How To Become More Self-Aware Without Losing The Plot!
Self-awareness is the golden key to developing your personal power. Attaining and sustaining a high level of it is a lifelong process.
Building self-awareness is exciting as it gives you so much control over your life. It involves learning how the ‘inner world’ of what you think and how you feel affects every aspect of your life, and how other people perceive you to be. It also involves knowing what to do next, if something needs to be addressed.
Once you check this out and make adjustments where necessary, wonderful things can happen. Making one small discovery and then acting upon what you find, can bring about massive positive changes that filter into all areas of your life.
Ultimately you feel more strong, free, clear and joyful. You find it easy to empathise and add value to the lives of others without getting drawn in to their dramas and woes. You are motivated, purposeful and enthusiastic, yet grounded and calm, and are willing to accept your vulnerabilities. You have self-belief and the courage of your convictions, so you are not swayed by the opinions of others. You make choices and decisions in your personal and professional life that are in line with your true values.
Ways to increase self-awareness:
These are multiple and varied, and perhaps what you pick depends on your reason for doing so.
For example, if you have a particular issue it may be that you seek a talking therapy of some kind, and the methods and questions the therapist uses help you to understand more about yourself and to find a fresh perspective.
Or perhaps in certain areas of your life such as work, you know (or have had someone make you aware) that it would be helpful to develop your understanding and implementation of various social skills in order to succeed.
Or it may be that it happens by stealth. For example, perhaps you fancy trying yoga because you want to become more supple. But because yoga is a holistic practice that affects body and mind, you may be surprised how much learn about yourself as a result!
Popular and well-recognised ways to become more self-aware are through the practices of mindfulness, meditation, intentional periods of solitude, self-reflection and journaling. All of these help you to become more aware of your thought processes, habits and patterns, and of your emotions. Some, in particular mindfulness and some meditation practices, give you mechanisms for adjusting or regulating these.
Here's some advice:
When you willingly and intentionally want to explore what makes you tick, approach it with a sense of curiosity and lightness and for the most part, fun! If you don’t there’s a possibility that:
You could become preoccupied so that it becomes a monster instead of a friend. This will be utterly counter-productive for you, and you may irritate people around you.
Over time (as the novelty wears off) you might view it as onerous and hard work. This is right out of alignment with what it’s meant to be.
You give yourself a hard time when things don’t go according to plan or don’t work for you soon enough - so you give up.
Building self-awareness should never be a burden to you. The ultimate purpose is for your highest good and that of those around you, because the changes you make in yourself affect others too. So it should be a joyful thing – an ongoing experiment and voyage of discovery.
You’ve got to want to do it though, and be prepared to commit, and rise to the challenges along the way – but gently.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi
I don’t have time!
The established practices I mentioned earlier are all excellent, and there is much research into the efficacy of each. The thing is that they all involve time, and so many people feel themselves to be time-poor - and sometimes this really is the case.
Once when I was a mature student, I remember overhearing the tutor admonish someone for not being able to spare an hour a day, just for themselves. I thought that was very short-sighted, and wrong. How dare they? They didn’t know what was going on in that person’s life!
I also remember reading some of the wisest words ever written. I have forgotten who wrote them, but I was very struck because at the time I had two little toddlers. The gist of the message was:
“People say you need to take the time for solitude and to meditate each day, but how is this possible if you are a busy mother of three under-fives, sleep-deprived and can barely get to the bathroom once in the day without someone wanting your attention?”
I bet there are many people who can identify with that!
This is what will keep you on track:
Know that there is a time and a season for everything in life, and what works for you now and is doable for you, may change. Let yourself off the hook if you are too tired or unable to accommodate a regular ‘practice’. It’ll keep. Just knowing that you can do something real to develop your personal power is empowering in itself, and the fact that you want to know more and are interested, means that you are already on your way!
That said, there is one specific thing that you can do each day that will really help to build self-awareness fast:
Notice your thoughts as soon as you wake up.
When you are aware of the kind of thoughts you have in various situations, you can decide whether they are a help or hinderance to you. Ultimately, negative thoughts keep you stuck, whilst more positive ones lead to inner freedom and joy. This is because your thoughts affect your brain chemistry, and also have a physiological impact. So positive thinking raises your energy, opens you to possibilities and helps you to feel good.
Noticing your thoughts can be tricky though, which is hardly surprising considering we have between sixty to eighty thousand of them a day! However the crucial time to do this is first thing, as soon as you wake up. It's in these moments as you merge from sleep into consciousness that the tone is set for the whole day.
So if your first thoughts are negative or 'scattered', your entire day will be coloured by them - unless you break the pattern at some point. For example, if you think: "Today's going to be awful," it will be. You'll keep reinforcing that and finding more reasons for it to be so, because you've already programmed yourself to expect the worst. But if your first thoughts are more postive, you'll be paving the way for a far better day all round!
My advice on how to do this when you first start, is to prepare. Set the intention that you will notice your thoughts on waking. Then have a reminder that you are likely to see when you wake up, for example a post-it note by your alarm that says: "What am I thinking?" And have a small stockpile of positives around you, so that you don't have to go searching for them. These might be uplifting quotes, beautiful images, affirmations that resonate with you - anything that is going to help you to immediately focus on the positive.
This is an enormously powerful first step to becoming more self-aware. Be consistent and you’ll reap the rewards, as it will become habitual. You have to keep things fresh though, as it’s easy to ignore or bypass your ‘reminders to self’ etc, once they become familiar. So shake things up a bit and refresh what you are doing every so often. We are naturally creatures of habit, but we also need adventure – and that’s the fun of it!
“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” C.G. Jung
Find out about Leap Into Your Power Coaching with Caroline Carr
© May 3rd 2020 Caroline Carr
After working in the theatre and television for several years, Personal Power Coach Caroline taught drama, voice and speech in schools and prisons before becoming a life coach and hypnotherapist with a practice in Harley Street. Her personal and professional experience led to her developing a passion for teaching others how to find inner strength, confidence, positivity and joy. Caroline is the author of several books on mental health and women's health, and has been featured in the national press and interviewed on radio and TV.
Image from bigstock