“I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion.”
Billie Jean King
It was hard to come up with a title for this post. I didn’t want people to read the word “success” and automatically think it meant the usual ideas of it. Not that there’s anything wrong with wanting money, yachts, and such, but those are just fleeting things that are not worth chasing after. We deserve much more meaning and fulfillment than that. What I really mean is success in any aspect of our lives where we want to see positive growth. Whether it be family life, spirituality, business, health, or creative endeavors, being successful in any area of our lives requires more than just knowledge and expertise.
SUCCESS STARTS WITH SELF AWARENESS
“People need to know that they have all the tools within themselves. Self-awareness, which means awareness of their body, awareness of their mental space, awareness of their relationships – not only with each other, but with life and the ecosystem.” Deepak Chopra
In my lifetime, I think I must have read….I don’t know, hundreds and hundreds of books and articles on success, inner peace, business, psychology, philosophy, spirituality, self improvement, diet and exercise, you name it.
It all started with YM magazines back in I think grade 6. I became almost addicted to personal growth and self improvement books. But all the reading in the world will not move you forward unless we are willing to look deep within ourselves.
Do you read books endlessly to improve yourself personally and professionally?
I think a lot of us do.
But there is a point when more information doesn’t help.
This is when you have exhausted all the possible angles and perspectives out there to the point that you recognize all the common tenets between them and you can pretty much predict the five or seven things the next book on how to “be more productive” or “create a happy life” will tell you.
At this point, another book or article is not going to help.
It’s time to increase your self awareness.
The personal strength and resilience needed to succeed in anything requires a tremendous amount of self awareness. The bigger your dream or goal, the more self awareness you need to have the perseverance to pursue it. This is because success requires very specific actions from us that challenge every aspect of our being: mind, body, and spirit, every single day.
If we aren’t aware of our own thoughts, reactions, and emotions to these challenges, they will be so much more difficult to overcome. This is because we are really overcoming ourselves.
HOW DOES SELF AWARENESS HELP US TO SUCCEED?
By becoming more self aware, we gain these important characteristics needed for success.
Focus and Perseverance
Two major factors that determine success are focus and perseverance. We have to be mentally focused on our goal and be in it for the long haul, no matter what. What can ever be achieved by listening to self-doubt and switching our goals as soon as things get tough? Doubts, discomfort, and frustrations are part of any change in life, even when they are positive changes. We can’t persevere for very long when we don’t have awareness of our reactions during bumps in our journey. What do you do when things get tough? Do you view it as a personal failure? When is it difficult to stay focused? These are important questions to ask ourselves.
Honesty and Humility
“Humility is the true key to success. Successful people lose their way at times. They often embrace and overindulge from the fruits of success. Humility halts this arrogance and self-indulging trap. Humble people share the credit and wealth, remaining focused and hungry to continue the journey of success.”
Struggles and frustrations are a normal and necessary part of life. Yet there is this lie the world tells us. That the more we look happy and successful to others, the more we actually are. So we lie to ourselves and others in attempts to hide our struggles. This focus on “image” sabotages success before we even start trying. We need to honestly ask ourselves how much our sense of self is wrapped up in status and reputation.
Is our goal important to us because of the status or reputation we think it will provide?
If so, we are setting ourselves up for failure before we even start.
This is because you will take every mistake, every hick up, and every set back as something huge and horrible and imagine the world laughing at you.
Instead, if we have a strong sense of self and a healthy view of ourselves, those same mistakes will not seem so bad.
Our views of ourselves have a lot to do with our success. We cannot achieve more than we believe we can. So it is important that you truly, wholeheartedly explore negative beliefs about yourself that might be holding you back from success. This will bring up the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s accepting the bad and the ugly that will increase your personal strength and resilience.
The pursuit of any goal requires deep and constant faith in your abilities. You must believe that you have it within you to improve despite the many, MANY failures and mistakes that will come along during your path to achieving your goal. You have to have a strong sense of self to realize that you always have more to learn, but that you are capable of it with focus and effort. You need to maintain this view of yourself regardless of the scoffing, laughing, and snickering from others. You know yourself best. Sometimes you have to be your own best cheerleader.
HOW TO BECOME MORE SELF AWARE
As soon as I think I’m pretty self aware, life throws something else at me that makes me look even deeper within myself. We cannot ever reach complete self awareness because as soon as we think we know ourselves we change or the world changes, revealing new things we need to learn. It is a process that goes on until we die. But here are some ways to help you on your journey.
Spend time alone
This is especially good to do when you feel frustrated or stuck with your progress. Walk. Contemplate what you need to reassess, but be kind to yourself. Talk to yourself. Ask yourself important questions. Have you been avoiding some important actions because of fear of failure? Are you feeling lost? Do you need to slow down? Speed up? Seek advice?
Pay attention to your emotions
Sometimes when we aren’t fully conscious of what is bothering us, our body can tells us a lot about. What are you thinking of when feel like reaching for something sweet or a drink? What are you doing when you feel the need to stretch your neck out? What are you doing when you suddenly feel a wave of fatigue wash over you? Do you experience strong negative emotions sometimes during the day? Arnold Mindell calls these events “edges”. When we have a negative reaction to a situation, it is an opportunity to learn something about ourselves. Usually it tells us how we define ourselves and others.
Examine personal beliefs
This is very important. Our self awareness cannot expand without really examining our personal beliefs and views of the world. What societal ideals have you internalized? How are they affecting your level of honesty and humility? What are your beliefs about what you “should” be? When we think about our beliefs about the world and how deeply they have affected us, we can have more control over what thoughts we accept and reject because we know they aren’t necessarily truth. This will give us more personal power to achieve our goals.
Embrace your shadow self
“The energy that it takes to animate and repress shadow elements and keep them out of awareness is the same energy that cannot be available for developing to the next stage of our potential.”
We become very imbalanced when we don’t embrace our shadow self. This is the part of ourselves that is deep, dark, and frankly scary for a lot of us.
But it doesn’t have to be so scary.
Especially when we learn not to attach judgements of right/wrong or good/bad on what we find.
We feel afraid because we’re taught through culture and society that whatever is within us is wild, uncontrollable, animalistic, and must be tamed. So we repress our shadow selves because we don’t trust it. However, it is by getting to know our darkness and removing our right/wrong or good/bad judgements of them that we can have more personal power to achieve our goals. We can then get to a higher level of self acceptance which that includes the parts of ourselves that we have been avoiding.
Find your supports
The journey towards increased self awareness brings up all kinds of intense feelings of doubt, fear, frustration, and confusion. Find people you respect and trust to help you along.
It is always helpful to have a compassionate listening ear for those times when we feel we are going through something all alone.
Can’t think of anyone in your life you feel safe talking to? Maybe find a registered counsellor in your area who will help you through your journey.
Counselling is not just for dealing with major mental or emotional issues. It is also for helping us to work out our everyday struggles when we feel stuck. Who couldn’t use that?
If you are in the Greater Vancouver area, two wonderful counsellors you might consider are Cory and Maedean. They are both registered counsellors who put their clients needs first and are just wonderful people. See a post with Maedean here.
What are other things you think help to increase success in achieving our goals?