The Greek philosopher, Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
To know ourselves means we are driven to discover and understand what makes us tick as individuals, and in team and social situations. What are our strengths, weaknesses, our passions and fears, our desires and dreams? What are our unusual and quirky habits, our likes and dislikes, and our tolerances and limitations? It means we have consciously chosen to embrace them, accept them and build on them. Knowing yourself means seriously thinking about our purpose in life. Knowing our life purpose allows us to have greater meaning and impact in our life, and the lives of others.
In this analysis, we will consider the powerful influence we can have over our brain to genuinely discover who you are. Our brain has many parts that control how we feel and what we think, do and say. It is our very own IPhone or laptop right above our shoulders. All we are doing as we go on this quest to discover who we are is working out the type of software we have, and what we need to do to upgrade it to work for us in transforming our life into a sanctuary of happiness and success. It takes some work but it is not insurmountable. It will also save us a lot of trial and error because it will direct us to the areas that are best for us to experiment and strive for real success in.
Our brain is one of the most important determinants of who we are. That is followed by our physical characteristics, social experiences, culture and religion and heredity characteristics.
There are two areas of intelligence that are at the forefront of determining our achievement, success and happiness in life. The first is our intelligence which refers to how quickly we learn and apply new knowledge and skills. This is primarily determined by our genetics and remains fairly stable throughout our life. It can be developed by education, skills training, reading and one’s own thirst for knowledge. This, however, doesn’t change our innate intelligence. We can be intelligent without education and the other factors mentioned.
What can really be developed is our ability to use a combination of intelligence and emotional intelligence to reach peak achievement, happiness and success in life.
Our Emotional Intelligence (EI) refers to how self-aware we are, how we manage our emotions in the best possible way for our own success and happiness, how socially aware we are and how we manage relationships at home, at school, at work, in sporting teams and where groups of people tend to meet. These four areas of emotional intelligence are what determine how effectively we use our natural intelligence Fortunately, it is never too late in life to learn the skills and knowledge needed to become far more emotionally intelligent (EI).
- a. The first component of EI and knowing who you are is Self-Awareness. This means we seriously analyze our strengths and weaknesses, our likes and dislikes, our passions and fears, unusual and quirky habits, our true desires and dreams, and what really motivates us. Even if we think we know, there are usually areas we can develop further to become more effective. There are also characteristics of ourselves that we are not able to see at all times. By using self-reflection, critical thinking, perception and knowledge of how we think we are in teams, social situations and relationships, we can gain a fairly good picture of who we are.
To do this demands total honesty with ourselves, and taking the time to be quiet and still. Your investment in silence will pay off! No talking, cell phone interruptions or dashing away to do something more important halfway through. We then need to take stock of our where we are in life and do a reality check of our natural gifts and achievements. We also need to acknowledge our shortcomings and any areas we may need to work on developing. We can develop some aspects of ourselves such as how we perceive and act in the world around us, while some areas like intelligence and ancestry are hard-wired into us. Our own self-awareness and understanding of who we are is the greatest key to success, happiness and personal achievement.
The benefits of developing self-awareness reach much further than us, as individuals. The more skilled we are at understanding what motivates us, the closer we are to sensing what motivates others. Self-aware people are usually good team players, team leaders, managers and entrepreneurs. They also are more curious, innovative and productive people.
- b. The second component of knowing who you are is Self-Management. Before you can become competent in self-management, you must have worked your way through the EI and developed a keen sense of self-awareness. Without self-awareness, you will not be able to show the hallmark characteristics of self-confidence, a realistic view of your strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes and motivators. You will also not be able to accept constructive criticism or show a sense of humor when you make mistakes.
Self-Management is your ability to use your self-awareness, driven by all you have discovered in your quest so far, and stay flexible and behavior in a positive way. It essentially means managing your emotional reactions towards people and situations and ensuring that you keep them in check so they act in your favor, rather than against you. An example of this would be when you are in a stressful situation that you want to succeed in, take some deep breaths and think before you respond. You may even find you need to sleep on it before you respond. Either of these will take the heat out of the moment and help you make the best decision for the issue at hand.
Working towards self-management, you will develop a sense of comfort with change and uncertainty, show integrity, and learn to trust both yourself and others. It is often a lack of expertise in these areas that triggers controlling behavior and explosive outbursts that don’t win you friends or influence those around you. These types of behavior take your power away and make you unhappy and less productive in the majority of situations.
The benefits of self-management are that you take time to run challenging situations through your value system, you don’t react out of fear and you take time to analyze the uncertainty and risks involved. It takes great restraint to respond thoughtfully, rather than exploding and putting your needs first at that very moment. You can learn to do this. It will help you to pursue larger, more important goals for yourself and your team if you take the time to respond thoughtfully. You can control any explosive or disruptive tendencies you have over time, and start developing much better habits that are based in thoughtfulness and kindness.
- c. The third component of knowing yourself is Social Awareness. This refers to your ability to listen, observe and pick up on the sentiments and attitudes of other people in a social or team situation. By staying quiet, listening and observing peoples’ body language, you will have a greater chance of understanding where they are coming from on particular issues. You will develop the ability to withhold judgement and stop your thoughts from jumping to conclusions. It will also show how sensitive you are to others, and will provide you with the opportunity to actively listen and display heartfelt empathy where possible. All and all, this will help you connect with people from cross-culturally and cross-belief systems.
We all love someone who seems to really be listening to us and hearing what we are saying. They don’t have to be the same as we are. There is often more opportunity to learn from people who seem different to us than there is from those who are similar. It is possible to do this in a team situation, or a room full of people, and show your consideration for others by listening, not speaking and observing. All it takes is nurturing of self-discipline and open-mindedness to the thoughts and opinions of those around us.
- d. The fourth component of knowing yourself is Relationship Management. This practice brings the three we have discussed together because relationship management is our ability to use self-awareness, self-management and social awareness, and manage our interactions with those around us effectively. It is also the practice that allows us to bond successfully with other people over time. How well you understand and interact with your team, or people in social situations, will strongly determine your potential for developing truly lasting relationships with them. Strong relationships leverage your ability to get your point of view across because there is acceptance, trust, empathy and care for each other. A relationship means you have greater frequency with someone than chance interactions. Relationship management is crucial for leadership, sportsmanship, family relationships and corporate teams.
In conclusion, you have a great opportunity of discovering who you are, and having successful relationships with those you desire to if you develop your skills in self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. The development of theses key aptitudes will allow you to avoid a lot of trial and error and have more influence over what happens in your own life, and the lives of others. You will have greater knowledge of what your strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, passions and fears are, and you will be able to combine these new-found skills with your values and start directing your life in the way you want it to be. You may not be able to control the outcome of all situations but you will be able to control how you respond to them. That is going to prove to be extremely beneficial in times of adversity, disappointment and chaos.
By Suzi Stich