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There Are No Shortcuts to Self-Awareness

Dawn L Baker MD shares how developing self-awareness is a long game. Here are 4 of her practical tips for the journey.

I recently thumbed through my old journals while downsizing our bookshelf contents, and I came across… well, some common themes.

Over and over, I saw similar phrases. Written as far back as 2004.

“I need to work on resentment”

“I’m not confident in myself”

“Why do I keep ___?”

Yep… still working on some of these same things today. And you know what? I don’t feel bad about it. Through my own coaching and coach training, I’ve become much better at filtering my thoughts. But the reality is, self-awareness is indeed a lifelong practice.

Brene Brown said in an interview with Tim Ferriss, “There is no ‘Four Hour Self Awareness’.” [In case you haven’t heard of him, Ferriss is the author of a famous book series on human productivity entitled The Four Hour ____ (Work WeekBodyChef…)]. She’s got a good point. As much as we’d like to think that progress occurs in a swift, linear fashion, the trajectory for most things is much more like a squiggly, wandering scribble.

 

As much as we’d like to think that progress occurs in a swift, linear fashion, the trajectory for most things is much more like a squiggly, wandering scribble. Click To Tweet

 

Let’s say you want to unlock performance in a sport or skill: You gather information. You practice. You take lessons from others. Maybe you hire a coach. Then you repeat.

Likewise, physicians train for years and years to see every type of case and disease state, and yet we still continue to learn throughout our careers. We rarely consider ourselves true masters.

So how can you approach the internal work of practicing self-awareness?

 

Here are my tips:

Get real and get present

First, accept the reality that there is no endpoint. You’re not going to be a complete, perfect expert in anything, including yourself. We all go through cycles of being more or less aligned with our true selves. Give yourself some grace and don’t expect the process to ever be complete.

Instead, strengthen the problem-solving, creative pathways in your brain by focusing on the present. You can do this through mindfulness or meditation exercises. My recent favorite is to place intense focused attention on one of my senses (like rubbing my palms together, taking deep breaths, listening for distant sounds, or focusing my eyes on something visually beautiful). I do this for a minute or two and then switch to another sensation. Doing this a few times a day has really helped me be more mindful.

 

Accept the reality that there is no endpoint. You’re not going to be a complete, perfect expert in anything, including yourself. Click To Tweet

 

Learn more about your nature

If you want to call them personality tests, go ahead… but I like to refer to them as self-assessment tools. Self-knowledge is truly the key to making better decisions, honing habits, and creating lasting, sustainable happiness. My current favorites are the Quiet introvert/extrovert test, the Four Tendencies quiz, the Positive Intelligence Saboteur assessment, and the Five Love Languages test. I promise these are usually painless; these are all easy and free to take online. Look these up and see what you find out about yourself.

 

Self-knowledge is truly the key to making better decisions, honing habits, and creating lasting, sustainable happiness.

 

Question everything you think and feel

If I still believed some of the things I thought I knew about myself half a life ago, I would never have traveled the world rock climbing. I would never have gone to medical school. I would not be self-employed as a locum tenens physician and wellness leader while living my ideal work-life balance right now.

Try writing down particularly difficult thoughts. Then think to yourself, are they true? Questioning and rethinking previously held beliefs just might be the thing to gain some progress!

 

Consider a coach

You can do all these steps on your own, but if you need more guidance, support or accountability, a coach can help. There are so many physician coaches out there right now with all sorts of specific strengths and interests. A coach just might be the mirror you need to have a self-awareness breakthrough.

Repeat these steps over and over again. Enjoy the journey!

What do think about this? Do you make the same “mistakes” over and over again? What have you done to work on them? I’d love to hear your ideas.

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