What is Self-Awareness and How Can You Cultivate It?

There are many components to cultivating a strong sense of emotional intelligence. At the forefront of this is self-awareness.


When one can become in tune with their thoughts, beliefs, and values, one can truly begin to thrive as a leader. In turn, your employees will start to respond as you take responsibility for your actions and reactions. It will help you open the conversation to understanding yourself and your company, which will increase profits and performance.


Why Emotional Intelligence?


When leaders run a company with high emotional intelligence (EQ), the company will benefit immensely. Multiple studies prove that it actually may outweigh leaders with high IQ. A combination of both makes an incredible leader.


Understanding emotion is the epitome of the human experience. Our emotions give us important clues as to who to trust and where risk is. When we can connect with others, we can create a thriving community where we hear ideas and work gets done.


Self-awareness is one of the five essential components of EQ, along with self-management, motivation, empathy, and social skills. One cannot expect to increase their EQ without first becoming self-aware. We will break down self-awareness and how you can access this characteristic.


Cultivating Self-Awareness


When considering self-awareness, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs may come to mind. At the top of this pyramid is self-actualization, just below “transcendence” at the top. To reach your highest potential, you must focus on tuning into your emotions and responding to them.


By tuning into your emotions you will begin to recognize how your feelings affect your performance and how you impact other people. As you become more attuned to these areas, you're more able to adapt your behavior in the moment, improve communication, make true connections, and optimize your effectiveness as a leader.


Yet, you cannot achieve self-awareness without creating routines that allow you to connect to your highest self. It requires a disciplined approach to gain insight into what makes you tick. This is your why and how. How and why do you react to life and its stressors? Let’s get into it.


Write down your thoughts from the prompts below. We will look at your values, passions, purpose, mission, and goals.


Values


What are your values? Your values are the bedrock of who you are. For many, their values revolve around being a good person, prioritizing family, and making the world better. How do you balance your work and personal life to align with these values?


Passions


What are your passions? Your passions matter because they guide you to work hard and keep you motivated. They will help you operate in the “red zone” as you grow your business and build self-confidence by enhancing your work in understanding your passions.


Purpose


What is your purpose? At work, what are you trying to achieve? For the greater good, what are you trying to achieve? When we act out of a desire to make ourselves better and the whole of our communities, we become stronger leaders.


Mission


What is your mission? In other words, what is your definition of success? This will help you clarify your goals.


Goals


What are your goals? How do you create plans with intention? Consider the long-term and short-term objectives of your personal and professional life.


Consider your past and present selves. Ask questions like, “What is my most significant achievement?” or “How do others perceive me?” or “Do I live with regret in my career?”


Write them down and make a realistic plan for achieving each goal.


How to Get There




To understand these things, you cannot be afraid to go deep. You must be disciplined and know that self-awareness is a slow process. It can take years for one to truly become self-aware. And even then, it is a lifelong process, as we are all likely to change throughout life.


Discipline will especially get you far. You need to add self-reflection into your routine. Take notes, journal, and meditate. Take the time to sit with your thoughts. Comprehend those thoughts, how you respond to stressors, and how you can do better.


Exercises for Self-Awareness


There are a myriad of ways to grow into a better sense of self. One tried, and true method is in the “Terrific Trio”.


The Terrific Trio


I recommend you weave the Terrific Trio into your daily routine. It will only take fifteen minutes of your time and will help you grow in self-awareness immensely.


Step 1: Meditate in complete silence for five minutes. Turn your inner chatter off. Breathe. Sit in a comfortable position and allow for peaceful, positive reflection.


Step 2: Choose positive self-talk and give yourself affirmations. For example, say, “I am a strong leader,” “I am creative,” or “I am resilient.” Then, turn your mind to gratitude. Think of the things you are grateful for in your personal and professional life.


Step 3: Imagine a play-by-play. Visualize yourself achieving your goals. See your team members doing the same and giving them a high-five for a job well done in your mind's eye.


Take an Evaluation


There are multiple tools you can use to learn more about your personality. Examples include the Clifton-Strengths Assessment, Everything DiSC®, and SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) Analysis.


The Clifton-Strengths Assessment, according to Gallup.com, will help you “discover what you naturally do best, learn how to develop your greatest talents into strengths, and use your personalized results and reports to maximize your potential.”


The Everything DiSC® is a personal assessment tool used to measure aspects of your personality in terms of Dominance (D), influence (i), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C). DiSC profiles help you to become more self-aware by identifying how you respond to conflict, what motivates you or stresses you, and how you solve problems.

The SWOT Analysis guides you to better self-awareness through looking at your Strengths (S), Weaknesses (W), Opportunities (O), and Threats (T). It is also commonly used by businesses and corporations to assess decision-making in the preliminary stages.


Examples of Self-Awareness


You can assess your ability in this area by looking at where you are unskilled, skilled, and overuse skills.


Unskilled

  • Doesn’t seek feedback – may be defensive or arrogant

  • Avoids discussion about themself

  • Makes excuses or blame others; doesn’t learn from mistakes

  • Surprised by negative personal data

Skilled

  • Knows personal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and limits

  • Seeks feedback

  • Gains insights from mistakes

  • Is receptive to discussing shortcomings

Overused Skill

  • May be too self-critical, too open about self

  • May spend too much time in self-insight activities

  • May over-analyze and not know when to take action

  • May overly solicit feedback


Leaders that Can (and Can’t) Show You the Way


Payal Kadakia Pujji is a wonderful example of a leader with self-awareness. She is a huge proponent of self-awareness and discipline. She often speaks about overcoming imposter syndrome. One of the ways to overcome this feeling is through better self-awareness which leads to higher self-worth. Consider this quote from Payal Kadakia Pujji:

It's about knowing yourself and what you're good at. Females, males - anyone can be anything they want to be.

On the other hand, we often see politicians that lack this self-awareness. For example, consider former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who often played the victim when he was involved in scandal and bullied people who disagreed with him.


Listening, seeking feedback, and knowing oneself makes the kind of leaders we need.


Wrapping Up Self-Awareness


Analyze, understand, and set goals based on a deeper understanding of you and your company’s values, passions, motivations, purpose, and goals. When you utilize these tools, you will make your personal life and company better.


Deep understanding is not a small undertaking. It takes patience and discipline to master the process of self-awareness. One must be brave to confront the truths of who they are and how they cope and then apply them to their leadership style.


The strongest leaders have high emotional intelligence, and with this comes profound self-awareness. Do you want to be the best leader you can be? Then it's time to get to work.


Next Steps


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