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Practical first steps of developing ones self-awareness

Yesterday, my wife and I took a train trip to visit my wife's parents and, in the meantime, get a few routine medical checkups over with. While my wife was preoccupied with her doctor, I seized the opportunity to stroll around the university clinic's campus park, hoping to align my thoughts about my service, the value creation process, and how my clients may interpret the observations and knowledge I'm trying to provide.

During my contemplative walk, I realized my approach to promoting self-awareness seemed stuck in the theory phase. This was illuminated in a recent interview I had with the SoulCaffein podcast in Budapest. The host posed an insightful question about practical methods for increasing self-awareness for individuals who don’t have access to professional assistance like a coach or a therapist.

I was taken aback not by the query but by my lack of a readily available answer for our listeners. This prompted a moment of deep reflection, leading me to devise a structural solution to this aspect of personal growth – equipping individuals with a clear starting point and accompanying tools for this journey.

While I can extensively expound on the theory and advantages of self-awareness, identifying a starting point can be daunting for novices. So here I am, gathering my thoughts and creating a unique framework for anyone.

The initiation phase begins at the cognitive level:

One might desire to understand one's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors more thoroughly, often incited by a poignant event or a spark of curiosity.

Following the initiation, the key is to consistently question oneself - 'What am I feeling or thinking in the moment?' This exercise, albeit challenging due to our limited emotional vocabulary, is crucial as it prompts you to explore and describe your internal state in intricate detail.

Despite our best efforts, we may not always understand our emotions. In such cases, having a personal 'emotional wiki' that catalogs emotions on a spectrum from -10 to +10 (0 signifying a state of contentment) can be highly beneficial.

In the future, this website might have an emotional guideline or worksheet for one to map out their range of emotions. Stay tuned and subscribe to my newsletter for updates.

Taking this further, delve into the 'Why' behind your feelings and thoughts. What triggers these emotions or thoughts? You can gain precious insights into your behavior by identifying the connections between external stimuli and your internal reactions. This 'behavioral map' is valuable for detecting initial triggers and buffering subsequent internal responses.

Our minds are designed for efficiency, creating shortcuts in the form of automatic responses to external stimuli. However, while energy-efficient in the short run, these shortcuts can lead to a surge of intense emotions that are energy-draining in the long term, testing our humanity at times.

Understanding these 'causality strings' empowers us to intercept triggers before they provoke our automatic responses. This comprehension reaps multiple benefits:

  • Embarking on a self-understanding journey paves the way for continuous growth.

  • Challenging and changing existing automatic responses to healthier alternatives, albeit requiring conscious and consistent practice, is well worth the effort.

  • As we consistently practice and grow more coherent, we establish a state of mind where we are no longer victims of our internal responses.

  • Our minds are freed from unnecessary expenditure of energy on defense mechanisms.

In essence, the process flows as follows:

  1. Initial thoughts and feelings, sometimes triggered by a cathartic event.

  2. Ask yourself - "What am I feeling or thinking?" This brings the internal reaction to a conscious level.

  3. Delve into the 'why' behind those feelings or thoughts. This defines the cause and effect between the external and the internal.

  4. Understand the automatic causality string. The internal reaction to the external stimulus.

  5. Elevate this understanding to a conscious level in your day-to-day life.

  6. Practice, practice, and practice some more!

However, there's one essential prerequisite - being open-minded and recognizing that your subjective reality is precisely that - personal and subjective. Self-awareness cannot flourish within a closed mind, and observations will inevitably be skewed by ego. Fostering the belief that the world must adapt to your preferences is a fallacy and not conducive to growth.

Attempting to change the behavior of others around us is an exercise in futility. Instead, focus on refining your behavior progressively, even if the improvements are incremental. This journey of self-development might be full of challenges, but the satisfaction it brings makes it an enlightening and rewarding expedition.

If you have some thoughts on this topic and wish to understand your reactions to the world, book a free call, and let's create your personal development plan.

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