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  • Writer's pictureJesse Galvon Reid

Why Self-Awareness is Important and How to Improve It!

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the foundation of success, there’s no doubt about it. According to a study by TalentSmart, emotional intelligence beat out 33 other important workplace skills to be named the number one predictor of performance, responsible for 58 percent of all successes in every type of job.

Emotional intelligence is about how we manage our behavior, navigate social situations, and make effective decisions that move things forward in our lives. Since it became a “thing” in 1995, emotional intelligence has been endlessly dissected and modeled, and every conceivable model puts self-awareness at its core.

Self-Awareness = More (and Better) Choices

We’re all self-aware to an extent. We’re aware of the space we take up, aware of how we feel about stuff. But there’s a lot more to be aware of than your skin and the palpable thoughts that pass through your brain.

A whole bunch of our thinking and communication lies outside of our conscious awareness. A full 90 percent of your decisions are made unconsciously, according to a study published in the journal *****Natural Neuroscience, which found, in part, that “the outcome of a decision can be encoded in the brain activity of the prefrontal and parietal cortex up to 10 seconds before it enters awareness.” In other words, you make decisions before you even become aware of them.

Your level of self-awareness has a huge impact on your ability to make decisions that result in positive outcomes. The more self-aware you are, the more choices you have, because you’re not making conscious and unconscious choices based on deeply seated fears, biases, and false beliefs.

Are You Self-Aware?

Here’s a little quiz to help you determine where you fall on the self-awareness spectrum.

1. You go to lunch with a coworker, who is vegan. You:

A. Order your usual, a big, juicy hamburger.

B. Feel like you should order something vegan to impress your co-worker or to fit in.

2. When you think of the future, you:

A. Have an idea of where you’re headed, and you feel like you’re heading in the right direction.

B. You live day to day and have no earthly idea what the future holds.

3. Someone offers you a get-rich-quick deal that seems too good to be true. You:

A. Recognize that it’s probably a dead end and conduct further research.

B. Take the deal immediately and hope it works out.

4. Someone makes a huge mistake that costs you extra time and effort. You:

A. Stay calm, recognize that people make mistakes, understand that it wasn’t done intentionally, assess the situation, and without much ado, you do what’s necessary to fix it.

B. Fly off the handle, seethe with anger, point fingers, and fix the problem with passive-aggressive intonations.

5. You meet someone who makes a different lifestyle choice than you in an area you feel strongly about. You:

A. Recognize that their choices have nothing to do with you and look for common ground elsewhere.

B. Make your strong opinion about their lifestyle choice known, presenting your opinion as fact.

6. Corporate sends down a new directive that you disagree with. You:

A. Figure there must be a reason, and even though you don’t agree with it, you incorporate it with a positive attitude and try to make it work.

B. Complain about it to everyone you can and let it make your work life miserable.

7. When you consider how you come across to people, you:

A. Care that you come across as open-minded, polite, honest, and transparent.

B. Don’t care how they perceive you—you are who you are, and if they don’t like it, they can suck it.

8. When you’re feeling stressed, angry, or sad, you:

A. Focus inward, identify the emotion, trace it to its origin, accept it, and consider what you can do to change it.

B. Do whatever you can to escape it through avoidance, substance abuse, denial, or other unproductive behaviors.

9. You hear a rumor or see a headline that seems surprising. You:

A. Dig for more unbiased information to determine whether it’s true or not.

B. Pass it on as news.

10. You’re in a debate about an issue. You:

A. Listen to the other person’s point of view and try to see things from their perspective.

B. Disregard everything the other person says without really listening, believing your perspective is the only right one

11. The fast-food restaurant gets your order woefully wrong. You:

A. Understand that mistakes happen, and you politely bring it up with the manager with the intention of fixing it.

B. Demand to see the manager, demand reparations, threaten to sue or boycott, and leave angry.

12. Your supervisor gives you some critical feedback on a project. You:

A. Listen carefully, look at it from her perspective, evaluate her words, and engage in a productive dialogue about the feedback.

B. Feel like you’re being attacked and get super defensive and passive-aggressive about the feedback.

13. You fail miserably at something. You:

A. Reflect, look for the lessons, and choose the best way forward.

B. Regard yourself as an utter failure and give up.

14. You make a big mistake. You:

A. Take responsibility and try to make it right.

B. Make excuses and blame others to avoid being held accountable.

If you answered mostly A, you’re pretty self-aware. If you answered mostly B, it looks like you have a little work to do to improve your level of self-awareness. Keep in mind that you can be self-aware in some areas but not in others. Improving your overall self-awareness will go a long way toward promoting success in your personal and professional life.

10 Exercises to Improve Self-Awareness

We can all become more self-aware and enjoy the benefits of really knowing ourselves. Here are ten exercises you can do to increase your level of self-awareness and enjoy greater success and better relationships in your life.

1. Develop an emotional vocabulary. Your emotions create distinct physical and behavioral responses and being aware of your emotions and how they make your body and mind feel will increase your overall self-awareness. Whenever you feel a strong emotion, sit with it for a few minutes: Where do you feel this emotion physically, in your body? What would you name this emotion? What does the emotion make you want to do? Also, HALT! Are you hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? These four states are notorious for leading to negative feelings and poor decisions.

2. Make decisions mindfully. Always giving into temptation without thought can be a sign of low self-awareness. Make decisions mindfully. Ask yourself “why,” and keep asking “why” until you get to the root of it. For example, you’re about to embark on a junk food binge. Why? Because you’re stressed. Why? Because you’re behind on a deadline. Why? Because you procrastinate. Why? Because you feel overwhelmed. Why? Because of poor time management. Keep asking why until you get to the root of a matter.

3. Assess before you act. If you have low self-awareness, you probably run on auto-pilot, responding to stimuli without a conscious thought. Being reactive is a subconscious response, but when you stop to think, you move from reaction to a conscious decision. You get to choose how you act, and this makes for better decision-making. Research shows that we make better decisions when we have at least three options. Before you act, especially when you feel angry or frustrated, take a few moments to rationally assess the situation, come up with at least three possible actions, and choose the best one. Avoid acting on unconscious biases or stereotypes.

4. Be aware of your flaws. Everyone has flaws, and knowing what they are and accepting accountability for them increases your self-awareness and improves your relationships and communication skills. Turn the mirror on yourself, and honestly assess your flaws. Acknowledge your mistakes rather than make excuses, and take responsibility for your thoughts and actions.

5. Pay attention to your self-talk. Our internal dialogue is non-stop, and becoming aware of your self-talk is paramount to increasing your self-awareness. Negative self-talk, such as calling yourself names, attributing your achievements to luck, or giving yourself a negative label after a failure, can lead to frustration, stress, and depression. Self-compassion is central to ending the negative self-talk loop, and it improves your self-awareness and leads to greater happiness and productivity.

6. Question your assumptions. We all have “default” beliefs that shape our world view, but these beliefs aren’t always a reflection of the way things really are. To question your assumptions in a given situation, play devil’s advocate with yourself to see if your beliefs hold up.

7. Know your values, strengths, and weaknesses. We often don’t think about our values and talents, but these shape who we are and ideally guide our actions and interactions. Conduct a personal evaluation by taking a strengths and values inventory test. Additionally, a personality test will let you know where you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, and it can give you insight about how you move through your life.

8. Reflect and self-evaluate. A journal can go a long way toward helping your improve your self-awareness, and it’s a great place to reflect and evaluate your thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. Think about your good habits and your bad habits. Consider how often you say or do things you regret. Write about how your day went, including the things you did well and the things you did not-so-well. Expound about how you can improve tomorrow.

9. Ask for feedback. Constructive feedback from people you trust can help you recognize patterns of thought and behavior that you may be unaware of. Ask for feedback about things like how you handle negative emotions or difficult situations, how you come across to others, and how effective your decision-making and problem-solving skills are.

10. Meditate. Meditation is a fundamental practice for improving self-awareness. During meditation, you focus your mind on your breathing, which is the foundation of your existence that takes place in the here and now. As you focus on the breath moving in and out of your body, your mind will wander. When you notice it wandering, bring it back to focus on your breath. With practice, focusing on your breathing will become easier, but the point of meditation is to become aware of your mind’s wanderings and learn to refocus your wayward thoughts.

Self-awareness doesn’t come overnight. Developing greater self-awareness is a process, and it takes focus and self-honesty. Life coaching can put you on the fast track to greater self-awareness by helping you define your world view, recognize and use your strengths, and identify and live according to your values. Book me today, and let’s dig in and bring you to a place where you’re fully self-aware and equipped to create the reality you want in your life.

Emotional Intelligence Assessments

Jesse is a certified assessor with Six Seconds, the world’s leader in emotional intelligence training and assessments. Jesse is fully trained and certified to offer a range of emotional intelligence assessments that will give you a snapshot of your current emotional intelligence and spark the shift you or your organization are seeking.

All of the assessments Jesse offers are created by Six Seconds and based on a large body of scientific research. Each assessment includes an hourlong debrief and a detailed printed report highlighting the results. She will recommend areas for improvement, and give you meaningful, actionable steps to get you to where you want to be.

The SEI Leadership Assessment provides you with a clear picture of your emotional intelligence in the context of leadership. A 25-page report helps you identify areas ripe for growth and development, with transformational results. During your hourlong debrief, we’ll tailor an action plan to help you boost your EQ and facilitate personal and professional growth across eight fundamental skills. The SEI Leadership assessment is ideal for:

  • Professional development

  • Performance appraisals

  • Succession planning

  • Application screening

SEI Development Report

The SEI Development Report is comprehensive. It provides in-depth feedback, practical strategies, and becomes an ally for people to see their current EQ and how they can use it to improve their lives.


Introduces EQ in the context of four key performance areas: Effectiveness, Wellbeing, Quality of Life, and Relationships.

Explains why EQ is important in life and work.

Provides specific strategies to grow each EQ competency — geared toward the test-taker’s current level of expertise.

Utilizing the core Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence Model, the SEI DR works perfectly with dozens of hours of published curriculum, hundreds of resources, and numerous hands-on tools for implementing EQ.

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