6 Practical Ways to Become More Self-Aware

Why would you want to become more self-aware?

Being self-aware is seeing yourself more clearly. Seeing yourself clearly can help you design a life that plays to your strengths and mitigates your weaknesses. It helps you choose the right path to your destination based on your capabilities.

When you begin a journey, you must know your location in order to choose the correct path to your destination.

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1. Take a personality test

Taking a personality test every so often over the past few years has helped me see myself more objectively and better understand my strengths and weaknesses.

My favorite test is the free personality test from 16 Personalities. It breaks down the results in sections like Strengths & Weaknesses, Friendships, Workplace Habits and more. It's by far the most accurate and easy to understand personality test that I've taken.

When I was going through a stressful time at work a few years ago it helped me realize that my weaknesses are normal for someone with an ENFP personality. It didn't mean that I shouldn't try to improve those areas, but it did make me feel like I wasn't alone in my struggles.

Now I retake the test every year to see how my personality may have shifted and go through my strengths and weaknesses to see if there are strengths I'm not utilizing, or weaknesses I need to guard against.

The greatest of faults is to be conscious of none.
— Thomas Carlyle
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2. Quantify yourself

Measuring how you're doing in any area of your life is a great way to gain some self-awareness.

Life balance - Every once in a while I track every hour of my day for a week to see how much time I'm spending on different areas of my life. This can be useful (and surprising sometimes). I've used the iOS app Hours for this, but in the end I prefer the simplicity of a paper notebook.

Stress - I'll write down all the things that stress me out in the past week to see if it's more stress than I typically experience.

Exercise - I've used fitness trackers like FitBit Flex or Apple Watch to keep an eye on how much activity I'm getting each day.

Diet - If I make any major changes my diet, I track my nutrition for a week using My Plate (for iOS and Android) to make sure that I'm getting enough nutrients.

Even if I don't continue to track an area of my life long-term, quantifying it from time to time gives me a good idea of where I'm at and what I could change to improve. The point isn't to be perfect, but to become more self-aware.

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3. Journal

Journaling is a great way for me to work through any unresolved thoughts floating around in my mind. Sometimes I don't even realize that I was feeling frustrated or stressed about something until I take the time to sit down and write about my day.

Sometimes when I'm not sure what to write about I'll just use questions as prompts to get me going:

  • What am I grateful for today?
  • What made me feel angry this week?
  • What's something I could to to help someone else tomorrow?

There are lots of writing prompt lists out there as well if you get stuck.

There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen to write.
— William Makepeace Thackeray, The History of Henry Esmond
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4. Talk with friends and family

If you really want to know more about yourself, give permission to a close friend or family member to be open and honest with you. Ask them what strengths and weaknesses they see in you.

Be open and humble to what they're saying and you might learn something. Just be careful to also take everything they say with a grain of salt and know that in the end it's up to you to evaluate whether what they're saying about you is true.

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5. Write a personal code

When I say personal code, I mean a written statement of your values.

I wrote my first personal code a few years ago. It has changed since then, but a few of my personal top values are Wisdom, Integrity, Simplicity, Freedom, and Adventure.

Here's an excerpt from my description of Adventure to give you an idea of what a personal code could look like:

Adventure
I will do things that inspire and excite me. I will not be afraid to try new things because they're uncomfortable. I will do things out of the ordinary that set some days of my life apart from the rest.

The practice of putting my own values in writing helped me think through what I really care about and forced me to prioritize. I review it once in a while to see if any of my values have changed, or if I should apply them differently to my life.

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6. Meditate

Meditation is not just a simple way to relieve stress, it also helps me to observe myself from a more objective point of view than usual.

One of my favorite concepts related to meditation is the idea that you just observe your thoughts instead judging or interacting with them. You just let them pass by and see what's naturally on your mind.

Instead of being inside of your thoughts all the time, you're observing them from a more objective point of view.

I really like Headspace for meditation, which offers apps for both iOS and Android. The first 10 lessons are free, and I would definitely recommend trying it out if you haven't already.

Become more self-aware today

Try at least one action step to become a little more self-aware:

  1. Take this personality test with a friend and discuss
  2. Start tracking an area of your life that you want to improve
  3. Journal what's on your mind
  4. Ask a trusted friend or family member what your biggest strengths and weaknesses are
  5. Write down a draft of your personal values
  6. Try doing 10 minutes of meditation with Headspace
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