It may sound like a simple question but for many of us it is a tricky one to answer. Even though we may know a great deal about the world around us, knowledge of ourselves is different. It doesn't automatically come with academic learning or experience, yet it is one of the most powerful attributes for success at work and in life.
In my coaching work with senior executives, how well we understand ourselves (or self-awareness as it is often called), is an issue that comes up again and again in many different guises; communication, leadership, performance, confidence. Self-awareness is what brings out the best in us. It allows us to interact with others in a more genuine and positive way. When we are self aware, we are able to replace emotional reactions with productive responses for richer communication with those around us. Without a high level of self-awareness, we struggle to reach our full potential.
For example, I don't like flying. Just being at an airport used to make me anxious, as my mind automatically went into catastrophe mode, running through all the things that could possibly go wrong. Over the years I have learnt to manage those negative feelings through growing self-awareness and logical argument. By identifying what triggers me to feel anxious I can start to overcome my fear and enjoy my travels.
Do you know someone who always seems to be able to say the right thing, whatever the situation? Someone who connects easily with others and always manages to get the best from the team? When we are comfortable with ourselves, we operate effectively. Rather than allowing events to overwhelm us, we are able to anticipate our reactions and direct our energy towards achieving a useful outcome.
It is easy to judge others against our own value system but how often to we take time out to observe our own patterns of behaviour? Getting to know where your strengths and vulnerabilities lie will help you to recognise the things that can trip you up or trigger your emotions. When you are conscious of the way you act and react, you’ll find it easier to adjust your responses for a more constructive outcome.
By Nevin Stewart