That old saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” bares weight in context to feeling stuck. One of the most overlooked components of growth is something we all take for granted because we all “think” we know, but in reality we don’t.
Several years ago, and almost 4 years after starting my journey of growth, I hit a wall. My growth, my faith, and everything else came into question and I wasn’t getting any answers. It was like those dreams when you’re being chased and you’re running as hard as you can but you’re not moving.
Growth up to this point in my journey had been fruitful because I had a “hard target” that I was driven to achieve. Suddenly my path became dark and barren. Feelings of helplessness, weariness, and emptiness descended upon me. I became disillusioned and questioned myself and my faith.
For eighteen months I battled the disheartening reality (at the time) that my questions may never be answered and I would be stuck where I was from that moment on. St. John of the Cross calls this “The Dark Night of The Soul.”
Not knowing the answers to my questions was the most helpless feeling I can remember having. Up to that point my growth was focused outward on a single issue that had been the catalyst 4 years prior to beginning my new journey of self-growth. So, at the urging of my coach, I decided to focus my journey inward to help me become aware of who I am.
Self-awareness is the starting point of any deeper growth journey. In the book of Genesis after Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge and Understanding, they know they have done wrong and it says, “Immediately the two of them did ‘see what’s really going on–saw themselves naked!’” (Gen 3:7). So they hid from God (v. 8).
In verse 9 God asks Adam, “Where are you?” This was not a geographical question. God wanted to know what was going on inside Adam. It’s a question that even today, if you will take time to answer it, is relevant to helping you become more self-aware.
Increasing our awareness is the first step to getting unstuck and giving us a platform to launch our growth forward. Additional questions to the question above can be:
- What fires you up?
- What matters most to you?
- When do you feel most alive?
- What would you like to achieve in life?
- What do you want?
- What are you afraid of?
Rarely do we take the time to reflect on these kinds of questions, especially with the demanding schedule as an entrepreneur. Even the crazy schedules we try to keep with our kids’ extracurricular activities, maintaining a good marriage relationship, friendships outside of work, our personal hobbies, etc. can be major roadblocks to the time we need to dedicate to working with these questions.
You will have to be intentional with your time. You will have to be deliberate when searching for the answers. But it needs to be done.
Here are five ways, which when implemented consistently, will help you increase your self-awareness:
Research has proven that physically putting pen to paper yields a connection in the brain between your intellectual side and your emotional side, helping you to clarify your thoughts and feelings, know yourself better, reduce stress, solve problems more effectively, and resolve conflicts with others. In addition you’ll track your progress, trends, and improvements in growth over time.
If you’ve never kept a journal then working through the questions I’ve stated previously is a good place to start.
2. Community–Get Connected
As much as I believe in the power and benefit of keeping a journal, we still have blind spots and need the feedback and acceptance of others. Having another person reflect back to us how they see us and experience us is invaluable insight into who we really are.
A close group of friends who you share openly with and you are known by, and you know them, is essential to any growth process. Get connected. Even if it’s with a good friend or mentor that you trust and can have coffee with weekly.
3. Get Creative
The creative process can reveal a lot to us if we don’t force it. You don’t have to be the next Picasso or Andrea Bocelli or John Grisham. You’re probably not going to sell any paintings, sing an opera, or be a best-selling novelist. You might, but that’s not the point.
The point is to tap into the innovative and constructive part of us that we all have but tend to neglect. Doing creative activities, whether writing or woodworking, clears our overly brash analytical and rational side of the brain so we can be in a place where we find more of who we were meant to be. Not only that, it’s also a crazy amount of fun!
4. Self Assessment Tools
The Birkman Method is a personality and career assessment tool that I used during my struggle. I answered 200 questions and received a 65 page report about everything from my leadership tendencies to my behavioral response under stress.
It was scary accurate and every page I read I kept repeating in my head, “Yep. That’s me.” There are other methods of assessing personality such as Myers-Briggs or DISC. I’ve done both and found The Birkman Method to be more helpful.
A coach is unbiased and has a skill set for guiding a coachee to greater understanding and awareness. You won’t have to worry about whether a coach is holding back on you because he/she doesn’t want to hurt the relationship like your Aunt Sally who always tells you how wonderful you are. A coach listens well, gives reliable feedback, focuses conversations to avoid distraction, speaks the truth and keeps confidence. Above all a coach raises awareness and stimulates responsibility.
The benefit of going through the journey of self-awareness is this: we rid ourselves of who we think we ought to be. We get to shed off layers of the false self we have pretended to be so that something authentic can emerge.
When life becomes utterly bland, complacency has burrowed itself in your psyche, and you’ve tried getting fulfillment from everything around you, it’s time to dig into the self-awareness component.
Start asking the tough questions, get connected, do the necessary work and seek guidance from a reputable partner that will help you to finally unlock your true potential and gifts so that you can live this life the way it was intended…
…as your true, actualized self.