5 Steps to Productive Self Awareness


In recent years, the concept of emotional intelligence has gained traction in the business world. Most of us know brilliant people who seem hopeless when it comes to dealing with people; either they try to dominate everyone, or they fade into the shadows and let others handle the purely human aspects of work. Most of us express one of these tendencies to some extent, but the standouts take them to extremes.

Those who interact well with others have a high “EQ,” or “emotional intelligence quotient” based on self-awareness. They may or may not also have high IQs, but they’re generally comfortable in their own skins, because they’ve taken seriously the Biblical directive to “know thyself.” As a result, they have a higher level of social functionality than many of their colleagues, particularly in the psychological and emotional realms.

Use these five self-analysis techniques to boost your self-awareness:

  1. Practice mindfulness.  Some people think self-awareness and mindfulness amount to the same thing, but that’s untrue. Mindfulness is an element of self-awareness, in the sense of living in the moment and paying attention to what’s happening right now while not worrying about the past or future. It’s about intently observing and thinking about what you see, so you minimize mistakes and absorb experiences. It’s the opposite of routine, absentmindedness, and operating on autopilot. Mindfulness can begin with something as simple as truly noticing the taste and texture of your food as you eat, or taking note of the feel of the water running over your body as you shower.

  2. Focus. Self-awareness requires you to focus attention on yourself—body, mind, and soul. Inevitably, this results in self-knowledge you can use apply greater self-discipline, to circumvent weaknesses, and to improve strengths. A focus on your body will trigger you to take a break (if you don’t ignore the signals). A focus on your mind will prompt you when you’re whining internally or engaging in negative self-talk. A focus on your soul might tell you it’s time to get out of your dead-end job. In this way, you maximize what you do best, learn who and what can offset your weaknesses, how to behave in your own best interests.

  3. Observe and understand your impulses. Sometimes you must analyze and unlearn existing habits shaping your behavior, so that you can develop more useful ones. Don’t make snap decisions without fully checking in with yourself. Don’t let others push you into making such decisions, either. Don’t assume something’s best for you just because someone else says so, or because it’s the normal path to success; pick and choose advice. Sometimes something will work for you; sometimes it won’t.

  4. Explore your feelings. Rather than repress or ignore your emotional responses, study them. What are they trying to tell you? Track your feelings—by journaling, for example. Give them free rein when and where it’s appropriate, so you can study their nuances, give them a voice, and resolve them adequately and safely. This can leave you feeling less stressed and more fulfilled, especially if you realize what you’re doing fails to align with how you feel or what you want out of life. At that point, you can make changes. If you react badly to certain situations, for instance, you have the options of avoiding those situations or learning how to deal with them more positively, depending on the circumstances.

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