Self-awareness? How can I possibly NOT KNOW myself?
“… what impact was knowing myself superficially having on my long-term plans (on my long-term happiness and contentment)? …“
In many of the previous blog articles and social media content I have authored, I mention “self-awareness” and talk about how foundational knowing yourself is to your career and personal development. Many of you may breeze right over these comments thinking “Well, I spend enough time with myself – I think I KNOW myself! <smirk>.”
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I understand the feeling – I felt that way myself at times throughout my life and career. It took me some time to realize (and additional time to remind myself) that while I was aware of my behaviors, feelings, etc. on the surface – I wasn’t taking the time to really think and deeply investigate what these things meant beyond my day-to-day life. In other words, what impact was knowing myself superficially having on my long-term plans (on my long-term happiness and contentment)?
In today’s article, let’s look at some practical questions you might ask yourself to test how well you know yourself. I have categorized the questions in 4 areas that are important as you work on improving your career plan but all can be valuable for personal development (they’re not limited to career improvement).
Let me know your thoughts on the questions, what you may have learned from the exercise, and what you’d like to investigate further in future articles. Don’t forget to follow, comment, like and subscribe, etc. to my content on your favorite social media platform(s).
To Thine Own Self Be True
– Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3
Who Am I?
“…Even if you’ve considered the question or a similar question, I encourage you to take a few minutes to look even deeper….”
Below are 4 categories and various questions you can ask yourself to help develop your self-awareness. Some of these may be things you’ve thought about before. Even if you’ve considered the question or a similar question, I encourage you to take a few minutes to look even deeper. Ask yourself follow-up questions – for example, “Why do I believe or feel this way?”
The intent of the exercise is not to sow self-doubt though you may find yourself thinking about the questions from different perspectives. If there are questions you are struggling with – that’s OK as well. You may want to consider talking with a trusted, objective advisor. If you don’t have one, I’m glad to have discussions with you (informally via chats or formally as your personal career coach) to help with the development.
I recommend you write down your thoughts so that you can refer to and revisit them later.
Without any further adieu – consider the following categories/questions for your self-awareness assessment :
- Personal/Professional Values:
> What are words representing the 3-5 core values you always think about when you’re making a decision?
> How do you reference your “values list” (memory, list, plan, etc.)?
> How do you approach periodically reviewing and updating the list?
- Knowledge and Purpose:
> What do you bring to the world (society)?
> What do you feel the world expects from you?
> How does the world compensate you for your contributions?
> What have you learned recently?
> How did you learn it?
> What perspectives have you (or are you) considering when thinking about the subject?
> How is this and other learning important to you?
> What are 2 or 3 characteristics that are most important in relationships with you?
> Describe examples of behaviors from recent interactions with others demonstrating the 2 or 3 most important relationship characteristics you noted in the earlier question.
> How do you help others understand your intent?
> When you discover you were wrong about something how do you react? What action(s) do you take? Think about a recent situation where you found you were wrong. How closely does your recollection match your responses to the reaction and action questions?
> How do you know you are “right” about something?
> What do you feel about people that have different feelings and thoughts about a subject?
> How do you feel about the following statements?
+ I try to help others understand my perspective. If they don’t “get it” I can’t help them and move on.
+ I’m curious about why other’s perspectives differ from my own and talk with them to try to understand. I may find that I do not agree with their ideas – especially where their implied core values directly conflict with my own. I try to learn from their perspective and consider how (or even if) sharing my perspective may be received before proceeding with conversations.
So, how did you do?
What did you learn about yourself in the exercise?
What other questions did you ask yourself?
How did you feel in thinking about the questions and developing answers?
What if the only thing standing in your way is you?
“…What if by knowing yourself better you could move from a mindset asking yourself “why can’t I?” to “what is stopping me?”?…”
Why is knowing yourself so important? We could explore that one question for a long time and from a lot of different directions. To keep it short and simple – to me, without knowing my core values, my strengths, and my areas where I falter any decisions or plans I make are on an unstable foundation.
What if by knowing yourself better you could move from a mindset asking yourself “why can’t I?” to “what is stopping me?”?
Know anyone that seems to have a different answer for what seems to be the same question each time you talk with them? Do their answers and logic seem at best unclear (or, at worst, completely illogical)?
Do they seem to be parroting something they heard from others and are completely uninterested in hearing any feedback that questions that perspective? When you’re only looking at things superficially it’s tempting and all too easy to simply absorb someone else’s loud, often demanding, point-of-view. The problem is that “nagging feeling in your gut that won’t go away” might be telling you that there’s a conflict with one of your core values if you only take the time for self-reflection.
So establishing “self-awareness” is an end-goal – right? Unfortunately, no. While it’s tempting to think that once you have answers to the questions above, you really “know yourself” – that’s an oversimplification.
Self-understanding is a journey. As you learn more things and get exposure to different perspectives you may find yourself answering some of the questions differently. Your life situation. life stage, and other factors can greatly change your perspective.
As a personal example, about 10 years ago, my wife faced a life threatening medical diagnosis that radically changed how I thought about time and life priorities. To be clear – I don’t think it changed my core values (the things I care most about) – it did change my priorities. Thankfully my wife endured and recovered from the treatments; however, my priorities (and resulting behaviors) remain altered by those events.
Review and re-assessment of your own core is a part of the journey and I encourage you to look inward frequently – don’t wait for a potential “life altering event” to catalyze the introspection.
I’ll end on some great news – you don’t have to go through this exploration alone. If you find yourself a bit overwhelmed or “stuck”, not knowing where to get started or what next step to take a coaching session or program may be a good next step – reach out to me through this link and I’ll be glad to discuss options with you.
Interested in exploring deeper? Contact me with your thoughts. Career coaching or personal coaching is often extremely valuable to exploring your values/ strengths/ knowledge/ etc., developing actionable plans from the self-exploration, and so forth. Even if you have a talent for self-exploration, collaborating with a coach can help accelerate the process – helping you reach your goals faster and more effectively.
Drop me a line at email@example.com or comment on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram. And sign up for my newsletter below to be notified about upcoming articles and events from Mindring Consulting!
Resources and Attributions
- Article – Personal Core Values List: 400 Examples To Embrace and Live By (liveboldandbloom.com)
- Article – 39 Core Values—and How to Live by Them | Psychology Today
- Video – YouTube – Core Values – Your Inner Compass – by Larisa Halilovic TedxFerhadija – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mL4l75rMIiQ
- Video – YouTube – Steve Jobs talks about Core Values at D8 2010 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mKxekNhMqY
- Licensed Images from Envanto