It is finally here — Day One of a brand new year. What makes a new year feel like a blank canvas where we get to choose what gets painted on to it? Is it a renewed hope that this new year will surely be less stressful and uncertain than last? Pulling a thread from my blog post Brand New Kind of Conditioning, it seems we should be prepared to go into this new year accepting that uncertainty will always be with us. However there will be many choices that will be entirely up to each of us individually to make over the course of the next 365 days. Our best resource for making wise choices is a gift that we give to ourselves — the gift of self-awareness.
I binge-watched the last season of the Crown recently and found myself intrigued when Queen Elizabeth was stunned by Margaret Thatcher’s pronouncement that her son was her favorite child. Queen Elizabeth did not think it was possible for her to have a favorite child. When Prince Philip turned to her and said “your lack of self awareness is surprising,” it set her on a quest to discover what he so clearly already knew. After spending time with each of her four children, she came to realize that she did in fact have a favorite. In subsequent episodes, you begin to see Queen Elizabeth’s self-awareness unfold in other areas of her life as well.
A similar scenario played out with the character Billie in the Netflix series Offspring. While it takes a few seasons of Billie repeating her same old behavioral patterns, she eventually hits rock bottom and does some serious self-discovery work. It’s easy to relate to Billie for all she wants is a life of her own and to feel valued for who she is. Just like we all do.
It’s easy to watch these shows and see so clearly where the characters are making a mess of things so unnecessarily. It is not so easy to recognize that we too might be falling into some of those same patterns. Very often, we are not consciously aware — just like Queen Elizabeth. For the record, Prince Philip had to go through his own self-awareness process when he hit a “late in life” crisis. It seems apparent that he thought it was a very worthwhile endeavor.
How often have you read a Facebook post by an 80 year old espousing wisdom on leading a more fulfilling life? Or heard a dear friend confide “I wish I had learned this when I was 30.” These are self-discovery insights. They may feel just like the the nudge that Phillip gave to Queen Elizabeth. That nudge is an invitation to get to know yourself well.
There are a plethora of tools to help you get started on this whole self discovery process. My personal favorite is the Enneagram. Ian Cron’s Book “The Road Back to You” is a great primer for anyone new to the Enneagram. Prepare to be surprised when you discover what your Enneagram type is — and how accurate it is! The best part about working with the Enneagram is that you will readily recognize where your blind spots are. Once you have that awareness, you’ll pay closer attention. As Maya Angelou said “When you know better, you do better.”
The next best resource (in my opinion) is a trusted friend. It is said that a truly trusted friend is like a mirror. A trusted friend will give you honest feedback without judgment. If you are fortunate enough to have such a friend, you will be helping each other increase self-awareness. From my personal experience, having a trust buddy who was willing to help me on my personal growth journey has proven to be one of the most significant relationships in my life. We help each other uncover what we need to work on, we listen when that work is hard, we celebrate when we witness transformation and we continue to hold each other accountable. My trust buddy is my anchor in life. We got tested in a many ways throughout the past year of pandemic and uncertainty. Not surprisingly, we also learned a lot more about ourselves in the process.
Some other resources are strength assessment tests, personality tests like Myers-Briggs, journaling and guided meditation. The Headspace app for meditation is an easy way to get started with guided meditation. Even if you can’t stop that racing mind right away, the nuggets of wisdom that Andy Puddicombe offers at the onset of the short practice will stay with you all day. That alone will increase your self-awareness.
When I got to know myself better, I started to make changes that brought significant benefits to me, my family and my friends. I no longer ruminate which has given me back oodles of time to focus on the present moment. I pay attention to my “warning signals” as Brene Brown calls them As an example, resentment usually means I have not set a boundary. I have learned to “not be attached to the outcome” and that allows me to be more flexible and open minded.
I continue to give myself the gift of getting to know myself better. I don’t think that ever stops. Neuroscientists tell us that we change with every conversation we have, the books we read, the news we watch — all of our experiences. When we have an increased self-awareness, we actually give ourselves the gift of staying in control and making good decisions. So while this brand spanking new year might have surprises and uncertainties in store for us, we still get to be in control of our choices of how we will respond.
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