You’ve heard it before, people talking about mindfulness, meditation and self-awareness. It’s truly not a new concept. Many have dedicated their lives to its core values and moving the world towards world peace, such as Chade-Meng Tan (author of Search Inside Yourself). As of late, there has been a much larger focus on Emotional Intelligence and happiness in the Psychology world. A topic seemingly left in the dark for so long.
There are so many facets to this behavioral process and science, but today we are really going to keep it simple and focus on 2 things: Why it’s important to be self-aware & how not to use your self-awareness.
Let’s dig in.
1. Why it’s important to be self-aware.
A few months back, I had some coffee with my friend, Fadi. I already knew this was going to be a great time because I love sitting down and having meaningful conversation with people and I am also a coffee addict. Basically, if you don’t like coffee, I’m not sure if you’re truly human.
Anyway, back to the story, coffee with Fad the Bod (that’s how he refers to himself). While enjoying the nectar of the gods, we chatted about life and our own creative outlets and how we had become stagnant with them.
At this meeting, we both agreed that we would have a pact with a small group of people (him, myself and possibly 1-2 others) that we would meet once a month to discuss our current creative endeavors to support one another and also hold each other accountable.
We both agreed that we would need a little bit of time to decide exactly what our creative endeavors would be and then have it ready to share at our first monthly meeting.
I drove home, so excited. Myself and a few others were going to be meeting regularly to cultivate each others dreams and passions. As I was thinking about what it was that I would do, originally wrestling with ideas of drum videos, making music or teaching others music stuff, I realized none of those things would bring fulfillment. I had spent most of my life playing music. I love music, but I learned a while back that it is not what fulfills me (check out more of my personal journey here). But I was ecstatic. So I asked myself why was I so excited. I quickly realized I was more excited of the prospect of being a part of others pursuing their passions (which is what brings me the most joy in life), than I was about even having a creative outlet.
That was it. My focus would be sharing that message and encouraging others. That’s how More than Dreamers was born.
Had I not stepped back and assessed myself and my emotions, I could have easily made my focus the wrong thing. Sure I may have come up with a fun creative outlet, but it may not have aligned with my core purpose. I’m in my 30’s now. I’m not sure about you, but I just don’t want to waste any more of my life on pursuing the wrong thing.
So when we talk about being Self Aware, you should be assessing what or how you are feeling. Step outside yourself for a minute (this is where that meditation stuff comes in handy), and ask yourself about your feelings. It’s weird at first, I know.
Once you’ve landed on what/how you are feeling, then you need dig one step deeper and ask yourself why you are feeling that way. Doing this will allow you to make better decisions for your life. It will ensure you have a true purpose behind your actions. You will know why you are doing what you are doing. In turn, you will also know what personal fulfillment you are gaining (or not gaining).
2. How not to use your self-awareness.
I have a friend whom I have known for many years. At one point in time we even had the pleasure of working together. There was a season where this person was really dedicated to growing in their job and getting promoted. We had worked for a great company who invested in their people and allowed us to spend time digging into our individual strengths and weaknesses. One of their weaknesses was “composure.”
That is a difficult one for a lot of people. What this essentially meant was that they had a difficult time keeping it together in tough situations. Those who struggle with composure may be that friend, that you never truly know what you are going to get from them day by day. They could be fine one minute and completely blow up the next. They may be the one who can’t hold back their facial expressions when they disagree or are in disgust. Basically, they don’t have a poker face. They can’t hide their emotions at all.
Back to my friend. This got them in trouble every once and a while. And while knowing this was their main area of opportunity for improvement, they often used it as an excuse as to why they sometimes reacted the way that they would. They internally decided (and sometimes audibly said) “This will always be my weakness and I know that.” The problem with that sort of mentality was that it gave permission to display the exact behaviors they knew they needed to improve upon. Until they remove their excuse they won’t be able to get past their area of weakness.
I’ll share another example, this time a personal one.
A few weeks back I had an opportunity to spend time with some leaders that I highly admire and respect. It was a rare opportunity to showcase my talent and the work I had been currently focusing on. In preparation for this meeting, I did a self-development activity, assessing my skill level of specific leadership behaviors. In doing this, I uncovered that my main area of weakness is dealing with ambiguity or uncertainty (I’m not much of a spontaneous person outside of work either). I like to be prepared. More specifically, I like to be prepared in front of people who I believe to be much smarter than myself. I like to know and feel that I am adding value to whatever I am actively participating in. Simply put, I like to have a purpose.
The timing of this opportunity was an additional challenge. My team of 8 was down 2 people. I had picked up the responsibilities of one of those positions, in addition to my own. I was also on several other strategic teams in my market and all of this only allowed me to be in my building with the team I lead 3 days a week. Oh, I was also going on vacation the next day and needed to write 2 weeks worth of schedule for 40 people on a scheduling tool that just had its biggest update in the 8 years I have worked there and was up and down for hours at a time.
I was ready for vacation. I was also scatterbrained, exhausted and now paranoid about this upcoming meeting that I had absolutely no time to prepare for…all the while knowing (or being self-aware) that my main weakness was dealing with the unknown.
I let that last thought rule me.
Instead of going in excited to discuss all of the work I had been doing and seeing a positive impact, I was obsessing with the fact that I had no idea what to expect from this. So I went in to it making an excuse for myself. I shared how exact moments like this make me uncomfortable and I struggle in situations where I don’t feel prepared. The problem was, that is not always true. In front of the team that I lead, I lead with confidence because I believe in what we do everyday. In real life, I am not terrified of not knowing an answer, because I rest assured that I know how to find an answer. (everything is on google, you guys.) 😉
I went into this meeting representing one aspect of myself that was only the case sometimes. I used it as an excuse by allowing it to dictate how I responded in the moment. Later, I received feedback that I came off lacking confidence. Which was valid.
Do not allow your awareness of your weaknesses be an excuse for sub-par behavior.
The great thing about self-awareness, is that once we discover things about ourselves, we also have the power to change. Once we are aware, we can spot moments where those behaviors or mentalities creep in and we can choose to use the space in between that moment of self-knowing and our reaction to respond differently.
How will you choose to use self-awareness to make better decisions for your life? How much time do you invest in knowing yourself better? Feel free to share your story or thoughts in the comments below.