Self-awareness is one of the most important skills for success. How you behave and respond to external situations is governed by internal mental processes. Self-awareness uncovers any destructive thought-patterns and unhealthy habits. This leads to better decision-making and behavioral responses.
9 exercises for greater self-awareness:
1. The three Why’s
Before acting on a decision, ask yourself ”Why?” Follow up your response with another ”Why?” And then a third. If you can find three good reasons to pursue something, you’ll have clarity and be more confident in your actions. Being self-aware means knowing your motives and determining whether they’re reasonable.
2. Practice saying ”No” to Yourself
The ability to say ”No” to yourself – to put off short-term gratification for the long-term gain is an important life-skill. And like a muscle, it is strengthened with exercise. The more you practice saying ”No” to small daily challenges, the better you can withstand major temptations. There are plenty of daily temptations – social media, junk food, gossiping. Make a goal of saying ”No” to different temptations each day.
3. Break visceral reactions
A person without self-awareness runs on auto-pilot, and responds with knee-jerk reactions. Self-awareness allows you to assess situations objectively and rationally, without acting on biases and stereotypes. Take a deep breath before you act – especially when a situation evokes anger and frustration. This gives you time to re-assess whether your response will be the best one.
4. Be Accountable To Your Flaws
Nobody is perfect. Being aware of your flaws, but failing to accept accountability, is leaving the job half-done. We’re often critical of others, while ignorant of our own flaws. Self-awareness helps turn the mirror on ourselves and prevents hypocritical behaviour. Iteration and self-improvement only happen once you recognise a flaw. Create a habit of acknowledging your mistakes, rather than making excuses.
5. Monitor Your Self-Talk
There is non-stop commentary in our heads, and it’s not always helpful. A little bit of negative self-talk can spiral into stress and depression. Pay attention to the way you respond to your successes and failures – do you pass off your achievements as luck? And crucify yourself after failures? Positive and negative feedback-loops will form in your mind based off how you respond to successes and failures. Being tough on yourself needs to be balanced with self-compassion. Celebrate your wins, forgive your losses.
6. Improve Your Body Language Awareness
Watching yourself on video can be a crinegeworthy experience, but awareness of your body language, posture, and mannerisms improves your confidence. Slouching, or taking a ”low-power-pose” increase cortisol and feeds low self-esteem, while standing tall or taking a ”high-power-pose” stimulates testosterone and improves your performance. Using hand gestures helps with articulating your thoughts and affects how people respond to you. Record a speech or presentation and evaluate your posture and hand gestures. Watch videos of skilled speakers and adopt their mannerisms to improve your own.
7. Ask For Constructive Feedback
We all have blind spots in our thinking patterns and behaviours, Asking for regular constructive feedback cuts through any self-deceit or one-dimensional views you might hold. But only ask people you’d consider mentors – those who understand you; whom you respect; and will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.
8. Practice Self-Evaluation And Reflection
Keep a journal and track your progress. How would you rate your current level self-awareness out of ten? Think about how often you say regretful things; repeat bad habits; make absent-minded decisions; and have erratic thoughts. Set regular goals, break big goals down into smaller milestones. Ask yourself at the end of each day, ”What did I do well today?” And, ”How can I improve on this tomorrow?”
Meditation is a foundational practice for improving self-awareness. To focus solely on your breathing is to focus on a key internal process. You’ll become aware of how your mind wanders, and get better at snapping out of distractions. Find a quiet place to sit, breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Try these 9 self-awareness exercises and share how you get on.