How to gain self-knowledge and live up to your potential

How well do you know yourself? Is it easy for you to understand why you feel the way you feel? Or why you do the things you do?

This is the essence of self-knowledge: being able to understand who and what you are on a fundamental level.

We may spend a lot of time and energy trying to learn more about ourselves. And yet, there are still many things that can catch us by surprise.

Here’s how to expand your self-knowledge to cultivate more personal wisdom on a daily basis.

What Is Self Knowledge In Psychology?

Self-knowledge is defined as the ability to fully understand one’s thoughts, emotions, and the way they push one into taking action.

Essentially, it’s about figuring out who we are at our core and knowing how much of our life is in alignment with our true selves.

You need to be able to understand your core values, thinking patterns, desires, and beliefs. And once you’re able to do that, you can make choices that will bring your life ever closer to the ultimate in fulfillment.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. But there are several methods you can use to start diving deep into who you truly are.

How can I have self-knowledge?

Before you can develop self-knowledge, you have to understand the roadblocks that stand in your way.

First of all, most people spend the majority of their time on autopilot. Such mindlessness doesn’t allow us to take a closer look at who we really are.

Another roadblock? We often identify too strongly with our thoughts and feelings, equating them with our innermost selves and judging them.

It’s important to note that you are not your thoughts. You are not your feelings. Both these sensations are fleeting. And take a moment to consider: who is the person observing the thoughts and feelings?

If there were no separation between you and what you think and feel, you wouldn’t be able to observe them. The simple fact that you can observe your thoughts and feelings proves there is a separation.

Take some time to ask yourself the following:

  • What makes me excited?
  • Are there certain emotions would I like to feel more/less of?
  • What kind of work is meaningful to me?
  • What do I want to do with my life?
  • What’s something about myself that I’d like to change?

Once you start, you’ll likely come up with all kinds of questions that you’ll want answers to.

Pretend like you’re meeting someone you’re interested in, and think about what it is you’d like to know about them. This way, you’ll be able to look at yourself from a different perspective, which can do wonders for gaining self-knowledge.

How to gain self-knowledge and live up to your potential

What is the importance of self-knowledge?

Why should you strive to know yourself on a deeper level? It’s the first step towards building your desired life. Without a clear picture of who you are, you can’t choose the direction you want to move in.

Once you get to know who you are, you can start building a vision of your best self. And you can start to think about the steps you need to take to make this vision a reality to start creating a life of purpose and meaning.

What are self-knowledge and values?

Values play a vital role in our lives. They guide us on a daily basis, pushing us toward our goals and pulling us from what doesn’t serve our best interests.

Some values are learned, others are imposed. But getting to know yourself on a deeper level will help you uncover your core values.

The road to fulfillment and lasting success can only be found through the exploration of self-knowledge. Stay in touch with your core values and be true to who you are.

Gain Instant Clarity On What You Really Want In Life – And Have It All

There’s a reason that so many brilliantly talented, naturally creative, intelligent and capable people never reach their potential, and it is, quite simply, a lack of direction.

Even if you have a vague goal in mind, you still need a plan, a process to get you there.

You can have the most expensive, fastest car in the world, but if you set off without a clear idea of where you’re going, then the rusty old Beatle with a map and compass will beat you there every time.

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How to gain self-knowledge and live up to your potential

So, how well do you know yourself? Share your thoughts below.

How to gain self-knowledge and live up to your potential

by Mindvalley
Mindvalley is creating a global school that delivers transformational education for all ages. Powered by community. Fueled by fun. We are dedicated to ensuring that humans live happier, healthier, and more fulfilled lives by plugging in the gaps that conventional education failed to teach us. We do this by organising real-world events around the world and producing world-class quality programmes in several areas of transformation, including mind, body, and performance.

How to figure yourself out.

Natascha Chtena is a PhD student in Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. You can follow her on Twitter @nataschachtena

Honestly, I have a hard time understanding why barely anyone in higher ed ever talks openly about how intrinsic self-knowledge and self-awareness are to success, in grad school and beyond. How your graduate careers will not be automatically marked by large doses of self-discovery and skill-building. And how, unless you’ve figured out where you’re headed, grad school might well get you nowhere. Because it doesn’t matter how smart, hard-working or diligent you are when you don’t know who you are and what you want. Without a clear sense of where you are going, grad school can get frustrating (even painful), expensive, and long. Very long.

Having said that, I don’t believe that anyone is born knowing his or her self. I also think it’s a common misconception that self-knowledge and self-awareness are bi-products of life experience; some people grow old without developing either. In other words, if you seek to get to know yourself better you have to work for it, you have to make a conscious effort, and you have to do it with intention and purpose. But how?

Actively ask for feedback (and listen):

I know this won’t be easy. When I first started approaching people for suggestions and feedback I was terrified, defensive, and close-minded. I heard things that surprised and others that hurt me (and so will you), and I was just plain bad at taking surprise criticism productively. But then I came to realize that without correction, my weaknesses would limit how far I could take myself, in grad school and in life more broadly. Pretending I’ve got it all figured out could only last so long after all.

Of course, coming across as a drifter or having a nervous breakdown in front of, say, your thesis supervisor is no good. Also, having a mental list of what you consider to be your strengths and weaknesses during such conversations is a must. But asking for honest feedback can be as hurtful as it can be empowering.

And one last thing. Try looking beyond the idea of “the one” mentor who will hand hold you through the journey of self-discovery. Not to underestimate the profoundness of such relationships, but sometimes placing your life (and self-esteem) into the hands of a single person can be tricky. Trust me, I’ve been there. Instead, sit back and think critically and maturely about anyone – supervisors, colleagues, friends etc. – in your social network that might be able to offer some valuable insight. And don’t forget to take notes (pain and repressed anger can be distracting)!

Take a few personality tests (but not too many):

While there are plenty of online tests to waste your time with – from which One Direction member you will marry, to what kind of animal you were in a previous life – the one type of test worth your time is a personality test. Sure, some of them are pricey, like the acclaimed Myers Briggs test which, depending on extra features, can cost you anything between $50 and $100 (ouch). But don’t worry! Discovering yourself doesn’t have to make you broke, as many low-cost and free alternatives can be found online.

The classic Princeton Review Career Quiz, for example, is free, fast, and concise. Certainly, the list of suggested careers is too long (75 in my case) but the personality overview is enlightening and is neatly tied up to the “right” workplace environment (for example informally paced and future-oriented or orderly and structured). Another good tool is the RHETI, based on the Enneagram concept, which identifies people as one of nine personality types (such as the peacemaker or the enthusiast). While you can find a free Sampler online, the complete test and interpretation will set you back $10. A personal favorite is the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS), which helps you find out if you are an Artisan, Guardian, Idealist or Rational. Good news is the site only requires a free registration for you to take the test. Last but not least, the Draw a Pig Quiz is hilarious and impressively accurate!

Gain loads of work experience outside the “ivory tower”:

Obviously, personality tests and career quizzes can only take you so far. If you want to get a real sense for your strengths and weaknesses, you have to put yourself “out there.” Even if you’ re certain about what field interests you, it’s still very useful to work in different positions, in different environments, and with different people. Seriously. I’ve worked for over 30 non-profits, for-profits, NGOs, public institutions, start-ups, and individuals, and every single one of those work experiences taught me something about myself that I didn’t know. Working in the field you are pursuing, or any field really, won’t just equip you with hands-on experience, professionalism, and knowledge of new technologies, it – gradually and painfully, I must admit – equips you with self-knowledge.

Discover (and push) your physical limits:

What has physical exercise got to do with self-knowledge? Loads! Whether it’s running a marathon, climbing a mountain, or rafting through a national park, challenging sports teach you that physical limits are breakable. They teach you that your limits are not fixed but temporary. And most importantly they show you that everything holding you back is in your head. The thing is, most of us tend to have potential that we’re not fulfilling that is “locked up” somehow. Physically challenging—even extreme—experiences not only enable us to recognize this potential, but also force us to reach it. Sure, there are multiple ways to find out what you’re really made of, but pushing your physical limits might be especially valuable if you’re the kind of grad student who’s convinced mental limits are the only ones worth breaking (I’ve been there too). Not that mental or, if you like, intellectual challenges don’t teach you a lot, because they do. But they teach you different things, and the insights from both are indispensable.

Admittedly, those tools and activities are the ones that have worked best for me. A while ago, our writers Eva Lantsoght and Katy Mayers shared how developing mindfulness and practicing meditation respectively, helped them better understand their patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Others have found themselves in self-help books, community volunteering activities, or somewhere in South-East Asia. There’s really no wonder pill, and it’s all hard work. But when evidence suggests that blind spots in self-knowledge can pretty much screw up your life (poor decision-making, poor academic achievement, emotional and interpersonal problems, lower life satisfaction – do I need to go on?), action may be the only option.

What strategies have you used to boost your self-knowledge and awareness?

[Image from Flickr user Wizetux and used under Creative Commons License]

How to gain self-knowledge and live up to your potential

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How to gain self-knowledge and live up to your potential

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“If I have to spend any more time as a cog in the wheel – sacrificing my own creativity & passion to help someone else’s vision come to life – I am going to scream,” I thought staring at the excel spreadsheet on my screen. At that moment, I gained two essential pieces of self-knowledge:

Awilda prefers to work for herself & Awilda needs to be engaged in work that she is both passionate about and stimulates her creativity.

In the milliseconds after this information was received, I had a choice to make: would I reject this information as a baseless passing thought or would I integrate this new information as self-knowledge and use it to help change my trajectory?

I chose to accept the information because the realizations were based on the feeling that I was no longer capable of going on as I had. I knew that was not motivated to continue, and I was capable of so much more. The self-knowledge I gained in that moment was invaluable.

How to gain self-knowledge and live up to your potential

Self-knowledge is knowledge or understanding of one’s own capabilities, character, feelings, or motivations. One could also think of self- knowledge as Self-Understanding.

Self-knowledge is the keystone in the arc of success, because success requires intentionality. It is difficult to be intentional if you don’t have a clear idea of the type of person you are, what you can do, how you feel, and what motivates you.

Thankfully, every experience and thought you have can provide you with data that gives you an opportunity to gain more self-knowledge – just like my moment of clarity at the computer. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that trying to understand yourself can be life’s greatest challenge because you are both the perceiver and the object being perceived.

Consequently, the idea of actively seeking to attain self-knowledge can be scary and stressful, especially if you feel disconnected from yourself. Luckily, when the process is broken down into 4 digestible steps, it’s a lot less scary and a lot more like solving a cool personalized puzzle. Here are the 4 steps to actively attaining more self-knowledge:

Step 1 – Take a Character Inventory

Taking an inventory of your character is the first step. Ask yourself, “What are my distinct mental and moral qualities?”

Are you quick to anger; are you conservative; do you love easily or are you super guarded? Perhaps you are incredibly honest, or dedicated to your spiritual beliefs. All of these things contribute to your character.

If you are not sure about the answers to these questions, examine your lived experiences. You will find supporting examples that support these character traits among your lived experiences.

Step 2 – Understand What You Can Do

Understanding what you can do is the next rung in the self-knowledge ladder. While you can always become more capable, having an honest grasp of your current capabilities is critical. You don’t want to be applying for your dream job knowing that you are unable to actually satisfy the roles requirements.

If you possess a firm understanding of your strengths and weakness, it will allow you to leverage your abilities in such a way that you don’t overextend yourself. Additionally, knowing where you are deficient in your abilities empowers you to proactively seek out the skills necessary to change that reality.

Step 3 – Feel the Feels

Being able to identify what and why you feel a certain way is an integral part of self-knowledge. Yet this can be the hardest of all.

Feelings are tricky. They give us a lot of information, but they aren’t always warm and fuzzy. Spending time getting acquainted with what you feel about various parts of your life will give you a lot of data. Here again, lived experiences are a fertile ground for supporting evidence that can help you understand your feelings more clearly.

For example, you may be confused about your feelings around applying to a particular job or academic program. To get clarity, think about how you feel in the moments associated with this decision. If you feel anxious and unsure every time you try to submit your application, then your feelings may be trying to signal that this is not the best decision for you.

Sometimes, feelings give us data we don’t want to accept, even though we know it’s valid and true. The choice to integrate the information is always yours.

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How to gain self-knowledge and live up to your potential

Step 4 – Motivation Matters

The final piece of the self-knowledge puzzle is to understand your motivations. The question becomes: Why are you doing what you are doing?

Common motivators are: money, prestige, recognition, family obligations, freedom, and personal fulfillment. You may easily identify with one of those common motivators or you may be motivated by something completely different like a desire to save the planet or simply to live a peaceful existence. Freedom, family, and an unshakable desire to help others are what motivate me.

However, I want to warn you that the first thing that comes to mind when you think of what motivates you may not be the true source of your motivation. For example, many think money is what motivates them when in fact, it’s a desire for stability that is their true source of motivation.

Final Thoughts

Once you have taken the time to intentionally collect more data, you get to decide what to do with it. Will you integrate it and change you trajectory, or ignore it and continue your current path? Whatever you choose to do will undoubtedly be informed by the information you learned about yourself form solving the Self-Knowledge Puzzle.

Inevitably, the Self-Knowledge you gained will help to create immense clarity on your life journey. When you are clear about your character, capabilities, feelings and motivations, it is easier to create intentional strategies for all around success.

Self-Knowledge puts you on a fast track to success; while a lack of information can cause delays, distractions and derailments. If you truly know yourself, you have a better chance of confidently achieving your goals in a timely manner.

*The post appeared first on Lifehack.

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How to figure yourself out.

Natascha Chtena is a PhD student in Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. You can follow her on Twitter @nataschachtena

Honestly, I have a hard time understanding why barely anyone in higher ed ever talks openly about how intrinsic self-knowledge and self-awareness are to success, in grad school and beyond. How your graduate careers will not be automatically marked by large doses of self-discovery and skill-building. And how, unless you’ve figured out where you’re headed, grad school might well get you nowhere. Because it doesn’t matter how smart, hard-working or diligent you are when you don’t know who you are and what you want. Without a clear sense of where you are going, grad school can get frustrating (even painful), expensive, and long. Very long.

Having said that, I don’t believe that anyone is born knowing his or her self. I also think it’s a common misconception that self-knowledge and self-awareness are bi-products of life experience; some people grow old without developing either. In other words, if you seek to get to know yourself better you have to work for it, you have to make a conscious effort, and you have to do it with intention and purpose. But how?

Actively ask for feedback (and listen):

I know this won’t be easy. When I first started approaching people for suggestions and feedback I was terrified, defensive, and close-minded. I heard things that surprised and others that hurt me (and so will you), and I was just plain bad at taking surprise criticism productively. But then I came to realize that without correction, my weaknesses would limit how far I could take myself, in grad school and in life more broadly. Pretending I’ve got it all figured out could only last so long after all.

Of course, coming across as a drifter or having a nervous breakdown in front of, say, your thesis supervisor is no good. Also, having a mental list of what you consider to be your strengths and weaknesses during such conversations is a must. But asking for honest feedback can be as hurtful as it can be empowering.

And one last thing. Try looking beyond the idea of “the one” mentor who will hand hold you through the journey of self-discovery. Not to underestimate the profoundness of such relationships, but sometimes placing your life (and self-esteem) into the hands of a single person can be tricky. Trust me, I’ve been there. Instead, sit back and think critically and maturely about anyone – supervisors, colleagues, friends etc. – in your social network that might be able to offer some valuable insight. And don’t forget to take notes (pain and repressed anger can be distracting)!

Take a few personality tests (but not too many):

While there are plenty of online tests to waste your time with – from which One Direction member you will marry, to what kind of animal you were in a previous life – the one type of test worth your time is a personality test. Sure, some of them are pricey, like the acclaimed Myers Briggs test which, depending on extra features, can cost you anything between $50 and $100 (ouch). But don’t worry! Discovering yourself doesn’t have to make you broke, as many low-cost and free alternatives can be found online.

The classic Princeton Review Career Quiz, for example, is free, fast, and concise. Certainly, the list of suggested careers is too long (75 in my case) but the personality overview is enlightening and is neatly tied up to the “right” workplace environment (for example informally paced and future-oriented or orderly and structured). Another good tool is the RHETI, based on the Enneagram concept, which identifies people as one of nine personality types (such as the peacemaker or the enthusiast). While you can find a free Sampler online, the complete test and interpretation will set you back $10. A personal favorite is the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS), which helps you find out if you are an Artisan, Guardian, Idealist or Rational. Good news is the site only requires a free registration for you to take the test. Last but not least, the Draw a Pig Quiz is hilarious and impressively accurate!

Gain loads of work experience outside the “ivory tower”:

Obviously, personality tests and career quizzes can only take you so far. If you want to get a real sense for your strengths and weaknesses, you have to put yourself “out there.” Even if you’ re certain about what field interests you, it’s still very useful to work in different positions, in different environments, and with different people. Seriously. I’ve worked for over 30 non-profits, for-profits, NGOs, public institutions, start-ups, and individuals, and every single one of those work experiences taught me something about myself that I didn’t know. Working in the field you are pursuing, or any field really, won’t just equip you with hands-on experience, professionalism, and knowledge of new technologies, it – gradually and painfully, I must admit – equips you with self-knowledge.

Discover (and push) your physical limits:

What has physical exercise got to do with self-knowledge? Loads! Whether it’s running a marathon, climbing a mountain, or rafting through a national park, challenging sports teach you that physical limits are breakable. They teach you that your limits are not fixed but temporary. And most importantly they show you that everything holding you back is in your head. The thing is, most of us tend to have potential that we’re not fulfilling that is “locked up” somehow. Physically challenging—even extreme—experiences not only enable us to recognize this potential, but also force us to reach it. Sure, there are multiple ways to find out what you’re really made of, but pushing your physical limits might be especially valuable if you’re the kind of grad student who’s convinced mental limits are the only ones worth breaking (I’ve been there too). Not that mental or, if you like, intellectual challenges don’t teach you a lot, because they do. But they teach you different things, and the insights from both are indispensable.

Admittedly, those tools and activities are the ones that have worked best for me. A while ago, our writers Eva Lantsoght and Katy Mayers shared how developing mindfulness and practicing meditation respectively, helped them better understand their patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Others have found themselves in self-help books, community volunteering activities, or somewhere in South-East Asia. There’s really no wonder pill, and it’s all hard work. But when evidence suggests that blind spots in self-knowledge can pretty much screw up your life (poor decision-making, poor academic achievement, emotional and interpersonal problems, lower life satisfaction – do I need to go on?), action may be the only option.

What strategies have you used to boost your self-knowledge and awareness?

[Image from Flickr user Wizetux and used under Creative Commons License]

How to gain self-knowledge and live up to your potential

Oct 10, 2018 · 5 min read

How to gain self-knowledge and live up to your potential

Do you sometimes feel like you’re wasting your potential? And do you also feel unsure about how you can even reach your full potential?

If so, you’re like any other ambitious person who wants to make the best of his/her life. Because to me, that’s what “reaching your potential” means.

We all have limited time on our hands. Some live longer than others. But you and I both know that it’s not about how long you live, it’s about what you do with the time you’re alive.

It’s about le a ving everything on the table and making sure you live up to your inner drive. Look, when I talk about reaching your potential, I’m not talking about what other people or society thinks we should do with our lives.

When you chase empty goals and objects, you become restless. Instead, chase your own potential and forget about everything external. Become the best person you can be. That’s the only honorable aim there is.

I’ve studied people who committed their lives to chase their full potential. Not only famous people like Muhammad Ali, Helen Keller, Thomas Edison, Malcolm X, or any other person who made an impact on the world.

I’ve also learned many lessons from “normal” people I know personally. People who learn every day, give it their all, keep growing and get closer to their full potential.

What does it take to do that? How can we do it too? I identified 7 skills that almost all of these great people had in common. Here they are.

You must be comfortable with who you are and what you are. Don’t try to be something you’re not. And don’t try to change yourself just because others tell you to.

Instead, know who you are. And if you don’t know, find out. Read, write, think, talk. That’s self-awareness: It only requires you to be aware of your thoughts.

And when you’re self-aware, you automatically learn more about who you are — which is called self-knowledge. But it all starts with being aware. No awareness? No knowledge.

I’ve made a list of 20 questions you can use to improve your self-awareness. Use it to improve this skill.

First, focus on yourself. Fix your own problems. Become a stable person who you can rely on.

When you do that, focus on inspiring others to do the same. The best way to help others is to teach them to rely on themselves.

Sick and narcissistic people want to make people dependent on them. Leaders teach others to be independent. How? By setting a good example. There’s no better way to lead.

Better writing leads to better thinking. And better thinking leads to better communication. Better communication leads to better results in your career.

“What?! I never thought writing was that important!” When you get good at one thing, it will help you to get better at other things. You see?

It was only when I started writing that everything “clicked.” When you become a better writer, you can easily express yourself and start making connections.That will improve your career in ways you never imagine.

My definition of mindfulness might be different than yours. To be clear, I’m not talking about meditation, yoga, or Zen Buddhism.

I’m talking about being a calm and mindful person. A person who’s in control of their thoughts and emotions. A person who’s solid as a rock. A person who others can rely on.

But achieving that inner peace requires much training. I don’t think we can ever fully master this skill. But by practicing control over our thoughts, we can get better.

My favorite way to become more mindful is being present. The more I stay in the present moment, the more mindful I am. The aim is never to be lost in thoughts. It’s to be here.

The funny thing about mindfulness is that people assume living in the present removes your drive to achieve your goals.

The reverse is true. The more present I am, the more desire I feel to improve my life. And how do you improve your life?

You already know it. I don’t have to tell you that work is the only way to achieve things. Thinking about achieving your goals will not do anything real for you.

Become a person who’s productive every day. Make use of your time. Don’t just waste it on watching tv, hanging out with your friends, gaming, or any other mindless routine activity.

Some days, I want to give up. You know why? Because some days you don’t see any results in your life. You work, work, work, and you get nothing in return.

For years, I studied and worked without seeing any results. No recognition, no money, and no rewards. Just me, plowing ahead.

But one day, after years of work, I started seeing some results. I got better at what I did, felt more confident, and started earning more.

But if I didn’t persevere, I wouldn’t get any of those things. That’s why I don’t quit on striving for betterment. And neither should you. Ever.

I half-assed many things in my life. “Let’s just get it over with,” was my motto. I was so impatient that I hardly did anything well. I just put in the minimum effort. Hence, I was never the best at anything.

But then I realized that excellence is a skill. Look at Robert Greene who took 6 years to write another book. Or Lebron James who worked out during every off-season of his career. Or Helen Keller who published 5 books, despite being deaf and blind.

But this is also true for successes that don’t get attention in the media. Look at the top salesperson in any given organization who arrives early and leaves late every day. Or the mother who sacrifices nights out and dinner parties to raise her kid with all of her attention and love.

That’s called excellence.

No matter what you do. Do it the best way you can — or not at all. If you want to reach your full potential, that’s the quickest route. It’s also the hardest. But that shouldn’t be a surprise to you.

Regardless of where you are on the career ladder right now, there will be a point when you’ll be handed a leadership role and your team will expect you to hit the ground running. Maybe you’re aiming to lead an initiative, chosen to lead a team project out of the blue, or given the opportunity to apply for a management position earlier than you thought.

Whatever the case, you’re probably wondering how you develop leadership skills on the fly. Sure, you probably have a rough idea of the basics from watching your manager (and her manager). But, doing it effectively requires finesse and complex knowledge.

So, rather than waiting for the opportunity to arise, start developing those skills now.

1. Take a Leadership Personality Test

To improve your skills, you need a starting point.

First things first, take a minute and spend some time thinking about how you behave under stressful situations. What is your preferred leadership style? Do you ask others for their opinions? Do you tell everyone what to do and how you expect them to do it? Do you lead from the front? Do you worry about where your team is headed and whether there is a clear vision ahead? You’ll gain great insight into your preferred style of leadership by taking a few minutes to introspectively think about these questions.

Unsure what your tendencies are? Take a quiz! There are many leadership-style quizzes online, but one of my favorites is on Skillsyouneed.com. This test will determine your leadership personality, and it will also identify how you can improve your abilities and build on your specific strengths.

2. Keep a Journal

You’ve probably heard this before: Journaling is good for your career for many reasons. Bonus: It’s something you can start today without a big investment of time or money.

In this case, I recommend making this journal strictly about your career—save reflections on that awkward exchange with an old friend for a different diary. Note instances you could’ve handled differently or times you could’ve communicated better. Keep records of your own and your team’s accomplishments, long-term goals, mishandled situations, time-management, and more. You can write it out by hand or keep track online (and if you opt for the online route, I suggest DayOne).

Unsure where to start? Write an entry on what you consider to be the five best traits of a leader.

3. Find Your Passion

In order to be an effective leader, you need to be passionate about what you do.

Think about it: It’s inspiring to follow a person who’s all-in—who eats, sleeps, and breathes the work. Of course, passion isn’t really something you can fake.

So, if your current job feels like little more than a paycheck, take a “passion test” to discover what you care about. Go to Pymetrics, play 12 short games, and you’ll get an analysis on your personality traits (cognitive, emotional, and social) to further understand what drives and motivates you.

When you’re truly engaged with your work, others will be more likely to follow you.

(Still not sure what your passion is? Our find your passion worksheet can help you sort through all the clutter in your brain—for free!)

4. Beef Up Your Communication Skills

Even someone who excels in many aspects of leadership will probably hit a ceiling if he or she is not a good communicator.

Starting now, you should aim to over-communicate with everyone on your team, so nothing gets misunderstood or misinterpreted. Set up routine meetings with your manager and any colleagues working on ongoing projects with you (even if they are only brief check-ins).

No matter where you are on the chain, you can work on this. Do you excel at written reports, but clam up when it’s time to speak during a meeting? Alternatively, are you a natural when it comes to conversation—but secretly worried that your lack of grammar know-how will hold you back?

Instead of relying on your strong suit, beef up whatever area of your communication skills is lacking. It will make you a more valuable employee now, and a better leader later.

5. Become a Leader Outside of Work

Being a charity board member is one of the best ways of getting hands-on team building and leadership-building experiences. Yes, it’s true that some organizations have boards composed of people with massive name recognition, experience, or bank accounts. But, there are probably numerous nonprofits in your community that would be thrilled to have you join and offer your time and skills.

Not only will you be helping a great cause that you feel dearly about, but you will learn about each facet of the organization for which you have oversight. Never seen an operational budget before? Now you will!

To get started, ask friends, family, or Google for suggestions. And, if you’re still stumped (or perhaps overwhelmed with all the options), check out one of these organizations: AllForGood, CreateTheGood, HandsOnNetwork, and VolunteerMatch.

6. Learn How to Build Solid Teams

Another really important part of being a successful leader is putting together the right team. Start developing those skills now by paying attention and taking note of your co-workers’ strengths and weaknesses.

Have you noticed who does (and doesn’t) seem to work well together? Or maybe if Terry’s skill set perfect complements Maribel’s?

Understanding personality dynamics and how different types work together will enable you to be a strong team member, regardless of your actual position. Finally, remember that the best leaders also reflect on their own weaknesses and see people who have different strengths as important contributors (not threats).

7. Take an Online Leadership Building Course

Take an online course geared toward building your professional skills. For example, at my company MOGUL, we have the MOGUL Career Course, with resources and expert advice provided within that will help accelerate you into a stronger, more confident leader.

Other companies with courses that help you develop additional facets of your professional life include Coursera and One Month. Check out a few options and pick the one that’s best for you.

Sometimes being a leader includes a fancy title—but it doesn’t have to. No matter where you are in your career, the steps above can help you grow your skills, so when that big opportunity does come your way, you’ll be ready.

  • Learning & Development
  • Self Evaluation

How to gain self-knowledge and live up to your potentialBeing self-aware, understanding how we are perceived by others, and seeking feedback about how to improve our contribution to the business are important components of personal growth and leadership success.

Self-aware leaders have clear knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses and are committed to continually enhancing their skills.

They take charge of their personal growth and development because they know that it will help them maximize their potential in their current role and prepare them for future opportunities.

One of the keys to self-awareness is proactively seeking out helpful feedback from others and keeping your mind open to their opinions in terms of how you could improve your effectiveness in the organization.

The other key is engaging in thoughtful self-reflection—“holding up the mirror,” so to speak—to hone strengths that you can leverage and become more aware of your personal opportunities for improvement.

Understanding both of these areas increases your self-knowledge and has the potential to make a positive impact on your personal performance.

The simplest and most straightforward way to hold up the mirror is to conduct a personal SWOT analysis. Use the following framework and questions to guide your personal inquiry:

How to gain self-knowledge and live up to your potential

Conducting this analysis will help you gain a better understanding of your current strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats you are facing. However, having a complete list of your personal SWOT doesn’t mean you should try to tackle everything at once!

Instead, take things more slowly and focus in on a few key areas. Use the questions below to help you prioritize and narrow your list to the things that will help you gain immediate traction. This will help you focus your growth and development efforts on the right areas:

  1. What is the most critical improvement needed for me to be successful in my current role?
  2. What is the most important strength I have that I can leverage?
  3. Do I need to gain other skills/knowledge or make other improvements before the targeted improvement area can be effectively addressed?
  4. What are the areas that I can begin to improve upon immediately?
  5. Which areas support my development and align with my career aspirations?
  6. In which development area(s) will I receive the most support and resources?

Simply knowing what your strengths are and the ways in which you need to improve isn’t enough. You have to use this knowledge to take action and make the choice to learn and grow in ways that will enhance your short- and long-term success in the business. Because the pace of change continues to intensify all around us, it’s imperative that we engage in self-reflection and continuous learning.

No matter what your job is in your specific organization, having strong self-awareness and a commitment to growth and learning will help you as you maximize your performance in your current role, prepare for future opportunities, and use your strengths to work through your weaknesses.

How to gain self-knowledge and live up to your potential

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.

How to gain self-knowledge and live up to your potential

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.

Over the last week, I’ve been sharing lessons on thinking of motivation as a system. One which, if you master it, can allow you to make more progress on your goals with less struggle.

Key to all of this, of course, is self-awareness. You can’t diagnose a problem if you don’t even know you have one. Similarly, unless you have a good sense of who you are, your strengths, weaknesses, personality and proficiencies, you’ll always struggle to make progress.

Yet no bookstore sells a book about “you”, so how do you develop this kind of insight into yourself?

Inside and Outside Views

There are two perspectives worth cultivating for self-knowledge. They dovetail nicely, but tend to come from very different sources.

The first is what I’ll call the “inside” view. This is the kind of self-awareness you get from going through a major breakup, finally figuring out what you want in life or going on a meditation retreat. It’s the kind of wisdom you gain from life experience.

Inside-view self-knowledge is highly personal. It’s experience that tells you how to interpret yourself that only you know. This kind of knowledge also tends to be hard to write down. In fact, its often the tacit self-knowledge that underpins much of our motivation. Our self-efficacy determines our motivation, as it subtly encodes our expectations for success when we strive hard.

How to gain self-knowledge and live up to your potential

The second perspective is the “outside” view. This is the perspective you gain from reading psychology, economics, neuroscience and religion. It’s the kind (I hope) you gain a little of when reading my blog.

The outside view isn’t personal—it’s generic. It doesn’t explain your situation, but it offers ideas to help you see all situations. The value of the outside view is that it, indirectly, aggregates the experience of millions of people. Ultimately, science itself is nothing but a systematized accumulation of experience. This can be evidenced by the root word for “experiment” being the same as experience.

Improving the Inside View

The road to wisdom is experience. Unfortunately it’s a road that is often quite narrow. Our personal experience, at best, captures a minuscule fragment of the possible lives we could have lived.

Sometimes, with experience, we get a good accounting of who we are. Years of schooling, for instance, often give us a pretty good idea of how well we do on exams, or how much we like sitting and listening to lectures.

However, this experience can also be deceiving. Just because you failed high-school Spanish doesn’t mean you’re “bad” with languages. You might do just fine if you instead lived in Madrid and used the language as part of your everyday life.

How to gain self-knowledge and live up to your potential

This narrowness of personal experience can be reduced somewhat:

  • Having a wider range of experiences. Simply trying more stuff is an important ingredient in success since it widens the inside view of self-knowledge you have to build off of. While it can sound somewhat trite to say “try a bunch of things” to someone who is struggling, it very often is the right answer.
  • Document and measure your experiences. We often don’t even take full advantages of the limited experiences we do have. We needlessly repeat past mistakes because we don’t bother to document what went wrong. We fail to build on past successes because we don’t take a careful accounting of what foundation was laid beforehand.
  • Talk to more people. Other people can offer an outside perspective on your inside view. There are studies which show that good friends often understand us much better than we do ourselves. This can be valuable information when making decisions, even if we don’t always want to hear it.

Improving the Outside View

While the inside view is rich, yet narrow, the outside view is broad, but often lacking details. The solution to problems of the outside view is to educate yourself more deeply. Learn about motivation, memory and willpower. Read broadly and widely to get a better picture of the human condition.

Science, of course, plays an important role in this self-discovery. Psychology, however flawed, has revealed an enormous amount of truth about human nature. Economics has given me more tools for thinking than I can count. Neuroscience provides mechanism to theory, showing how our personalities function.

But I don’t think limiting the outside view to hard sciences is best. Religion, philosophy and literature all have important contributions to make. Many people have been contributing to the conversation of how best to live for millennia, so it makes sense to read what they have to say.

How to gain self-knowledge and live up to your potential

Merging the Two Views

Self-awareness comes from building a richer, more accurate model of yourself. This combines not only theory, but experience.

Having more self-awareness leads, straightforwardly to more success. If you understand how you operate, both as an individual and as a human being generally, you can be more successful with your ambitions.

But the benefit of self-awareness is much deeper than this. Understanding yourself transcends just trying to make more money or have a better job, because it helps you realize why you want to pursue those things in the first place. In some places, this will strengthen your ambitions, as you recognize a deeper purpose to your goals, in other cases it may change what you pursue entirely, leaving some pursuits that you recognize won’t actually make you fulfilled.

The process of cultivating self-knowledge is long, and I would be lying if I said I had figured it all out. But, I think it’s a process worth pursuing deliberately, even if it takes a lifetime.

This lesson was written as the last part in a free, four-part series. If you want to read the other lessons, click here: Lesson 1, Lesson 2 and Lesson 3.

On Monday, I’ll be reopening my course, Make it Happen! for a new session. Delivered via daily lessons over six weeks, this course offers insights to help you make more progress towards the goals you care about.