How to be self-aware: three ways to practice self-awareness

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Anthony Pica
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How to be self-aware: three ways to practice self-awareness

How to be self-aware: three ways to practice self-awareness

I like author Mark Manson’s definition:

Self-awareness is the ability to think about how you think. It’s the ability to have feelings about your feelings. To have opinions about your opinions.

It’s emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is a valuable set of skills for not just business, but life in general. It's the ability to understand and regulate emotions to manage thoughts and actions. It can help you collaborate better, make smart decisions, and improve relationships. There are two sides of the coin when it comes to emotional intelligence: self-awareness and empathy. Both can be developed over time with deliberate practice.

Here are three thought-provoking ways to develop self-awareness:

1. Take a view from above

Close your eyes and imagine you’re in a room without windows. Imagine there’s a video camera pointing at you.

Now, look through that camera.

What do you see?

(whoa, meta)

It takes conscious effort to see yourself as you really are. But when you do, you'll broaden your perspective. And you’ll be able to:

  • Objectively see if your actions align with your intentions
  • Fight against cognitive biases
  • See how other people perceive you
  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses

2. Manage your emotions

I cried when uniformed military personnel played Taps at my grandfather’s funeral. It was beautiful. The soulful sound of the trumpets echoed around my family as we honored my grandfather. I found joy in the moment.

Never suppress your emotions; acknowledge them.

But don’t let them control you.

I classify emotions into two buckets: destructive vs useful.

If an emotion doesn’t make your situation better, it’s likely a destructive one. If someone cuts you off in traffic, and you get enraged, what advantage does the rage afford you? Nothing. Just high blood pressure.

If you can leverage your emotion, then it’s useful. If you’re afraid of public speaking, you can channel your fear by putting time into rehearsal sessions and becoming a better speaker. Build courage from fear.

I like how retired Navy SEAL officer Jocko Willink puts it:

A leader must be calm but not robotic. It is normal—and necessary—to show emotion. The team must understand that their leader cares about them and their well-being. But, a leader must control his or her emotions. If not, how can they expect to control anything else?

Leaders who lose their temper also lose respect. But, at the same time, to never show any sense of anger, sadness, or frustration would make the leader void of any emotion at all—a robot. People do not follow robots.

3. Turn off autopilot and practice mindfulness

Be deliberate in everything you do. Try these two experiments:

  1. Drive in silence. For just 10 minutes, don’t listen to music or a podcast. Is it difficult? Why is it difficult? (You’re not wasting time; you’re being alone with your thoughts.) What killer ideas will pop into your head while driving in silence?
  2. Put your phone away before bed. And don’t look at it in the morning. I’m currently putting effort into not consuming information immediately after I wake up. No reddit, no email, no news. For the first 25 minutes of the day, see if you can produce information. Your subconscious works as you sleep. Train your subconscious mind to relay ideas to your conscious mind, and record your ideas to paper after waking up.

Be cognizant of things that distract you. Focus your attention on one thing at a time. You’ll make room for creativity and clear, logical thinking.

Know thyself.

We primarily grow as human beings by discovering new truths about ourselves and our reality.
— Steve Pavlina, Writer


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