Well-being begins with self-awareness. A key example of this insight comes from the research on emotional intelligence. Beginning with Professor David McClelland, whom I had the honor to learn from at Harvard University, and through the work of researchers Daniel Goldman and Rick Boyatzis, research consistently demonstrates that self-awareness is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence. In order to understand other people, we must first understand ourselves. In order to manage any relationship, we must possess self-awareness and other awareness. In order to manage our emotions, we must first understand ourselves. Furthermore, to manage the complexity of complicated relationships, such as those we find in family, school, teams or work, we must first understand ourselves in relationship to others.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development may be the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done. For 75 years, they’ve tracked the lives of 724 men, year after year, asking about their work, their home lives, their health, and of course asking all along the way without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out. The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.
Throughout my 40 year career as a psychologist, I believe most strongly that the cornerstone of good relationships is self-awareness.
Here are my core beliefs about self-awareness
- Self-awareness is a process. Because the world around us is engaged in continuous change, and because we are forever changing, we never finish becoming self-aware
- Self-awareness is never wholly about the self. We mostly learn about ourselves in relation to others.
- No one succeeds alone. All major accomplishments occur within a system of cooperation and teamwork
- Self-awareness is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence. Without adequate self-awareness, we struggle to understand others, struggle to manage ourselves, and struggle to develop healthy relationships with others.
- To learn who you are, you are have to act upon the world by trying things. We learned by action, by making mistakes, and by learning from these mistakes. We cannot become self-aware solely through self-reflection. We must act upon our world to learn from it.So, dear reader, these are my beliefs. Now I’d like to ask today a few key questions:
- In your life, what have been the key experiences which have enabled you develop your self-awareness.
- What do you do on a regular basis to continue to develop self-awareness?
- How do you teach your children to become more self-aware?