are and then take the steps necessary to becoming the best version of you that you can be. Once you are 110% comfortable with who you are, who you’ve surrounded yourself with, and what you’re destined to do on this earth, you may begin your journey towards self-actualization.
As a final point, see who you are. Really see it. When you have seen it, adopt an attitude that you’re not afraid to go against the grain. Stop adapting to society and start being you. The empowerment that results will astonish you.
For more by R. Kay Green, click here.
For more on success and motivation, click here.
To be truly effective – in good times and in times of great challenge – leaders must master the ability to influence others. We’ve identified “influencing others” as one of the 4 core leadership skills needed in every role. (Communicating, learning agility, and self-awareness are the other 3.)
“Without the capacity to influence others, your ability to make what you envision a reality remains elusive because, after all, no one can do it alone,” notes George Hallenbeck, a lead contributor to our program Lead 4 Success®, which helps leaders develop the 4 key essentials of leadership.
“Without the ability to influence others, the truly important things in work and in life can’t be achieved.”
Effective leaders don’t just command; they inspire, persuade, and encourage. Leaders tap the knowledge and skills of a group, point individuals toward a common goal, and draw out a commitment to achieve results.
4 Key Skills Needed to Influence Others
How do they do that? The best leaders have these 4 key influencing skills:
- Organizational Intelligence: They understand how to get things done and embrace the reality of working within organizational politics to move teams and important initiatives forward.
- Team Promotion: Leaders cut through the noise to authentically and credibly promote themselves — while also promoting what’s good for the entire organization.
- Trust-Building: Because leadership often involves guiding people through risk and change, trust is essential.
- Leveraging Networks: No leader is an island. They are empowered by their connections with others.
Here’s a look at each of these influencing skills in a little more detail.
1. Practice “Organizational Intelligence.”
All organizations have 2 sides: the formal structure pictured on the org chart and the informal structure, which more often represents how things really get done. Politically savvy leaders understand both.
Political savvy is both a mindset and a skillset. Savvy leaders view politics as a neutral and necessary part of organizational life that can be used constructively and ethically to advance organizational aims.
For a leader, political savvy in action looks like this:
- Networking to build social capital, including mingling strategically.
- Thinking before responding, considering context and goals before deciding when and how to express themselves.
- Paying close attention to nonverbal cues, practicing active listening, considering how others might feel, and finding ways to appeal to the common good.
- Leaving people with a good impression, without coming across as “trying too hard.”
2. Promote Yourself, Promote Your Team.
Self-promotion is often seen as bragging or selfishness. But influential leaders know that by promoting themselves authentically, for the right reasons, they can cut through the information that bombards us all each day.
In the hands of an astute leader, self-promotion isn’t just a tool to advance one’s own career. It can provide visibility and opportunities for their direct reports, generate team and organizational pride, and make capabilities and ideas more visible across the organization — ultimately enhancing collaboration.
Two self-promotion strategies stand out. First, leaders who are good at this skill find ways to gather an audience. They may ask more people to be part of a team, initiative, or problem-solving process. Second, self-promoters find ways to “put on a show.” Leaders find ways to step into the spotlight at selected events and meetings, sometimes creating their own events. Learn more about why you should focus now on effective, authentic self-promotion.
3. Build & Maintain a Foundation of Trust.
Building and maintaining trust is essential for leading. Without trust, leaders may be able to force people to comply, but they’ll never tap the full commitment, capabilities, and creativity the group can offer. Leveraging these assets is invaluable when tackling tough challenges or making strategic change, so trust is vital.
People look for leaders who can appreciate their vulnerability and inspire them, understand them, support them, and guide them through looming chaos. This requires the leader to demonstrate a broad range of behaviors, some of which might seem contradictory, but when used in an appropriate and timely manner, create conditions that foster trust.
Trust involves a careful balance between pushing people into areas where they’re uncomfortable while also listening carefully to their concerns and feedback. Among the many “balancing acts” they must work to maintain, trustworthy leaders weigh toughness and empathy as individuals struggle with transition, as well as urgency with patience as change proceeds. Learn more about how to build trust on your team.
4. Leverage Networks.
Finally, leaders who are skilled at influencing others recognize and cultivate the power of networks. Organizations are increasingly dynamic; they morph in size and shape over time. Influential leaders recognize that their personal networks must also be dynamic, and they continually grow and strengthen their networks. They are also strategic about choosing how and when to tap into this network.
When Influencing Others, Remember Context Matters
Across all 4 of these influencing skills — political savvy, self-promotion, building trust, and networking — context is important.
The goal is to influence others, not manipulate them.
Effective, ethical leaders use different approaches in different situations, choosing carefully when to influence people with appeals to the head, heart, or hands.
Leaders need to understand why they are doing something — and be clear about their own values and goals when applying their influence skills. That way, influence comes from a place of authenticity and has the greatest impact.
Ready to Take the Next Step?
Build your team’s fundamental 4 leadership skills, including how to influence others, with our fundamental leadership skills course, Lead 4 Success®, available in a convenient live online format or via licensing.
The ability to monitor yourself is one of the most important traits you can have as a leader. Here’s how to improve your self-awareness.
- Self-awareness is the ability to monitor your own emotions and reactions.
- Studies show that people who have great self-awareness are better leaders because of it.
- There are many ways to improve self-awareness. From setting boundaries to practicing self-discipline, you can become more self-aware in a variety of ways.
What is the most important characteristic of a leader? Some might say it’s integrity; others may say it’s being a good motivator. But psychologist and author Sherrie Campbell believes that self-awareness is the key factor in leadership success.
What is self-awareness?
Self-awareness is the ability to monitor your own emotions and reactions. Self-awareness allows you to know your strengths, weaknesses, triggers, motivators and other characteristics. Being self-aware means that you take a deeper look at your feelings, why you feel a certain way and how your feelings could turn into reactions.
How important is self-awareness in leadership and business?
Without self-awareness, leaders can appear a bit arrogant. If you cannot be personable, or know when you are crossing a line, how can you possibly lead a company?
The need for self-awareness extends to other business situations, too. Think about how crucial self-awareness is in giving sales pitches or handling feedback, for instance; if you are not aware of how you will react or do not have a way to prevent a negative reaction, you could end up getting yourself in trouble.
Self-awareness is also helpful for presentations. Many people get nervous when delivering pitches, speeches or even notes at a meeting. However, self-awareness can help you in these situations. If you use too many filler words during presentations, for example, practice your presentation and have someone clap every time you use a word you want to avoid. Or, if you tend to sway or pace while presenting, try to limit your ability to move by sitting down at the table with your client or even just using a podium. Self-awareness can lead to self-improvement in these areas.
What are self-awareness skills?
In addition to being aware of your own emotions, self-awareness involves knowing how you will react to others. When you fine-tune your self-awareness abilities, you will become more empathetic because of the heightened emotional intelligence that comes with self-awareness. You also will be more adaptable. If you know how you will react, you might be able to avoid a tough situation by taking a walk or even just a few deep breaths. Self-awareness could also improve your confidence. By being open about your flaws, needs and strengths, you will strengthen your ability to be vulnerable, which allows for stronger relationships in the workplace.
“Self-awareness keeps us grounded, attuned and focused,” said Campbell, author of Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person (AuthorHouse, 2012). “When leaders are grounded, they are able to be efficient and deliberate in staying on task and being attuned to those around them. Leaders who have the ability to control their minds and emotions help to guide those around them to develop their own self-knowledge and success.”
Learning to be aware of yourself isn’t always easy, but mastering this skill can help you become a much more effective leader. Campbell shared these seven tips for improving self-awareness. [4 Tips For Teaching Leadership Skills]
Keep an open mind.В When you can regulate your own emotional world, you can be attuned to others’ emotions. To be a successful leader, you have to be curious about new people and all they have to offer. This shows that you can be a team player and don’t need to be No. 1. The more open you are to others, the more creative you become.В
Be mindful of your strengths and weaknesses. Self-aware individuals know their own strengths and weaknesses and can work from that space. Being mindful of this means that you know when to reach out for assistance and when you are good on your own.
Stay focused.В An important part of being a leader is making connections, but you can’t make those connections if you’re distracted. Train yourself to focus for long periods of time without getting sucked into social media, emails and other small distractions.
Set boundaries.A leader needs to have strong boundaries in place. Be warm toward others, but say no when you need to. Be serious about your work and your passions, and keep your boundaries firm to maintain the integrity of your goals and the work you put into them.В В
Know your emotional triggers. Self-aware individuals can identify their emotions as they are happening. Don’t repress your emotions or deny their causes; instead, be able to bend and flex with them, and fully process them before communicating with others.
Embrace your intuition. Successful people trust their instincts and take the risks associated with them. Your instincts are based on the survival of the fittest and the need to succeed. They tell you what to do next;В learn to trust your intuition.
Team of colleagues working together
It’s no secret that self-awareness is essential if you want to be successful. As stated by Dr. Tasha Eurich in this Forbes article and HBR post, 95 percent of people believe they are self-aware . In reality, only 10 percent to 15 percent actually merit the “self-aware” badge. That means there’s a strong probability you’re working with people who lack self-awareness.
What can you do to work more effectively with these people? Can you “enhance” their self-awareness, or should you focus on developing your own mental strength instead? Inflicting damage on a relationship isn’t ideal, particularly if the person won’t change, anyway.
But when someone lacks self-awareness, he’s not the only one who suffers — the people around him struggle, too. Here’s how you can overcome the problems caused by people who truly don’t know what they don’t know.
Lacking Self-Awareness or Just Exhibiting Bad Behavior?
First things first: Are you sure you’re actually working with people who aren’t self-aware? Is it possible some of your co-workers are just behaving badly?
Additionally, is there tension between you due to a lack of communication? Do you have different priorities? Do you trust each other? Are your personalities polar opposites?
Before assuming that someone lacks self-awareness, take the time to really think about what’s behind the tension so you can address the root problem. It may be a simple fix, like asking him to not speak as loudly on the phone or asking to be moved to another area of the office. For more serious offenses, like harassing or bullying others, you need to address the issue with your superiors or HR.
If you want to know whether you’re working with someone who lacks self-awareness, begin by asking your colleagues how they feel about this specific individual. It’s important to ask in a curious way, seeking information about their experiences rather than gossip. In most cases, there’s a general consensus about a person’s behavior — you’re not the only one with a problem or concern.
I have struggled myself with self-awareness and have worked hard to identify traits to avoid. Here are some of the behaviors that come up frequently:
- They have idea bias, believing good ideas only come from them.
- Without realizing it, they say things that discourage people.
- They can’t put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
- They have difficulty taking ownership of mistakes.
- They naturally become defensive with feedback or when somebody brings up challenging questions.
- They only surround themselves with people that agree with them.
- They have an overblown opinion of their performance and how they contribute.
- They aren’t able to adapt how they communicate based on their audience.
However, the biggest giveaway is this: The unaware don’t know their weaknesses and shortcomings. Most of them want to be effective team members. Offensive office jerks know exactly what they’re doing and aren’t receptive to change . Those lacking self-awareness don’t even realize they’re offending others.
Dealing With an ‘Unaware’ Colleague
If you’ve determined you’re working with someone who isn’t self-aware, what steps can you take to survive working together on a daily basis?
Ask yourself, “Can he or she be helped?” It’s important to realize that while you can help people see the errors of their ways, the decision to change is theirs. That doesn’t mean you can’t impact their self-awareness, but accepting the limits of your own behavior is key to not creating a loop of lacking awareness.
Provide caring and honest feedback. Whether they want to change or not, you can still make them aware of their faults. Of course, there’s no need to belittle or harshly criticize people who lack self-awareness. Instead, discuss with them privately how their behavior is affecting others. By responsibly handling a conversation that impacts someone else, you’re modeling the behavior you want to see.
It’s also good to offer specific alternatives. Just imagine someone pulling you aside and telling you you’re creating a toxic workplace. You’d probably be a little hurt, even angry. “What exactly did I do to make working conditions so intolerable?” But if he came to you and said instead that you don’t handle criticism well and, as a result, get short with others, making collaboration challenging, you’d hear the message.
Focus on what you can control. While you may not be successful in controlling others’ behavior or emotions, you have control over how you react. Start by strengthening your own emotional intelligence. Become more mindful , and meditate when you’re stressed. While your co-worker may still lack self-awareness, you can keep your own emotions in check.
Develop Your Own Mental Toughness
Regardless of whether your unaware colleague is receptive to your suggestions, there’s always a chance that a new hire down the road will be equally unaware. It’s even possible you’ll have a bad day and become the problematic teammate yourself.
We’re all going to have to overcome obstacles and difficult situations. The only way to break through these roadblocks is by developing mental toughness. I’ve found the suggestions from LaRae Quy , who spent 23 years as a counterintelligence agent with the FBI, to be an excellent starting point.
Start by working on your own emotional awareness. Remain aware of your emotions, and walk yourself through ways to control your resulting reactions. With increased awareness, you’ll be able to better understand others’ emotions and anticipate or empathize with their perspective.
Get uncomfortable. This isn’t easy, but getting out of your comfort zone will help you grow as a person. Learn new information. Read as much as possible. Try new things, and learn from failure yourself. Eventually, you may notice that the little things that bothered you before weren’t really a big deal.
Focus. This is all about focusing your mental and physical energy to become successful . Begin by soliciting feedback, getting your ego in check, and keeping your goals in front of you. By focusing on the positive, you won’t get distracted by the negative.
Conflicts in the workplace are inevitable. However, if you’re mentally tough and self-aware, these problems won’t fester into something worse. What’s more, you may possess the right qualities to inspire others to become more self-aware themselves.
Self-awareness is the foundational block of building many other healthy habits because it’s the ability to become introspective, observe yourself in a meta-cognitive level, and make the changes you desire! If you are prone to metaphors, you can think about it as the first layer in making a delicious quiche, which is the well-formed bottom crust. When forming a quiche from scratch, the crust is hardened separately and before any of the filling is added. That way it forms a firm foundation for the things to be layered on top!
The ingredients for the “crust” of self-awareness are:
- Meta-cognition The practice of being a neutral observer of yourself. This means that while going throughout your day you notice what thoughts and emotions arise within you in different interactions, and resist making a judgment about them, but instead just making mental notes.
- Introspection The practice of thinking about what you have observed and finding correlations in thinking patterns. Again, not using judgment, guilt or shame, but getting to the root of what and why behind the thinking patterns you have developed.
- Paradigm Shift The practice of realizing what patterns of thinking no longer hold value for you. Things that are based on what you believed were valid that were possibly expected of you from someone else, rather than aligning with your innate value system.
- Safe Place The practice of giving yourself grace and forgiveness for having believed something in the past, and letting go of the need to keep it going since the belief no longer serves your value system.
- Recalibration The practice of self-inquiry or asking yourself what you truly desire in life for yourself and others. Making a commitment to following your values and not being swayed by other’s expectations or value systems.
- Re-alignment The practice of creating thinking patterns that are in harmony with what you value, so that what you think, say, and do are all in agreement.
- Peaceful Acceptance The practice of accepting yourself even when old patterns reoccur, to notice them and to mindfully recalibrate back to positive growth. Developing habits that create peace and personal fulfillment instead of habits that cause guilt and shame.
- Personal Empowerment The practice of becoming stronger because you now act from a place that resonates with what you believe in and have removed the mental clutter and confusion of what “should” be done to what you want to do.
- Empathy and Engagement The practice of being aware of yourself and of those around you. Extending peace and grace to others, modeling self-awareness as a way of being. Encouraging others to form healthy habits.
- Remaining in Love The practice of staying in a grace relationship with yourself and others. When negative feelings of hate or bitterness arise, to be able to consciously notice them and chose to transcend the situations that cause these feelings and stay grounded in self-worth which promotes love.
The benefits of self-awareness are vast and wonderful. You become less reactive and more mindful in your decisions because you are looking at the “why” behind them. You are also creating emotional intelligence because you will have learned to be a neutral observer of yourself, so when an emotion arises you are free to feel it but not necessarily act on it until you understand its roots.
Last medically reviewed on February 13, 2017
Developing your self-awareness helps you learn more about yourself and what you’re capable of. There are some great ways you can work on your self-awareness, but what you do then is entirely up to you.
This can help if:
- you want to know more about yourself
- you want to develop good self-esteem
- you don’t understand other people’s reactions to stuff that you’re doing.
Why does self-awareness matter?
Self-awareness is really just about being aware and confident of who you are. It can relate to knowing your own values, beliefs, personal preferences and tendencies.
You know how famous people always say, ‘Stay true to yourself’? This is really important advice, but it’s not easy to stay true to yourself if you don’t know who you are. By becoming self-aware and understanding your strengths and limitations, you open up opportunities that just aren’t available otherwise. You’re also able to have more honest and genuine relationships because the people that you’re attracted to will be attracted to you for who you actually are.
3 ways to become self-aware
1. Assess your self-talk
The first step in self-awareness is to listen to yourself. What’s going on in your mind? Is it a series of negative thoughts that make you feel pretty crappy? Or are you always looking on the bright side?
In practice: Take a couple of minutes each day to sit in silence and listen to the tone of your inner voice. One way of getting your inner voice going is to stand in front of a mirror and hear what you’re saying to yourself about how you look. It might even help to write down your thoughts so that you can get a better idea of how positive or negative they are.
2. Use your senses
Your senses (sight and sound, in particular) can provide you with huge insights into your own and other people’s feelings, and situations in general. But these senses are often viewed through the filter of our self-talk. For example, a frown doesn’t always mean that someone’s angry, and a groan doesn’t necessarily mean that the person you’re talking with is bored, despite what your inner voice might be saying.
In practice: The next time you feel that someone is judging you, or has made you feel bad about yourself, take a step back and write down why you think this. Ask yourself, ‘Could I have interpreted what was said/done differently?’ You might find that your interpretation was clouded by your own negative thoughts.
3. Tune into your feelings
This can be hard if you’re not the kind of person who likes to think too deeply about your feelings. Your feelings are spontaneous and emotional responses to the things you experience. Like your senses, they give you good information about what’s going on around you, should you choose to tune into them.
There are some physical signs that you can look for that might help you to ‘read’ your feelings. They include:
- A warm feeling in your face might mean you’re embarrassed.
- A feeling of ‘butterflies’ in your tummy can mean you’re nervous.
- Clenching your teeth might mean you’re angry.
In practice: Be aware of physical signs that might indicate how you’re feeling. By engaging with how you’re feeling, you can get better insights into what you like, what makes you feel uncomfortable and what makes you angry.
What can I do now?
- Remember that you already have some self-awareness, otherwise you probably wouldn’t have chosen to read this factsheet.
- Write down a list of your personal values and the things you think you’re good at.
- Challenge yourself to practise the tips given above for a week.
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How do we stack up? It’s a question we seem to constantly ask ourselves. Our brains want to know how we are measuring up compared to everyone else. Do we matter more than other people matter? Is our position more valuable than another person’s position? People can spend their entire lives trying to determine where they stack on the proverbial totem pole of the human race, however, those who do will one day be sorely disappointed to find out that there was no ranking measurement against anyone else at all. There was only the assessment of how their life measured up to their own personal potential.
“Don’t compare yourself with anyone in this world…if you do so, you are insulting yourself.” –Bill Gates
When we compare ourselves to someone else we will always have to rank ourselves as either superior or inferior to that other person, and neither of those assessments will ever be factually accurate. Admittedly, a person can be better than someone else at one particular task, but that doesn’t qualify them as superior. Attempting to gauge how we are doing in comparison to someone else will never lead to an accurate evaluation because no two people are ever exactly alike. We come from different backgrounds. We possess different talents. We have different strengths and weaknesses. So how then would it ever be a fair assessment to hold ourselves and any other person to the exact same measuring stick?
In life there is no “superior” or “inferior” and there is no measuring stick that ranks us in order of importance. Everyone is exactly equal in importance to this world and it isn’t possible for any one person to become more or less important than any other person. So then what do we aim for? How do determine excellence? How do we become “the best”?
We start by redefining what we believe “the best” is. We start by recognizing that being “the best” is something relating to you, and only you. It’s about achieving YOUR best, ranked solely against yourself and your own past performance and your own future potential.
Some exercises that can help us do this are:
Look at your own natural talents and abilities and write them down in a list. Then ask yourself, how you can further develop those talents and abilities? How can you hone them to make them the very best they can be? In addition, ask yourself what natural gifts you have that you have not yet begun to grow and develop? Write those down too. Recognize that becoming your very best will take an ongoing effort of improving the talents you already have, discovering your gifts still waiting to be developed, and continuously looking for undiscovered gifts and talents yet to rise to the surface.
Coming to recognize every gift and talent we possess within us takes a lifetime. Many of them surface during times of trial and difficult experience. Many surface as we gain more wisdom. Let’s face it, we will likely never know everything we are truly capable of until life forces us to prove it to ourselves.
It is often said that “If you continuously compete with others, you become bitter, but if you continuously compete with yourself, you become better.” We have to remind ourselves daily that our goal isn’t to be better than anyone else. Our ultimate goal is to be better today than we were yesterday, and have a plan in place to help us become even better tomorrow.
I am an entrepreneur, angel investor, public speaker, mentor, and philanthropist with a focus on helping others to excel in their entrepreneurial ventures. I am the…
To be a good leader, you have to know yourself.
To be a good leader, you have to know yourself.
You can’t be a good leader without self-awareness.
It lies at the root of strong character, giving us the ability to lead with a sense of purpose, authenticity, openness, and trust. It explains our successes and our failures. And by giving us a better understanding of who we are, self-awareness lets us better understand what we need most from other people, to complement our own deficiencies in leadership.
The question, then, is how can we cultivate and develop it further. There are many ways to do so. Below are five that I have found to work best:
Meditate. Yes, meditate. As most people know by now, meditation is the practice of improving your moment-by-moment awareness. Most forms of meditation begin with focusing on, and appreciating the simplicity of, inhaling and exhaling. But these don’t need to be formal or ritualistic — greater clarity can also come from regular moments of pause and reflection. Speaking personally, I try to gain greater awareness by simply finding a few seconds to focus on my breathing, often before sleep, and sometimes with one of the many apps available to help. During these meditations, I also ask myself a set of questions, among them:
- What am I trying to achieve?
- What am I doing that is working?
- What am I doing that is slowing me down?
- What can I do to change?
But the most frequent form of “meditation” I practice derives from carrying out seemingly mundane tasks that inspire a degree of therapeutic serenity, including washing dishes, working in my garden, and spending early Saturday mornings writing in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts as I wait for my son to be dismissed from his drawing class.
Write down your key plans and priorities. One of the best ways to increase self-awareness is to write down what you want to do and track your progress. Warren Buffet, for one, is known for carefully articulating the reasons he’s making an investment at the time he makes it. His journal entries serve as a historical record that helps him assess whether or not future outcomes can be attributable to sound judgment or just plain luck.
Li Lu, a co-leader of the Tiananmen Square student demonstration and today a highly respected investor, told me once about a practice he followed for years, inspired by Benjamin Franklin. Franklin kept a “balance sheet” of both the assets and liabilities of his personal traits. By diarizing any new strength he believed he could learn from someone else, and marking down any self-perceived weaknesses, he could better assess whether the “net worth” of his character was growing over time.
Take psychometric tests. In Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck, my co-authors and I developed a simple “entrepreneurial aptitude test” in order to understand which traits readers were most likely to be biased in business-building and in life. Among the best known of these tests are Myers-Briggs and Predictive Index, but all are aimed as serving as a data point towards greater self-awareness. A common design point with all of them is that there are no particular right or wrong answers. Instead, they are designed to compel respondents to consider a set of traits or characteristics that most accurately describe them relative to other people. In our own version, (which can be taken at www.hsgl.com, and is free) we ask people to consider forced choices in paired question sets – e.g. Is your success best described by analytics or instincts? Are you more driven by passion or by action? Reflecting on forced trade-off questions such as these help test-takers better understand their own true characters.
Ask trusted friends. None of us is altogether aware of how we come across to others. We have to rely on the feedback of our peers, friends, and mentors. To have your friends play the role of honest mirror, let them know when you are seeking candid, critical, objective perspectives. Make your friend or colleague feel safe to give you an informal, but direct and honest view. This can mean saying something like, “Look, I am actually asking you as a friend, please just be straight with me on this matter. Okay?“
Another strategy is to ask friends to call you out when you are doing a behavior you already know you want to change. For instance, “Look, I know I am a ‘story-topper’ who needs to one-up every conversation, but do me a favor and each time I do that, let me know – preferably discreetly – so I can learn to stop.”
Get regular feedback at work. In addition to informally and periodically asking friends and family, use the formal processes and mechanisms at your workplace. If none are in place, see if you can implement more formal feedback loops. Provided it is done well, constructive, formalized feedback allows us to better see our own strengths and weaknesses. At my own venture capital firm, Cue Ball, we have begun encouraging entrepreneurial founders to institute a formal, annual 360-feedback process that provides feedback across multiple areas of competencies and work styles.
The keys to effective formal feedback is to a) have a process, and b) have an effective manager of it. The latter either requires really good internal HR people, or bringing in outside facilitators and consultants. We’ve found the approach with external folks to be more effective at both small and large companies, because they come without the baggage of pre-conceived biases or reporting lines. Once the feedback process is completed, it is important all involved to reflect on it by writing down their top takeaways. Note both any surprising strengths and any weaknesses or blind spots.
In the end, we all want self-awareness. Without it, one can never fully lead effectively. It’s only with self-awareness that one can journey closer to a state of “self-congruence” — in which what we say, think, and feel are consistent. Building self-awareness is a life-long effort. You’re never “done.” But these five pragmatic practices will help you move faster and further along the way.