The attribute of self-awareness
“Self-awareness gives you the capacity to learn from your mistakes as well as your successes. It enables you to keep growing.” - Lawrence Bossidy
The Oxford dictionary definition of self-awareness is:
“knowledge and understanding of your own character”
Self-awareness is one of the attributes that Tom Steabler referenced all the way back in episode #1. Tom touched upon the importance of being honest with yourself about what you actually want and how the limitations that you have can impact your achievement of these goals.
Why is self-awareness important?
As Lawrence Bossidy stated, self-awareness is an attribute that enables you to keep growing. If you know and understand yourself, then you are well positioned to focus on the areas that need improvement and can strive to be the best version of yourself. Self-awareness alone won’t enable this, there has to be a willingness to grow and develop, but it is half of the battle.
What does self-awareness look like?
Going back to Tom’s example, being self-aware necessitates being honest with yourself. This honesty can help you to understand exactly what you want from a career perspective. It will also facilitate an appreciation of your limitations. In combination, the knowledge of where you want to be and what your limitations are, will allow you to make career decisions that maximise your chances of success.
Tom was aware that he didn’t want to be in audit and really liked the idea of investment banking. Having worked in investment banking, he found that he really enjoyed the work but was cognizant of the challenges that faced him. This allowed him to take a step back and contemplate whether he had a long term career in investment banking and enabled him to conclude that a move into the credit ratings space was better suited to him. The self-awareness present throughout his decision making process meant that he has found a career in which he can flourish. This is demonstrated by his rapid ascent to Director level at a “Big Three” Credit Ratings agency.
It would have been easy for Tom to neglect his inner voice and battle on for 1, 2 or 5 years in a career that wasn’t quite right for him. The effective application of self-awareness allowed him to avoid this.
Become self aware
If we refer back to the definition of self-awareness, in order to become self-aware we can decipher that you need to know and understand your own character. Most people generally believe that they know themselves pretty well, but the reality is often somewhat different. This point is reaffirmed to an extent in Why we overstate our competence by the American Psychology Association.
There are various reasons as to why we overstate our abilities but the overwhelming theme is ignorance, not arrogance. Therefore, it is your duty to educate yourself on your flaws and your strengths. There are 3 ways that you can do this:
Constantly seek constructive feedback - People don’t like to receive negative feedback and consequently, people can be unwilling to provide it. Therefore, you need to consistently seek constructive feedback, and be insistent upon it. It is worth noting that constructive feedback is not restricted to criticism.
Self-reflect - In Black Box Thinking, Matthew Syed explores the concept of learning from the mistakes of others, which builds on the benefits derived from having a black box in a plane. Why not take that one step further and learn from your own experiences. After each project that you undertake, take some time to reflect on how you performed, ensuring that you apply a hyper-critical approach to avoid merely patting yourself on the back. If it’s good enough for Michael Jordan...
Speak to your friends and family - Your friends and family know you better than anyone else. Whilst you might have your own idea of how other people perceive you, this could be wildly inaccurate. Your friends and family will be honest with you, so get their input and take what they say seriously.
Let me know your thoughts
If you found this article useful, or felt that there was something missing, go ahead and leave a comment!
Self-awareness is also a theme that features in a future episode with Guarav Seth, so listen out for his thoughts on this attribute when his episode goes live in a few weeks.
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