The motto “know thyself” is frequently attributed to Socrates although other Greek philosophers such as Thales and Pythagoras also held this precept. The importance of knowing oneself as a precondition for knowing the universe and greater truths has been vastly appreciated from antiquity up to modern philosophy. Many Eastern cultures encourage the path of self-realization, the knowledge of the self through direct experience.
Nowadays, we often refer to this as “self-awareness”. It is a key aspect of leadership and implies a thorough knowledge of our person, of how we function internally, why we do what we do and what determines the way we relate to others. Self-awareness also implies the capacity to change and grow, to manoeuvre our thoughts and behaviour so that they are beneficial to our life and environment. It is considered a desirable competence because through self-awareness, we gain more power over ourselves and our lives. We lead our life instead of simply following events.
Although the expression “self-awareness” may appear to be somewhat esoteric, it actually describes some very down-to-earth concrete skills that are accessible to everyone. The only pre-requisite towards gaining self-awareness is the desire to do so.
Many unexpected aspects of ourselves are revealed to us through deliberate introspection and self-observation. For example, by taking the time to make a list of all the things you hold as truths, rules or realities, you will come up with a comprehensive (and sometimes surprising) catalogue of your beliefs. Beliefs are very important because they determine your thoughts and your behaviour. Which of these beliefs are useful and sustaining ? Which of these can you discard? What new beliefs can you adopt that will empower you ?
Another important aspect to be aware of is your inner dialogue. What do you say to yourself all day long ? What phrases do you repeat over and over again ? Are you nice to yourself ? Strict ? Scolding ? Encouraging ? Lamenting ? Spend a few days carefully listening to yourself. Pay attention to all the little words and expressions that you whisper in your mind.
You’ll be surprised at what you hear. You can always improve on the words that you use in your mind. Any limiting words or phrase can be replaced by more resourceful ones. “I’ll never make it” can be replaced by “I’ll make it this time”.
You may also want to be more aware of what you say to others and especially, how you say it. This will give you insight into how you impact other people by your words. Perhaps you will realize that you want to improve your communication skills with your spouse or at work when you have to make a presentation.
The more you become aware of what’s going on within you, the more options you open to yourself with respect to the behaviours you want to adopt. By making these conscious choices you will become capable of changing your thoughts, attitude and actions to produce better results in your daily life.
When you increase your self-awareness you realize you have power over yourself and you tend to focus more on how you can improve your life than on how others are stopping you from achieving your goals. Taking responsibility means taking ownership of your life, and when you hold the reins, it’s alot more fun and exciting !
The path to self-awareness does not require that you permanently contemplate your belly-button! It just means that once in a while you take time for yourself, to have a look at what is really important and what can help you the most to move forward in the direction that you want. Other than that, being spontaneous, making mistakes, starting all over, having moments of genius and inspiration, being down in the dumps or bent over laughing are all very human activities that should not be renounced !
You can turn to professionals to help you with strategies and techniques on how to gain self-awareness. However there is only one person who detains all information about yourself, and that is you. You live with yourself 24 hours, 7 days a week, you speak and hear your inner dialogue, you are the owner of your memories and the master of your wishes. You know what you like and don’t like and you know when something feels right or wrong. You remember your past, interpret your present and create your future. It’s all within you, all you need is to tune in.
©2016 Saba Imru-Mathieu, Executive Leadership Coach Founding Partner, Leaders Today