“I have no idea how I really feel.”
“I don’t care about how I come across, I just need to get the job done.”
“Ok, so maybe I don’t follow through on my commitments. No one is perfect.”
“I forget because I’m ADD, you know that.”
“I have no idea why they would even think that about me. . . . Should I care?”
“It’s not my fault that I’m busy.”
“Everyone knows I don’t mean anything by those jokes.”
“I’m just communicating how I feel; I’m not trying to offend anyone.”
Have you heard someone say something like this recently? I know I hear many people utter statements like these, and I’ve also been guilty of saying them myself from time to time when I feel busy or frustrated.
When I hear people say these things, I wonder if they have any awareness of the harm that they cause when they say them. We all move back and forth along the spectrum of self awareness, but saying things like this indicates a lack of self awareness that can be harmful to others, and ourselves.
A couple of weeks ago, a colleague said to me that he didn’t care about how he came across because he was doing his job. This person said that staying true to what was most important in his life—succeeding at work—was what guided him. I listened and then asked if he felt that influencing people in a positive way would also be true to his call. That began a dialogue around what self awareness looks like, and how that can lead to more meaningful and productive relationships, which would ultimately help him do better in his job. The key to success as a leader and an influencer is directly tied to one’s ability to be intentional about self awareness.
What is self awareness anyway?
A common definition of self awareness is “a conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.” What do you know about yourself that you carry in your awareness of how you come across, function in certain situations and behave? How does that knowledge guide your own behavior and the way you speak and engage with others? The answers to those question are directly related to your level of self awareness.
Pressure to Be Less Self Aware
If we are present to life in a meaningful way, there is no doubt that we will all relate to what a leader once said to me: “I don’t want to get me. When I become self aware, it seems that I notice areas that I want to forget about, ignore or hide because they may not be pretty.” And that is what keeps many of us stuck on a “runaway path” rather than at peace with our own life, circumstances, intuitions and traits.
Even though there is an entire body of research that proves the importance of self awareness in leadership and its role in developing emotional intelligence, we still face societal norms that don’t make room for this kind of enlightenment and introspection. In fact, this license to be less aware drives us to become addicted to being busy, which is a social norm now. We are sold a bill of goods that all the things we can buy or join, all the distractions, will be enough.
Today, if you are in leadership, and we are all called to leadership, I would encourage you to pause and evaluate where you are on the self awareness spectrum. How do you develop an increased self awareness level?
Here’s something you can do right now, from your desk or on your phone. Start with a set of lists. Here are some suggested questions to get your list-writing started.
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- What are the things that frustrate me?
- What makes me happy?
- What environments make me afraid?
- What people get on my nerves?
- What type of person do I want to be?
- What type of a friend do I want to be?
- What type of a friend do I want to have?
- What do I want to accomplish in life?
Once you make these lists, and answer these questions, you’re in the self awareness process. As you answer these questions and others like them, you’ll want to keep thinking forward. How will you move into an environment where your answers to these questions inform your choices, how you engage with people, and ultimately if you lead well, or not so well. It’s your choice.