To reach your desired destiny, you need to be self-aware.
As you swim in turbulent currents of shifting markets, demanding customers, limited budgets, and challenging stakeholders, the one constant is you.
Failing to optimize yourself can lead to unnecessary delays and distractions, and even more serious consequences.
You don’t want to feel lost and miserable on your journey - succeed on your own terms.*
“Knowing yourself is
the beginning of all wisdom."
Wisdom is applying knowledge in a practical, productive manner. While we can gain knowledge quickly, leadership without wisdom is ultimately useless.
Dealing with Pressure. In a startup, something is always on fire. Your success will flow from deciding which fires must burn without your attention.
Understanding our emotions is critical for responding effectively. Knowing how we will react helps us face tough decisions and move past them quickly.
Working Relationships. Building a meaningful business requires long-term relationships. The contribution of stakeholders will impact your success.
People value consistency. Self-awareness helps us to relate clearly with others while maintaining our vision and values.
“If we do not develop self-awareness, we empower other
people and circumstances to shape our lives by default."
- Stephen Covey
Better Decisions. You face countless decisions daily. Knowing how you approach solutions and prioritize efforts will allow you to choose faster.
Awareness can eliminate unconscious obstacles (e.g. internalized beliefs held from childhood) that prevent us from getting in our way.
Facing Uncertainty. As a founder, life and business change constantly. Those changes can be exciting (opportunities) and daunting (disappointments).
Nothing is certain in your journey, but strong self-awareness and clear vision offer a consistent framework and anchor you amid changing conditions.
Leadership Growth. Knowing yourself allows you to build on your strengths and augment your weaknesses.
For instance, a logical founder with less charm may partner with a charismatic leader to build a strong community around their vision.
Similarly, a visionary leader may need help to build infrastructure and will find someone great with details and organization.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious,
it will control your life and you will call it fate."
- Carl Hume
Let's explore ways to become more self-aware.
Writing. By creating some separation, you may be more candid. Some people like to jot notes right after waking up, further removing mental filters.
To understand and resolve issues, stick to the facts and focus on the impact of your actions, without making judgments. And since journaling every day can be tough, consider a weekly commitment for reflection.
Pro Tip: Keep a journal of accomplishments, too. It's a great resource during tough days and trains the mental muscle of recognizing others’ strengths.
Accountability. Record your essential plans and specific milestones, evaluate your priorities, and track your progress.
The goal here is improvement. As you predict outcomes, create a baseline, and then compare results, you learn what best impacts future outcomes. You may hold yourself accountable or find someone who will regularly push you and check with them.
Feedback. Seek to learn more about yourself through others. Ask open-ended questions e.g. “What’s one way I could improve next time?”
Be clear that you want to improve. Share examples of how you and others have benefited from feedback. Vulnerability can be stressful, but ultimately, it shows strength.
I worked at a SaaS company for 3 years. The most nervous I ever felt was the moment before clicking "send" on my first anonymous survey about myself. However, I received really helpful feedback about what more I could be doing in the role for others and the company.
Empathy. Everyone faces challenges. Strive to understand how others built their careers, handle their lives now, and why they make certain decisions.
Perspective. Gain a new perspective by exploring new places, trying different activities, and learning new skills.
Mindfulness. Many people rely on mindfulness to help them prioritize, focus, and fully engage with others in the moment.
Reflection. To prevent recurring issues, set aside time for reflection, focus objectively on the causes and effects, and seek feedback.
When facing a major problem, compare your current situation to past experiences to remember how you persevered during those times.
Self-awareness facilitates personal development, prevents stress, and enables you to deepen relationships, clarify options, and maintain resilience.
* “I am successful on my own terms. Because if your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all. In the words of Lily Tomlin: ‘If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.’” – Anna Quindlen
** A study by Green Peak Partners and Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations found self-awareness to be the strongest predictor of overall success. An article in the MIT Sloan Management Review, “How to Become a Better Leader,” cited self-awareness as the most critical capability for leaders to develop.
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