An old African proverb says, `When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside can do you no harm.` Self-awareness is one of the most important skills for success. How you behave and respond to external situations is governed by internal mental processes. Self-awareness uncovers any destructive thought-patterns and unhealthy habits. This leads to better decision-making and behavioral responses.
Here are 12 exercises for greater self-awareness:
- The three Why`s
Before acting on a decision, ask yourself `Why`` Follow up your response with another `Why`` And then a third. If you can find three good reasons to pursue something, you`ll have clarity and be more confident in your actions. Being self-aware means knowing your motives and determining whether they`re reasonable.
- Expand your emotional vocabulary
The philosopher Wittgenstein said, `The limits of my language means the limits of my world.` Emotions create powerful physical and behavioral responses, and are more complex than `happy` or `sad.` Putting your feelings into words has a therapeutic effect on your brain; if you`re unable to articulate how you feel, that can create stress. Increase your emotional vocabulary with one new word each day.
- Practice saying `No` to yourself
The ability to say `No` to yourself ` to put off short-term gratification for the long-term gain is an important life-skill. And like a muscle, it is strengthened with exercise. The more you practice saying `No` to small daily challenges, the better you can withstand major temptations. There are plenty of daily temptations ` social media, junk food, gossiping, YouTube. Make a goal of saying `No` to five different temptations each day.
- Break visceral reactions
A person without self-awareness runs on auto-pilot, and responds with knee-jerk reactions. Self-awareness allows you to assess situations objectively and rationally, without acting on biases and stereotypes. Take a deep breath before you act ` especially when a situation evokes anger or frustration. This gives you time to re-assess whether your response will be the best one.
- Be accountable to your flaws
Nobody is perfect. Being aware of your flaws, but failing to accept accountability, is leaving the job half-done. We`re often critical of others, while ignorant of our own flaws. Self-awareness helps turn the mirror on ourselves and prevents hypocritical behavior. Iteration and self-improvement only happens once you recognize a flaw. Create a habit of acknowledging your mistakes, rather than making excuses.
- Monitor your self-talk
There is non-stop commentary in our heads, and it`s not always helpful. A little bit of negative self-talk can spiral into stress and depression. Pay attention to the way you respond to your successes and failures ` do you pass off your achievements as luck` And crucify yourself after failures` Positive and negative feedback-loops will form in your mind based on how you respond to successes and failures. Being tough on yourself needs to be balanced with self-compassion. Celebrate your wins, forgive your losses.
- Improve your body language awareness
Watching yourself on video can be a cringeworthy experience, but awareness of your body language, posture, and mannerisms improves your confidence. Slouching, or taking a `low-power-pose` increases cortisol and feeds low self-esteem, while standing tall or taking a `high-power-pose` stimulates testosterone and improves your performance. Using hand gestures helps with articulating your thoughts and affects how people respond to you. Record a speech or presentation and evaluate your posture and hand gestures. Watch videos of skilled speakers and adopt their mannerisms to improve your own.
- Play `Devil`s Advocate`
Taking an opposing view forces, you to question your assumptions. Your `default` beliefs and worldview are not always reasonable; it`s healthy to `argue against yourself` and see how your views hold up. And you`ll give your brain a good workout. Processing challenging information stimulates new neural connections.
- Know your personality type
Knowing your personality type allows you to maximize your strengths and manage your weaknesses. Understanding your `strengths` and `talents` can be the difference between a good choice, and a great choice. (Strengths are skills and knowledge that can be acquired, while talents are innate). Start with understanding where you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum; know your Myers-Briggs type; and then conduct a personal SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).
- Ask for constructive feedback, regularly
We all have blind spots in our thinking patterns and behaviors. Asking for regular constructive feedback cuts through any self-deceit or one-dimensional views you might hold. But only ask people you`d consider mentors ` those who understand you; whom you respect; and will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.
- Practice self-evaluation and reflection
Keep a journal and track your progress. How would you rate your current level of self-awareness out of ten` Think about how often you say regretful things; repeat bad habits; make absent-minded decisions; and have erratic thoughts. Set regular goals, break big goals down into smaller milestones. Ask yourself at the end of each day, `What did I do well today`` And, `How can I improve on this tomorrow``
Meditation is a foundational practice for improving self-awareness. To focus solely on your breathing is to focus on a key internal process. You`ll become aware of how your mind wanders, and get better at snapping out of distractions.
For beginners, start with ten-minute sessions. Find a quiet place to sit, breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Count your breaths silently, pulling your mind back when it wanders.
Source: - The Utopian Life