If you want to develop greater self-awareness for your personal and professional development, these five ways are simple to implement and will have a powerful and long-lasting impact.
1.Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of pausing, noticing and reflecting. Some people regularly practice mindfulness and meditation, others less frequently and some do not at all. The truth is we all experience moments of mindfulness when doing the most routine of tasks. For example, most of us have experienced the relaxing, solitary and non-judgmental shower environment which creates the space that allows the mind to wander freely, causing us to be more open to our inner stream of consciousness. It is in this space that we can get insights and develop greater self -awareness.
It is important, then, even as busy leaders we make sure that we create time and room for solitude. We need to reduce our levels of sensory stimulation so that we can experience and enjoy the mindfulness practice and think at a deeper level, allowing us to discover new connections, greater awareness and ‘a-ha’ moments. The research on the benefits of mindfulness cannot be disputed. Apart from its ability to enhance self-insight, it’s proven to reduce stress, increase cognitive flexibility and boost our working memory. If you haven’t developed this practice you should certainly be considering mindfulness.
2. Create a written record of your key plans and priorities. Journaling is a great way of reflecting on your world, seeing the patterns and exploring what is working and what is proving less successful. Sitting down regularly and writing allows you to investigate your thoughts and feelings thoroughly which, can lead you to a deeper understanding of your fears, hopes and motivations. Your writing doesn’t have to be a ‘best-seller’ – the whole purpose is to write quickly, allowing your thoughts to flow naturally without being held back by uncertainty or judgement. As you practice this way of writing you will discover more about who you are and what influences you. As part of this process it is useful to explore the answers to key questions such as:
-what am I trying to achieve?
-what am I do that is helping me?
-what are my barriers?
-what can I do to address these?
Note how these all these questions start with ‘what’. Using ‘what’ when we reflect is far more productive as it enables us to gain a more refined insight into what we are doing. If we use ‘why’ questions such as, “Why am I doing this?” it will only focus us towards our negative emotions and draw us into limitations. ‘What’ questions, however, focus us towards an improved future and help us see our potential.
3.Take a psychometric test. Any psychometric test will serve as data reference towards self-awareness. There are many tests available freely online, some well known such as the Myers-Briggs and others, such as my personal favourite, the DISC® profile. The interesting element with these tests is that there are no wrong or right answers. Personality profiles are there for people to consider a set of characteristics that most accurately describe them relative to other people. It is ultimately subjective, but reflecting on these questions allows people to better understand their own characteristics, their responses and feelings and how they may come across in interactions with others.
4. Get more feedback. Other people will always be able to see us far more objectively than we see ourselves. Asking for feedback is a great way to address our blind spots. We need to rely on the feedback of peers, friends and mentors, even when the information can be painful to hear. Deborah Grayson Riegel, CEO and Chief Communication Coach at Get Talk Support, identifies three thoughts that will go through our minds when we hear feedback:
Wow. Shock….what did I hear?
Ouch. The feeling you get when you realise that this is their truth about you.
Thanks. When you can see how the feedback can help you.
Knowing that the information will be useful for your development and understanding that the uncomfortable feeling, ‘ouch’, will pass can make feedback more palatable.
Great feedback will always happen when you ensure that you are asking the right person, at the right time with the right questions. Asking “How was that?” after a meeting won’t give you the answers you need. Saying “I’m really looking for some honest feedback on how I lead meetings, I know I sometimes have a tendency to talk over people, what do you notice happens when I lead meetings?” will give you much more useful information and will give the person permission to be honest and open with you. It’s important to let people know that you are seeking candid and objective perspectives and equally important that you don’t misread their intentions.
5.Get a coach or mentor. Sometimes the most successful feedback can come from an external facilitator as they will not have any pre-conceived biases. Working with a professional coach is just like working with sports coach, they can see your ‘performance’ outside the box, they are able to see what you cannot see. A great coach will help you shift what needs to be shifted, changed or let go of so that you can be the best version of you. Some of the best leaders have the self-awareness to know that they cannot go it alone and need this external support to grow and succeed.
Building self awareness is never going to be a quick fix, it’s more a life-long process but these practices will help you move more quickly towards a state of knowing yourself fully. We all have the opportunity to be more self-aware and grow into the leaders we are meant to be, we just need to develop the confidence to do so, so that we can adapt and get there. If you want to start the process and explore your own level of self- awareness contact me here.