“The unexamined life is not worth living”
If ignorance is bliss then is awareness enlightenment? No, it’s a wake-up call! Sometimes we go through life thinking we are doing all the right things, only to discover that some of our actions, or failure thereof, are actually compromising us. That’s where I was. I hit the gym everyday, watched what I ate and lived a relatively healthy lifestyle (note the term, “relatively”). But then it was my trainer who made me aware that my recovery rates were off and suggested I see a cardiologist. It was my daughter-in-law (laurawolfwellness.com) who suggested that my nutrition choices and use of salt were not always healthy. And it was my wife who is now supportive of the changes I’m trying to incorporate into my life. Simply put, I’m blessed to be surrounded by caring people who have helped me develop a better awareness of my lifestyle, but it’s equally important to have a sense of self-awareness; an understanding of how our actions, thoughts, and emotions are in alignment with our internal standards (values)
Think about it, how well do you know yourself? Like me, I bet you’re pretty familiar with the basics: You love this, but you hate that. You find it easy to do one thing, but would never even attempt something else. But what about the deeper stuff. What about your thoughts and how they affect your life? According to many mental health experts, developing a deeper understanding of ourselves (i.e.having a sense of self-awareness), becomes the basis for our efforts to change and grow.
As we transition into a new year, one of the best personal growth keys we can pursue is a healthy amount of self-awareness in our everyday lives and our professional pursuits. But similar to any other behavior, practicing self awareness is a skill that is refined over time; repeated practice improves results. While there are a wide variety of strategies that can be used to enhance this skill, here are a few to get you started or to add to your toolbox:
- Practice Mindfulness – During those quiet moments in our lives, many of us have a tendency to get lost in thought, ruminate or daydream. Mindfulness refers to being present in the moment and paying attention to yourself and your surroundings; becoming more aware of your internal state and your reactions to things. Mindfulness enables you to give name to your thoughts and feelings, and keep from getting caught up in them. Mindfulness can then help give you direction as you seek to change and grow.
- Let Comfort Go – Comfort is the greatest enemy of progress. Comfort leads to complacency. We are comfortable with that which is routine. Why? Because it generates thoughts and emotions that are predictable. However, when we place ourselves into new and different situations, we experience a sense of discomfort. We experience new and different emotions which can be uncomfortable, but it is through change that we grow and become better.
- Find Time to Journal – The benefit to journaling is that it allows you to identify, clarify, and accept your thoughts and feelings. Journaling provides insight into what you have, what you want, and what you value. Likewise, journaling can help you clarify what you don’t want, what is not important, and what doesn’t work for you. Both are equally important to learn. Simply put, journaling helps bring clarity to your life.
- Ask for Feedback – It can take courage, but ask family and close friends what they think about you. Have them describe you and see what rings true and what surprises you. This process can help you develop a sense of perception continuity; how you see yourself when compared to how others perceive you.
- Clarify Your Core Values – What are your core values? If asked, could you identify the three or four values that guide your life, that serve as the basis for all the important decisions that direct your actions? Could you express each one in a simple sentence? Our core values are the “why” behind everything we say and do, hence they become the compass that directs our journey. Without them we lack direction.
Christopher Cook is a leadership coach and business consultant to both Fortune 1000 and nonprofit organizations. In a recent publication he shares, “ Self-awareness is what keeps you focused on that which matters most and keeps you away from those things that will distract you from your purpose. It permits you to grow in areas of strength and at the same time develop an awareness of your blind spots.”
We are all on a journey, we are all in the process of learning and growing, seeking to arrive at the greatest place of success possible in this short life. The end result for all of us will hopefully be the same; becoming the best version of who we were destined to be. Enjoy the trip and Happy New Year.