Self awareness is a powerful trait to have. It makes you more flexible in situations, more in control as things around you get crazy and actually makes you more effective by providing a feedback mechanism to help you learn from your mistakes.
Some say you are either born with it or not. I disagree based on how I became more self aware. I have to credit a mentor of mine who counseled me for many years in my 20’s and 30’s that helped me not only become more self aware but also gave me a sixth sense of understanding how others are feeling during an interaction with me.
This mentor always focused and questioned how I felt, why I felt, and how could I have acted differently. He spent little time on what the other person did. He wanted to better understand my reaction to what happened so that I could learn from it. So that I could become better at handling the next situation. So that I could begin to see where I might have done things differently to achieve a better outcome.
(If you think about it, we can only control our thoughts and actions and not the other person’s thoughts and actions.)
He taught me to be more patient. To not accuse or fight but rather adjust, regroup, and quietly execute in a better/stronger way as you work through a situation without allowing my ego to hijack me into selfish and destructive acts. When the ego takes over there is no listening or learning which strangles the potential for a positive outcome in a difficult situation.
The way you could do this is by changing every story you have about what just happened from “what THEY did” to “what I did”. What did I do wrong? How did I feel during what just happened? What could I have done differently based on what I now know in hindsight? Why do I view a situation the way I do (good or bad)? What led me to the conclusions I came to about the person or situation?
People who are not very self aware never go through this process of focusing on the “I” when situations occur. Their stories are about “they did this or that” and they often make up explanations for the way the other person acted without ever asking them. For them, it’s always about the other person. Never about themselves so no learning ever occurs. They remain impulsive and defiant with their ego front and center.
A strange thing happens when you drop that approach and focus on the questions involving your actions and performance. You begin to become more sensitive to actually feeling the little things in conversations you have with other people. This makes you better equipped to adjust “on the fly” knowing better where to push, where to pull back, and where to try something different.
You also become more tolerant of other people by seeing the imperfections in yourself through the practice of self-analysis. While becoming more tolerant you also come to get a better understanding of who the other person is and what is consistent about them that won’t change. This gives you an opportunity to either approach the other person differently, now that you understand them better, or allows you to walk away knowing the interaction between you will never change.
Becoming more self aware is no different than trying to lose weight. It too is hard work. Putting our ego aside to better understand ourselves is so valuable yet hidden until you try it for an extended period of time. You must consistently do this to become more self-aware.
Over time, this new skill of self awareness will grow into understanding that you are more responsible for your life than you think making everything possible (that you are capable of) if you put in the work.
Becoming more self aware is not so that you can become more manipulative but rather to become more effective in your dealings with others. And that will help each of your days be filled with more joy, as well as with some laughter at ourselves and the unpredictable but understandable behavior of others.