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Unlock Your Potential: The Power of Self-Awareness

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Have you ever made a decision you later regretted because of anger or frustration? Maybe it was that time you struggled to provide feedback to a colleague for fear of hurting their feelings. Or maybe you said something out loud and wondered to yourself, “Did I really just say that?”  These are just a couple of situations that highlight the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ). 


No matter what I read on leadership or EQ, the research is clear: Self-Awareness is a fundamental and crucial skill to develop.


Self-awareness is a cornerstone of EQ. It's your ability to recognize your emotions, values, strengths, and weaknesses. While it might sound simple, mastering this skill is crucial for navigating life's twists and turns. Self-awareness is like having an internal compass. Knowing your emotions allows you to manage them more effectively. Understanding your values helps guide and inform your decisions. Recognizing and naming your strengths gives you a sense of confidence.  That confidence empowers you to utilize your talents, while self-awareness of weaknesses allows for continuous improvement.


Why Self-Awareness Matters

Have you ever worked for someone who was a micromanager?  Yet, this leader was probably oblivious to their ineffectiveness as their “style” stifled your creativity and probably had you searching LinkedIn for other jobs and opportunities.  Maybe you’ve had a chance to work for that leader who, because of their strong sense of self-awareness, could delegate effectively and empower you to bring your best while they also showed up in ways that brought about their best. In turn, their “style” probably had a profoundly different impact on you and the team they led as well. 


Self-awareness is just as critical in our personal lives. By understanding our emotional triggers, we can avoid being hijacked by negative emotions in difficult situations. For example, if you know that criticism makes you defensive, self-awareness allows you to take a deep breath, pause, and respond thoughtfully instead of lashing out. You might even have the sensibility to know when you need to pause, breathe, and say nothing - as it wouldn’t be helpful in the long run.  I’m still learning how to practice this (which is impulse control) so that my conversations will be more productive and my relationships will be even stronger.


Under Developed Self-Awareness Is a Career Derailer

Without self-awareness, we operate on autopilot, reacting impulsively to situations and emotions. This leads to a cascading effect of negative consequences. Poor self-awareness can make you overly sensitive to criticism, hinder your ability to learn from mistakes and make it difficult to build trust with others. An inability to delegate can lead to unnecessary stress and even burnout. 


3 Tips to Boost Your Self-Awareness

Here are three actionable steps you can take today to cultivate your self-awareness:


  1. Identify Your Emotional Triggers: Pay attention to your physical cues (increased heart rate, sweating) and situations that typically evoke strong emotions in you. Journaling about these experiences can provide valuable insights. When you become aware of the triggers, you might be able to more readily self-regulate. 

  2. Practice Self-Reflection: I think that developing the skill to look back and reflect is underrated.  Make time for introspection. Whether you do post-mortem exercises after a project wraps up or look at ‘lessons learned,” this regular reflection is important to build a stronger self-awareness.  Meditation, or simply taking quiet walks in nature, can help you clarify your thoughts, feelings, and motivations. It’s called a practice for a reason.  And we need to develop this muscle of self-reflection to increase our personal and professional self-awareness and success. 

  3. Seek Honest Feedback: Ask trusted friends, colleagues, or even a mentor for their honest perspective on your strengths and weaknesses. While constructive criticism can be uncomfortable, it's invaluable for self-discovery. Be specific when asking for this, as it will not only help you get the information that is important to you, but it will also allow others to feel more at ease at sharing this data. 


Remember, self-awareness is a journey, not a destination. By consistently practicing these tips and making a commitment to lifelong learning, you'll unlock a treasure trove of personal and professional growth.


Ready to Take the Next Step?

This article provides a springboard for developing your self-awareness. Consider taking the Bar-on EQ-i 2.0 assessment, a comprehensive tool that delves deeper into your EQ profile. Learn more here to take the EQ Assessment.  Together, we can unlock your full potential and help you navigate life's challenges with greater confidence and emotional intelligence.

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