“How do I see what I am thinking?”
Yesterday, my daughter chirped up from the backseat of the car and said ‘Mummy, how do I look inside my brain and see what I am thinking?’. I love the questions of children … whilst I appreciate the medical industry would have a different (and more medically accurate!) response to mine, my first thought turned to self-awareness. This was my chance to introduce my daughter to my work! So I responded, “The best way for us to see what we are thinking is to increase our self-awareness, honey …”, but I had already lost her to what was happening outside the car window.
It sparked my thinking on one of my well-loved topics … how do we best describe ‘self-awareness’? What’s it all about? Why is it really that important? And, most importantly, how do we ‘get’ self-awareness?
From our experience, self-Awareness is a term that has been used rather superficially in organisational life – but what does it really mean? Most leaders would say they are self-aware. Many a leadership article will tell you that it is a necessary requirement in leadership, and we would whole-heartedly agree. I would say that true self-awareness isn’t as prevalent as we would like to believe. Self-awareness is really the ability to understand one’s thoughts, and resulting behaviour, in relation to another. It is our ability to see ourselves in the third person; the helicopter view, with a special privilege to also see inside our minds.
Are you able to see yourself in that way? Most of us would say ‘no’. Our unique behaviour comes from our internal thoughts. By this, I mean the pictures, memories, beliefs or views that we have developed over our lifetime. From our early childhood until adulthood we are evolving and developing how we see ourselves in relation to our world. Our life’s journey shapes the way we think and the way we think about ourselves. This becomes the ‘internal perception’ or the way we see ourselves. In our mind this is reality.
Our sensorial experiences create a picture of who we are and what we stand for. They become our values which then become hard wired and hard, but not impossible, to shift. Let me give you an example: Have you ever sung in the shower and imagined that you were on stage with a band behind you singing your favourite song, the crowd cheering in the background? Only to be told (by someone in your external world) “, what was that? Your internal world was telling you how amazing you were! Some might say you lack self-awareness when it comes to your singing prowess, but that is not my point – my point it is that your internal world dictates how you see yourself in your external world.
Self-awareness is the ability to bring your internal world (your thoughts) and external world (your behaviours), together. It is the innate ability to understand how your internal world impacts the external. At the risk of going even deeper – it is the ability to bring the unconscious into consciousness. To give you another example: during a coaching session, I observed one of our clients I work with. This person would tell me when they are uncomfortable about something we were discussing – not by telling me, but by bringing her front teeth over her bottom lip. She is completely unaware that she does this. I came to this conclusion because I watched her pattern in each scenario – and I saw it every time. As one of the core functions of our coaching was to increase her self-awareness, and therefore her personal effectiveness, the next time we talked about a topic that made her uncomfortable, I reflected back to her what I was observing.
Once the mirror had been held up for her, she realised what was making her uncomfortable and we were able to explore that further to understand the true impact of her thoughts on her behaviours. This enabled her to identify the new habits she wanted to embed to counter these ‘uncomfortable’ thoughts that she was previously unaware of, and increase her effectiveness in her relationships with her colleagues. Next week, we’ll continue this line of thinking to explore the question of ‘how do we ‘get’ self-awareness?’ … watch this space!
For more information on how Seed People Consulting can support you in boosting your self-awareness, contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1300 760 751 to experience the Seed People Consulting difference.