I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but I got nudged towards pursuing self-awareness when I was fairly young.
My first exploration involved reading self-help books and taking personality assessments. These provided some interesting insights and helped me start to understand my natural styles and preferences.
But, as with most things in my life, I wanted to push farther.
So, at some point in my mid-twenties, I decided to email my friends and ask them for feedback. I asked them to honestly share with me what they saw as my strengths and gifts but also my weaknesses or blind spots.
I have to admit, I was definitely over confident going into this process. I would have told you that I was already aware of my weaknesses and was working on them. I undertook this process expecting no surprises.
I was naive. Some of the feedback caught me off guard. Much of the feedback was very positive and encouraging. The affirmation felt good.
But, that’s not what stuck with me. What I remember most from this experience were these words:
“You don’t listen very well.”
This statement was followed with some explanation of how that made this particular person feel and the impact it was having on others. It wasn’t good.
This really hit me hard because of how much I value relationships. I considered myself a really good communicator, but clearly, I had opportunities to get better. So, I began the work of becoming a better listener.
This past week, I had the privilege of a conversation with my new friend Rajkumari Neogy. Rajkumari describes himself this way:
“I notice stuff. Then I bring it to your attention. And together we shift it…permanently.”
In fact, he’s built a business and a coaching framework around it. And he’s damn good at it.
That’s exactly what he did for me. In our conversation, Rajkumari asked me some questions about my business and my aspirations. After listening for a little bit, he reflected back to me some things that I had not (and likely could not) have seen nor recognized in myself.
And, just like the feedback I received many years ago, this gift of self-awareness was both uncomfortable and empowering. It turns out, I have some work to do if I am to be the person I aspire to be.
Here’s what both experiences illustrate about the journey of self-awareness. You can’t do this alone.
It is fact that we are the least reliable evaluators of self. True self-awareness requires feedback from those who can see us more clearly than we can see ourselves.
If you are committed to living a more authentic and fulfilling life, it starts with a solid foundation of self-awareness. To achieve this will require you to be curious and vulnerable. Here are some ways to get started.
- Request feedback from your friends and colleagues. The people who know you best, know you best. As I described above, it can be incredibly powerful to ask them for help. The key to success in making this request is to explain why you are doing it (to fuel your growth) and give permission for honesty and candor. You probably only need to ask a couple questions–what are your strengths, what are your gifts, where can you get better? Done correctly, you will gain some powerful insights. One note of caution: never, ever argue the feedback you receive. You may ask questions to help clarify, but never argue. The feedback is a gift. Arguing the feedback is the equivalent of telling them that you hate the gift. Instead, say thank you and save your judgment for your journal.
- Recruit some mentors. A good mentor relationship exists for the purpose of supporting your growth and development. Identifying two or three good mentors who believe in you and are willing to invest time in you can be invaluable. A good mentor will provide you with ongoing feedback (both good and bad) in the safety of this relationship. And, a mentor will also hold you accountable to progress. In fact, the fastest way to lose mentors is to demonstrate an unwillingness to hear feedback and make needed changes.
- Hire a coach. Without question, the fastest way to both increase self-awareness and put a turbocharger on your development is to invest in a skilled coach to guide you through the journey. Engaging with someone like Rajkumari or our friend, Christina Boyd-Smith, can have a transformative effect on your life and career at a pace that is nearly impossible to achieve on your own.
If self-awareness were easy and comfortable, then everyone would do it. It’s neither of those things. And, as you can see from my own experience, it’s also a lifetime of work. But, it’s worth it. True self-awareness will set you free and make possible things you believe to be out of your reach today.
Best of luck on your journey. Let me know if I can help.