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In today’s ever changing economy and fast paced lifestyles it might seem difficult to find time to think about who we are as individuals. This includes what our strengths and weaknesses, our drives and personalities, and our habits and values are. This is because many individuals are just not inclined to spend large amounts of time on self-reflection. Even when personal feedback is presented to us, we are not always open to it, because honest feedback is not always flattering.
Consequently, many individuals have a considerably low level of self-awareness concerning one’s self. This is unfortunate due to the fact that self-awareness is an essential first step toward maximizing management skills. Self-awareness can improve one’s judgment and help them to identify opportunities for professional development.
Self-awareness involves developing an understanding of many dimensions of the individuality of an individual. Self-knowledge provides an essential foundation for general personal mastery as well as other personal management skills such as setting goals and priorities, and managing time and stress.
Philosophers have long since recognized that knowing thyself may involve distinguishing between what you are thought to be versus what you actually are. This observation suggests that the perceived self-concepts of an individual may be either positively or negatively biased, from their actual self-concept. However, once self-concepts are formed, individuals tend to avoid new knowledge that does not fit within their self-view. This is typically achieved through feedback from family, friends, and coworkers. Fear, shame, or other emotions may prevent an individual’s ability to develop an honest and accurate awareness of who they are as a person (Williams, 2003).
Human beings are complex and diverse creatures and therefore, to become more self-aware, every individual person should develop an understanding of themselves in many areas. There are five major key areas for self-awareness. These areas include an individual’s personality traits, personal values, habits, emotions, and the psychological needs that drive our behaviors (Williams, 2003).
An individual’s personality helps them to understand what it means to be aware of themselves as a person. When an individual understands his or her own personality it can help them find situations in which they will thrive, and help them to avoid situations in which they will experience too much stress. For instance, if an individual is a highly introverted person, meaning a person whom is characterized by concerns primarily with his or her own thoughts and feelings, that individual is likely to experience more stress in a sales position than a highly extroverted person would. An extroverted individual is a person concerned primarily with the physical and social environment around them.
So, if an individual is considered to be a highly introverted person, they will need to learn skills to cope with the demands of a sales position that requires extravert-type behavior patterns, or they should consider finding a position that is more compatible with their personality. Consequently, by being aware of an individual’s personality helps them analyze such decisions that they may come across in their day-to-day lives (Ross, 2011).
Another key area of self-awareness is one’s personal values. It is important that each person knows and focuses on their individual personal values. For instance, if an individual’s first priority is “being there for his or her children”, it is very easy to lose sight of certain priorities and/or goals on a day-to-day, moment-by-moment basis. Unfortunately, during the workday most individuals are beset with multiple distractions, problems, or opportunities; therefore, diminishing the amount of time that we have to accomplish our lists of priorities. Since few, if any of those priorities pertain to what an individual may value most, it is easy to spend too much time on lower priority activities. When we focus solely on our personal values, we are more likely to accomplish what we consider most important (Ross, 2011).
Each individual has their own personal habits. Habits are the behaviors that individual’s repeat routinely and often automatically, without conscientious thought. Although every person would like to possess the habits that help people effectively interact with and manage others, each individual can probably all identify at least one habit that decreases effectiveness of achieving this particular goal. For example, if you are a manager who never consults your staff before making decisions, that habit may interfere with your ability to build your staff members’ commitment to the decisions and their decision-making skills as well (Ross, 2011).
Where each individual person has their own personal habits, they also contain their own personal needs. Abraham Maslow, a renowned psychologist and other scholars have identified a variety of psychological needs that drive each person’s individual behaviors. Some of these drives consist of the need for esteem, affection, belongingness, achievement, self-actualization, power and control. An advantage of knowing which needs exert the strongest influence on an individual’s behaviors is that it gives that individual the ability to understand exactly how a particular behavior affects the interpersonal relationships with other individuals within differing environments. For instance, most individuals have probably known at least one person whom has a high need for status.
These individuals whom have a high need for status are similarly attracted to occupations with high statuses. Therefore, they will ultimately seek high status positions within their organizations. Such people also feel the need to own materialistic things that help to symbolize their status, as well as be given certain privileges and perks that people of lower statuses cannot have. Sometimes these individuals will fight for things that others see as inconsequential – like a bigger office or a longer lunch break. In order for these needs to become satisfied, individuals must be motivated. When an individual’s needs are not satisfied, they can become frustrated, conflicted and stressful, therefore causing others around them to become frustrated, conflicted, or even stressful about a particular topic or situation (Jeanne Segal, 2013).
Emotional self-awareness is one of the five facets of emotional intelligence. Being able to connect to one’s emotions is the key to understanding one’s self and others. Many people are disconnected from their emotions–especially strong core emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, and joy. This may be the result of negative childhood experiences that taught them to try to shut off their feelings. But although we may have the ability distort, deny, or even numb particularly unpleasant feelings, they cannot be eliminated completely. They are still there, whether we are aware of them or not. Unfortunately, without emotional awareness, people are unable to fully understand their own motivations and needs, or to communicate effectively with others. Similarly, a person with high emotional self-awareness understands the internal process associated with emotional experiences and, therefore, has greater control over them (Jeanne Segal, 2013).
When an individual learns to become self-aware of whom they are, they become more a more effective person in their personal lives, as well as professional lives. For example, self-awareness helps managers to identify gaps in their management skills, which promotes skill development. It also helps managers find situations in which they will be most effective, such as assisting with intuitive decision making, and aiding in stress management and motivation of oneself and others with whom they work with (Ross, 2011). Improving and individuals skill development typically begins with an assessment of the gap between the current situation and a desired future situation. Having an accurate sense of who an individual is helps them decide what steps they should take to improve themselves.
Often times, self-awareness will reveal a gap within a particular skill that should probably worked on (Williams, 2003). If an individual is not aware of their strengths and weaknesses, self-awareness can help them to exploit their strengths and cope with their weaknesses. For example, if an individual is someone who is good at “seeing the larger picture” that involves decision-making, but is not as good at focusing on the particular details, he or she might want to consult colleagues and/or subordinates that are more detail-oriented when making major decisions.
When there is cooperation between big-picture-oriented decision makers and detail-oriented decision makers, individuals have the ability to produce high quality decisions (Williams, 2003). Also, leaders with whom have well-developed emotional self-awareness are considered to be more effective intuitive decision makers. In complex situations, they have the ability to process large amounts of sometimes unstructured and rather ambiguous information. They choose a course of action based on a “sense” of what is best for the situation. This type of decision making is becoming more important for managers as the rate of change and the levels of uncertainty and complexity in their competitive environments increase (Williams, 2003).
Another aspect of self-awareness that must be considered is that of stress. Employment positions that do not suit an individual’s personality tend to give that individual more stress than employment positions that are more compatible will. This does not mean that a person should never take a job that conflicts with his or her personality. However, a person should be aware that they will need to work extra hard to develop the certain skills for that position (Williams, 2003).
It is very difficult to cope with poor results in any environment when there is no understanding as to what caused the poor results in the first place. Without knowing what behaviors to change in order to improve performance, an individual can feel helpless and lose control of the situation as well as themselves. Self-awareness is empowering because it can reveal where the performance problems are and indicate what can be done to improve performance.
In addition, awareness of psychological needs can increase motivation by helping to understand and seek out the rewards that are desired by such as a sense of accomplishment, additional responsibility, an opportunity to help others, or a flexible work schedule. When an individual understands “what make them tick”, “what gets them excited” and/or “why they behave the way they do”, they have insight into what makes other individuals tick. To the extent that other people are similar, knowing how to motivate one’s self is tantamount to knowing how to motivate others.
Jeanne Segal, P. a. (2013, January). HelpGuide.org. Retrieved February 10, 2013, from Emotional Intelligence: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/eq5_raising_emotional_intelligence.htm Ross, A. (2011, April 12). Leadership Coaching – Five Areas of Self-Awareness. Retrieved February 10, 2013, from Keys to Growth When Revenue Matters: http://www.keystogrowth.com/thoughts/2011/4/12/leadership-coaching-5-keys-areas-of-self-awareness.html Williams, b. D. (2003, December 11). Self Awareness and Personal Development. Retrieved February 10, 2013, from LeaderLetter: http://www.wright.edu/~scott.williams/LeaderLetter/selfawareness.htm#top
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