Most of us go to work as a matter of habit. It’s a routine we have grown accustomed to over the years, one which we don’t really ponder much over. Caught up in our frenzied lives, work deadlines and never-ending meetings, we forget to ask ourselves these simple and yet very critical questions: “Who am I? Is this really what I want to do? If yes, how can I be better? If no, what else can I do?”
The famous Greek philosopher, Aristotle, once said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”. Unless you are aware of yourself – personality, strengths, weaknesses, wants, drives and values – it is almost impossible to chart the best course to professional and personal success.
How does one become self-aware? Becoming self-aware is an ongoing practice of self-discovery and personal transformation and can’t be achieved overnight.
Know your personality, strengths and weaknesses
Having a clear picture of your personality is key to determining which situations you will prosper in and staying away from situations where you will experience stress and failure. If the skill, knowledge and temperament that you bring to the table are in tune with what is required at work, you will inevitably perform your best. A monthly or at least quarterly review of your workplace compatibility, professional responsibilities and career goals will provide key insights that are vital for your success.
Understand WHY you react the way you do
The way we think or analyse a situation or person is testament to our past experiences, values, perceptions and feelings. If you are to control or optimise your response to any circumstances, good or bad, it is important to discern the reasons that actually drive your reaction. Once you know the WHY, you will be able to bring about a change in your demeanour and effectively tackle the issue.
Reflect on what actually drives you
Accumulating degrees and certifications aside, it is equally important to know what motivates us to go to work every day. It could be the company of talented and affable colleagues, financial gain, continuous learning, flexible work schedule, a sense of achievement, etc. These needs, if unsatisfied, can cause stress, depression, frustration that affects us as well as the people we work with. Once this is clear, it’s easy to zero in on the problem and identify the right solution to effectively enhance your performance.
Ask for feedback
Performance appraisal aside, make it a practice to ask for feedback from a trusted colleague or mentor. Accepting these inputs in an objective fashion, may reveal certain aspects of your nature/behaviour you didn’t even know exist. This can be instrumental in helping you accept your mistakes and improve on them while simultaneously acknowledge your capabilities to make them stronger.
Studies suggest that being self-aware, enables people to better comprehend thoughts and situations at work and effectively channel their responses to create a harmonious environment at work.
Being self-aware enables individuals to manage their emotions/thoughts and intelligently alter their behaviour to take appropriate action.
Congruence between work and knowledge
Self-aware individuals are cognizant of what they want to do and what resources or knowledge they need to get their work done. This gives them a sense of accomplishment that translates into higher productivity.
When you know ‘what affects you’ (inspires, angers, excites, etc.) it inherently gives you an insight into how it may possibly affect others. This, coupled with the ability to be mindful of the consequences of their actions on colleagues and organizational processes, self-aware individuals turn out to be good leaders.
Being self-aware is best explained by a Sanskrit phrase from the Upanishads, ‘Tat tvam asi’ (You are that.) Your identity is ‘you’ and the relationship you have with others as a whole. Applied in today’s context, it emphasizes the importance of knowing your own perceptions, feelings, beliefs, expectations and motivations to truly understand the impact they have on the way you work. And when you master this, it can go a long way in helping you be more mindful at work, establish meaningful relationships and achieve satisfying career performance and growth.