"You can't leave from a place you have never been to."
- James McPartland
A paradox in the work we do is that it isn't traveling the path toward achieving a goal that is the most difficult part of the process; it's getting clear on where you are starting from that requires the greater effort. The ability to be self-aware is one of the most essential skills one can develop.
Self-awareness is the habit of paying attention to the ways you think, feel, and behave. It means looking for patterns in the way we interpret the world around us and how we explain things to ourselves.
It is an understanding of our emotions without trying to fix how we feel and staying curious enough to find the strength required to experience all of our emotions. It's looking at our default responses, routines, quirks, and justifications for our way of being.
If we are so bold as to study self-awareness and thus be able to identify our point-of-departure for where we want our lives to lead us, our life will always present a daily curriculum for our benefit. We are constantly surrounded by teachers and there is always a lesson to be learned, or reminded of.
Here are several ways to fortify self-awareness:
Pay attention to what bothers you about certain people, as what we see in others is often a reflection of what we see in ourselves
Think about what you are thinking about and as you do, remember that you are not your thoughts
Identify triggers. What behaviors cause the most discomfort? Why? What coping mechanism provides temporary relief?
Stand in the future. Visualize going out to your future life and looking backwards. What obstacles need to be removed to get you there?
Seek feedback. How you see yourself can often be different from how others see you
Cultivate a beginner's mind. If you were to start over in any area of your life, what would you be certain to do this time around?
Clarify and refine your top five values. Often stress comes from not acting on what is most important to us
Practicing self-awareness means developing the capacity to observe ourselves and notice the patterns of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
While this process clarifies our point-of-departure for the destination we are wanting to lead our life toward, it can pay dividends long before you relaunch that journey. Relationships improve, positive energy is generated, we have clearer thinking and better decision making, our communication becomes more effective, our productivity increases, and we spend more time in the present moment.
Once you clarify your current location on the road map of life, there are a great many ways to transport you to the person you want to become. Self-awareness teaches us that we are exactly where we are supposed to be on our journey, and as we practice it, we will come to find that it's the best place to start… or start again.