You can develop self-awareness by using exercises that help you increase your powers of observation — not necessarily observation of the outer world, but the inner world, and the cause and effect of your beliefs, thoughts, words, and actions.
Possessing self-awareness can help you openly and fearlessly take responsibility for your thoughts, words, and actions. The path to self-awareness can help you staunch the flow of negative thoughts and self-doubt. But looking within can be uncomfortable — it’s not something you may look forward to, because you may not like what you discover about yourself.
However, you will discover essential knowledge about yourself that will help you chart a course in life that pleases you. In other words, you won’t be stuck in the same old ruts, making the same mistakes over and over again. With self-awareness, you will become highly attuned to your inner environment of thoughts, emotions, beliefs, habits, and the words and actions you used to use almost unconsciously.
Successfully mastering the art of self-awareness requires that you take time to slow down and be present. The body goes where the brain tells it to move, but that doesn’t always mean your mind is traveling with it. Often, your thoughts are racing ahead to the future or stuck in the tar pits of the past.
Daily Self-Awareness Exercises
1. Microbursts of attention
Pay attention for a few seconds at a time, so you can become aware.
You don’t have to spend hours at this! You can incorporate awareness breaks into your day. A few seconds or minutes of becoming aware of what you just said and how the listener responded will work. Notice what happens to you and what happens “from” you. Become aware of cause and effect, both in terms of your response and what you cause.
2. Three minutes of mindfulness
A few times a day, make a point to spend 3 minutes focusing on each physical movement you make. This is an in-the-now mindfulness meditation practice. During these three minutes concentrate on your physical moves, zeroing in on your experience of those movements.
What does the door you’re opening feel like to you?
What sensations are you experiencing when you pick up a pen and write down some notes?
Do not over-analyze your movements. Simply focus on what it feels like physically, and really get into the experience of simple things you normally take for granted.
3. Using your other hand
Use your non-dominant hand to perform simple tasks like writing, brushing your hair, and even washing dishes. You will be surprised at how much mental effort it takes, and how aware you become of how entrenched your habits really are!
If you were to do this exercise for 30-60 days in a row, you would create a new habit that would be as effortless as performing the same actions with your dominant hand. Changing routine pushes your brain to be more alert and allows you to become more attune to yourself and what you are doing.
4. People watching
You’ve probably done some people watching before, but do you ever notice that you find yourself either judging their appearance, their actions, or concocting some story in your head for them?
For this exercise practice, try not thinking anything at all when you people watch. No judgments and no stories. Simply look at them with complete openness in your mind. Consider the experience you have by simply noticing someone else.
5. Meaningful contact
Spend a full day where you give deliberate, full, and genuine greetings to everyone you come into contact with. Smile and say hello, shake hands with coworkers, and hug your friends and relatives. Whatever it is make sure your contact is deliberate.
Be sure you give full gestures and attention to those you are greeting and be sure your gestures are authentic. You do not want your gestures to seem or feel forced and non-genuine. As you make contact with each person throughout this day notice what happens between you and them. Zoom your focus on what you’re experiencing and how they are reacting.
6. Listen to the chatter
Or, you can take 15-30 minutes during meditation and simply listen to your mental chatter. Bliss out to your favorite meditation track and let your mind wander. Pay attention. Watch your mind’s creations as you would a movie.
The act of noticing, considering, concentrating, etc. are all meditative practices that guide you to your own self-awareness. We are cut off from our self-awareness by not paying attention. Keeping focus during the practice of these exercises redirects and re-positions our focus so that we may be the most open to becoming self-aware.
Questions to Ask Yourself for a More Mindful Life
What is the attitude you want to have?
Consider who it is you want to be like, and become aware of the attributes of that persona. Be inspired by others you admire, but never forget to be YOU — the best “version” of you.
What is the attitude you currently have?
Consider how you are thinking, feeling, speaking, and acting, as opposed to who you would like to emulate.
Are they similar? Are they very different?
Position your mind towards the persona you are aware that you want to be — feel yourself becoming more like this. Imagine yourself adopting the traits and characteristics that you admire.
Consider what unconsciously drives your behaviors. Make yourself aware of these things.
For example, do you complain out of habit? Are you passing judgments on yourself and/or others? Are you getting too wrapped up in what you or someone else is doing and not thinking about whether these behaviors and responses are habits or deliberate?
Self-awareness exercises ask that you take notice and give consideration to what is going on within yourself. When you have achieved your own self-awareness you can use it as a self-development tool and an instrument of positive change.