Cultivating Self-Awareness

I believe that the #1 key to success, no matter how you define it, starts with being self-aware. Self-awareness, also known as mindfulness and consciousness, is instrumental in initiating and sustaining positive change. The first step in making a change or improvement of any kind is being aware that a change is wanted or needed.

Self-awareness is a lifelong journey of discovery. It is a process of getting to know who you are and who you are consistently becoming (which is an everlasting process). It is about understanding yourself- how you think, how you feel, and how you behave, specifically when it comes to certain people, events, or situations in your life. Not to mention, how you got to think, feel, and be this way.

To help spark self-awareness, which ignites the change process, consider the following questions:

  • When are you most content?
  • When are you least content?
  • What makes you happy?
  • What makes you angry?
  • What annoys you?
  • What scares you?
  • What do you believe in?
  • What do you believe about yourself?
  • What are your dreams? Aspirations?
  • What would you do if you had all the skill, money and time you needed to create the life of your dreams starting today?


Questions Are Powerful Awareness Builders

When asked a really powerful, open-ended question, most people are taken by surprise. They wonder, ‘how do I answer that?’ There’s no Google search that is going to answer what does Suzy want? or what makes John happy?’. People actually have to dig deep to come up with the answers, because the answers to those types of questions can only be found inside you, nowhere else.


Becoming Aware of Your Thoughts, Feelings, and Behavior Patterns

On this journey of self-discovery, a good place to start is to become aware of how you think and what you think about. So how do you become more aware of what you think? Do you have to catch yourself in the act of thinking as it’s happening?

Have you ever caught yourself daydreaming? Or driven all the way home from work, lost in thought, 30 minutes went by and you wondered how you got home?

What part of you noticed that you were daydreaming? What part of you noticed when you got home that you were lost in thought and can’t remember a minute of the drive home?

We’ll call that part of you the observer or your higher self.  It can drive your thinking and help you create the life you want or it can sit in the back seat, all buckled up, being driven around simultaneously as an over-active brain chatters away and perpetually repeats your default thought patterns.

Many people have so much mental chatter (self-talk) going on all the time that they have lost themselves in their thoughts. All it takes to get back into the driver’s seat is to simply notice that your brain is thinking. The observer, or your higher self, is the part of you that you will call on more often in your day as you become more self-aware.

Let’s ask your higher self some questions to start getting to know how you think:

  • What is on your mind most of the time?
  • Are your thoughts generally positive? Negative? Neutral?
  • Are you a creative thinker or analytical thinker?
  • Can you avoid thinking about specific things (i.e. push things away that you don’t want to think about)?
  • Do you get lost in thought?
  • What can you think about for hours whether it makes you happy or upset?
  • How would you rate or describe the quality of your thoughts?

Now take a moment to reflect on some of those questions that speak to you. What’s coming up for you?

Being aware of your thinking styles and patterns, and the quality of your thoughts are important because your thoughts control how you feel.

What You Think, You Feel

Your thoughts, whether self-directed or left unattended, affect your emotions. Every thought or pattern of thought has a counterpart in a feeling. Think negative thoughts and chances are high that you will feel negative emotions. Think positive thoughts and chances are high that you will feel positive emotions.

Let’s look at some questions to start to get to know your emotions from the observer’s perspective:

  • Are you aware of how you feel most of the time?
  • What makes you happy?
  • When or where do you feel most confident and alive?
  • What upsets you?
  • What infuriates you?
  • What excites you?
  • What motivates you?
  • What emotions do you feel most often?
  • What do you want to feel most often?

Choose one or several of these questions that interest you and reflect on them for a moment. What thoughts came up for you? Did any feelings come up?

How you feel, which is influenced by how you think, will control what you do (how you act, respond, or behave) in any given situation.


Your Feelings Influence Your Actions (and your thoughts)

Your emotions bring thoughts to life – they make your thoughts feel real. They also shape and direct the range of choices you have to behave in response to any given situation.

For example, if happy and content, and given the opportunity to go to a social event, Steve would probably go without a second thought. If in a bad mood or feeling a bit depressed, Steve knows himself better than to step a foot outside the door.

To help you become more aware of your behavior patterns, reflect on these questions for a bit:

  • What’s life like when you’re happy? When are you happiest?
  • What’s life like when you’re worried? When are you most worried or anxious?
  • What range of emotions have you experienced in the past week? What was the most frequent emotion? Least frequent?
  • What do you do when someone pays you a compliment?
  • What do you do when someone cuts you off on the road? Or interrupts you mid-sentence, ten times in a row?
  • What are you like when you’re stressed? How do you treat others?
  • When do you get frustrated?
  • When do you feel most resourceful?
  • What feelings are really uncomfortable for you to talk about? What feelings are off limits?
  • What feeling do you miss most?

What questions stood out for you and why? What does that tell you? That line of thinking is what can lead you to a new awareness – a new knowing.

By realizing that your thoughts and feelings shape your life, you can take control of what you want to do about it. Becoming more self-aware will allow you to make more effective choices over time, which will help you change how you think, feel, and act moving forward. Change nothing? Well, it’s up to you.

Is Building Self-Awareness That Easy?

The principle of building awareness to help you improve the quality of your life is simple and sound but I’d be lying if I told you it was easy. We all have deeply rooted thought patterns and they are called BELIEFS. What you believe can either serve you or limit you. For now, simply notice more often and you will grow more aware – it will change your life. I know it has changed mine.

-You Can 2


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