With the end of the year rapidly approaching, it’s a great time to take a moment and PAUSE; a time to think about this past year and begin to envision the year to come. Taking the time and space to acknowledge our accomplishments while simultaneously recognizing our shortcomings helps us stay accountable to ourselves and continue to move forward in a positive direction of growth and personal development.
Regular engagement of self-reflection is one key component in strengthening self-awareness – and ultimately, it provides the insight and knowledge required to accurately assess who we are today. This deeper understanding of our attributes gives us a realistic perception of our current abilities and how we can effectively use them to successfully reach our goals and aspirations.
Think about the goals you set for yourself over the last year. Now, think of the ones that you reached. What circumstances led you to that point? Although it may appear to be about the end result, the way in which you approached it – the small steps you took to reach that goal, the way you thought about it, the emotions surrounding it – all of it together led to what ultimately enabled you to flourish. Now, think about the goals that you did not successfully reach. What barriers stood in your way? How did you frame the goal in your head? What emotions and feelings surrounded the goal? What could you learn from the obstacles that prevented you from attaining that goal?
So why spend time developing this skill? Because it takes self-awareness to know what you really want and why. Moreover, self-awareness is a central component to initiating and sustaining positive change, ultimately enabling you to defeat those hurdles that kept you from reaching your goals. Self-aware individuals speak with openness, are willing to admit their mistakes, thirst for constructive criticism, and convey a confidence about them – all of which empowers a perspective of growth and development.
As one of the most important skills for success, self-awareness has the potential to expose any destructive thought patterns and unhealthy habits that are limiting your potential. This leads to improved decision-making and behavioral responses that will lead to the goals and desires you have worked so hard to achieve.
Below are 6 exercises for enhanced self-awareness:
- Expand your emotional vocabulary. Emotions have the power to tremendously influence how you respond to situations…situations that are much more complex than “happy” or “sad.” Expanding your emotional vocabulary actually has a therapeutic effect on your brain; if you are not able to accurately articulate how you feel, it can trigger the stress response. Try increasing your emotional vocabulary with one new word per day.
- Monitor yourself – Often times the internal dialogue in our head can be quite toxic to our success in life. Pay attention to the way you respond to successes and failures. Do you see your achievements as luck and persecute yourself with failures? Balance your tough love with self-compassion.
- Be accountable to your flaws. While we are often easily critical of others, it is much easier to be ignorant of our own flaws. No one is perfect. Create a habit of acknowledging your mistakes – self-improvement only comes once you are aware and accept your flaws.
- Break instinctive reactions. Take a deep breath before you react, especially in circumstances that trigger anger or frustration. This gives you the opportunity to re-assess whether your response is the best way to handle the situation.
- Practice saying “no” to yourself. Learning to say “no” to yourself to avoid short term gratification for the long-term goal is a crucial life skill. This becomes easier with practice, as there are countless distractions and temptations we face throughout the day. Learn to say no to at least 3 temptations daily (i.e. saying no to happy hour when you have work that could help you achieve a goal.
- Focus on your breath. Learning to focus on your breath a few minutes each day will help you become more in tune to your internal processes and when your mind wanders. This practice will enable you to more easily redirect yourself from distractions.
Practice these exercises regularly and you will begin to notice a change in all aspects of your life.