From birth to about the age of 18 months or so, each of us began to recognize that we were separate from the other things around us. That is a form of personal awareness, however superficial.
As we grow, we make decisions about our experiences and develop our belief system. We form the values we hold and how our emotions affect us in various situations. So, what is personal awareness then?
Personal awareness is understanding the reasons behind your behavior. It is getting clear about your beliefs and values in the context of your environment (those around us) and your experience – sometimes called self-awareness. The concept is rather complex – because your understanding can only be gained through your perceptions, which are always influenced by your emotions, beliefs and values. Sounds like a chicken and egg situation – right?
Being aware of these things requires some amount of focus on yourself. The way your brain allows you to ‘pay attention’ to anything is also full of complexity.
In the United States (which is where I am and the only experience I have), multi tasking is commonly accepted as a necessity. Scientific experiments have proven that this is actually more difficult than most of us think. Human beings are much more efficient if they pay attention to one thing at a time. We are able to switch our focus quickly from one thing to another, however that will always produce fewer results. Focusing on one thing and following it to its conclusion will always achieve more results in a shorter amount of time.
The journey toward personal awareness requires that you pay attention – yes – but not just to yourself. Be aware of your surroundings and other people’s reactions while evaluating your own emotions and reactions at the same time.
For instance, by paying attention in the moment, I recognized that I wanted to change my behavior in a certain situation. When I’m focused on a task and someone needs to speak to me, I used to pretend to listen, while continuing to work on my task. But, I never really gave them the attention they deserved or time to understand what they were saying. The need to focus on my task, took precedence over interacting with another person. I decided I would like to change my behavior because one of my core values is that every person is important.
That understanding was only possible by paying attention to the situation, the behavior of another person and my own emotions in response to the circumstances. I now make a point to stop what I’m doing and look the other person in the eyes, listening to what they have to say – without becoming impatient. Then, I can either respond and get back to my task or nicely ask them to wait until I’m through with what I’m doing. In either case, the person gets the attention they deserve and the small interruption doesn’t deter me from what I’m trying to accomplish.
Think about what matters most to you – in each area of your life. As, in the example above, I said I valued the importance of others and identified a behavior I could improve to better reflect that.
An awareness of your values will help you make better decisions – both in your professional and personal lives.
Once you have identified your values, you will have the motivation to take action toward your goals. Do you want to become more financially secure? Do you want to volunteer to help some group you resonate with?
Focusing on yourself can be uncomfortable, however making the effort will produce more benefits than I can list.
You may try to avoid the parts of you that have been suppressed for a long time – everyone has them. When I first started to become more self-aware, I found myself reverting to multi-tasking again. It was an avoidance technique for me.
Paying attention to anything also means that you have to ignore other things. However, I’m not trying to say that you should ignore everyone but yourself to attain personal awareness. Rather, view these activities like exercising your brain.
Exercise Your Brain
I recommend taking at least 15 minutes (or more, if you can) each day to meditate. Use this time to focus on yourself and investigate each area of your life. Be sure to think about what’s going well and what’s not going so well. Try to determine why you have had those experiences. This is an activity that will help you get some clarity about how you react to various things – not about judging anything – only discovering the ‘why’ behind your emotions in various areas of your life.
Another idea that I’ve found helpful (although it feels silly at first), is to actually look at yourself in a mirror. Look yourself straight in your eyes and have a conversation with yourself. Tell yourself the things you appreciate about you and also the things you would like to improve about you.
Either or both of these activities must be done consistently over a period of time to produce more clarity. The amount of time necessary will vary for each individual, but consistent action is the key. Schedule some time to do these things and you will find it helpful.
It takes courage to start the journey toward personal awareness. You will uncover things about yourself that you may not like – but, try not to be judgmental or beat yourself up in the process. And, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for the parts of yourself that you like too!
Everyone is an individual and no one is perfect! Celebrate the things you like and make note of just one thing you would like to improve.
Be honest with yourself. Your objective is to understand who you are – both good and bad. Once you know where you are now, you can make a plan to work on the area you’d like to improve.
Ultimately, personal awareness is the foundation for attaining your dreams. Once you understand yourself, you will interact better with the world around you. You will feel more in control of your life and make better decisions.
When things don’t go exactly as you want them to, pay attention to your reaction in the moment. If you immediately blame someone or something else, it’s one indication that you could stand some more personal awareness.
If you’ve started the journey, your reactions will be more in line with your true self. You will think about how you can impact the outcome of any situation, rather than blame an outside force.
If you have any questions or would like to contribute your thoughts on this subject, please feel free to comment below.
Wishing you Much Success!
Hello Betsy, I must say that this article is very helpful and informative. Personal awareness is very important and I learned about that a couple of years ago. Just like you mentioned I blamed others because of my mistakes not so long ago I accepted that I am responsible for everything happens in my life.
Thanks very much, Daniel – All the Best!
I have been meditating for more than 4 years now and I can safely say that my self-awareness has increased exponentially since I got started.
I want to comment on what you said about multitasking because I recently talked about it with a colleague of mine.
Humans are actually capable of multitasking. But they are not good at it. Plus, it requires huge amounts of energy to actually multitask which depletes your mental resources way faster than just focusing on any task at hand.
This colleague of mine has been multitasking for 30 years and he claimed to me that it has damaged his brain, his attention, his health, and frankly his ability to concentrate.
Thanks very much for your comment – and, I appreciate the clarification about multi-tasking! Although I inevitably multi-task frequently (but don’t get as much done), the reports I read made sense that it must be impossible. I agree that when I do try, it drains my energy and makes it much more difficult to concentrate. So, even though it’s possible, it’s not a good idea. Thanks again and All the Best!