GETTING AWARENESS FOR SELF-MANAGEMENT
At some point in time in my life, my busy schedule and disorganized life consumed me. Things were pretty out of control and it was hard to keep up with myself. I found myself getting upset too regularly and I cried way more often than expected. ‘What am I missing?’, I asked myself. After much deliberation one day, I realized that I had left my time and life to chance. I no longer paid attention to my thoughts and emotions. I was not listening when my body told me it was tired. I ignored myself when I was emotionally stressed. I believed in anything as long as I thought it would make me successful but deep inside, that was not me. I had gradually become self-unaware.
Self-awareness is a habit I recommend for all my people. In many of my coaching sessions, I have taken time out to ask questions that will intentionally trigger one’s mind and force the person to look within themselves for important answers. “When was the last time you truly felt happy?” “When you get upset, do you sit down to analyze what may have caused you to be upset?” “Do you feel your environment?” “Are you aware of the weather?” “What can you see or smell that makes you feel alive?” These are some questions that you can ask yourself to bring you into awareness of your emotions, thoughts, beliefs, etc.
I have taken the practice of being self-aware importantly because of the benefits I have experienced by doing it. In conversation the other day with one of my clients, I was amazed by how comfortable they had come to accept some ugly truths about themselves. This person had never been comfortable with being criticized or taking feedback but by intentionally practising self-awareness, they had become more courageous in accepting truth and more intentional with their actions. Unfortunately, research by the Harvard Business Review has shown large numbers of people who are not self-aware at work. Considering it has been proven that high self-awareness leads to better performance at work, as corporates and entrepreneurs, it is pertinent for us to consider taking this act seriously.
What happens after you master the habit of self-awareness?
To make an even bigger difference, self-awareness needs to go beyond self-knowledge to be effective. Every time I get light of the fact that I have developed a counter-productive habit, I get in the habit of practising resistance to replace the old habit. That act is called self-management.
Self-management is necessary in not only making us present and self-aware, but in pushing us to understand that our actions have consequences. Knowing this will help us make informed decisions about our next steps. A while back, I had a friend who visited with her children. From the few minutes they had been there, I learnt that her daughter had been given a speech several times to get her to understand that although she could have sweets, having too much was bad for her. After giving several of these talks, my friend had decided to study her daughter and allow her to manage her cravings herself. If she really understood the consequences of eating sweets in excess, then it was time for her to intentionally choose a practice that will help her choose differently. After taking 2 sweets from the jar on the table, the next time she had a craving, she walked up to me and asked me for a healthier replacement. That is what self-management is all about. Without it, the intention and action of self-awareness does not really amount to much.
For the little girl, she had managed to understand her palette. She knew she had a sweet tooth and simply ignoring it was not the way to go. Her self-awareness also brought to light the fact that she craved a candy or gum or some other unhealthy options and given the chance, she would eat more than she should. Her next steps were most important; being knowledgeable that she has a range of choices: to either take more sweets or seek out healthier options. “I have no idea what could be healthier and equally tasty but Mommy has told me such things exist. I have another craving so let me ask her for something as nice but better than candy.” That is what proper self-management does; bring you simply from intention to action.
Like this little girl, we see and understand that better choices may not necessarily come easily to us. We will also not be always happy and comfortable to make those choices. But that is where understanding the benefits count. “Self-management is the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviours effectively in different situations. This includes managing stress, delaying gratification, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward personal and work goals.”
Here is how you can start:
- Be clear within yourself:
This process requires a sharp sense of self-awareness, a state of cognizance of your personality, your thoughts, your beliefs and your emotions, including your strengths and your weaknesses. Self-awareness is a process that requires you to be in constant communication with yourself and to remain in consciousness of your environment especially pertaining to the feedback you receive from people you interact with. Being self-aware is more of a toolset than simply a notion. When understood and used in full measure, you will be able to control your emotions and actions, make more thought-provoking decisions and understand the personalities behind the people you interact with. Every leader needs to understand himself thoroughly to take on the responsibility of leading others. When you have a good understanding of who you are, you will not easily be swayed by the external notions and pressures you encounter in your work, business and life. Some additional steps include finding a few minutes in your daily routine to break down your thoughts, emotions, decisions and actions so you can get a better understanding of who you are. In this moment, it is not out of the norm to ask yourself various random questions that will spring up answers about your personality and passions. Continually seek feedback from people who are in regular engagement with you.
- Decide where you want to self-manage.
Pay attention to the details of your strengths and weakness. This will help you identify areas that need refining. For example, you may have noticed that you are extremely grumpy because you do not get sufficient sleep. Now that you know, you can decide to do something about it.
- Plan the polish:
After you decide what you want to change, you can take actionable steps in making it happen. If going to bed an hour earlier than you used to will make a difference in how you feel when you wake up, do it. Take a careful look at your schedule and cut back on some things that waste your time so you can create that extra hour you need for sleep.
- Practise, Practise, Practise:
Old habits die hard. Constant and consistent practice are required to create new habits in your brain. If you are used to wasting an hour before bedtime on chatting, it will not be easy to cut that habit out. Intentionally switching off your phone at the right time is necessary. Do this repeatedly until you are consistently able to self-manage that behavior. At the same time, explore your reactions to your practice. What can you learn from what you are doing, and from how you are reacting, that can inform your continued practice? You must regularly ask yourself who you are. You must regularly ask yourself what your strengths and weaknesses are. It should become second nature that you find out what the little quirks about
your personality, passion and drive are. How is your work environment changing you? How are the challenges you are facing on a day-to-day basis shaping who you are? All these are questions which will keep you in constant communication with yourself and keep you on a path of practice to mastery towards your identity.
In each successive iteration, you will learn a bit more about how you are operating, what is driving your behaviour, and how you can improve it.
If we become consistent with switching old habits with new ones, we will become effective leaders, managers, employees, friends, partners, etc. Simply start by gaining clarity about your behaviour and find replacing behaviours you can take up. Practise them day and night. You may fail on some days but do not stop. Keep going, keep at it and the results of being able to manage yourself will reflect in the work you produce, how you take care of yourself. You will be disciplined enough to achieve your goals and dreams. Are you ready for the transformation?
The high performance journey is usually a process that requires commitment to understanding failures, running a post mortem on the failures and fighting to bounce back. “When you have failures in your life, your motivation to bounce back should be for the sake of others rather than yourself.” – Sir Samuel Esson Jonah (OGS)