Self-awareness and personal effectiveness
To be effective, you need to understand yourself. This section is all about you: developing an understanding of yourself, your values and personality, and developing the skills needed to be personally effective in your career.
Definition of self-awareness
Self-awareness is the capacity to direct attention towards the self. Self-awareness theory (Duval and Wiklund) states that at any given time, our attention may be focused on either ourselves or the environment, but not both. People are usually not self-focused, but certain situations can cause them to focus their attention inward.
Let's take an example: your friend has made a video of you at your birthday party. While you are watching this video, you will be in a state of self-awareness. You'll be inclined to evaluate yourself, comparing what you see with your internal standards and values (of what is "correct"). Your experience in viewing the video will either be positive or negative depending on your internal standards and the comparisons you make between what you see and these standards. While watching, you'll be thinking whether you consider yourself to be sufficiently outspoken, sociable, impactful, etc. If there is a significant discrepancy, it will cause a change of behaviour to try to create balance with your internal standards and values. For instance, if you think that you'e not expressing yourself clearly, you may wish to improve your communications skills.
If you have low self-awareness, you won't make comparisons between your current state and your internal standards. You won't notice any discrepancy and won't feel the need to modify any behaviours. If you have a high self-awareness, you'll be able to identify and build on the behaviours and relationships that are helpful to you and address those that are incongruent with your internal standards.
In order to have a well defined career plan, you need to be very clear on who you are and what you want in life. Some people find this easy, whereas others find it more difficult. Go through the following statements and answer either yes or no:
1. I am able to list my priorities in life and I know where I currently am in respect of each of them
2. I struggle when introducing myself to others because I don't know what to say
3. I frequently consider whether or not I am happy in my current situation
4. If asked to describe myself in one sentence or less, I would easily be able to do so
5. I look at the bigger picture when making final decisions
Tips to improve your self-awareness
Keep a reflective learning log
A log or diary is a good way to force yourself to reflect on your actions. To be effecitve, it's important that your log is not simply descriptive. As well as describing what has happened, you should also try to record how you felt and why you did what you did.
Continually ask for feedback
We use feedback all the time when we are studying or learning a new skill, but rarely seek feedback on our behaviour. If you're looking for constructive feedback, ask your friends/colleagues "How do you think I handled that situation?" and "What sort of impression did I make then?"
Learn to manage your emotions
Emotional self-awareness is not easy, so it's important to practise it until it becomes natural. The three steps to emotional self-awareness are recognising emotions, understanding emotions and controlling emotions.