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Self-awareness skills, when developed, will allow you to not only ‘feel’ that you’ve discovered your deepest purpose and passions. You’ll be able to verify it.
You’ll know that you have it right the first time. So, you won’t have to doubt yourself or second guess your decisions about where to start your journey.
This is possible because you will have access to self-knowledge, intrapersonal intelligence, an increase in emotional intelligence, and a handful of self-awareness exercises to draw your conclusions.
Don’t worry if you’ve never meditated, done self-awareness exercises, or answered any type of introspective questions before. This is something that everyone can do.
The reason? Because you already have these skills and have been using them your entire life. You just didn’t notice.
But if you want to uncover these dormant skills and you feel like your life could use more meaning, direction, and passion, then keep reading.
In this post, you’ll find out what self-awareness skills are and why they are so important for both your personal development and for finding your life’s purpose.
Then, after you have a better understanding of what these skills will do for you, you’ll learn a few of the easiest exercises and methods to speed up the development of your self-awareness skills.
Sound good? Let’s get into it.
Self-awareness: Why is it important?
When you choose the wrong path early in life, it can lead to unhappiness, a lack of motivation, and a feeling of purposelessness. You can end up wasting years of your life trying to get back on track.
I’m sure you can relate in some way or another. The question is, why do so many of us end up so far off of our true path?
Well, tell me if this sounds familiar.
All through school, we get told to work hard and get good grades so we can get into a good college. Because that’s the path to landing a high paying job in the future.
Get into the right school. Choose the right major. Meet the right people so that you can make the right connections.
Did you grow up hearing something similar to that? Follow through with that? Have you already told that to your own kids?
People mean well, and that path works out fine for some, but hearing it at such a young age can put so much pressure on a young person. The pressure of making the right choice, the first time around.
Of course, there’s always the guy who’s known he wanted to be a doctor since he was a child, the athlete who’s getting a scholarship and will choose business as his major, or the free spirit who has always been more in tune with herself than most people her age.
But what about the rest of us?
How many of us at 16, 17, or even 18 know ourselves or how the world works well enough to effectively make life-changing decisions that will determine how our lives shape out several decades into the future?
Very few of us!
We don’t get taught about self-awareness or learn how to develop self-awareness skills.
Instead, we get told what to do, what to think, and what to believe.
So instead of intuitively knowing who we are, what we want out of our lives, and what will lead to our own version of happiness and fulfillment…
…we end up lost and confused.
Going with our best guess as to what we want. Making rushed decisions just because we have to choose something within a limited amount of time.
And when we choose wrong and follow that path for too long (#dontbeaquitter) we end up disappointed or even depressed about what our lives, while feeling dread towards the future.
Related reading: The Blog’s Manifesto
It doesn’t have to be this way
When you lack self-awareness skills, you’re more likely to have a fixed mindset about who you are and what you’re supposed to do with your life. You put yourself into a box without even knowing it.
When you lack self-awareness skills, you're more likely to have a fixed mindset about who you are and what you're supposed to do with your life. Click To Tweet
Self-awareness skills will help you break out of that societally imposed box by discovering what you really want deep down and what you’re capable of achieving if you follow your sense of purpose.
What it comes down to is this…
Even though we don’t voice it publicly (or admit it to ourselves in some cases), most of us want more out of our lives. More meaning, more freedom, more money, and we want to make a unique, personal contribution to the world. To leave our mark in some way.
The only way to do that is by adding purpose, passion, and meaning to your life, first.
Benefits of self-awareness skills
When you do have a high level of self-awareness, you can expect a long list of advantages and benefits in daily life, in your relationships, and in your career.
Self-awareness skills help you:
- Uncover the limiting beliefs and negative thoughts that keep you from dreaming big and going after what you really want
- Confidently set your goals for the future
- Realize the things you don’t want and need to change about your life
- Find answers inside yourself, so that you are less dependent on outside sources to tell you what to do
- Develop intuition and emotional intelligence
- Improve your decision-making skills because you’ll be making decisions in line with your personal values and purpose
- Grow in self-love as you see more value inside yourself just by accepting who you already are
- Forgive yourself and others by reframing the past and understanding it in a different way … healing and empowering way
Self-awareness leads to meaningful change
I didn’t call it “self-awareness” when I started my journey into self-discovery. And it wasn’t what I was looking for. That term didn’t even come up for a few months. What I wanted to know was:
- Why am I the way I am?
- Why has my life gone the way it has?
More specifically, I wondered why people had treated me the way they had. I’d gotten teased a lot growing up. Bullying, racism, treated like any emotions I displayed were inappropriate and needed to be shut down immediately.
I didn’t know why I’d always been so shy and afraid to talk to people or try new things in front of people. Or why classmates, friends, and cousins seemed so confident in themselves. Even when they were doing something they’d never done before. And they had no problem talking to people they’d just met.
Most importantly, I wondered how some people had such unbelievably high self-esteem. They seemed so comfortable with themselves, had no problem making decisions or overcoming fears.
And they knew what they wanted to do with their lives.
I’d never felt that way growing up or during college. At least not until I took some time away from everything that I saw as my “normal life” and got to know myself.
Self-awareness skills help you answer “Who am I?”
“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
I had to answer that question in my own way, in my own time. Away from the area I grew up in and the people I grew up around.
It’s too easy to fall back into familiar mindsets and habits while in a familiar area.
They all saw me a certain way. And knew me as a certain person who acted in a specific way. A set of behaviors, habits, mannerisms, etc. They expected me to be “me”.
And while around them, I expected that from me!
I felt obligated to be that person around them. So I needed distance and time alone. You might not, and might not even have the option. But I did at the time.
Self-healing through self-awareness
Healing through self-awareness made me feel powerful. It gave me my confidence back and showed me that I could do something about my situation. Something for myself. I realized that all of the power wasn’t with doctors or medicine … healing doesn’t have to come from a source outside of yourself.
What that did was give me hope that growing and healing could come from my own efforts. Which meant, it wasn’t up to genetics or chance like I’d been led to believe (fixed mindset).
Self-healing serves as a reminder that what we’re going through doesn’t have to be permanent. Anxiety and depression don’t have to be permanent. In other words, there are ways out. I have found more techniques and exercises than you would believe.
And it all starts with understanding what’s going on inside of you and unlearning a few things. Things like beliefs, patterns, habits, behaviors, and old ways of thinking.
And do you know what the best part is?
Self-healing comes as a result of developing self-awareness skills. It’s not something “extra” that you have to do. It just happens.
Self-healing comes as a result of developing self-awareness skills. Click To Tweet
Self-awareness skills for personal development
One of the first steps you’ll be asked to take on your personal development journey is to map out a personal development plan. And a personal development plan that begins without a high level of self-awareness will be vague and unmotivating.
In other words, the plan won’t be customized to your actual growth needs or personal goals.
You’ll progress in a few areas, but you won’t be moving in a specific direction. Maybe not even in the direction that you need to go in to reach your goals.
Your sense of purpose is missing. Your “why” is missing.
Why are you making these sacrifices and putting yourself through this to begin with? What makes you HAVE to do this? Who or what is on the line?
Why does this matter? It’ll matter on days when your motivation and willpower fail you. On days when you’re mood is low or you feel worn down.
Your “why” will especially matter on days when you’d rather be doing anything besides working on yourself and your goals.
Without the self-awareness skills to uncover your deepest purpose and the biggest “why” behind why you’re doing what you’re doing … you’ll give in to old habits and unproductive behaviors.
And who can blame you? We all like to have fun, relax, and kill time. But when you already have work, family, or other responsibilities, you barely have any time and energy to spare as it is.
Without a strong (intimate) why and purposeful goals full of meaning, personal growth will start to feel like work. More work you ‘should’ do on top of all the other work and responsibilities you have to do.
So you can see why having a strong “why” with clear personal and emotional goals that mean something to you can keep you moving forward, even on your worst days.
And the more self-aware you become, the better you’ll get at picking the right purpose and personal development plan for yourself. A plan that is based on your strengths, weaknesses, passions, and your vision of the person who you most want to become.
Self-awareness skills also help you:
- Uncover bad habits, negative thought patterns, and beliefs systems
- Expose which areas you need to improve your skills in to reach your goals
- Become more aware of your own thoughts, mindset, behaviors, body language, and reactions so that….
- Develop insights into the behaviors of others which will improve your interpersonal skills and relationships
- Improve your observational and mindfulness abilities which will increase your emotional intelligence
5 Ways to Develop Your Self-Awareness Skills
Writing produces so many additional benefits when being used to develop your self-awareness skills. That’s why the first four ways involve writing.
Personal development blogger Darius Foroux says:
“Nothing will help you to get to know yourself more than translating your thoughts into words. When you force yourself to write every day, you automatically become more aware of your thoughts. And self-awareness is one of the most important skills that predict career success.”
Writing for self-awareness purposes can be done in a few different ways, depending on your intentions at the time. You can adapt the different ways to your immediate needs. That means you should try them all to see which ones work best for your current situation.
1) Journaling aka Brain Dumping
Journaling is probably the most popular and most obvious way of using writing for self-awareness development. Getting thoughts out of your head and onto paper (or a screen) gives you a more complete view of what’s really going on inside of you. Especially when you let yourself write without judgment or filtering.
Thought fragments in your head trail off too soon. But when writing, your thoughts will continue on past the point where they usually get pushed away and will help you uncover information and feelings that you might not have known were there.
This means getting new insights into your thought processes and feelings, your problems and pains, which will help you come up with creative solutions to problems that you thought were unsolvable.
You’ll uncover negative thoughts and beliefs that you didn’t realize were there and holding you back. You’ll see areas of your life in ways you hadn’t before.
The bigger the picture you can put together, the more you’ll know and understand yourself and your deepest desires. You’ll be one step closer to uncovering your passions and purpose.
2) Daily “want” lists
A daily want list is just like it sounds.
Every day, usually early in the day, you take out a notebook, journal, or some printer paper (my favorite) and you list out everything that you want.
Start off small with the things you want to do today, things you’ve been planning to buy, or the way you want to feel.
If you’re new to this, your mind will probably filter what you write based on your current circumstances and limiting beliefs about what you can have and do. But as you continue to write, try to think bigger. Bypass the insecurities and self-imposed limitations so that you can let yourself dream.
What do you really want?
Don’t be afraid to write down desires that seem silly or impossible to have. Write everything. Let your innermost imagination out and have fun with it.
It might take a few days before you get to that point, but once you do, you’ll feel energized, excited, hopeful, and free.
If you really feel blocked and bogged down by negativity, try writing a “Don’t want” list first. This is another type of brain dump.
After you do this, you’ll notice that many of the items you write on your want list are the opposite of your don’t wants.
What’s the point of all this besides “feeling good”?
After a few days or weeks of doing this exercise, you’ll start to see patterns. The patterns fall into three main categories.
Some of your wants will be temporary. Meaning, they were part of your to-do list, a craving, or simply something that seemed important to you at the time. This is the first category, and probably the most common.
The second category is your short term goals.
- They won’t uncover your purpose directly but will help you focus in on a more specific direction.
- You’ll eventually realize they’re pointing towards the direction you unconsciously want your life to go in.
Then you have the items that keep showing up day after day, week after week. The ones that really call to you. This is the third category of list items.
These are the ones that your smaller goals have been leading you towards. And even though these long-term goals seem vague at first, the more you focus on them, the more specific and focused they’ll become.
For example, you could end up going in such a new direction that you don’t have a name for the kind of work you feel called to do. You might not know if that career even exists. Meaning, it’s one of those “you don’t know what you don’t know” scenarios.
Don’t worry about understanding everything right away, as you move forward with your self-discovery and research, the details will fall into place.
It might feel awkward and backward at first, but instead of taking in information from the outside, you’ll be seeking information on the outside that matches what you already know on the inside.
This is the first step in uncovering your deeper passions and purpose. Trusting your intuition and exploring these areas might send you in a completely different direction than you ever expected your life to go in.
3) Goals lists for self-awareness
Goals lists are similar to want lists except you only write down the recurring short and long-term goals from your want lists. Not everything that you desire, just the items that you’ve decided (and committed) to taking action on. A few of your daily (immediate) to-dos can get added to this list too.
The main purpose of this list is to help you stay focused. So that you spend your time doing the things that are in line with your biggest goals.
These can also be written every day. They help with self-awareness in several ways.
The first thing to notice is that your most important goals will get listed every day because they’ll be at the front of your mind. So you’ll see what you prioritize.
Next, you’ll see which goals you put the most time and energy into verses which goals you let fall through the cracks.
There’s a chance you might be avoiding certain goals because they seem more difficult. Maybe they require skills you don’t have or they are too far outside of your comfort zone.
Other times, you’ll let goals fall away because you aren’t as passionate about them as you originally thought. Or they aren’t in line with your purpose.
4) Daily successes lists
The successes list is a list that you write either right before bed (about that day’s events) or first thing in the morning (about the prior day’s events). The choice is yours.
I’ve tried both ways and it works best for me to do it at night while the day’s events (and the emotions) are fresh in my mind. By the next day, I’ve already forgotten most of what I’ve done and have to strain my mind to remember.
The main purpose of this exercise is to remind yourself of how far you’ve come and what you’ve accomplished. Benjamin Hardy calls this the “gain”.
This type of list helps while chasing goals because we tend to spend more time thinking about everything that we haven’t accomplished than about how far we’ve made it from where we started.
This is a type of scarcity thinking and makes us feel like we’ll never get there.
You probably know how that feels.
So, it’s helpful to look back each day or every couple of days at what you have already gained, accomplished, learned, and overcome. When I write them regularly I feel more centered, confident, and grateful.
Also, take notice of the accomplishments that you are most proud of. As well as the ones that are the most meaningful to you. These are the ones that are most in line with the person that you want to become.
This will help you uncover your values.
Being aware of your deepest values will help you verify that the passions you choose to pursue and the life purpose you uncover are aligned with your values.
5) Mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness increases self-awareness.
Meaning, the more you practice mindfulness, the easier developing self-awareness skills will become. In a way, it’ll happen automatically, as a byproduct.
The more you practice mindfulness, the easier developing self-awareness skills will become. Click To Tweet
Another way to describe mindfulness is mindful awareness. So as you can see, they go hand in hand.
When you practice mindfulness and meditation, you’ll learn how to slow your thoughts down as well as gain better control of your mental focus and concentration. As a result, you’ll develop the ability to observe your thoughts and emotions without judgment.
This means you’ll feel less of an urge to chase after the ones you like or push away the ones you don’t.
Eventually, after some practice, the momentum will slow and they’ll dissolve into awareness.
This might not seem like a big deal at first, but the willingness to see thoughts through to the other side (objectively) helps you understand them and yourself better.
Instead of distracting yourself or repressing a painful emotion, you’ll develop the skills to let it play through to the end. Increasing your chance of gaining some really valuable information about yourself. Information that you’ve been blocked off from up ’till now.
How to practice mindfulness to develop self-awareness
To practice mindfulness, it’s beneficial to start by sitting in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Eventually, you’ll be able to do it anywhere, but since you’ll already have to deal with wandering thoughts, the fewer “outside” distractions the better.
You can start by observing either your breath (rising and falling) or your thoughts. I’ve found these focus points to be the two easiest. The main thing is to do your best to stay consciously present in the moment.
Another way of looking at it is to be aware of being aware.
When your mind wanders or if you start to daydream, pull your attention back to your focus point. Every time. Because it will happen A LOT. So don’t get discouraged or quit before you have time to benefit from it.
Whenever I’ve asked friends if they’ve ever tried meditating, they almost always say that they can’t do it. And the reason is that they can’t keep their mind from wandering.
Well, that’s supposed to happen at first.
It’s like saying that you can’t exercise because your muscles get tired or burn during the workout. That’s just part of the process. And pulling back your attention is part of the process of building your mental focus and concentration muscles.
After strengthening these muscles in a “controlled environment”, it’ll be easier to use that same conscious awareness (aka mindfulness) wherever you go.
You’ll learn so much more about yourself because you’ll be present enough to notice how each situation brings up different thoughts, feelings, reactions, and even memories you’ve associated with past experiences.
By developing your mindfulness skills, you’ll start to notice when you’re reacting in ways that are relevant to the present situation versus reacting out of negative emotions and past experiences.
Bonus – Self-inquiry
Self-inquiry is another way of saying self-awareness questions that you ask yourself.
Self-inquiry is a way of questioning your belief systems and negative thoughts to uncover and release the limiting beliefs that have been keeping you stuck and suffering.
The longer you hold onto beliefs and ways of thinking that no longer serve you in a positive way, the longer you’ll keep sabotaging yourself.
When you approach this exercise with honesty and the willingness to look into your shadow, it’ll help you figure out which beliefs, goals, dreams, shoulds, shames, and self-imposed limitations need to die inside of you so that you can move forward as the real, authentic you.
Self-inquiry will help you:
- Uncover your strengths and weaknesses
- Discover your greatest sources of joy and love
- And realize which attachments have been causing you more harm than good
Some of the problems that you uncover will immediately dissolve into your awareness just by bringing them to the surface. This means that they were only able to complicate your life, because you weren’t aware of them.
This is the power of awareness. But the keys to this exercise are willingness, honesty, acceptance, and forgiveness.
When doing self-inquiry, the more relaxed you are, the more in tune with your subconscious mind you’ll be. And just like with “want” lists, try your best not to filter the answers that surface, just think them through or write them down.
Some thought-provoking self-inquiry questions to start with are:
- Who am I? And how do I know?
- Why do I believe what I believe?
- Where did my beliefs about myself come from?
- Why did I choose my current career? If I could go back and choose something different, would I?
- What makes me happy?
- What brings me peace?
- Where do I want to be in 1 year? 5 years?
- What’s holding me back from living the life I want? What are my biggest obstacles?
- What are some problems in the world that I care about?
Self-awareness help and further study
If you want to read a few other perspectives on the subject of self-awareness or to explore other methods of developing self-awareness skills, check out the following blogs:
- Questions To Ask To (Re)Discover The Real
- Step-by-step guide to becoming more self-aware
- What Is Self-Awareness, and How Do You Get It?
- WHY MINDFULNESS SHOULD BE YOUR TOP PRIORITY
- Mindfulness exercises
See how mindfulness helps you live in the moment.
- How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Writing for self-awareness
- 65 Journal Prompts for Self Discovery
- How To Journal + 30 Journaling Questions For Major Self-Reflection
- HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF JOURNALING TO BECOME MORE IN TUNE WITH YOURSELF
- HOW TO DO A BRAIN DUMP
The self-awareness journey
In the same way that your purpose is a never-ending journey of self-discovery so is self-awareness. It’s the self-awareness skills that will determine how well you understand and interpret the inner signals of your life purpose evolution.
They do this by telling you when to stay on the same path and stopping you dead in your tracks when a change is needed.
What should you do next?
Try the above methods first. After that, check out the articles I’ve linked to in the additional help section for more detailed descriptions of the different methods. As well as additional methods that others have used.
Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get the results that you want right away. Especially if these are all new to you.
Everyone is different and will develop their self-awareness skills in their own time and in their own way. Your answers will come to you fast sometimes and other times you’ll go long periods of time where you feel stuck on a plateau. This is all normal.
We all have different past experiences, limiting beliefs, and resistance to work through. But as long as you keep moving forward with any one of these practices (or a few of your favorites) you’ll make steady progress. And when the time comes to choose which passions to pursue (or turn into a career) and to answer that life purpose question, you’ll be ready.