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The Importance of Self-Awareness - Know Thyself

Until we "know ourselves" we will never understand why we act (or react) in predictable ways; what generates our likes and dislikes, our habits (good and bad); why and how we react to certain stresses, challenges and people; or how we came to value what we do and what we don't. What we gravitate toward or away from, how we view the world and life; and in particular, our place, our mission, our opportunities, or our limitations within it, will remain a mystery.

We won't understand what or who attracts or motivates us and why. We'll even lack a clear picture of our personality structure: introvert or extrovert, mover and shaker or peacemaker, dreamer-or pragmatist, leader or helper, talker or organizer, etc. In short, we'll understand very little about what makes us tick, what turns us off or on, what drives us and what stifles us, how we react to the world and how it reacts to us! We're somewhat like a puppet, unaware of the external forces (strings) that sway us to and fro.

Why is this so? Why our amnesia-like cluelessness about how we arrived at our values (God, flag and country, or sex, drugs and rock and roll; chastity, humility and honesty, or free love, me-first and "say whatever I need to cover my butt or get my way")? It's not just our moral values, but life experiences that we value on a daily basis. (Like time with the family or with the TV; sushi or barbeque; camping or cruising; art or politics; spirituality or business; theatre or the movies; books or sports - why are we drawn toward one and not another?)

What I am getting at here is that our way of "being" in the world, our preferences and priorities are not the result of logical or even conscious decisions. At no time did you sit down and decide to prefer sports over music or intellectual pursuits; to be driven rather than lethargic; to be intense rather then laid back; to be shy or be the life of the party; to prefer blondes over redheads; to seek losers and abusers for your partner etc. It seemed to "just happen."

As best selling author Barbara DeAngelis points out, numerous physiological studies indicate that by the time most of us reach eight years of age, eighty percent of our personality and physiological structure (how we will react to various situations, our wants, needs, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, fears and phobias, etc.) has been formed. The "rest of us" will lock into place during our traumatic and irrational teen years. So our internal computer (our subconscious mind) dictating our thoughts, desires, fears and hopes in our thirties and forties was programmed without our knowledge and forgotten by age eighteen.

The point is that during this time we adopted certain values to help us survive self-protection, isolation, aggressiveness, meekness, anger, etc. and made (as Dr. Phil is fond of pointing out) certain "life decisions" (I am a winner/loser, people are good/bad, marriage means happiness/harmony or pain/conflict and betrayal, material wealth is abundant/scarce, life is full of opportunity/stacked against me). These unacknowledged presuppositions (things we take for granted as fact, i.e.: we'll never get ahead, men can't be trusted, all religions are hypocritical, life isn't fair, etc., etc.) have tremendous power over our lives simply because we've never noticed them, let alone given them careful examination.

Many if not all of our early life decisions (made before eighteen) work to undermine who we now want to be as a mature adult. This unconscious programming is often the reason we unknowingly sabotage ourselves because subconsciously we don't believe we can have (or perhaps deserve) a better relationship, job, or life, or that we don't merit success or abundance, or even respect or admiration, let alone unconditional love.

At the very least, our unacknowledged programming causes us to live our life incongruently. When we are congruent in our lives, our thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and behavior is consistent with whom we say we are and who we wish to become. In other words we "put our money where our mouth is," and our actions match our words. When we truly want to do or be something, but we just can't seem to summon the energy, strength, courage, fortitude, or discipline; you can bet our subconscious stealth program is actively humming away, producing incongruence in our lives.

When we lack consistency with our stated ideals or goals for our life we lose both passion and personal power. It's like the cars on a train all being misaligned rather than smoothly supporting each other. All pulling in different (even opposite) directions, this train will never even leave the station. Sound familiar?

This incongruence leads us into despair when we notice the growing gap between how we want to be and our actual behavior. It makes it difficult for others to trust or even relate to us because they can't quite tell who we are going to be from day to day, or how true to our word we are going to be.

What's the answer? Use whatever sources you can to discover and carefully examine your beliefs - about yourself, your potential, how life works, what you can expect of others, etc. A few resources might include: God on the seminars, counseling or coaching, and "feedback" from family and friends. Or "do it yourself" with the help of an excellent book like Dr. Phil McGraw's book, Self Matters.

Bottom Line: whatever and however you do it, begin identifying and examining your "hidden agenda" this week to see if it's supporting or sabotaging your goals.

Now you know why the "unexamined life isn't worth living."

Last but not least, to know yourself means to clearly understand your weaknesses and strengths, your assets and liabilities. Only then can you maximize your potential while minimizing your risk.

How many people do you know who don't have a clue as to their weaknesses (easily irritated or distracted, disorganized, inattentive to detail, an aversion for numbers, an inability to delegate, poor work habits or communication skills etc.)? When they try to function in their weakest area, the result is usually disastrous - on the job or in a relationship. It is much easier to say - "you know I'm not really good at this, so let's find someone else who will love to do that or will at least help me with it."

Likewise, how many talented people have you seen who never maximize their potential because they weren't clear on their gifts - as an idea person/visionary (sales or marketing, politics, or diplomacy) a planner or organizer (leader or manager) a kind and patient person (helping professions), a "creative genius" (artists or performer) etc. Don't let one of them be you!