A question that Daniel Johnson likes to ask new students is “imagine being dropped from a helicopter into a jungle somewhere on this planet. What will you need to find your way back to civilization”?
Responses typically range from a compass to maps but the pivotal answer he is looking for is this one: We need to have a clear sense of our starting point. Only then we can use the compass and maps to find where we need to go. The starting point is a clear understanding and sense of awareness of who we are.
Self-awareness has become a popular word in today’s leadership courses because it all starts here, we have to know who we are, how we think, react and what we really want. Personality Tests, self-reflection, analyzing our strengths and weaknesses – are all strategies to become more self-aware. But do they really work?
Let’s start with looking at what self-awareness really is?
Daniel Goleman proposed a definition of self-awareness in his best-selling book “Emotional Intelligence”, which is “knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources and intuitions”. It basically entails monitoring what is going on the inside and trying to make sense of it. The limitation with this approach is that well, it isn’t very objective, isn’t it? Many people claim they are very self-aware, but are they really?
Dr. Tasha Eurichand her research team have done extensive research on self-awareness described in a Harvard Business Review Article from January 2018. They found that only 10-15% of people are really self-aware. That is probably much less than most of us would expect.
Since differing definitions of self-awareness exist, they first wanted to create an overarching one that encompassed all others. The two main categories that emerged were inner self-awareness that encompassed the monitoring of inner statesand an external self-awareness that revolves around understanding how others see us.
Based on their findings they identified four self-awareness archetypes.
The most self-aware leaders the study found tried to be high on both the internal and the external self-awareness.
Dr.Eurichand team went ahead and investigated the approach that most people use to become more self-aware. They came to the conclusion that the widely held assumption that introspection — examining the causes of our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors — improves self-awareness proved to be wrong. What they found is that people were not doing introspection ‘the right way’.
“Research has shown that we simply do not have access to many of the unconscious thoughts, feelings, and motives we’re searching for. And because so much is trapped outside of our conscious awareness, we tend to invent answers that feel true but are often wrong.” Based on these findings the team’s suggestion was to change the way we are doing introspection, switching from asking ‘why’ to ‘what’ and focus on steps to correct the issue at hand. According to Dr. Eurich and team the approach of focusing on the ‘what’ helped people to become self-aware and reach the results they wanted to achieve.
I recently spoke to a friend of mine that said to me – “I have one big challenge. I have a problem charging the amount that my time is worth. I have spoken to other people about it and they have not noticed anything. I am able to overcome this problem mentally and have the appropriate conversation with my clients, but I can’t change how I feel about it. It has to do with how much I value myself.”
According to Dr. Eurich’s findings my friend fits in the ‘high external self-awareness category”. She is aware of her limitation and she has developed a strategy to address the issue. But is thisself-awareness, the asking ‘what’ really helping her? It does in a sense, allowing her to manage the issue, but it doesn’t really resolve it, the internal disconnect remains. Her self-awareness does not lead in a change of her self-value.
Let’s look a little closer at self-awareness. Who is looking, monitoring and evaluating what is happening? We are – our ego is– but can weeven do so objectively? What is going on when we reflect and ask ourselves the questions why and what?
What we find when monitoring our inside is largely depending on how we think and feel about ourselves – Do we wear the pink or the green glasses today? Are we a hero or play the role of the victim?
What we see and feel is colored by our imposed filters and patterns – it is in most casesnot an objective representation ofreality,butwe might not be aware.
Continuing to engage our thinking in the process of introspection to increase our self-awareness doesn’t allow us to get rid of the internal judgment and limitations imposed by how we are feeling about ourselves. Therefore the results we can obtainself-reflection andengaging our thinking asking ‘why’ or ‘what’ to learn more about ourselves is limited. We are not able toincrease our self-awareness in a profound way to positively impact the way we feel about ourselves.
But isn’t that what we are really looking for?An answer that solves the riddle, that lets us get out of the problem we are facing. That helps us overcome the feelings such as the ones of not being enough, wrong, critical of ourselves and allow us to move on, grow and be at peace.
The question is if our thinking is inherently biased, what options do we have to become more self-aware?
Our definitionof what it means to be self-aware goes beyond the cognitive understanding of ourselves. Through accessing our Physical Intelligence we take a different approach to enhance our self-awarenessthat circumvents our thinking. As we have seen cognitive understanding of ourselves obtained through self-analysisisinfluenced by patterns that cloud our thinking, istherefore biased and flawed. Real self-awareness develops when we learn how to turn off our thinking and get in touch with our center. Through experiencing this deep,yet very tangible side of ourselves we start to recognize who we are – beyond our judging and limiting thoughts.
Only through getting in touch with ourselves at this deep level we can access and eliminate patterns and limitations that impact how we think and feel about ourselves. That is when we find answers, stop negative feelings and are able to turn off the ruminating machinery in our mind.
This is when we figure our true starting point and get in touch with who we really are.
To find out more how you can learn the skill of centering to build your self-awareness and start making fundamental changes in your self-value and self-confidence check out our 7MINDS Programs for more information.