I’ve been reading a book in fits and starts called Primal Leadership, a book about the four key skills leaders have in regard to emotional intelligence. I’m a scant few chapters in at this point, and the authors have piqued my interest in regard to their research about self-awareness.
Self-awareness is a tricky thing, often because the more we’re self-aware, the less self-aware we think we are. I ask people regularly about how self-aware they think they are, and usually people come back to me with an eight (8) out of ten (10). From my perspective, the Dali Lama and Mahatma Gandhi are eights (8s) on the self–awareness scale. The rest of us are wandering around at a five (5) or lower.
This isn’t to chide or cut down those who think they’re highly self-aware. We all understand self-awareness a bit differently. My working definition of self-awareness is “knowing why we do what we do and having a realistic (and compassionate) understanding of who we are.” Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee in Primal Leadership define self-awareness as “having a deep understanding of one’s emotions, as well as one’s strengths and limitations and one’s values and motives.” (page 40)
As Socrates famously said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” One of the most beneficial ways to increase self-knowledge is to take time to reflect on our day, examining our behavior and reactions, what drew our attention, and how well or poorly we interacted with others. Self-awareness requires intentional time to look at ourselves honestly and openly. It can be an uncomfortable process, and it helps us become better human beings in general, and better leaders specifically.
Questions to ponder:
How well do I know myself?
What shadows of my personality or behavior do I try to keep hidden?
Where can I schedule ten minutes of intentional introspection or reflection time in my life at least twice a week?
Stay curious friends!