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This is a guest post by Niklas Goeke — adapted from his original blog post on 27 self-awareness activities. To learn more, I encourage you to check out his article, which provides detailed explanations for many of the strategies covered in this following blog post. Also, Nik is a writer, editor, and the owner of Four Minute Books.
Having self-awareness means that you have a clear recognition of your overall personality.
This includes your strengths and weaknesses, thoughts and beliefs, emotions, and sources of motivation. Having self-awareness helps you understand other people and how they view you and your actions.
Many people assume that self-awareness comes easily and naturally, but this sense of heightened awareness can actually be hard to come by.
With practice, however, you can learn to increase your emotional intelligence and self-knowledge and find new ways to interpret your thoughts, actions, feelings, and conversations that you have with other people.
Achieving self-awareness gives you the opportunity to make positive changes in your behavior and increase your self-confidence.
Here are 33 self-awareness activities that can help increase self-awareness in adults and students.
(Side note: Another positive way to improve your life is to read and learn something new every day. A great tool to do this is to join over 1 million others and start your day with the latest FREE, informative news from this website.)
What You Will Learn
- What is Self-Awareness (and Five Ways to Increase It)
- Self-Awareness Activities – Written Exercises
- 1. Write morning pages.
- 2. Keep a journal.
- 3. Use feedback analysis.
- 4. Create a life vision-mission.
- 5. Write a personal manifesto.
- 6. Record your ABCs.
- 7. Write a regret letter.
- 8. Do the funeral test.
- 9. Record your personal narrative.
- 10. Write down your most important tasks regularly.
- 11. Create a bucket list.
- Self-Awareness Tests You Can Take By Yourself
- Self-Awareness Activities – Thought Process Exercises
- Self-Awareness Activities – Physical Exercises
- Self-Awareness Activities – with Help from Others
- Final Thoughts
What is Self-Awareness (and Five Ways to Increase It)
Not sure about how to be more self-aware? In this video, we define self-awareness and five proven strategies that can help you increase it. And for more actionable, habit-related videos, be sure to subscribe to our brand new YouTube Channel.
Self-Awareness Activities – Written Exercises
1. Write morning pages.
This exercise comes from Julia Cameron’s An Artist’s Way, which teaches readers techniques to gain self-confidence by harnessing their creative talents and skills.
For this exercise, compose three pages of longhand stream-of-consciousness writing every morning as soon as you wake up. Not only does this help declutter your mind, but it also helps you recognize the things that are in the forefront of your brain that you may need to address that day.
2. Keep a journal.
Keeping a journal creates a permanent record of your thoughts, feelings, and events in your life. This will allow you to look back on important life events and rediscover how you felt at the time. This can be a learning experience because, as you grow and live through new trials and tribulations, the way that you react to certain situations may change.
By reading about your past experiences, you can see how you have grown or matured, and put things into perspective. It’s also nice to have a written record of your past.
3. Use feedback analysis.
When you are faced with an important decision, write down exactly how and why you came up with your decision. What factors motivated you, and what steps did you take to come to your conclusion?
After a set time (usually nine months), go back and reflect on your decision-making process. Assess the outcome of your choice in detail and analyze your ability at the time to make the best decision based on your self-awareness at the time.
4. Create a life vision-mission.
In an organization, vision & mission statements serve three important roles. They state the purpose of the organization, they inform people of strategy development, and they display measurable goals and objectives to gauge the success of the organization.
Creating a vision/mission statement for your life can define your clear direction and rank your priorities. It will help set measurable goals and provide a tactical way to measure success.
5. Write a personal manifesto.
A personal manifesto describes your core values and beliefs, the specific ideas and priorities that you stand for, and how you plan to live your life. This acts as both a statement of personal principles and a call to action.
A personal manifesto can help frame your life, point you in the right direction to help achieve your goals, and act as a tool to remind you of your primary concerns.
To get started, ask yourself questions such as: What things do you stand for? What are your strongest beliefs? How do you want to live your life? How do you want to define yourself? What words do you want to live by? A personal manifesto can be a powerful tool for bringing about your best life. Refer to your personal manifesto often.
6. Record your ABCs.
This is a good activity to do after you experience an adverse event. It is a helpful way to debrief yourself and get a chance to reflect and discover your beliefs after a big, negative incident occurs in your life.
- A – Activating event that triggers your inner dialogue
- B – Belief you formed after the event
- C – Consequences or how your new belief makes you feel
Doing this can help you understand your response to stress. While many people can experience the same activating adverse event, their thought processes about it can have a great impact on their lives moving forward. Using the ABC model can help people recognize their automatic thoughts when they're upset or mad, and change those thoughts into positive things.
For example, imagine you are stuck in a long line, but you are in a rush. You may become very anxious at the thought of possibly being late to your next obligation, causing you to complain out loud to the people around you about how long the line is taking to move. Alternatively, you may decide to relax and put on your headphones to listen to some calming music while you wait. Either way, the “A” remains the same, but the “B” and “C” show how you respond to the stress.
This can help you look at things more positively and lead you to find alternatives to solving problems and staying calm. (Read this post on more examples of self-awareness.)
7. Write a regret letter.
Write a letter to your younger self. This is a surprisingly cathartic exercise that is more than simply listing what you wish you’d known. Tell your younger self about the regrets you’ve had in your life so far, and apologize for any mistakes that you may have made and opportunities that you let pass by.
Aside from gaining a feeling of empowerment from accepting your vulnerable younger self, your words can also help others who are in similar situations as you faced in the past. Your newfound wisdom can let readers know that they are not alone in their struggles, and provide them with advice on how to move forward.
Writing a letter to your younger self is a surprisingly cathartic exercise that is more than simply listing what you wish you’d known.
8. Do the funeral test.
This exercise was made popular by Stephen Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
To do this, write your own eulogy and answer questions such as:
Doing this will help you add more purpose to your everyday activities and how you live your life. It may also help you think twice before reacting to a situation harshly or making a decision before thinking about its possible outcomes first.
9. Record your personal narrative.
How would you tell the story of your life to yourself? What would your autobiography look like?
One essential component of our personalities are our life stories, so mapping out what yours is may help you make some positive changes for the future.
10. Write down your most important tasks regularly.
Your most important tasks (MITs) are the things that you need to accomplish each day to help you achieve your long-term goals. Every night, write a to-do list of your three priority tasks for the following day.
This will allow you to start your day with a purpose and keep you aware of where your focus should be. It will help set a precedent for the day if you are able to accomplish your main goals first and get them out of the way to make room for other items on your to-do list.
11. Create a bucket list.
Having a bucket list will help you identify your personal and professional goals. When the daily routines of your life begin to set in, you are likely to let the days pass by without thinking too much about your long-term goals and desires.
Use a bucket list to keep yourself focused, and make an effort every day to accomplish at least one small task that will lead you towards crossing things off of your bucket list.
Self-Awareness Tests You Can Take By Yourself
12. Know and understand your personality type.
Knowing your personality type will help you understand why you're different or similar to other people, help you manage your time and energy better, and help you recognize your emotions.
When you are armed with this information, you will be better equipped to view other people as being different rather than wrong. It will also help you understand what you need to be able to thrive and allow you to structure your days accordingly.
There are many free psychometric tests you can take online, including:
13. Discover your Eulerian Destiny.
Filling out the Eulerian Destiny circles provokes critical thinking and self-reflection.
Doing this requires you to look at four areas of your life by answering the following questions:
Take a while to write these things down in four overlapping circles and see where they all meet. This may take time and serious thinking, but it can result in defining and refining your purpose in life. This will provide you with a framework to form your future and a basis of self-awareness.
14. Utilize The Freedom Diagram.
The Freedom diagram is one of the fun self-awareness activities. It is a short and practical guide to help figure out where you should use your energy in life, you can use the Freedom Diagram.
The three components of The Freedom Diagram are talent, fun, and demand. Talent refers to what you just happen to be good at doing. The fun component is what you wish you could do all the time, even if you weren’t paid to do it. Demand is what people in the world actually need or want, and will pay for.
Creating this guide for you will help you decide what skill you should focus on building so you have a higher chance of success.
Self-Awareness Activities – Thought Process Exercises
15. Ask the “Three Whys.”
Many self-awareness activities simply asking yourself difficult questions and trying to answer as honestly as possible. The “three whys” is the perfect example of that.
The “Three Whys” are exactly what they sound like. Before making a big decision, or if you are trying to get to the root of an issue, ask yourself “why?” three times. This will help to reveal deep and specific issues that you may not otherwise consider.
It's not coincidental that “why?” is a rather simple question. It is an important realization that you must go a few layers deeper before making any critical decision. Whether you are trying to create a new business, hire a new employee, add a new feature to an existing product, or buy something expensive, you always have to dig a bit deeper to reveal the truth behind your motives.
16. Put a name to your feelings and emotions.
Expanding your emotional vocabulary will allow you to articulate yourself better. Once you are able to specifically identify what you are feeling, it will allow you to release stress and resentment that may be building up inside of your mind.
Here is a list of feeling words that are better able to describe your emotions than simply “good” or “bad”. Getting more specific to explain how you feel is a cathartic way to relieve stress and anxiety.
17. Pay attention to your self-talk.
Have you ever noticed how we are quick to praise other people in the same instances where we often criticize ourselves? When we fall just short of achieving a goal or we don’t live up to some high expectations, we tend to judge ourselves and dismiss our efforts.
How you talk to yourself in response to your successes and failures affects how you view yourself, and how you think others view you as well. Rather than focusing on small things that you are not able to accomplish at a given moment, think about how far you have come, or your successes up to that point. Focus on the positive rather than the negative.
18. Question your assumptions.
Assumptions are a natural thing that people use to help make quick sense of the world. You probably expect people who are in a certain place to look and dress in a particular way. If your expectations do not meet reality, you make assumptions that can be absolutely wrong.
James Altucher suggests putting a question mark instead of a period after each of your opinions. This helps you create an argument with yourself on some of your beliefs and worldviews, which can prevent you from falling prey to irrational thoughts.
19. Ask questions about yourself.
The Proust Questionnaire is a self-exploration questionnaire that is designed to help you uncover your outlook on life and get clarity on how you think. This questionnaire is about one's personality and will make you think about what you want out of life and the things that you appreciate the most.
20. Observe your stream of consciousness.
Your stream of consciousness is unpredictable, and not always influenced by the world around you. For example, you may be at work trying to focus on a project when all of a sudden you start thinking about a memory you made years ago on a family vacation.
Be an observer of your own thoughts and feelings, especially those that are negative. Let these thoughts simply pass you by as you move on.
21. Build the Pause-and-Plan Response habit.
We are all well aware of the fight-or-flight mode that we tend to find ourselves in during stressful situations. During these times, it is common to stop thinking rationally and just go with your initial urge. If you act in the moment, you likely will not make the best decision.
How can you overcome your natural fight-or-flight response and reactivate the rational thinking areas of your brain? The key is to engage the pause-and-plan response habit. Here, your brain is able to connect with your body to accomplish your goals and pause your impulses.
The pause-and-plan response is able to lead you in the opposite direction of where the fight-or-flight response takes you. Rather than speeding up, your pulse slows down and your muscles relax. This will help set you up to make positive choices.
Self-Awareness Activities – Physical Exercises
22. Be aware of your body language.
Sometimes self-awareness activities are not about what you do or say but how you go about doing it. Body language is an example of this.
Not only will your posture and gestures affect how you perceive yourself, they will also have a great impact on how others perceive you. Your body language will also set the tone for how others act around you.
For example, if people feel that your body language is showing that you are uncomfortable, they may try to look for the cause of your discomfort so they can remove it. Alternatively, if someone feels that you are relaxed, they are likely to be able to relax as well and enjoy their interaction with you.
While few people have actually trained themselves to deliberately analyze people's body language, everyone still subconsciously reacts to it. For instance, if your body language demonstrates that you are bored or disinterested in what is going on around you, others will think twice before engaging in conversation with you.
Evaluate your own body language by studying a video of yourself so you can find ways to improve.
23. Practice grounding techniques.
Grounding techniques can be used to help keep you in the present. People who have anxiety about future events often forget to live in the moment and take things as they come. Practicing techniques to keep you grounded will help relieve anxiety and make future tasks seem easier to do.
24. Observe other people.
Just as we can use our bodies to communicate how we want other people to perceive us, we can also observe other people to try to figure them out. Observing other people can be a fun and potentially worthwhile hobby. If you stop to watch the behavior, postures, and mannerisms of the people around you, it can help you learn about how similar or different you are from them.
While you don't want to constantly compare yourself to others, it is something that you will naturally do when you are faced with other people in your environment.
Some traits that you are likely to notice are someone's appearance, their self-esteem, their emotional state, their warmth, and their extroversion. Knowing that other people are observing you as well will certainly help you be more self-aware.
25. Take a morning walk.
Taking a walk first thing in the morning can help you connect with your senses and examine your thoughts and feelings. Take this time to meditate about what is going on in your life and your goals for the day. Sort through your feelings and make an action plan to be productive with your time.
26. Practice Zhan Zhuang.
Zhan Zhuang is a simple yet effective tai chi standing practice that helps you gain mental clarity and energy. While practicing Zhan Zhuang, you keep your body still and mostly upright, and become aware of your body as it stabilizes itself. Doing this will help you gain control over your health, posture, and muscle stability. Here’s how you can start practicing it.
27. Read more books.
One thing that all successful people have in common is their tendency to read. Reading a variety of materials on a regular basis will help improve your thinking skills and expand your vocabulary. It will keep you up to date with current events and trends, and force you to continue to learn.
Reading various books will also help you identify and narrow down the topics and ideas you are drawn to. You will find yourself going back to read more about the same topic multiple times, which will lead you in the direction of pursuing that topic in some way in your life.
For example, if you find yourself drawn to books about exercising and endurance, it may motivate you to train for a marathon or start a new exercise regimen. Reading is something that will always benefit you, no matter the topic.
Here are lists of some of the books that I highly recommend:
28. Engage in solo exercise and individual sports.
Athletes in individual sports are able to learn how to be self-reliant. When engaging in a solo exercise, your success is entirely dependent on your own efforts, and you don't have anyone else to blame if you fail.
This helps teach people responsibility and decision-making skills. Solo sports and exercises also allow you to become more aware of your body-mind connection, and how you use your physical prowess to achieve a goal.
29. Practice conscious breathing.
Breathing is what connects the body and mind. Conscious breathing is a practice that can be developed to optimize health and wellness and improve overall function. It can relax the mind and spirit while helping you overcome anxiety and negative thoughts.
The goal of conscious breathing is to redirect your focus to your breath instead of your thoughts. It helps you become more aware of your body as you focus on nothing besides the breath entering and leaving your body. Check out this quick guide on conscious breathing.
The quest for self-awareness requires you to stop thinking and stop doing for a period of time in order to listen to and understand your inner workings. With the hectic pace of modern life, many people experience stress and tiredness, which leads to frustration. This can have a negative effect on overall health.
Meditation is the perfect practice to help you calm your mind and become more focused. Meditation can also help you understand your mind and learn how to transform your thoughts from negative to positive. Overcoming negative thoughts and turning them into constructive ideas is the focus of meditation. This practice can help you enjoy your entire day, not just the few minutes that you take to meditate.
Self-Awareness Activities – with Help from Others
31. Ask for constructive feedback at work.
Regularly asking for constructive feedback from people you trust at work, such as mentors and capable colleagues, helps you identify the blind spots in your behavior and thinking at work. Look at this constructive criticism as an opportunity to see where you have room to grow and improve. Use this feedback to build better habits at work.
32. Ask trusted friends or family for feedback.
To increase your self-awareness, ask people you trust and who know you the best to provide feedback, be it positive or negative, on different aspects of your life.
This could be about the way you dress, how you talk, how you interact with others or even the unconscious body language that you display. This may help you learn something about yourself that you would never otherwise notice.
Once you are aware of your flaws and are able to accept accountability for your actions, you can engage in self-reflection. (Here are self-reflection questions you can use to understand yourself better.) This will help prevent hypocrisy in the future, and give you the chance to improve. In order to get closure on these issues, take the time to make sincere apologies to people who may deserve them from you, and learn from your mistakes.
As you develop self-awareness, you will be able to make positive changes in your thoughts and actions. Changing the way that you interpret things will also allow you to change your emotions for the better. Self-awareness is an important attribute of emotional intelligence and a large factor in being successful.
Developing self-awareness is a huge step in creating the life you want. Where you choose to focus your attention, emotions, behaviors, and personality will determine where you go in life. Until you are aware of yourself in the moment, you will have a hard time making the necessary changes in your life to be happy and productive.
Finally, if you want another positive way to improve your life, then read and learn something new every day. A great tool to do this is to join over 1 million others and start your day with the latest FREE, informative news from this website.
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