Article | Achieving Greatness Starts With AwarenessAug 18, 2022
Liberating your greatness requires work. It requires a commitment to moving from where you are to where you want to be.
Awareness, by definition, is ‘having knowledge or perception of a situation or fact.’ It’s heightened consciousness. It’s often a revelation that something needs to change, even though you may not know exactly what needs to change, or how to achieve the desired outcome.
Over the past 16 years or so, I’ve had the privilege of building sales and marketing academies for global and local FMCG companies. I’ve also coached and trained entrepreneurs, senior executive leaders and their teams in 33 countries around the world. The primary objective for all of the academies and coaching my team and I deliver is to develop the personal and professional capability of the individuals and teams, by helping them improve their knowledge, confidence and competence.
In psychology, the Confidence-Competence Loop describes how one’s confidence increases when your competence increases. It stands to reason that the more competent you are, the better your ability, knowledge, or skill to do something successfully, the more confident you’ll feel when doing it. I often encourage my clients to start with confidence when they’re experiencing imposter syndrome, feeling like they’re not yet competent enough in a particular area of their personal or professional life. Having the confidence to take bold, courageous action, with the humility to test, learn and grow, leads to more repetitions of the work required, which in turn leads to more competence in that area, which in turn leads to even more confidence!
In learning and capability development, we often refer to ignorance as a state of ‘unconscious incompetence.’ If you’re unconsciously incompetent, you’re unaware of your lack of competence in a particular area.
You could potentially live in ignorance forever, or until you gain greater awareness. Without the right level of awareness, information, and insights, you could make serious, costly mistakes in life and business. Are you potentially missing out on opportunities you don’t know exist right in front of you?
Ignorance is not bliss. It’s costly. When you don’t know what you don’t know, where do you even begin to make positive shifts in the right direction?
A good place to start is increasing your awareness by seeking clarity on where you are now and where you want to be. The gap highlights the difference between your current reality and your desired future reality. It shows you what you what to move away from, and what you want to move towards.
I remember a brutally defining moment of self-awareness in my early 30’s at a golf day that I hosted once. After I finished facilitating the prize giving, I walked the room greeting guests, cracking jokes, thanking them for their participation and support, and then I bumped into someone whom I hadn’t seen since the previous year’s golf day. I put out my hand to shake his hand, and instead of grabbing my hand, he grabbed the side of my waist, and said “Have you put all this weight on in one year? If you carry on the way you’re going, next year you’ll look that that guy, and the following year you’ll look like that guy,” as he pointed to two fairly large, older gentlemen, well beyond their prime.
My first thought was that I’m never inviting him to a golf day again. How rude! How blunt. And then it hit me… How true. He was right. I hadn’t done any sort of exercise for months, had picked up bad eating habits and bad sleeping habits, and had gradually drifted so far off track with my health, and I hadn’t even realised it. I was ignorant until my friend helped me gain the much needed self-awareness required to shock me into action.
That moment of awareness was a pivotal shift in my wellbeing that forced me to face my current reality and make a decision to focus on my personal health and fitness. I’m now so grateful for his brutal honesty that turned out to be one of the kindest gestures.
You can’t fix what you won’t face.
Awareness is an important step in your journey to change. The fact that you’re aware of a gap, a development area, or something that needs to improve, means you’ve already started the process of becoming better.
In my personal story above, I literally had to stand in front of the mirror and on the scale, accept my current reality and decide to change.
You can improve any area of your life when you’re clear on your current state, clear on your goal, and have a plan you can implement.
In your personal life, you could do a self-assessment, personality profile, strengths assessment, or one of our Life Arenas and High Performance Indicator Assessments. There are so many wonderful ways of increasing your awareness on who you are, how you’re showing up, whom you want to become, and where you need to focus your time, energy and effort.
At work, you could get feedback from your peers, or guidance from a coach. You could proactively ask others for their perspective on how they think you’re doing. What’s working well, what could be even better? Be open to what they share with you. Be professionally curious about the insights you discover.
I recognise you might be afraid of asking for feedback, so I want to encourage you to embrace the opportunity to learn and grow. Here’s a practical approach of soliciting feedback, and asking for input:
“I’m focused on my personal and professional development, and I would value your input. I’m impossible to offend, and keen to learn and grow, so please share your true, authentic perspective. What are some things you feel I’m doing really well? What areas would be even better if I did something differently?”
When you frame feedback as an opportunity for others to help you on your personal and professional development journey, they will most likely lean it, be kind and candid, and provide you with incredibly valuable insights that will fast-track your success.
Your mindset plays an important role in the whether or not your heightened self-awareness holds you back or propels you forward.
Do you get defensive or deflated when you receive feedback, or do you get excited about the insights you’ve learned that can help you raise your game?
Think like an athlete. Athletes know that feedback is a gift. They crave it, and in fact, they demand it. They know that minor tweaks can have major impact. One small adjustment in technique could be the deciding factor between 1st and 2nd place. Athletes proactively ask for perspective. They analyse data for insights that help them learn, grow, and improve their mindset, skillset and toolset. They view feedback as an opportunity to get better.
Kobe Bryant, one of basketball’s greatest players of all time, often spoke about his constant quest for trying to be better ever day. His approach was to practice, train as much as he could, as often as he could, and to always ask questions. How could he improve? What would he need to do to become the best player he could be?
“You start with thinking about what your game could be. What would make you unstoppable? And then you start from the ground. You start building it one piece at a time. One move at a time. I call people all the time. If I want to learn something, I pick up the phone and ask.” - Kobe Bryant
He had the humility to recognise that others could help him fast-track his success by providing insight, perspective, and feedback. He also had the drive to study and practice, which we discussed earlier as the key to mastering any skill.
There are five areas of awareness that I believe will accelerate your growth, help you achieve your goals faster and amplify your impact. (I'll cover three in this article, and the other two later).
1. Awareness of Self / Self-Awareness:
The Oxford Dictionary of English defines self-awareness as “conscious knowledge of one’s own character,” and character as “all the qualities and features that make a person, groups of people, and places different from others” (your thoughts, feelings, motives, desires).
Socrates said,“To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”
What an incredible gift to yourself, and everyone around you, when you take a moment to pause, reflect, observe your thoughts, feelings, motives and desires, and get to know yourself better. That’s how to internalise your wins and take note of the lessons you’re learning as you fail forward in other areas of your life. Failing forward happens when you embrace opportunities to test, fail, learn and grow, without judgement.
In a world with so much uncertainty, and so many thing you can’t control, you can always control your thoughts, feelings, motives, desires. You can control your words and actions too, by choosing how to respond to your thoughts, feelings, motives, desires.
Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve had a negative thought made you feel deflated? What did you do with that thought? Did you recognise it, acknowledge it and decide to change your focus and snap out of the feeling, or did you let it negatively affect your words and actions? No judgement here, if you let that thought negatively affect you. Often that feeling of deflation leads to demotivation, discouragement and even feelings of doubt or depression. It’s a downward spiral that you need to recognise and interrupt.
The way to interrupt the downward spiral is to recognise and acknowledge the negative thought and the potential negative spiral it’s going to send you down. Reflect on the thought and ask yourself, “I feeling (deflated), why is that?” Greater awareness of the issue that’s caused the feeling will help you identify what you can do about it, by asking, “What’s one positive thing I can do?”
When you start taking positive action, you begin a positive upwards spiral of positive, solution oriented, future-focused thoughts and actions. As you regain momentum through a series of small, positive steps in the right direction, that allows you to bounce back quickly and avoid dwelling on negative thoughts and feelings.
Here are some additional practical questions you can ask yourself to increase your self-awareness:
- Who am I? What roles do I play?
- How am I currently showing up for people in my life?
- What are my strengths, what are my limits?
- Where is my attention and energy being directed?
- Am I focused, inspired, present in the moment?
- Where am I now?
- Where do I want to be?
- What do I want to achieve?
- Who do I need to become to achieve those things?
- How do I want to show up in future?
- What skills do I need to develop?
- What am I excited about in my life right now?
You may have additional positive, empowering questions you could ask yourself to gain greater self-awareness. It’s a powerful way to get a pulse on your thoughts, feelings, motives, and desires, and proactively move the needle forward with your words and actions.
Greater self-awareness leads to greater appreciation and self-acceptance, greater grace for your current reality, which in turn leads to greater action, greater self-accountability, greater self-mastery, and greater impact.
Greater self-awareness also demonstrates your humility to accept things the way they are, and your passion to learn, grow and make them better than they are today.
2. Awareness of Others:
Succeeding socially and professionally depends on your ability to connect and build relationship with others. Demonstrating empathy, seeking clarity and understanding others’ frames of references, feelings, motivations and drivers, increases our awareness of them and helps us connect in a more meaningful way.
One of the Senior Executives I coach has this really dialled in. He has remarkable self-awareness and awareness of others. He is thoughtful about the individuals and teams he engages with, and intentionally seeks to understand who they really are, what their needs, concerns, challenges and opportunities are. He asks great questions and listens, because he genuinely want to hear their thoughts. People feel seen, heard and valued by him. As a result, they respect, admire and appreciate his leadership. He’s a wonderful role model throughout the organisation.
Business is, and always will be about people dealing with people. So, what can you do to increase your awareness of others, so that you enhance your relationships?
Here are some practical questions to increase your awareness of others:
- Who am I serving?
- What are their needs, challenges, concerns, and opportunities?
- What are the dreams, goals, objectives and ambitions?
- Who needs me on my A-Game?
- What might they be feeling?
- How can I demonstrate more empathy, more patience, more grace?
- What are my team’s strengths, what are their limits?
- How can I help them amplify their strengths even more?
Greater awareness of others leads to greater empathy, greater communication, greater opportunities to collaborate, greater connection and greater trust. All relationships are built on trust. It starts with you.
3. Awareness of Interdependence / Synergy:
In Stephen Covey’s description of the Maturity Continuum, he explained how we go from complete dependency on others, to independence, where we have the confidence and competence to do things on our own, to interdependence, recognising we’re better together and can achieve more together.
“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” - African Proverb
Yes, you can go fast if you do things on your own, especially if you’re the technician or subject matter expert. You don’t have to consider others, communicate or collaborate, and you can get the job done effectively and efficiently on your own. But that’s not a sustainable or scalable strategy. Be the leader who embraces cognitive diversity and the opportunity to teach, coach and raise others up, rather than doing things on your own. Interdependence will accelerate your growth and amplify your impact.
Think about a franchise business. One store serves a local community. Taking time to document systems and processes, to train and develop people, enables franchisees to expand with limitless potential. That one store in the local community has the potential to become multiple stores across multiple locations, nationally and internationally.
Practical questions to increase your awareness of Interdependence / Synergy opportunities:
- Who’s the best person or team to lead this project?
- Who has strengths, where I have limitations?
- How can I remove obstacles, roadblocks, bottlenecks, including myself?
- Who can I partner with?
- How can we complement each other’s skills?
- What value can I bring to the table?
The more you realise you don’t need to do life or business alone, the quicker you’ll look for opportunities to synergise, and the faster you’ll achieve your goals.
I'll cover the other two areas of Awareness in a future article, and will also share thoughts on the rest of the Liberating Greatness Framework™over the next few months.