How to Cultivate Self-Awareness to Boost Performance


Week 405 (brendan@brendanbarca.com)

Here's your weekly dose of Fuel Your Mind Friday where I share business building ideas, lifestyle design hacks, and inspirational content to help you thrive in your work and find purpose in your life.

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PSA: My wife, Pema Sherpa, and I have another blog called The Mindful Minute! Check it out.

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HOW TO CULTIVATE SELF-AWARENESS TO BOOST PERFORMANCE

Self-awareness is the ability to detect, identify, and understand one's own emotions and their potential impact on the emotional state of other people. Over the last few decades, extensive research has been conducted on the influence of self-awareness in the business world. Researchers have found that, when we have a higher level of self-awareness we are more creative and confident. We build better relationships and communicate more effectively. Self-awareness also has a high correlation to effective leadership.

The problem is that many people lack the self-awareness to gauge how self-aware they actually are. In fact, a recent study shows that while 90% of people think they're self-aware, only 10-15% of people actually are self-aware. In a sense, we turn a blind eye to our own shortcomings and thereby become less self-aware in the process.

So, how do we gauge our own self-awareness and improve on it?

First, it's important to understand the two types of self-awareness, internal and external. Internal self-awareness is how clearly we see ourselves, including our values, passions, strengths, and weaknesses. External self-awareness is understanding how other people view us as it relates to the same categories. Someone could be really in-tune with themselves but then have no sense of if this aligns with how other people see them. This person would score high on internal self-awarenss but low on external self-awareness. Research has found that the most effective leaders have both.

To gauge your own self-awarenss, I recommend taking The Insight Quiz by The Eurich Group. This 14-question quiz will only take you ten minutes. The twist however, is that once you complete the quiz, you'll be prompted to send it to a colleague or friend so that they can grade you on the same questions. This helps to remove our own biases and get an outside opinion.

Now, how do you improve self-awareness moving forward? Improving self-awareness starts by carving out time to pause and reflect. Whether it's after a meeting, project, or interview, you need to set intentional time to reflect back on how the event went and what you'd do differently next time.

But, it's also critical to ask yourself the right types of questions. When reflecting back on an event, it can be tempting to ask ourselves questions that begin with "Why?"

  • "Why did the meeting go poorly?"
  • "Why did she look at me that way?"
  • "Why do I feel so burnt out?"

These "Why" questions can actually have the reverse effect from what we would like. Rather than help us be introspective, they cause us to dig deeper holes for ourselves and get lost in details. They are focused on the past and have a bias towards what went wrong rather than how to improve.

On the other hand, research by The Eurich Group notes that top performing individuals asked themselves questions that began with "What?"

  • "What could I do differently next time?"
  • "What may be going on in her life that may be causing her bad mood?"
  • "What could I do to feel reenergized?"

"What?" questions, by nature, are more future focused and are aimed to solve a problem. Top performers will carve out time after a meeting or presentation and ask themselves different types of "What?" questions to identify room for improvement.

If you want to improve your self-awareness there are a few simple next steps to take:

  1. Take The Insight Quiz
  2. Carve out 10 minutes after meetings for time to pause & reflect
  3. Ask yourself "What?" questions

I recommend using a journal to write down your "What?" questions and answers. This way you can refer back to it before your next meeting. Also, if you're not good at answering these questions yourself, perhaps you can ask a mentor or manager to sit in on your meeting and help you think through the questions afterwards.

The soft-skill of self-awareness can feel elusive. But, thanks to the neuroplasticity of our brain, self-awareness (like any muscle) can be strengthened over time.

Will you carve out the time to get your reps in?

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Thanks for subscribing,

- Brendan

Let's connect on LinkedIn!

brendanbarca.com

p.s. If you're a longtime subscriber you may have noticed this is a repost from a few years back. As a new father juggling a lot sometimes I need to repurpose old content. Thanks for your support!

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