Everyone talks about self-awareness, but how does a person go about actually developing it? And how can self-awareness actually lead to a happier life? Today’s post will show you how.
With all the bruhaha over whether schools should open or close this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it might surprise you to find out that setting goals for YOUR intellectual domain is important, too! Why? Because when we take care of ourselves, we can’t forget our brains. Healthy self-care includes making sure we learn new things all. the. time. This month’s Self-Care Sunday posts will focus on setting goals for our intellectual domain.
Ideas that Overwhelm
“Aargh!” I moaned to my friend. “I can’t stand staff meetings.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Because every time I have a great idea, the principal immediately poses fifty reasons why it’s a bad idea.”
“That sounds rough,” she nodded sympathetically.
“And even worse, months later, the principal will propose my idea as if it originated with him!”
“Ugh. I hate it when people take credit for my ideas.”
As a young teacher, I had no idea what to do with my frustrations, so I just stewed. Eventually, I quit that job to stay home with our daughters. But the bad taste never left my mouth.
At another school where I worked, I found I had fewer problems with the principal (my maturity level had grown). But he shocked me one day when he said, “You know, Anita, you have so many ideas. About every third one is actually good.”
This felt like a victory, compared to my first teaching job. And it made me aware that perhaps all of the ideas swirling through my head could overwhelm other people.
“How was your day?” my husband asked.
“I feel wiped out,” I answered.
“We’ve had two days of soul-sucking meetings and I just can’t take any more.”
“Oh,” he said quietly.
“It’s not your fault,” I assured him. After all, he led the meetings, and I didn’t want him to think he had done an awful job. “We just sat for so long, and it took so long for everyone to express their opinions and argue about each. little. thing. I spent a lot of energy trying to keep my mouth shut.”
“I see,” he said, looking slightly mollified.
The incident made me think about what wears me out and what energizes me. Sure, I like people, but they wear me out to the point of exhaustion. I wondered why, and what was wrong with me that I couldn’t handle two days of meetings without feeling drained.
What to Do When I Grow Up?
“What do you want to do when you grow up?” I asked one of my high school English students.
“I don’t know,” she wailed. “I used to know, but now I’m not sure.”
“I understand,” I told her. “I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up!”
“You ARE grown up,” she said with a laugh, “that doesn’t make any sense.”
I smiled, but inside, I knew the truth of my words.
You’d think at my age I would have finally figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up. Perhaps the dread mid-life crisis has invaded my world, but I often wonder if the things I do really matter.
Does anyone else feel like me? I think back to the dreams from my childhood…and I can’t remember many.
These three conversations made me realize I needed to work on my self-awareness. Without self-awareness, we have a difficult time experiencing growth. And without growth, we stagnate and shrivel—and who wants to shrivel on the inside if they already look a little shriveled on the outside?
Hacks for Building Self-Awareness
A sign in front of the local mercantile proclaims, “You can’t buy happiness, but you CAN buy boots!” True, you can’t buy happiness, but you can work to achieve a happier state of mind through self-awareness.
1. Listen to Podcasts
When I listen to podcasts—two of my favorites are Building a Story Brand with Donald Miller and JJ Peterson and Lead to Win by Michael Hyatt and Megan Hyatt-Miller—I often find myself identifying with the guests on the show or the ideas presented.
Podcasters who talk about leadership or relationships inspire me to think about the ways I lead or the sticky areas in my relationships. Podcasts keep my mind fertile with ideas.
Listening often leads to buying books when a guest’s ideas scratch an itch on my self-awareness journey. This leads to the second hack.
2. Read Self-Help Books
Some of you may not enjoy reading self-help books, but I find they help me develop my self-awareness faster than anything else. I don’t read them as blueprints for change, I see them as roadmaps to understanding myself better.
I firmly believe that one of the best avenues to self-awareness comes from self-help books. You can see a link to some of my favorites here.Check out these five hacks for building self-awareness! #selfawareness #growthmindset #selfcare Click To Tweet
3. Find Your Voice
I’ve repeated the conversation from the beginning of this post in various forms for my entire working career. Some people seem to get me, and many others don’t.
This past week I finally sat down to read a book authored by one of Donald Miller’s guests over a year ago. 5 Voices: How to Communicate Effectively with Everyone You Lead has opened up doors to understanding my communication problems.
Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram posit that we all have different foundational voices or communication styles. Once we identify our foundational voice and the order of our five voices, we gain self-awareness that will help us communicate better.
According to the authors, people within families and organizations clash when they fail to appreciate the foundational voices of others in the room. As I read the book, I couldn’t help exclaiming, “Yes!” every time I read an example of someone with what the authors call a Guardian Voice. Why? Because the Guardian Voice shows up at the bottom of my list, and it’s the voice that irritates me the most.
Instead of getting frustrated with other people’s foundational voices, the authors encourage readers to learn to appreciate them. Without all five voices present in a group, it will take longer to make good decisions and move forward on projects.
I started implementing the advice for using my voice most constructively already (my foundational voice is Pioneer, followed closely by Creative). When we develop self-awareness of how other people really feel on the other side of our voice, it helps us communicate more effectively.
Which leads to happiness.
3. Know How You Process the World
My entire life, people have assumed that I’m an extrovert. I can see why. When I spend time with people, I try to engage with them in a friendly way. I’ve never suffered from shyness, and can get up front and make a speech to hundreds or thousands.
But people drain the life out of me. When I had the opportunity to join Holley Gerth’s launch team for her upcoming book The Powerful Purpose of Introverts, I jumped at the chance. Why? Contrary to popular belief, I am deeply introverted.
Gerth’s excellent book went into the science of how introverts and extroverts process input. Extroverts use dopamine to process data, and introverts use acetylcholine. Because our nervous systems use different neurotransmitters (dopamine and acetylcholine), extroverts and introverts will respond in a wildly different manner to the exact same input.
Neither system is better, but introverts can suffer if they believe they have to act like extroverts all the time. Take the time to read up on introversion and extroversion if you want to develop better self-awareness.
I can’t wait for Pedro to read Gerth’s book so he can understand why meetings drain me. It won’t mean fewer meetings, but at least he won’t take my comments about ‘soul-sucking meetings’ too personally.
4. Learn to Dream Big
Bob Goff, one of my favorite non-fiction authors, recently released Dream Big: Figure Out What You Want, Why You Want It, and What You’re Going to Do About It. I confess I didn’t read the subtitle before I picked up the book. I just figured if Bob Goff wrote, I would probably love it.
I didn’t. The book made me uncomfortable. Sure, it encouraged me, just like his other books did, but it also uncovered a raw spot in my life. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Yeah. I’ve passed the mid-century mark and still don’t know what I want to do.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved Goff’s book, just not in the same feel-good-go-out-and-love-the-world kind of way that I loved his other books. My love feels more like get-out-there-and-learn-to-love-your-dreams kind of way. And I’ll need to spend some quality time with myself to go through the Dream Big process and actually figure myself out.
If you have clarity on what you want and why you want it, you’ll have what it takes to make as many attempts as needed to get there.Dream Big
I realized, while reading the book, that I give up too easily in some areas of my life. Perhaps because I haven’t taken the time to analyze and clarify my wants and dreams.
5. Ask God to Send the Holy Spirit to Help You
Believe it or not, I started and finished all these books in two weeks. This morning in my devotional time, I asked God to send the Holy Spirit to help me sort everything out and show me how best to use and apply my new knowledge.
Self-awareness breeds change and change brings discomfort. Only with the help of a power outside of myself can I sit content in my changing skin (as a creative, I tend to want instant perfection). And sitting still to do the deep work will help me grow and make me a happier person.
Change is in the Air
During English class this week, I asked my students to tell me the antonym of the word ‘growth.’
“Death!” one of the students shouted.
“That’s harsh!” another student said.
Yes. Yes, it is. But the student has a point. When we fail to grow, we start to wither and regress, the first stages of death. And without self-awareness, we might not even know we’ve started to die.