For thousands of years, we’ve been on a quest to understand our inner world and, ultimately, our true purpose.
From the Greeks to the Germans, exploring what is inside us and what defines our consciousness has been subject of countless debates. Yet now more than ever, I believe this topic is of striking relevance.
We live in a world of constant noise and busyness where it seems that all that matters is to move forward to the next thing—so long it is “innovative and disruptive.” But where are we really heading? And for what purpose?
Perhaps, it is in these times of uncertainty and change that we need a different approach—an approach that focuses on looking inward rather than forward.
When we take the time to look inward to deeply connect with our motives, feelings, sensations, emotions, and thoughts, we discover a world full of possibilities, yet at the same time, one of incredible complexity—welcome to the magical world of self-awareness.
In a society that in many aspects is obsessed with recognition, appearance, and consumerism, we’d expect that this “self-focus” would be a fertile territory to develop greater self-awareness.
We might all agree that our thoughts, feelings, and state of mind have a massive impact on the way we view and experience life, yet we have never really thought of how to manage and interpret them properly.
If we think about it, this should be at the basis of our education, as our inner world is what makes us quintessentially human.
It’s easier to ignore or deviate from this path and focus instead on chasing more superficial pleasures that only bring us temporary satisfaction. The result? All-time high stress levels, depression, uncertainty, and lack of direction.
In a world with so many signals, it is difficult to distance ourselves from all those preconceived beliefs we have been fed, which often take us places that can hinder our essence and flourishing.
Perhaps, the times we are currently experiencing can represent a great opportunity to reconnect with the power of self-awareness and receive that “shock” needed to question things and live more meaningful, expansive, and conscious lives.
Self-awareness, according to Goleman—a renowned author and science journalist—is one of the four pillars of emotional intelligence (EQ). The good news? Unlike its cousin IQ, EQ is a skill, and just like all other skills, it can be developed.
Moreover, EQ is considered by the World Economic Forum and other important publications as one of the most important skills for the future of work (I would add for life success, in general, given that we are social beings who thrive in relationships).
So why is developing self-awareness so important? And what are its benefits?
>> A better understanding of ourselves
Firstly, it allows us to develop a deeper sense of introspection, which ultimately leads to a greater interpretation of our objective and subjective states—in simple words, how we view and experience life.
From this position, we are able not only to understand how we see ourselves (inner self-awareness), but also understand how others see us (outer self-awareness), which is often trickier.
Another important benefit that I am sure most of us can sympathize with is that it helps us better regulate our emotions, impacting as a result the quality of our inner states and our everyday decisions. This enables us to center ourselves and make wiser decisions instead of going for gut-based choices that can hurt us in the long run.
In fact, science shows us that we operate at our best when we find ourselves right at the center between the zone of exaltation and that of depression.
>> Self-control and self-regulation
This relates to having the ability of distance ourselves from our thoughts and emotions, which can feel a bit like a superpower. Think of how handy this can be when we are frustrated with a family member, angry with a colleague, or uncertain about our future.
From a place of self-awareness, we realize that our state is only momentary, and so we can move forward without getting stuck in our limiting thoughts and emotions.
It’s essentially a form of mindfulness that can help us develop greater self-compassion while at the same time save us an immense amount of energy. How about that for a win-win?
>> Focus and creativity
Self-awareness is also linked with higher creativity and intentionality in goal achievement. Creative endeavors requite deep moments of reflection and introspection to deliver quality work while dedicating time to reflect on our thoughts and desires has shown to impact the quality of the goals we set for ourselves.
>> Better relationships
Finally, self-awareness enables us to gain a deeper perspective and develop greater empathy toward others, whether that is family, friends, or colleagues. Because we can recognize the needs, thoughts, and emotions of others, we are able to communicate and connect with them more profoundly.
Self-awareness is by no means something we can pick up overnight—it is a lifelong journey that requires a level of dedication, curiosity, and love for ourselves. When we make the conscious effort of self-observation throughout the day, we can go a long way.
As the saying goes:
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now.” ~ Chinese proverb
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