According to organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich, 95 percent of people surveyed believe they possess self-awareness, but only 12-15 percent actually do. This gap has profound implications for your confidence, relationships, and success in both work and life in general.
According to Eurich, self-awareness requires both internal (knowing yourself) and external (how you’re perceived) understanding. She recommends that a constructive path towards self-improvement when facing challenges includes reviewing both what went wrong and alternative strategies, instead of ruminating over the why.
We all have natural tendencies that can be used to foster authenticity and success and we have an inherent sense of what we find meaningful and impactful to us. By focusing on what energizes us, what we do naturally well, and work that inspires us, we can also move into developing our most authentic and best self with greater ease and enjoyment.
Here are four tips for discovering and cultivating our best selves:
We are born with a unique array of personality traits that, when understood and intentionally developed, can be used to improve our lives. Like using your dominant hand for physical tasks; having self-awareness of our natural tendencies can help us succeed with less energy and effort. Understanding personality traits can also help us to understand and appreciate others. Research shows strengths optimization has an impact on an organization’s bottom line, and for your success and well-being (Aspuland & Blacksmith, 2011, Park, 2004).
In addition to strengths, we can leverage many other personality tests to improve our self-awareness like values assessments Big Five and DiSC. Embracing and developing your and others’ natural talents can improve individual and group performance and relationship quality.
Make sure you take the extra effort to reflect on how your strengths and personality types express themselves throughout everything you do. Identify and experiment with ways to live your life in greater keeping with your values. Cultivating such practices regularly eventually becomes a habit that will help you become authentically self-actualized.
2. Cultivate meaning through purpose
Meaning and purpose are other critical facets of a satisfying life, according to happiness researchers (Seligman, 2002, Peterson, 2005). We all have a different sense of what’s most meaningful to us; it’s important to pay attention to what feels most satisfying. For example, finding a cure for cancer might have some people jumping out of bed to go to work each day, but might cause others to run away. What matters is that we find what is most important to us and find a way to pursue that effort regularly.
Many of us have trouble identifying what types of activities feel most meaningful as we’re busy navigating the demands of modern life. Discovering our passions takes a little effort to notice when we are engaging with or viewing activities that feel deeply meaningful. Pausing to reflect on rewarding or touching experiences can help us become more attuned to finding our path toward a meaningful life.
Also, according to hero researcher Scott Allison, noticing what stories or movies feel most moving to us can also provide clues as to what challenges feel most deeply resonant (personal communication).
In addition, being open to new ideas and experiences could help us connect to our heart’s work. In my young adult years, I was fixated on a formula for success that originated from my family’s culture but had little to do with what I found really rewarding and satisfying. It was only after I started to follow my heart, which was not met with family approval, was I able to really understand my life’s purpose.
I’ve also learned that it is important to be open about the path and outcome of my pursuit of purpose. Though I consider myself a pretty smart person, my current path has me in circumstances that are beautiful beyond imagination. Too narrowly restricting the conceptualization of the outcome can close us off from great opportunities and adventures.
3. Follow your heart and energy
In my previous example, I talked about how I followed my head to outward success, which turned out to be an emotional bust. My head was satisfied with my accomplishments, but I felt neither happy nor successful because I never listened to my heart while making decisions.
On this path of following my head’s list for happiness, my energy and health were also depleted. I pushed through my exhaustion to meet my goals, at great and unsustainable personal expense. In short, I was trying to be someone I was not.
To create a happy heart and energized body, wherever possible we should pursue activities that cause happiness, joy, satisfaction, and excitement, and are energizing and engaging. Using and building on our natural tendencies while in pursuit of meaningful activities is a powerful way to feel fully alive and engaged.
4. Embrace openness and evolution
Eurich suggests that self-awareness can be harder for highly experienced professionals and experts because of overconfidence. Therefore, embracing openness and a willingness to change our minds, take in new information about ourselves, and apply it to our learning and growth, can enable continuous improvement in self-awareness with respect to both our inner and outer worlds.
Leveraging the many excellent resources online, in bookstores, podcasts, classes, and workshops is a great way to avoid reinventing the wheel in this important personal and professional area. Find the right resources and support and continue to evolve. The benefits will serve you for years to come.