4 Compelling Reasons You Need To Be More Self-Aware

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In the FBI Academy, we trained how to run down and tackle individuals who resisted arrest. I was a lousy runner and came up at the rear of every race. The idea that I could run down or even catch up with a suspect produced snarky comments and rolled eyes from my classmates.

My ego took a big hit, but I also knew my competence as an FBI agent must be grounded in reality. I needed to be self-aware so I could make an honest assessment of my skills and strengths. Only at that point could I plan for ways to grow my strengths so I could manage my weaknesses.


How important is self-awareness? A study by Green Peak Partners and Cornell University examined the performance of 72 executives from a variety of companies. It found that “a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success.”

As entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders, self-awareness is essential to your success. It’s stupid to pretend that you don’t have flaws or weaknesses. Instead, be smart and get ahead of them so they don’t sabotage you when you’re confronted with a stressful situation.

Here are four compelling reasons you need to be more self-aware:

1. Understand how you come across to others

The way we perceive ourselves is distorted, but most of us are not self-aware enough to recognize it! If we don’t want to be known as stingy, arrogant or self-righteous, we don’t look for those qualities in ourselves. Of course, we readily identify those qualities in other people! If we want to be perceived as competent, polite and generous, guess what? Those are the qualities we find in ourselves.

There is enough ego in all of us to produce a flattering self-image that might not be congruent with how others see us. The way we see ourselves is often an illusion, and it can be a dangerous one if we misjudge how we come across to our colleagues and supervisors.

Conversely, if you suffer from a lack of self-esteem, you could be undermining your position and chances for advancement as you navigate the quagmire of office politics.

How to make it work for you: Be mentally tough enough to keep your ego in check. Ask trusted friends or colleagues to give an honest evaluation of how you come across to others in a variety of situations. Don’t take the easy route and ask for feedback on your best behavior. Let the good, the bad and the ugly hang out, and be brave enough to push for honest answers.

2. Become aware of your deepest needs

Since we all possess a somewhat muddled and inaccurate image of how we come across to others, it shouldn’t be a shock to learn that we tend to justify our motives through rose-colored glasses as well. In fact, psychologists believe it’s important that our brain sees a clear connection between our thoughts, emotions and behavior. This strong connection leads to good mental health. However, thinking or feeling one way and then behaving in a different manner causes cognitive dissonance, and we experience anxiety and stress as we try to justify the behavior.

Behavioral science has proven that human beings are motivated by several needs. At a basic level is the biological drive to eat, drink and sleep. Another motivator is reward and punishment, such as when we work for a salary and are rewarded with a paycheck. It is the third motivator that requires self-awareness — the things we pursue because they bring us joy and contentment. Shelley E. Taylor, UCLA psychology professor, has argued that we are wired to nurture others and care for their needs.

These are the hidden needs that ennoble the human spirit, but they also take effort and time to process because they are complicated and complex drivers of our behavior. Too often we settle for a fleeting emotion such as happiness because it’s both instant and a popular meme. But, at the end of the day, our deepest need is to make a contribution to society that is meaningful to us.

How to make It work for you: You can move toward a deeper and enduring sense of what motivates you if you are self-aware. Ask yourself, “What do I really want?” Another great question to ask yourself at the end of each day is this: “Was I better today than yesterday?” Again, ask trusted colleagues or friends for feedback, but make sure it is honest and constructive.

3. Create a mindset that wins

If you think of yourself as flexible and resilient, you will do much better in both business and life. Your image of who you are influences how you behave and thus becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Carol Dweck’s research at Stanford University has determined that if we view a trait as mutable, we are inclined to work on it more. On the other hand, if we view a trait such as IQ or willpower as unchangeable, we’ll make little effort to improve it.

Dweck is well-known for her work on “fixed vs. growth mindset.” People with a fixed mindset believe their basic abilities, intelligence and talents are fixed traits. They have a certain amount of talent and nothing will change it. People with a growth mindset, however, believe that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort and persistence.

If you create a growth mindset, you have the mental toughness to learn from criticism rather than ignore it; to overcome challenges rather than avoid them; and find inspiration in the success of others rather than feel threatened.

Self-aware people can create a growth mindset that’s focused on personal growth because they believe they can improve and develop their skills.

How to make It work for you: The best way to change the type of person that you believe you are is through small, repeated actions. Focus on the process, not the outcome. Don’t worry about how to write a best-seller; instead, commit to publishing your ideas on a consistent basis. It’s not about the result. It’s about how to create a mindset that enjoys the results.

4. Prevent self-deception

According to psychologists, our tendency for self-deception stems from our desire to impress others. We convince ourselves of our capabilities in the process.

Human beings are masters of self-deception. We lie to ourselves about why we like to wear designer clothes, drive fast cars and climb the corporate ladder. Most of the time, we’re completely unaware of the deception going on in our minds.

Companies lose serious money every year due to their employee’s lack of self-awareness. Inaccurate self-assessment leads to sales targets that can’t be met, deadlines that can’t be carried out and performances that are promised but not delivered.

Interestingly, most of us have no trouble seeing through the delusions of our colleagues! We recognize the bumbling idiot who postures for a promotion or the incompetent supervisor who mumbles in meetings.

If we are self-aware and see ourselves with greater clarity, we are more likely to land on our feet when confronted with the unexpected

How to make It work for you: Honesty is the best tool to combat self-deception. It means we will need to look in the mirror and take responsibility for who we are. Honesty requires a deliberate effort on a daily basis. We must learn to observe our emotions, thoughts and behavior without judgment or evaluation. If we are self-aware, it is easier for us to focus our mind, concentrate and direct our attention toward activities that will give us the opportunity to change.

This article originally appeared on LaRae Quy.

4 Mental-Health Journaling Prompts For The Reflective Soul Who Doesn’t Know Where To Start

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There’s something so inexplicably satisfying about cracking open a brand-new journal. It’s a blank canvas on which you can record your thoughts, your worries, your dreams, and so much more. But beyond simply being a place to chronicle the events of your life and everything you feel about those goings-on, journaling is a great way to nourish your mental health. I may be going out on a limb here, but I’d venture to say that you’d be hard-pressed to find a mental-health professional who wouldn’t recommend journaling as a tool for general healing, coping with depression, and reducing anxiety.

Still, journaling can seem like a daunting task—especially if you’re not in the habit of writing about your feelings regularly. The good news? According to New York–based holistic psychotherapist Alison Stone, LCSW, there’s no such thing as a right or a wrong way to journal—and there’s not a specific amount you have to do it, either.

“For some people, it might be daily, while for others it might be weekly,” Stone says. “Experiment with not only what gives you the most benefit, but what is realistic for you to commit to on a regular basis.”

“Journaling is great for enhancing self-awareness through helping us detect and track patterns of behavior, thoughts, and feelings.” —Alison Stone, LCSW

In other words, if you want to let your thoughts flow freely every day for an hour, great. If it feels more natural to you to express yourself with a combination of words and pictures, bullet-journal-style, once a week, that’s great, too. Maybe you’re all about going out and buying a gorgeous journal that you feel excited to open all the time. Or maybe the thought of writing your feelings by hand is exhausting to you, and you’d prefer to dump them all in a Google Doc. Great, all-around, because, as is the case with so many things in life, the best thing you can do is listen to your own specific wants and needs to do what is authentically best for you.

And, no matter how or how often you choose to journal, there’s no question that it’s great for mental health. Below are a few of the heavy-hitting reasons why.

1. Journaling enhances self-awareness

Sometimes, it can be hard to pinpoint why we do, think, or feel certain ways about certain things. When you start journaling regularly, all of these things become a lot clearer. “Journaling is great for enhancing self-awareness through helping us detect and track patterns of behavior, thoughts, and feelings,” Stone explains.

For example, say you’re a single person (who doesn’t want to be single) whose anxiety spikes at night when you just happen to be scrolling mindlessly through Instagram, double-tapping photos of happy couples. In this case, a regular journaling habit may help you identify a pattern and lead you to change your behavior around Instagram.

2. Journaling can help alleviate stress

By simply jotting things down on paper, whether it’s feelings of anxiety and stress around a specific situation or just getting out the events of the day, journaling can help you get your thoughts and feelings out of your head. This simple act can make it easier to stop obsessing. “Doing this can help get rid of stress, clarify goals, and reduce symptoms of anxiety,” Stone says.

3. Journaling helps cultivate gratitude

Research has shown that gratitude can do quite a bit for our brains, happiness, and overall mental health. And according to Stone, journaling regularly is an effective means for identifying the things you’re grateful for. “This is an excellent benefit to journaling, because gratitude is a crucial part of overall mental health.”

If gratitude doesn’t flow out of you naturally during your day-to-day journaling habit, no big deal. Hey, a journal full of complaints and stressors is still helpful for identifying the things in your life that aren’t serving you—and that’s certainly productive. Still, try setting aside a few minutes of your journaling time to list out the things you’re grateful for.

Need a few prompts to get started on your healing journaling journey? Here are four that just may do wonders for your mental health.

If you’re anxious…

Anxiety is very, very prevalent in the United States. In fact, the condition impacts a whopping 40 million adults, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. While there are a number of effective ways to treat your anxiety, journaling is a great one to start with. In this case, here are two journaling prompts Stone suggests trying:

“When I’m feeling acutely anxious, three strategies I know work for me are…”

and:

“One example of how I successfully navigated my anxiety in a stressful situation in the past is…”

If you’re struggling with depression…

When you’re in the throes of depression, journaling just may be the last activity you’re jonesing to see out. Sure, zonking out with Netflix buzzing in the background or sleeping the day away may sound more appealing. But if you do have it in you to crack open your journal, doing so can help quite a bit. Here are the two prompts Stone suggests starting with:

“Even though I feel down, two to three things I feel thankful for are…”

and:

“One reasonable goal I have for myself this week is…”

So there you have it: Journaling can be a supplemental tool to help you along on your mental-health journey—so get started today. But if you haven’t already, do first seek the help of a professional to devise a personalized plan to treat your condition.

Journaling call also help you crush your fitness goals, and plan dreamy vacations.