Top 10 Ways to Develop Self-Awareness – Increasing Your Effectiveness in Life

To recap from my last blog: How Self-Aware Are You? – A Predictor of Success, self-awareness is having a high degree of knowledge about yourself. It’s awareness of your habits, emotional tendencies, thinking patterns, needs, desires, strengths, and weaknesses.

And why is it so important?  Having a high level of self-awareness is a powerful tool. It allows you to change your life more effectively, since you know how you tick. Those that lack self-awareness find life to be frustrating.  Those that have self-awareness have the clarity of mind to make decisions and choices that are empowering instead of disempowering.

How do you develop your self-awareness?

  1. Notice your thoughts. Unless you’ve been meditating for years, your mind is constantly churning through ideas and endlessly providing commentary. You can’t just look at a flower and take in its beauty, your mind has to comment, “That’s a beautiful flower.” You can’t just listen to your friend and be fully present, your mind has come up with something to say back. Then it’s off to the races.
    • Notice your thinking patterns. What are you thinking when you’re feeling nervous? Bored? Interested? Walking down the street? Notice that similar situations result in similar thought patterns.
    • Do you judge people and situations? Do you spend a lot of time thinking about the past or the future? Do you expect the worst to happen or the best? Or do you adopt an attitude of, “Let’s just see what happens”?
  2. Notice your feelings. What are you feeling throughout the day? What do you feel while you’re eating? Driving to work? Lying in bed? Waiting in line?
    • Once you’ve noticed your emotion, question it. What am I feeling? Why? What do I need right now? How do I normally react in this situation? Is that smart?
  3. Understand how you deal with frustration or emotional discomfort. A huge chunk of your time is spent trying to make yourself feel better. If you feel slightly frustrated or uncomfortable, then you may spend a tremendous amount of time and energy trying to change the situation or the others around you to resolve those negative feelings.
    • Do you try to control others? Do you attempt to distract yourself? Is your first instinct to leave the situation? Do you surf the internet or eat a big bowl of ice cream?
  4. Examine your friendships. Where do you find your friends? Are most of your friendships long-term or short? When your friendships end, what is the common cause? What types of people do you prefer to be friends with? What types of people do you avoid?
  5. Examine your intimate relationships. Do you see a pattern in the type of people that you’ve been involved with? What are the negative characteristics they all share? Why do you think those people appealed to you?
    • What were your shortcomings in your relationships? Are you clingy? Jealous? Too focused on work? Failed to communicate your needs? Think about how you contributed to the failure of your relationships.
    • Have you changed your approach from relationship to relationship, or do you continue to repeat your mistakes?
  6. Keep a journal. There’s no better way to learn about yourself than to record your thoughts, feelings, and experiences each day. Studies have shown that we don’t remember our past very accurately, so record it while it’s still fresh in your mind. Be sure to include your high and low points for the day.
    • Note how well you ate and slept, too. You might find some useful information.
    • Create a habit of writing in your journal for at least 15 minutes each day. You’ll start to notice patterns and learn a lot about yourself.
  7. Write your own manifesto. Think about and then document your views on life, your goals, and your intentions. You might be surprised by what you write. This is a great first step for understanding yourself and your beliefs.
  8. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. What are you good at? What comes easy to you? What skills have you developed?  What things do you find challenging to do?  What skills would you like to develop further? To take an inventory of your skills click here to try this free Transferable Skills Assessment.
  9. What would others say about you? Consider how your partner, children, friends, family, co-workers, and boss would describe you. What would they suggest you improve about yourself? Then ask them and see how accurate you are. Do you know how others perceive you? Find out how perceptive you are.
  10. Meditation is all about developing a better awareness of the present moment and yourself. Meditation is an ideal activity for enhancing self-awareness.
    • Meditate at least once each day. Spend the rest of the day paying attention to yourself, others, and your surroundings. You can develop a higher degree of self-awareness by just paying attention.
    • Question yourself throughout the day. “What am I attempting to achieve?” “What emotions am I currently feeling and why?” “What are the people around me feeling?”

If you think it this is too much work, the payoff from increasing your level self-awareness is so beneficial you won’t be sorry for putting the time in.  At the very least, try to notice for at least one day how often you are not in the present moment, how often you are thinking about, and maybe even regretting the past, or worrying about the future. This present to present noticing as to where your mind is, will itself make a huge difference in increasing your level of awareness and your power in the present moment.  In a later blog I will expand on this even further.

Understanding yourself might be the most important part of becoming and living authentically (sign up for the free Authenticity checklist below).

My next blog will guide you through pondering your personal identity.

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