This morning I read a quote from Maya Angelou that really struck a chord “When you know better, you do better.” I’ve been doing a lot of work lately with people around self awareness and I found this quote to be both true and false. I will explain why as we go along. Self awareness by definition is the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires. Hence, it is the starting point for change in any person. The biggest problem we face however is that acquiring conscious self knowledge is becoming increasingly difficult, as people spend every waking hour connected to some form of technology.
We are being bombarded. Your attention is worth money to businesses, so they all want your eyes and ears on them. Whether it is Netflix, TV, Instagram, Facebook, Billboards, Snapchat, Twitter, or a million other apps and shows. Your time is their gold. Unfortunately many of these are creating an image of how people should be, how they should look and how they should feel. This is a dangerous and false reality as people strive for something they can never achieve.
Gaining new self awareness is like getting aroused. It feels good, it can make you smile, you often don’t choose when it happens, but it is only of real value if you do something about it. There is no point in discovering you have a range of positive traits you weren’t aware of and then do nothing with them. Likewise with your weaknesses. When you aren’t aware then it was more acceptable. Once you know, you are now making a conscious decision to ignore it. So we don’t necessarily do better when we know better. We do better, when we know better and then act upon it.
If you don’t know what makes you happy, confident or fulfilled how can you get more of it. If you don’t know what makes you sad, anxious or fearful how can you do less of it. How can you know what your triggers are for eliciting more, or less. Quite simply do you know what motivates your actions and decision making? If you never plug out of the Matrix you can never discover. Getting clarity on this requires the mental space to breathe, reflect and explore.
When it comes to our decision making it is not always coming from a pure place either. Many are based on ego, saving face, fear and covering up areas of vulnerability. How often do you hear people say, ‘Sorry about that, my mistake’ or ‘Really, I didn’t know that’. Not very often is the answer. People will do everything in their power to cover up their shortcomings and failures. In fact some go a step further and even pre-empt their own failure as a means of saving face in a practice known as self handicapping. This fascinating practices includes behaviours such as, consuming alcohol before and exam, or not practising a skill, so you have a ready make excuse should you fail.
We are all running habitual behaviours and thought patterns. That is just how the human psyche works. This is wonderful if yours are serving you, but for many they are doing the opposite. Delving into this area requires a huge amount of nobility and self honesty. When things go wrong in life, business, or sport, as invariably they do, winners look inward to learn what they did wrong and how they can do it differently next time. Losers look outward for someone to blame and will inevitably make this mistake again. Which way are you looking? One of the foremost things any good coach does is help people become more self aware. Then as Paddy McGuinness says, ‘The power is in your hands’
Ciao for now – John
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