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Self-Awareness - a Tool for Personal Growth

This is an excerpt from a talk I presented as part of the Better Together Canada leadership Community. You can view my talk as well as other Canadian leaders' presentations - and until the end of February 2024, you can also watch presentations made by John C, Maxwell, Marcus Buckingham, and others at the 2023 Live2Lead Conference. Get tickets here:

All through my life, I have loved and lived leadership. I was just one of those kids who got picked to lead in varying capacities from elementary through to high school and beyond my school years. While I enjoyed those opportunities, it wasn’t always a smooth ride. And the more significant the responsibilities became, the more I started to pull back from what I believed I was naturally gifted to do. I withdrew into a shell I didn’t know I had and just did my best to cope from day to day. That is until I began to explore more about myself, getting to know my gifts, my strengths, my opportunities, and the weaknesses that typically cause me to stumble. For me, self-awareness was like waking up from a very long and deep sleep. Waking up to myself. And it’s been an enlightening and enjoyable journey.


Now, what does it mean to be self-aware? I read an article in the Harvard Business Review where researchers described complete self-awareness as being internally aware - of your passions, values, aspirations, strengths, and weaknesses; while also being externally aware - of how others view you, what they see as your strengths, and how they see your weaknesses.

In his book, Winning with People, our friend and mentor John Maxwell, one of the greatest leadership experts of our time, describes the importance of self-awareness in leadership through the Mirror Principle, that is "The first person we must examine is ourselves". Most often in life, we tend to look outside of ourselves when challenges arise. It's easier to blame someone, or something else for the disagreements and struggles we face. But what if we did the hard work of discovering who we are, of finding out what makes us tick, where our best gifts lie, and how our weaknesses trip us up? What if we took a moment to look in the mirror?

When we do look in the mirror, we learn about our strengths, how we are wired, what we are gifted in, and how we can add value to others. We also gain an understanding of our weaknesses. We learn what trips us up, and how to improve ourselves in those areas. We learn what terrifies us and find the courage to face it. We learn that we are indeed human, we have faults, and then we find empathy and compassion for ourselves and others. Self-awareness also helps us identify our blind spots. No longer would we stay ignorant, not knowing what impact we have on the people around us. We will be knowledgeable of how others see us, understand their responses, and work together to communicate better. With that knowledge will come power; power to change the narrative, to build better and stronger relationships with the tools we are given. Self-awareness will give us the ability to lead ourselves well. And we all know that is typically the hardest part!

Today, decide to grow yourself, starting with becoming more self-aware. Your future self will thank you!



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