Most of us think we are pretty self-aware. And by thinking that, most of us prove we are wrong. 

Grace Leadership Institute recently hosted Dr. Tyler Cook at their Leadership One Day event. Dr. Cook spoke on the topic of “Leading from Within”, sharing concepts from his recently published book, Building Authenticity. Of all the challenging ideas he shared – and there were many – the one I particularly want to highlight in this post is self-awareness.

The Golden Ticket to Personal Breakthrough

Why, you ask? I’ve been hearing from multiple sources for the last year or so how self-awareness is the golden ticket to personal breakthrough.  Without it, you’ll apparently never level up, achieve your full potential, or be the best friend, spouse, sibling, employee, etc. that you could possibly be. 

4 Ways to Level Up Your Self Awareness

Maybe you, like me, aren’t sure about your level of self-awareness. What’s a plan for how to level up?

1. Invite two or three close friends or family members to answer the question: “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?” and/or “What have you noticed tends to trigger me, and how do I tend to react?”

2. Be on the lookout for asymmetrical responses. These are likely when you are being triggered. At first, just notice them.

3. Do the same with any responses to how others experience you. Take a perspective of curiosity, watch for the dynamic to happen, and just notice it.

4. Once triggers are identified, make a plan for how to self-soothe or deescalate the reaction.  For behaviors, ask “Is this how I want to be showing up right now?”  Maybe it is, if not, adjust accordingly.

Putting It Into Practice: Examples of Self Awareness

What might this look like in practice? Well, I had the “opportunity” to reflect on my angry and asymmetrical reaction to a situation for which I’d been given ample warning. 

Here’s the thing about self-awareness, once you become aware of something, in this instance a trigger, you can no longer be blissfully ignorant. Now you own it, you are responsible for predicting events or interactions that might trigger you, for thinking about how to stay calm or to minimize the impact of your response.  I’ve discovered that once I get beyond my initial reaction, which is always anger, I discover more subtle emotions lurking which require me to be more honest and vulnerable, if at least with myself. Ah for the days of hiding behind anger as a handy emotional go-to. 

Recognizing that and digging a little deeper, I see that my anger, or your fear, or her sadness are the first reactions, ok. Then I realize I’m actually feeling overwhelmed, you conclude you are feeling insecure, and she realizes she is feeling shame.  

Now it’s time we explore why. That’s a quiet, solitary, reflective activity we must initiate individually. 

    The Importance of Self-Awareness and Shrinking Our Blind Spots

    Some of us don’t explore self-awareness because it exposes us. We stand emotionally naked before the crowd. Also, it’s a ton of work excavating our thoughts and emotions. 

    But if we don’t work on shrinking our blind spots, we are choosing to be less than fully authentic with ourselves and by default all those around us. On the other hand, by being more self-aware we make the world a better place for both ourselves and our community. It’s a classic win-win.  

    During a recent weekend visit with friends I haven’t seen in years, I had the opportunity to ask the question again “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?”  The response was helpful and also just a teensy bit hard to digest.  

    So, I took a metaphorical Tums and reflected on the significance of their feedback. See, if we ask for feedback, we’ve got to believe what we are told. Then our job is to reflect on it, accept it, and then grow from there.

    Moving Forward with a Greater Awareness of Who You Really Are

    Now, having this greater awareness of ourselves, how then will we continue being? What adjustments might be wanting in our attitudes, actions, or attention? By becoming more self-aware, we learn to lead ourselves better and everyone around us benefits as well. Go ask the question, “What’s it like being on the other side of me?” Let’s level up!

    Join an Upcoming Leadership One Day

    If you enjoyed the takeaways from this post, you’ll absolutely love our Leadership One Day events at Grace Leadership Institute!

    Grace Leadership Institute is located in Erie, Pennsylvania, and is one of the region’s best resources for leadership development and forming connections with other local leaders. Consider joining us at an upcoming Leadership One Day! We’d love to see you there.