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By Paula Jorde BloomGo to page: 1 2 3 4 5 6
Socrates summed up the secret to a meaningful life in two simple words — "Know thyself." Self-awareness means knowing your needs and values, your strengths and limitations, your passions and your idiosyncratic quirks. It means having a deep appreciation of what makes you a unique specimen on this planet. On a deeper level, self-awareness means knowing how you react in different situations and accepting full responsibility for your feelings and actions.
Having a better understanding of oneself is the first step to having a better relationship with others. This is because self-awareness provides a window to expand our understanding about other points of view and perspectives. While the importance of self-awareness is readily understood by most people, achieving it is easier said than done. Even Benjamin Franklin acknowledged this when he wrote in his Poor Richard's Almanac, "There are three things extremely hard: steel, diamonds, and to know one's self."
The reason self-awareness is so difficult to achieve is that it involves an ongoing assessment of our assumptions, beliefs, values, and mental models that shape our behavior and guide our actions both at work and in our personal lives. The goal of this kind of reflection is not merely to see who we are and better understand ourselves today, but to envision what we might become tomorrow. It is a life-long process — a journey of self-discovery, meaning making, and identity shaping. It is the journey of becoming a self-mentor.
Why self-awareness is so important
The importance of self-awareness is based on George Kelly's construct theory, first published in 1955, and his notion that every person is a psychologist. Kelly believed that people's common sense ideas and their own theories about life and relationships are enormously rich sources of knowledge abouthuman affairs. The central thesis of his approach is that we do not merely react to events; we are in charge of what we do in the world and have the potential to recreate ourselves.
Two other social psychologists have been influential in promoting the self-awareness movement of personal psychology. In his 1987 book Beginning with Ourselves, David Hunt calls the approach inside-out psychology. He contrasts this to the outside-in approach which leaves human affairs to the experts. The same year, Donald Schon published his seminal work Becoming a Reflective Practitioner. This book, as well, gave credence to the idea that achieving professional competence is a dynamic process involving continual inquiry and renewal.
Being self-aware is at the core of what Howard Gardner refers to as intrapersonal intelligence or what John Mayer, Peter Salovey, and Daniel Goleman refer to as emotional intelligence. They describe self-awareness as the capacity to be introspective and examine thoughts and feelings. This includes:
• affective awareness — knowledge of one's feelings, attitudes, moods, and outlook;
• ethical awareness — the ability to set one's principles and moral priorities;
• self-regulation — the ability to monitor one's thoughts, actions, and behavior; and
• metacognition — the ability to be aware of one's thought processes.
Self-awareness also means having a clear picture of our internal motives; those things that drive us to say what we say or do what we do. Peeling away the layers of our motivations is not always a comfortable process, but it is a necessary step if our goal is to become an authentic leader known for personal integrity. Central to this process is gaining absolute clarity about what we perceive our purpose is in life and how we define success.
Becoming a reflective practitioner
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