What is self awareness? For starters it involves knowing your self. A person with self awareness knows about their own personality. They know their strengths and weaknesses. They know how they react under stress and whether it is to their benefit or not. They know what emotions they are feeling and how that affects their decisions. With this awareness they have an opportunity to change their decisions and actions to optimize success.
Self awareness is a kind of intelligence, but is distinctly different from just logical thinking intelligence. It is intangible and not measurable. A person can have a doctorate degree and still not have much awareness if they are not present with their emotions and the core beliefs behind their actions.
Our mind has an amazing imagination to dream up aspects of ourselves and then our attention gets hooked into thinking that the character in our imagination is us. Sometimes these characters have simple labels like, loser and winner, failure and success, ugly and beautiful, smart or stupid. When we believe these labels about ourselves, we feel different than when we don ‘t. When we feel different, we also act differently than when we are authentic.
If we believe and feel that someone will tell us “no” when asking for what we want, we will change our behavior. Just by imagining being told “no”, our imagination can conjure up images of being rejected and the corresponding emotions. We will not ask for what we want based on this assumption in our mind.
How does being self aware help us in making practical and useful changes in our life?
A client of mine, Gordon, was troubled by his behavior of investing in stocks. Gordon had previously bought a few hundred shares of a stock believing that it would go up. The stock price was now falling and he was losing thousands of dollars, yet he couldn’t bring himself to sell.
Gordon wasn’t aware of what was going on in his mind that facilitated this financially destructive behavior. In order to change his decision making process, he first needed to be aware of what it was.
I spent a few minutes asking critical questions about his thought process and his emotions. It turned out that one of the key questions Gordon asked when deciding to sell the stock was, “What is the stock going to do?”
Gordon was able to answer clearly that, “I don ‘t know. I can ‘t predict the future. Nobody knows the future.” These are intelligent answers, but without an answer to his question he felt confused. His emotional confusion about what the stock would do bled over when he was trying to decide to sell the stock or not.
Gordon ‘s decision making process was wired such that if he didn’t know the right thing to do, the default solution was to do nothing. That decision making tree may work in a lot of situations, but in this one it meant that he continued to lose money.
This do nothing solution path was also supported with fear of losing money if he sold the stock and it subsequently went up. He was afraid of doing the wrong thing, but didn’t know what the wrong thing might be.
Gordon wasn’t aware of his decision making process or how it was constructed of certain questions, thoughts, emotional reactions, and default solutions. As Gordon became more self aware he could see where certain decision making processes of his personality worked in his favor, and when they worked against him.
More specifically Gordon became more aware of a dangerously costly question, €œWhat will the stock do? € Once he became aware of this question, and the subsequent state of confusion it created, he could see how he created his own paralysis. That confusion was like quicksand and the trigger question was the path into it. Once he became aware of the pattern of his mind and emotions, he didn’t get trapped by trying to answer an impossible question.
One of the substitute questions I suggested to Gordon was, “Would I buy the stock now?” With this question he wasn’t tied to the confusing issue of predicting the future. If the answer was yes, then he could keep the stock. If the answer was no, he could sell it. There would be no reason to hang on to a stock that you wouldn’t want to buy.
This is just one small example of how self awareness can help you to change the emotionally self destructive patterns of your life. Self awareness is the key to making clearer decisions that help you to achieve your goals and create happiness in your life.