Appearing in Thrive Global Photo credit thanks to Mitchell Jordan
As a defense mechanism I have a habit of making fun of myself, and then promptly following-up my self-deprecating humour with the phrase, “I am self-aware”. But the truth of the matter is that I am far from it, and the reason for that is quite simple: until recently I did not understand what it truly meant to be “self-aware”.
I used to think that being self-aware was simply being honest in my assessment of my strengths and weaknesses, and learning how to properly fill the gaps. Though being honest with your skill set is key, those who are “truly self-aware” go much deeper than this.
Below are the three steps I am currently trying to work on in order to justify my bad joke and actually become someone who indeed is “self-aware”.
1. EVALUATE HOW I HAVE COME TO BELIEVE WHAT I DO:
A few years back I allowed my weight to get out of hand. Each day instead of picking up an apple for breakfast, I grabbed a cookie or donut. The weight gain did not come overnight, but a year later this decision became visibly clear.
For the better part of my life I have been doing the same with the information I have been digesting. Too often I listen only to what I want to hear, and read only to reinforce my own deep-seated beliefs, rarely seeking out the “counter-argument” and learning about varying perspectives.
Much like the weight gain, I did not realise how these daily decisions, in regards to the information I was putting into my sub-conscious, were stacking-up. It took a hard reminder from my dad for me to realise that the culture within which I have chosen to operate, and the information I have chosen to consume, for most of my adult life, has severely shaped and constrained my thinking. I was blind to the fact that I was allowing my “ego” to hamstring myself from any shot I had at learning perspectives and building relationships with others that would have allowed me to grow as an individual.
Is reading a book, going to see a speaker, or attending a meeting with people whose views already align with my own way of thinking the best way for me to spend my time and broaden my frame of reference? Or would my time be better served stepping outside of my comfort zone and seeking out the perspectives from those that stand on the opposite side of the aisle?
The truly self-aware already know what they represent, they seek understanding in the things that they do not.
2. EVALUATE PAST SUCCESSES AND FAILURES:
A few months ago a project I was working on failed. When I was relaying this news to a friend he asked me, “Why?”. To my own embarrassment I did not know, and to protect my own ego, I listed off complaint after complaint of the actions of others in an attempt not to lose face (which of course made me lose face).
After this conversation my business partner and I sat down, and for one of the first times in each of our lives, we took a hard look to better understand why we had come up short, uncovering some hard truths in the process. This conversation opened our eyes to the fact that we had allowed a few failures to overshadow a few key successes, ultimately leading to the conclusion that it was worth another go and that the momentum we had achieved was indeed real.
Prior to doing this I had always thrown in the towel and quickly moved onto the next project, skipping this essential step in both professional and personal development.
The truly self-aware understand that success often lies in accepting failures and then pushing through to understand why the failure occurred.
3. EVALUATE HOW QUICKLY I JUDGE PEOPLE:
Roughly two years ago I reached out to a man who I admired requesting a chance to speak with him. To my surprise, he agreed, and shortly thereafter we met for a coffee. In order to not make this a 10 page post I will save you from reading about all the things I did wrong, but in short, I blew it.
This man would have had every right in the world to write-me off as someone who was unprepared and wanting too much too soon, and I would not have blamed him in the least for never contacting me again. But to my surprise, over the last two years, the very man whose time I had wasted, starting chiming in from time to time on my secret blog, subtly telling me that I was on the right path.
I have learned a few key lessons from this initial encounter and this man’s actions moving forward, but nothing as big as the importance of giving someone a second, third, or even forth chance. Not everyone is great at the first go of things, but it is wrong to completely write someone off just because they did not get it right the first time. People have done far less to me than how I acted when meeting this man, and I responded by never really giving them another chance, and that was wrong of me. Through his actions, this man taught me an important lesson in becoming more self-aware:
The truly self-aware know that absolutely everyone has something to offer, and more importantly, they have the patience and the wherewithal to recognise that it may not come from the first hit. A trait that I have come to realize is “key” in not only building self-awareness, but more importantly in living a full life.