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Self-awareness sounds like a geeky term employed by self-help gurus but does it really mean something? Is it important for our happiness?
So, let us see. Where does happiness really come from? That’s what we are trying to answer.
The root of happiness is self-awareness. There is high level of self-awareness at the root of happiness. This is quite interesting because like the root of any plant, self-awareness is not visible on the outside but any healthy plant has strong roots. Therefore, any successful person or rather a happy person has strong roots. They understand themselves quite well.
The outward life is created by the inward life. We do what we believe in and our life is a reflection of our belief systems.
Hence, the question that we would really like to answer in this post becomes- What does it mean to be self-aware?
Self-awareness means that you know why you do what you do. You may be wrong but you are living a conscious life rather than meandering through life. You don’t do things because other people do them.
Let us look at some of the traits of self-aware people.
1. Self-aware people are internally driven
We have discussed on this blog about the kinds of motivation we have as human beings. Broadly, there are two kinds of motivation– internal and external. People who are self-aware are internally driven. They don’t do things to impress anyone but themselves. Their anchors are internal. They know why they pick up projects, hang out with the kind of people they choose to hang out with.
They know why they do what they do.
2. Self-aware people inspire others
Since they are internally driven and have strong opinions, other people look up to them. They inspire other people to find their own happiness, and become more self-aware. Since self-awareness is at the root of happiness, nobody can become happier without improving their levels of self-awareness. When people spend time with people who are self-aware, they are inspired to find themselves and discover what their lives are about.
3. Self-aware people have a purpose to their time
Their time has purpose. Purpose provides meaning. They don’t like to idle away their time. There is a dichotomy in modern life. On one end people complain that there is no time. On the other hand, I have seen a lot of people just idling away their time, when they have free time. They don’t know what to do with themselves. It’s perhaps what one would call the retirement syndrome. People do not know what to do with themselves beyond their regular day jobs.
Self-aware people are never quite free. They know what they would do with their time every day and they also find productive ways to enjoy their free time.
4. Self-aware people ask questions of themselves
Self-awareness needs understanding of the self. It requires asking some deep questions about ourselves-questions like the below:
Who am I at the core?
Why do I do what I do?
What are my true motivations?
What makes me happy?
What makes me unhappy?
What are my strengths and weaknesses?
What should I work on and why?
You see, self-awareness is what the term says. It means understanding what we do, and why we do it. If you ask most people why they do what they do, they would just give repeated answers like because this is how the society works or this is how things are.
Self-aware people think through and form their own opinions about what is important and why should they work on it. They don’t give run of the mill answers because they don’t ask themselves run of the mill questions.
5. They spend time by themselves
You just cannot find self-awareness in a crowd. If you do not allow yourself time to spend with your own self, you will not improve your levels of self-awareness. It needs solitude. It needs conscious thought and analysis.
You need to do this in solitude. There is no way any other person can understand you better than your own self. Only you can understand yourself and your motivations. For that, you need to make time to spend with yourself. Time that is spent thinking about life.
Go for solo walks, trips, or whatever it needs. If you need to be better at self-awareness, you need to be better at enjoying your own company.
6. Self-aware people are more confident than others
Self-awareness boots confidence. It makes you feel that you can get things done because the more self-aware we are, the more sure we are about our actions. A lot of people you meet would be fickle minded because they can’t decide the right course of actions, from a set of options. They don’t know why they would pick X and not Z. They struggle because they lack confidence.
Self-aware people are way more confident because they have thought through things and know why they are doing something. They would be faster in decision making because their confidence comes from inside, and not from the approval of other people.
7. Self-aware people don’t care what others think of them
This point is an extension of the previous point about confidence. Most of the society is a replica of the rest of the society. People are highly conscious about what other people think of them and this thinking dictates their behaviour. They pick up socially acceptable courses, careers, partners when they make their choices in life.
However, self-aware people don’t really care what others think of them because they don’t make decisions to align with others. They make decisions because it feels right to them according to a set of principles they believe in. They do what they think is right not because 90% of the population does something.
8. Self-aware people are original thinkers
I am a huge fan of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. They have created Amazon, Tesla and Space X respectively. Although these two entrepreneurs are outliers even in the creative sphere of entrepreneurship, every entrepreneur needs to have a high level of self-awareness and consequent self-belief to create something new.
All entrepreneurs hence are original thinkers. They create something new and you can’t create something new without self-awareness.
9. Self-aware people practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is the core tenet of the Buddhist philosophy. It is being present 100% in what you are doing, physically and mentally. Self-aware people engage in mindfulness in whatever they do, thereby improving the level of depth in their lives.
They are not distracted because they would not rather be somewhere else. Since they live their lives consciously, they choose where they want to be, and then they are present completely.
10. Self-aware people solicit feedback
Self-aware people understanding that it is important in every area of life-personal or professional. They actively seek feedback. If they feel confused about the impact of their actions on others, they ask and clarify. This holds especially true in professional environment.
Even in their personal relationships how they behaviour affects their partners and they do what they can to correct it, within the confines of their nature. They understand that they can’t change their core nature but they can make adjustments to improve their relationships.
11. Self-aware people understand that they are constantly changing
As human beings, we are constantly changing. Therefore, self-awareness is a process than it is a destination. It is a constant process of calibration and realigning our priorities.
Consciously or subconsciously, people who are self-aware understand that and they are evaluating themselves and where they stand. The journey of self-awareness is a lifelong one and one cannot stop understanding themselves at any juncture of life.
On the contrary, people who lack self-awareness and do not understand its important go through life almost like a log of wood in an ocean. It is not even conscious about what’s happening to it. Similarly, people who are not conscious and aware do not understand why things happen to them the way they do.
In case of self-aware people, even if they go wrong, they are conscious about it. They know they made a mistake and they should have chosen an alternate course of action. Their mistakes make them improve their levels of self-awareness.
So, what do we need to do as far as self-awareness is concerned?
We need to realize that it is at the core or the root of human happiness. Our happiness depends on how well we understand ourselves. If we don’t make the effort to be self-aware, life will pass us by and we would not even realise what happened.
We do not live in a culture where self-awareness is taught. Schools don’t do it. Colleges don’t do it. Offices don’t do it. It is upon us. The society makes robots of all of us and wants us to complete with each other. However, true happiness lies in realizing that we cannot compete with each other simply because we have been wired differently.
So, if you want to be happy, make a conscious and consistent effort be self-aware and understand that it is a lifelong journey.
Thank you for reading.
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I appreciate the time you spent in reading the blog and wish you happiness.
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