Learn how to improve your emotional intelligence and be more self-aware in your life. Whether in your work, relationships, or life, self-awareness is necessary to feel fulfilled and successful.
Have you ever acted on your emotions instead of rational thought? Or maybe you’ve been unhappy about something but didn’t know precisely why? If your answer isn’t a resounding “yes” to both questions, you’d be lying.
That’s because humans aren’t built to be self-aware. Unfortunately, this lack of self-awareness manifests itself in many negative ways in our lives. What’s more, the causes are rooted in our biological makeup and won’t be changing any time soon.
The good news, however, is that you can counteract these causes with intentional, deliberate practice and self-awareness activities.
What does a lack of self-awareness look like?
Self-awareness is our ability to identify and monitor our feeling, thoughts, and actions. While these three categories may seem simple, they’re actually incredibly complex. In particular, our feelings drive our thoughts and actions in a way that we’re often completely unaware of.
On top of our emotions, we also have to deal with a series of brain biases. Even if it’s completely wrong, our brains tell us that we’re right, better, and more deserving than anyone else. Motivated by primal fear, we desperately try to make ourselves think and feel that we’re better than everyone else.
Still don’t see how this hurts of chances of being more self-aware? Here’s an analogy to help clarify. Imagine that you’re trying to pass your driving test. If you can see clearly, you can easily make all the right turns and stops. Now, imagine trying to drive with broken glasses on, the radio blaring, and a steering wheel that vibrates when it goes over a small bump.
That’s kind of like what we do every day. Our biases distort our vision, our emotions fill our heads, and our bodies react irrationally to external stimuli.
When we’re not self-aware, we struggle to go through life and make the necessary turns and stops.
Be More Self-Aware: Examples in Everyday Life
If it’s so easy for us to lack self-awareness, then what does it look like to be self-aware? First and foremost, it involves you acknowledging that you’re not as self-aware as you think you are.
After that, examples of self-awareness in everyday life include your ability to:
- Identify your emotions
- Recognize your defensive coping mechanisms
- Discover and define your own core values
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses
- Understand what you need in your relationships
If you can’t tell, these examples of self-awareness are critical in creating a meaningful life. We all have different versions of success. However, none of these versions will be possible if you can’t understand yourself and your reactions effectively.
5 Simple Habits You Can Do to Be More Self-Aware
Whether you want to be more in touch with your own emotions, want to be a better version of yourself for others, or want to be more authentic in the workplace, these 5 habits can help you get there.
1. Write about yourself
Not many of us have the memoir capabilities of Jack Kareuc. That’s okay. Fortunately, writing to improve self-awareness has very few standards or requirements. In fact, you can actually use a variety of methods to write about yourself to be more self-aware. The most common writing exercise is journaling about your day. What happened? How do you feel about it? Putting our thoughts on paper helps us to relieve stress, realize priorities, and, most importantly, discover new insight about ourselves. Even a one-bullet-a-day journal can do wonders for your self-awareness.
If the broadness of journaling doesn’t appeal to you, you can undertake more-targeted exercises. You can write a letter to yourself, draft your personal mission statement, or even create your own obituary. In doing each of these things, you can step outside of your limited, emotion-driven perspective and make new discoveries about yourself. Ultimately, this will help you be more self-aware.
2. Commit to a daily reflection
Reflection doesn’t have to come in the form of writing. It can also look like a simple check-in once a day, in which you notice your emotions and attitudes. The more consistent you do this, the more you’ll begin to observe patterns about yourself and your life.
It doesn’t take much to implement the tiny habit of reflection into your daily routine. A useful strategy is to attach this new, tiny habit to an existing practice. For example, you could reflect when you’re taking a lunch break, driving home from work, or getting ready for bed. Sometimes including a partner can help you increase your accountability with the practice.
You won’t be more self-aware all at once. However, the more you practice identifying your current emotions and what caused them, the more self-aware you will become.
3. Ask other people questions about yourself
Sometimes we can’t think our way to self-awareness, because of all the reasons we lack self-awareness in the first place. Therefore, we need to rely on outsiders to help give us more clarity on our lives.
Asking other people questions about yourself can help you to be more self-aware. At first, this might sound a bit self-centered. If you establish the inquiries as a genuine interest in feedback, rather than just for praise, it’s not self-centered at all. It’s actually quite the act of humility to ask for and receive feedback.
These questions can be conducted in a formal manner, such as surveys or questionnaires. They also can be informal. Ask your friends what they think your strengths and weaknesses are. After explaining your thoughts on a situation, follow it up with, “What do you think this says about me?”
While it can feel incredibly vulnerable to ask hard questions, remind yourself that it’s in this discomfort that we grow the most. The primary thing many of us are missing in our self-awareness journey is vulnerability.
4. Take online quizzes
Another easy habit to be more self-aware is to turn to online quizzes. Fortunately for us, the internet is full of free questionnaires that will help you learn more about yourself. These quizzes might assess your personality, strengths, values, and patterns. You can also take a test to assess your self-awareness.
If you take the questions seriously, you can learn a lot about yourself. External tools can give us answers that we couldn’t come up with on our own. Additionally, you can learn more about how you can use the results to your advantage. For example, let’s say you learn that your personality thrives on helping other people. How can you find more opportunities to help the people around you?
It’s critical that you find online quizzes that are reputable. There are tons of tests online, so make sure you sift through ones that look legitimate. Fortunately, the large number of tests will allow you to explore around and take new ones periodically as you learn to be more self-aware.
5. Ask five questions a day
This last habit might seem the most basic, but it also can be the most insightful. Every day, make it a goal to ask five questions. It’s helpful if the questions are inward-facing, but they don’t have to be. The more you practice curiosity, the more you can hone your reflective skills and learn more about yourself.
Don’t know how to start? You can set time goals to ask questions, or you can try to “assign” a question opportunity to a new task. You can even repeat the same questions over and over again if they help you be more self-aware. Consider asking:
- How does this make me feel?
- What caused me to feel this way?
- What did I like about this?
- What didn’t I like about this?
- If I were to redo this, what would I do differently?
If you develop this habit into your daily routine, it won’t be long before your self-awareness takes off.
Self-awareness is crucial to living a meaningful, successful life, yet many of us lack the necessary skills to be more self-aware. That’s because our biological writing and evolutionary roots make it difficult to see past our emotions in an unbiased, rational way.
Fortunately, there are simple habits you can implement to be more self-aware in your daily life. They include:
- Writing about yourself
- Committing to a daily reflection
- Asking other people questions about yourself
- Taking online quizzes
- Asking five questions a day
If you commit to these habits, you can be more self-aware. It won’t take long for you to see the benefits of a more self-aware life.