“At a certain level of self-awareness, we perceive something supernatural in us.” Leo Tolstoy, Writer.
The term self awareness comes up frequently in wellness circles today, but it is hardly a new concept. For millennia, the value of self-awareness has been recognized around the world, evidenced through art, literature, religion, and a variety of ritual practices passed down from one generation to another. But what is self-awareness exactly, and why is it so important?
Let's start with the "what" part of things. To be self-aware is to be knowledgeable of and attuned to one's own being. Who are you? Where are things at with you? What are your core values? What are your core beliefs? What motivates you to do the things you do? Once you take some time to reflect on what self-awareness is, it doesn't take long to see why this quality is so important, and how its presence – or absence – can have a profound impact on your life.
Without self-awareness, you're moving through life with compromised visibility. You have limited insight into how and why things are unfolding the way they are. More specifically, you don't fully understand how your way of being in the world shapes and influences the circumstances in your life. You struggle to connect the dots regarding how your presence impacts everything and everyone you come into contact with.
While there is much in our lives that we can't control, there is always something at any given time that we can control. At a minimum, we can control the attitudes we adopt, the thoughts we indulge, and the responses we undertake. Self-awareness allows you to exercise the control that you do have in a conscious and deliberate way. These adjustments on your part, even when minor, can set off a chain of events you never could have foreseen or anticipated. The flip side is that a lack of self-awareness increases the potential for lost opportunities, since you lack the knowledge of yourself to make the best choices possible from moment to moment.
A simple formula to help you grow in your self-awareness is: stop – search – solitude.
Stop: for a few moments, stop whatever it is that's keeping you busy and distracted. When you're not actively occupied, you make room for your mind to reflect, and you can start to see things that are in front of you, perhaps hiding in plain sight.
Search: expend the energy to dig a little bit within yourself. Search yourself by asking yourself questions, and answer those questions honestly. You'll get to know yourself better as a result.
Solitude: across cultures worldwide, there has always been a recognized link between solitude and self-awareness. You don't need to isolate yourself or become a hermit, but there's something very powerful about being alone and experiencing nothing but your own company.
Increased self-awareness won't eliminate all the challenges in life. But it provides you with valuable knowledge about yourself, so you're better equipped to move through life in a focused and meaningful way.
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