Just How Self-Aware Are You?

The idea of being self-aware has been around most likely since the beginning of time. And yet, according to Harvard Business Review article, What Self-Awareness Really Is, it remains a challenge for most people.

It seems that most people believe they are self-aware, but according to research conducted by The Eurich Group, only 10-15% of the people studied fit the criteria of being self-aware. 

So where are you? Are you part of the 10-15% or is it possible you are in the 85-90% group?

To find out, let’s start by taking a closer look at the definition of Self-Awareness. According to the Eurich Group, there are two categories of self-awareness.sea

Your internal self-awareness includes your ability to recognize how your thoughts, feelings, values, strengths, weaknesses, passions, etc. impact those around you. 

Paying attention to your internal self-awareness is directly linked to greater effectiveness, relationships, and overall satisfaction. 

Your external self-awareness includes your ability to recognize how other people view you. 

When you have external self-awareness, relationships benefit. You are able to connect with others and show greater empathy. 

Interestingly, there is no correlation between the two. Most people are high one, but not both.  This creates four possible combinations. 

Read each of the following to see which sounds most like you. 

You are mindful about who you are and what drives you, but you don’t challenge yourself to solicit feedback to learn how others view you. 

You are able to fully expand your self-awareness by turning inward paying attention to who you are and what drives you, and you seek to uncover blindspots by soliciting feedback from others. 

You are so focused on what others think of you that you place a priority on pleasing others over recognizing who you are and what drives you. You may be skiled at image management, covering up the internal version of you to match what you believe others want. 

You aren’t sure what you stand for, what matters, and how others see you. You may feel like you are in a continuous loop trying to find your way and ending up lost.

Having high Internal and External Self-Awareness is beneficial to your professional and personal life. There are some very practical things you can do to start to elevate both.

To focus on your External Self-Awareness:

Think about where you would like to get some outside feedback. Maybe it’s how you come across in a meeting. Or how you present an opposing idea. Or maybe it’s how you enter the house after a challenging day. 

Actively solicit feedback from someone you trust this week. Ask questions that require courage to understand how others see you. Be careful to not defend your position. Just listen and thank the person for their honesty.

Reflect on what you learned from this feedback. What surprises you? What inspires you? What changes would you like to see in yourself?

To focus on your Internal Self-Awareness:

Throughout the day, pause to turn inward and notice how you are feeling and what you are thinking. What patterns are noticing? What new patterns do you want to create?

When turning inward, try shifting your questions from Why? to What? For example, instead of saying Why am I feeling this way? try these questions:

What else am I feeling? 
What other situations make me feel this way?
What is the message in this feeling? 
What’s important to me right now?

What questions keep you focused on what will help you move forward with a growth mindset.

Make a list of your values. Share them with someone you trust and talk about how your values influence how you perceive different situations and how you make decisions. 

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Mind Chat

50,000.  That’s an estimated number of thoughts you have per day. Our minds race endlessly jumping from subject to subject, from the present to the past, from the past to the future. They can be sprinkled with negativity, hope, fear, passion, or self-doubt.

Our thoughts happen so quickly we don’t always have time to respond to them. Some get lost, some get forgotten, some spur a reaction, some get spoken. 

Either way, it’s important to recognize that our thoughts stir up feelings. Ultimately our thoughts and our feelings influence our behaviors. 

“Without this ability to stand outside your experience, without self-awareness, you would have little ability to moderate and direct your behavior moment to moment. Such real-time, goal-directed modulation of behavior is the key to acting like a mature adult. You need this capacity to free yourself from the automatic flow of experience and to choose where to direct your attention. Without a director, you are a mere automaton, driven by greed, fear, or habit.”

David Rock, Your Brain at Work

This week, find a place to sit and watch the world around you. Try different spots throughout the week, like a train, office cafeteria, book store, coffee shop, or an airport.

As you observe your surroundings, pay attention to your mind chatter and jot them down somewhere so that you can go back to them later.

Afterward, read through the statements you wrote down. Where is there frustration, fear, or judgment? Or how about excitement, courage, or curiosity?

What patterns do you notice about your thoughts? How do your thoughts influence the way you feel?

How are your thought patterns helpful to you and how are they hurtful?

If you could control your thoughts, what would you change?

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Your Brain Loves Patterns

For Efficiency Sake

Your brain loves patterns. It was created to be very efficient. It actually takes less energy to follow an established pattern than to create one. That’s why change can be very hard.

Some might even say that the majority of your day is spent on auto-pilot…you moving through your day doing the same things over and over.

Think about it. From the moment you woke to right now, what routines did you follow without really paying attention?

For me, driving to work is one of those things I do without really thinking. Isn’t that a scary realization? I often find myself very aware of backing out of the driveway, and then 20 minutes later as I’m pulling into the office parking lot!

How did that happen? And how did I make it alive!?

The simple answer: my brain has stored a pattern or neural pathway. The more I follow this pathway, the quicker and easier it becomes. 

Sometimes this can be helpful; sometimes, not so much!

What Are Your Patterns?

As you start to pay attention to your patterns, you will begin to heighten your awareness about those various roads you take on autopilot.

You’ll also start to notice what patterns are effective and helping you versus the patterns that are ineffective and holding you back. It’s hard work but you can create new patterns or new routes on your original map. Think of these as little dirt roads. They may be a little bumpy and unfamiliar, but they are the start of a new pathway.

The more you follow this new route, the smoother it becomes until it finally matures into a new pathway. But there’s a catch: when you’re stressed, you’re much more likely to go back to the original map. (see Practice Session: Your Brain on Stress in this module)

Become hyper-aware this week and identify all the things you do on auto-pilot (those things you claim you can do in your sleep). Maybe it’s checking your email, walking the dog, conducting 1:1 meetings with your team members, processing customer requests, family dinners, etc.

Of the activities you listed above, are there any that might benefit from being a little more intentional? Or are there any patterns that aren’t that effective or in alignment with your goals?

What patterns do you want to change? What one step can you take starting today to create a new pattern. Remember, this is hard work!  Give yourself plenty of time, and don’t expect perfection. Practice this new pattern often!

When creating new patterns, it’s always helpful to seek accountability from someone. Who can help you process this experience and help hold you accountable? Plan to share your plans with this person this week.

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Your Brain On Stress

On its own, stress may seem manageable, but unfortunately, stress often occurs in a spiral that appears to have no end point.

The Stress Spiral
The stress spiral and the physical, mental, and emotional impact looks like this.

When feeling stress, the threat response system shuts down processes that are related to long-term thriving such as empathy, higher order thinking, and creative thinking.

The ability to Recognize Patterns is a higher order brain function. So how can you stay committed to this new map and strengthen those pathways when we’re stressed?

Detect as early as possible when you become stressed. Pay attention to the physical symptoms of stress or anxiety as they arise: rapid heartbeat, tense muscles, irritability, defensiveness.

Take two minutes to lower your stress. 

Naming emotions has been found to lower the intensity, or grip, of the feeling. Say to yourself: I am feeling stressed. 

Take several deep breaths. Paying attention to your breathing can help to level your heart rate and lessen the feeling of stress.

Distract yourself. Go for a bike ride, take a walk, listen to your favorite music, etc.

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The Emotional Reset Button

I never wish I could push the REWIND button and do something over. I am always in control of my emotions.
Said nobody ever

Emotional Reset Button

According to a recent Psychology Today article, we can install an Emotional Reset button! It doesn’t allow you to actually rewind the situation for a do-over, but it can help you get back to an emotional baseline more quickly. 

The author, Dr. Karl Albrecht, suggests distracting your brain with the touch of a spot on your body. This distraction helps you come down after an emotional disturbance to a normal baseline state.

Here’s how it works…

  1. Choose one spot on your body that you can touch, that won’t be totally obvious or distracting to others. Think wrist, ear, elbow…you get the idea.
  2. While touching that spot, steady your breathing and think of a state of calm, content, and ease. You might also include a phrase that gives you peace. Or, visualize a place that creates a sense of calm.
  3. Name this state as your “emotional baseline” and identify it as the state you want to come back to after an emotional disturbance.
  4. Test out your RESET button throughout the day for several days and allow yourself to feel the state of calm, content, and ease as you touch it. This testing stage is very important and must be done before you can begin using it. It’s the equivalent of going to the batting cages before actually playing in the big game. Or, practicing in front of a mirror before delivering an important speech.

Now for the hard part!

  1. Catch yourself spiraling during an emotional disturbance. Learn to become self-aware and recognize the signs before you actually spiral to an “out of control” state.
  2. Choose to control your spiral downward. At times you might have such an intense feeling that you don’t want to control it. Apply some quick consequential thinking and remind yourself of how that actually feels later.
  3. Press the Emotional RESET button by simply touching the place you identified.
  4. Pay attention to your breathing and allow yourself to go to that state of calm, content, and ease. Engage the thinking part of your brain and allow yourself this pause.
  5. Depending on the level of emotional disturbance, you may need to press the Emotional RESET Button several times.
  6. Once you have returned to your emotional baseline, choose how you want to respond (vs. react) to the situation.

Like anything, using the Emotional Reset Button takes practice. 

Life can certainly be stressful and challenging. You don’t always get to choose or control what happens, but you can learn to choose how you respond.

Following the instructions above, install an Emotional Reset Button.

Practice using it throughout the week. Make note of what is happening. How are you feeling? What are your thoughts telling you? How are they influencing each other?

Pay attention to why it’s important to you to develop your emotional intelligence skills.

What new insights are you gaining from this practice session?

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Act vs React

With the stressors and busyness of life, I can easily run through my day on autopilot just as Josh Freedman of Six Seconds explains in this video.

When I run on autopilot, I can find myself:

  • So focused on what I’m doing that I’m not paying attention to how I’m feeling and how those around me are feeling
  • Saying things I later regret and wishing I could hit the REWIND button to try again
  • Explaining my intentions because my words or actions didn’t land well

As you learn to turn inward and pay more attention to your thoughts and feelings, you will also start to notice your patterns that run on autopilot.

Recognizing Patterns

Fill in the blanks.

When I feel _____________________, I _________________________ .

When I think _____________________, I _________________________ .

Recall a situation that didn’t go well. What were your thoughts, feelings, and resulting REACTION?

What pattern do you see in this situation? When else has this feeling led to that reaction?

Challenge yourself to notice this pattern over the next several weeks. What else is happening to spur the pattern? What would you like to see happen instead of the autopilot reaction? Where else do you see this happening in your life? Could this be a pattern?

Share what you are learning about your patterns with your colleagues.

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What is Recognize Patterns?

Recognize Patterns

With the fast pace of life, it’s very easy to set yourself to auto-pilot and GO! There’s not always time to stop and think or consider the impact of our choices and actions. 

Over time, these auto-pilot reactions become so ingrained that we may have little to no self-awareness that they even exist!

Some examples include:

One key emotional intelligence competency is the ability to recognize these patterns. 

Why Pay Attention to Patterns?

When you tune into your feelings, you are able to intentionally RESPOND rather than REACT on autopilot. Emotions are data and have a purpose. They help you to notice what matters, what’s important, what doesn’t seem right, or fair.  They are important pieces of information telling you something.  

As you begin to unlock your emotions, the practice sessions in this module will help you to be more intentional with your choices so that you can align your actions and what matters most.

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