While most people are familiar with the term “self-awareness”, how many really know what it means? And even more importantly, how many people understand how vital possessing self-awareness is to live a successful, happy life? The truth is that success in life, whether it be an emotional success, material success or career success is largely a product of how we respond to the various external dilemmas or situations we find ourselves in. Having a persistent loop of negative or irrational thoughts running through your head can lead to a variety of destructive habits, that if left unchecked, could send your life away off course, or into a dark downward spiral.
Fortunately, self-awareness allows you to identify any thought patterns and recognize the problems they’re causing you in your day-to-life. As a result, you’ll suddenly find yourself much more at ease while at the same time making smarter decisions that will lead to greater success in life.
Here are some exercises to improve your self-awareness:
1) Verbalize Your Feelings
All too often, people reduce their emotional state to one of two choices, “sad” or “happy”. However, emotions are more complicated than that and if not properly understood, have the power to seriously mess with your behavior and physical health.
Articulating your thoughts and feelings is a form of therapy for your mind. It stops your thoughts from racing around in chaos and allows you to step back and calmly assess what’s bothering you, why it’s bothering you, and what you can or can’t do about it.
The real beauty of doing this, though, isn’t that you’ll necessarily discover a solution right away, but rather that it eliminates the ‘monster in the closet’ feeling caused by a restless mind. Developing an emotional vocabulary allows you to objectively examine your thoughts and feelings in the same way you might examine your car that’s having an issue. You can calmly look at it and assess what’s wrong without being stressed, emotionally confused or depressed.
2) Go Three Levels Deep
If you’re about to make a decision, you want to ask yourself why. This will start to clarify things for you and you can then go a level deeper and ask “why” to your first answer. Do it again to your second answer and then you’ll have a solid foundation for your reasoning which will allow you to feel more confident about what you end up doing.
Knowing and understanding your reasons for doing things is a big part of self-awareness. It makes you cognizant of your own behavior and allows you to give a thoughtful response if you have to justify it to yourself or anyone else.
3) Desensitize Yourself To Visceral Reactions
Ever know anyone who’s constantly in a hyper-emotional state where everything is either the greatest thing ever or the worst thing ever?
These people have little to no self-awareness and live their lives going from one knee-jerk reaction to the next.
Self-awareness reduces the impact of visceral reactions. It puts you in a state of mind where you don’t get overwhelmed by a rush of emotion and can objectively assess a situation and respond in a rational, constructive way.
So when an upsetting situation occurs – or when you think about a particular type of upsetting situation – stay calm and ask yourself why you’re having this response. This lets you assess what’s happening and reduces or eliminates the feeling that you have no emotional control. From there you can objectively think about what your best response, or non-response, would be.
4) Think About What You’re Saying To Yourself
Whether we’re aware of it or not, we’re always thinking. If that thinking turns into an endless loop of negative self-talk, the consequences can be quite destructive.
So during a tough or stressful situation, be mindful of the types of thoughts that go through your head. Likewise, keep tabs on what you’re saying to yourself when things are going well. Self-awareness allows us to monitor the negative or positive feedback loops that our minds create so we can then make the adjustments we need to feel happier and stay productive.
The key is to talk to yourself in a way that helps you to be motivated and challenges you, while at the same time staying away from self-talk that’s irrational or catastrophic in nature.
5) Question Your View Point
It might not sound therapeutic, but thinking over a viewpoint that goes against what you believe can actually have tremendous mental health benefits. If you do find flaws in your reasoning, then you’ll be wiser for it. However, if your beliefs hold up, then you’ll have now battle-tested them and feel that much more confident.
Additionally, playing devil’s advocate is a workout for your mind as processing and making sense of contrasting information actually sparks new neural pathways.
6) Practice Reflection
It’s one thing to have a negative, erratic thought or two, but if these types of thoughts are constantly swirling through your mind you’re going to have a tough time finding consistent happiness and success. By reflecting on your thought process you can determine how strong or weak your level of self-awareness is. Do this by setting daily, or even hourly, milestones for yourself where you look back and evaluate your thoughts for the given time period. From there you can assess how well you’ve done and determine what your goal(s) should be for tomorrow.
A cornerstone for developing one’s self-awareness, meditation is the process of focusing on a simple or mundane task (ex. focusing on your breathing) that allows you to pay attention to the thoughts going through your mind. As you progress, you’ll get better and better at blocking out or extinguishing negative/ obsessive thoughts which will immensely improve your happiness and concentration.
If you chronically feel like you have little or no control of what’s happening around you, or struggle not to fall into destructive funks, constructive self-talk can significantly improve your mindset and life. By applying and sticking to the exercises listed above, you’ll be surprised at just how quickly you reap the benefits both mentally and physically, while at the same time, unlocking levels of success you never before thought possible.
About the Author: Daniela McVicker is an author, psychologist, and freelance blogger. She believes that success depends on knowing the ideas that allow you to manage and master the universe of information. You can follow Daniela on Twitter or add her on Facebook