Developing Awareness of Self

Developing Awareness of Self

It’s a privilege to know yourself well. So much so that Viktor E. Frankl1 urges us to go on a lifelong journey in the discovery of ourselves. Brené Brown2 helps us to make sense and peace with our pasts; Dale Carnegie3 dedicates his life to sharing with us tips on how we can make connections and live better; Stephen R. Covey4 focuses on the practicality and sustainability of our setup for success; and Eckhart Tolle 15  reminds us of the pauses we can take to busk in our precious moments.

Clearly, the above list is but a fraction of the countless number of influential individuals who have taken the time and energy to reflect on their own life experiences. Like us, they are born with biological dispositions, shaped by their environments, attempt to rewire themselves instead of sticking to what they are programmed with (especially when it doesn’t get them to be where they would like to be at), and generously share their takeaways in the hope that others may benefit.

You may have role models in your life who inspire you to succeed in a similar way as they do, or carve your own path with the ingredients of success. Studies have shown that people who have a high sense of self awareness are able to make sound decisions, take better charge of their lives and work towards what they want. Like building your dream home, you need an inventory of materials that help you with a solid foundation of your structure before you pile anything else on it. Every brick matters as you’d want to not only sleep safely but soundly. Sacrificing the quality and quantity may allow you to churn something out faster than the weather changes but sustainability will be weak, if it even exists at all.

Case (*names have been changed to protect the identities of individuals)

 Manny has always had a great life, according to him and people who think they know him. From the time he was born, people around him keep telling him that he is a genius, and a good looking one too. He is showered with nothing but praises for everything he does, be it minute or monumental. He did relatively well both academically and physically in schools, from elementary to university, and he also landed a cushy job in a reputable company. Manny goes on romantic dates on and off, and is mostly happy to be on his own. He feels life has been great to him, and he would like to make it even better – just like his motivation for going to his daily gym sessions.   

When things are going well, it is precisely the best time to be working on them or making them stay the way you would like them to, as much as possible. When we wait until things deteriorate, the effort to correct or work on them can be challenging or even impossible. Taking the time to get connected or reconnected with our selves is as essential as the air that we breathe. If we rush to breathe, we may send our body into a panic state. Our noses may even get congested and breathing may not be at its optimal. Many useful breathing techniques often require us to breathe in and out steadily in a relaxed manner. Sometimes, we also take brief and quick breaths but the duration of this is often shorter than when we breathe in a relaxed state.

So, now that you would like to take some time out to get to know yourself, what can or should you do next? You could consider the following:

  1. Set a goal. Goals provide a direction for you to head towards to.
  2. Weigh your intrinsic vs extrinsic motivations for the goal.
  3. Gather your resources and identify what and how you will get resources that you do not have.
  4. Create an action plan. Include timelines, progress trackers, contingency plans and so on.
  5. Share your goal and action plan with someone or people whom you trust so when you need a gentle reminder or blind spot checking etc to help in holding you accountable or simply to cheer you on.
  6. Journal or doodle your thoughts and feelings as you notice them. Write reflectively. There are reflection models such as Gibbs’ Reflection Model5 that you could use as a guide.

Some of the above steps may not be what you are used to so it is recommended that you try to keep to them in order to evaluate for yourself what works and what doesn’t. Although it is common sense, time is always going to be a factor as every person working on anything in life would know. Taking the time out to reflect on yourself, your life and all that matters to you can be a humbling and fascinating experience. For some, it serves as a reality check and an opportunity to bridge the gaps between the ideal and the fantasy. For others, it could also be a check-in as part of their self-maintenance and investment in themselves. As you go through this experience of reflecting on what you are working on, you are embarking on a lifelong journey on the topic of: you.



  1. Frankl, Viktor E. (Viktor Emil), 1905-1997 author. Man’s Search for Meaning : an Introduction to Logotherapy. Boston :Beacon Press, 1962.
  2. Brown, Brene. DARING GREATLY: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. London, England: Portfolio Penguin, 2013.
  3. Carnegie, Dale, 1888-1955. How to Win Friends and Influence People. New York :Simon & Schuster, 2009.
  4. Covey, Stephen R. The 8th Habit : from Effectiveness to Greatness. New York :Free Press, 2004.
  5. Gibbs, G. (1988). Learning by doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods. London: Further Education Unit.
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