In a world of hyperconnectivity, we live with an excess of technology and information that we often put ourselves on the back burner. In this episode, Thane Marcus Ringler talks about how to discover the path of becoming self-aware, enumerating three key steps to achieving self-awareness. He introduces the book Strangers to Ourselves by Timothy Wilson as a great resource for understanding the science behind awareness, and draws parallels between the process of discovering awareness and his own experiences in playing golf.
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Self Awareness: The Process Of Discovering Why You Are The Way You Are
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I’m going to try and be as short and sweet as possible. We’ll see how good I am at that. The last solo episode I did was all about the two realities of human existence, the two things that characterize where we’re all at. We’re all in a process in some shape or form moving from here to there, from A to B, from where we are now to where we want to go. That’s a part and process of growth. The second reality is, we’re all on some spectrum. There’s a range of realities within each step of the process. In each step, we’re on that spectrum in someplace between two polar opposite realities usually. Those were the things I wanted to highlight in the last episode. What underlies these two realities is the need for what we’re going to be talking about, which is self-awareness.
Self-awareness is something that is actively being reduced by the age of information and the hyper-connected culture that we live in. It’s a growing need, so I want to talk all about the process of developing self-awareness. This is something I’ve been talking a lot about. It stemmed from the book that I wrote, From Here to There. I believe there are three steps in the process of self-awareness. I want to describe it in a couple of different ways. The easiest way to think about it is past, present and future. I’m looking back at the past, examining the present and looking forward to the future. There’s another way to describe it, retroactively, actively and proactively. It’s different words to say the same reality. Timothy Wilson wrote a book called Strangers to Ourselves, which is all about understanding the adaptive subconscious, unconscious and nonconscious mind. It’s a great book and resource. If you want to dive into the weeds of a lot of the science behind it and a lot of the studies that have been done in how much or how little our conscious mind controls what we do.
He described it as how we think, feel and will feel. That looks at the past, the present and the future. These are steps in the process of developing self-awareness. My favorite way to think about this is in three different words. The first step would be discovering. That’s looking back at the past. The second step is understanding, looking more at the present. The third step is optimizing it for the future. I want to break down each part of the process here. The first step is always discovering. Discovering means you start discovering how you make the decisions you make and take the actions that you take. It’s looking at, “Why did I do what I did or what caused me to end up here?” It’s examining what has already happened in the past so we can discover what lies at the root of those decisions and actions. That’s an important part of the process. If we don’t discover, the other parts of the process won’t be accurate either. We have to look back, reflect, understand and discover the root of what we’re doing.
We’ll discover a lot of times that it is an unconscious pattern that developed and has become a habit in some way. This is accomplished by reflecting, through meditating, journaling, talking about situations with others. There are a lot of different tools to use and it’s easy to understand in that sense. The second step in the process is understanding. That means becoming familiar with it at the moment. Once we discover it by looking back at the past, we start understanding it as it’s happening real-time in the present, actively. That means now that we’ve discovered it, we start becoming more aware of those natural rhythms or tendencies to make certain decisions or take certain actions in understanding it in real-time as it happens. Seeing it as it happens, it’s like, “I did this and it was likely because of this.” That’s the second step. It’s understanding what it is we’re doing, saying or choosing at the moment while we do it actively.
The third step in the process is optimizing. It’s proactively looking to the future and how we will feel, as Timothy Wilson says, in the future based on the decisions or the actions we take. That means optimizing it for future scenarios. It looks in advance. It looks ahead into the corridor of time into the future and says, “I know that in this situation I tend to do X or Y, but I want to do Z. I’m going to optimize myself beforehand. I’m going to prime myself so I can do or say Z at that moment.” That’s the third step in the process of self-awareness. It’s starting to optimize ourselves for the decisions we want to make or the actions that we should take. That’s a simplified way of understanding how we develop self-awareness.
It’s helpful to put it in that framework because it gives us some feedback and actionable things to make progress and move forward on in growing in our self-awareness. I wanted to connect it to a golf illustration. I played golf for over twenty years of my life. It was a big part of most of my life. In college, one of the things that helped me start growing in self-awareness was the first part of discovering. I started creating this structure around discovering where my mistakes came from on the golf course within tournaments or golf rounds. I highlighted it into three different sections. Mistakes came from one poor preparation. The second would be from bad decision-making. The third would be from a lack of confidence.Self-awareness is not an easy thing. It doesn't happen by chance but by intention. Click To Tweet
Those were the three areas that each mistake fell into. Once I had discovered that, I started to understand that in a moment by recognizing after I made a mistake on the golf course or in a round, I could recognize, “Was it not being prepared? Was it a bad decision that I made? Was it a lack of confidence? I didn’t have the confidence I needed to execute the shot.” That helped me at the moment to be able to self-correct for the next shot. That’s a great point that Chris Wertz makes. He says, “If you can’t self-observe, you can’t self-correct.” A lot of it is being able to self-observe so we can self-correct. That’s what the optimizing is all about. Once I realized that a lot of my mistakes on the golf course are coming from a lack of confidence, now I can hone in on the visualization and the affirmations needed to produce consistent confidence in my golf shots. That’s an example of what it looks like in practical application. At the end of the day, Benjamin Franklin said this, and I love this. He said, “There are three things that are extremely hard: steel, diamond and to know oneself.”
Self-awareness is not an easy thing. It’s important to understand that it doesn’t happen by chance. We have to have an intention in it. It’s going to be a process. That’s why I wanted to share some of these stepping stones in that process and ultimately connect this to the overall scope of life. I see this as an important and pivotal part of the path to mastery. We can even think about the path to individual mastery to your best. In that path, self-awareness is the key that unlocks the door to that far side simplicity that I talk about in my book. That’s moving from these universal principles to more individualized principles. Moving from what’s generally true for everyone to what’s individually true for yourself to produce your best work for the world’s greatest good. The only way you bridge that gap or cross that chasm is through self-awareness. It’s from moving from that adopting of others’ systems or ideas into the creation of your own based on those that you’ve learned already.
If you want to learn more about that, definitely check out From Here to There, my book. You can find it at ThaneMarcus.com. A few takeaways to end on here. First is self-awareness doesn’t happen by chance, but rather by intention. We have to live with the intention of seeing ourselves in what we’re doing and having at least an understanding of what’s causing us to make the decisions we make and take the actions that we take. That’s key and an integral part of living an intentional life. The second takeaway is self-awareness is a vital thing to doing our best work for the world’s greatest good. If we can’t take ownership of our own lives, the decisions we’re making and the actions we’re taking, there’s no way that we’re going to be able to produce our best good for the best good of others. The third takeaway is like anything else, it is a process. It’s going to take time and it’s going to be a process of stepping forward and working on this by practice.
That highlights the takeaway for most things in change. We need to take action. Timothy Wilson who wrote that book I mentioned, said, “Little steps can lead to big changes. All of us have the ability to act more like the person we want to be.” He ends his book on self-awareness and in the unconscious mind by saying, “At the end of the day, there’s a simple formula for change. It’s acting more like the person you want to be.” We can help ourselves by simply acting. The two ways to take action would be incorporating pauses throughout your day. This is helpful to check-in, to observe, to understand and possibly correct if needed. First, incorporate pauses. It’s super simple.
The second is to strive for curious observation. This means being curious about yourself and why you do what you do. This is important to see it as objectively as possible. Finally, if you want to move into that mastery phase, utilize priming. Prime yourself for the situations in front of you, for the conversations you’re going to have, the work you’re going to do and for important decisions to be made. Incorporating pauses, striving for curious observation and utilizing priming can be helpful in growing in self-awareness. I hope that it has been helpful to you. Thanks for reading. Definitely leave us some thoughts on what you think of this if it was helpful. Send over a comment on the socials or an email. I hope that you can grow now and every day in better understanding yourself so you can better serve the world and those around you. Thanks. We hope you have an up and coming week.
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