What makes a person likely to be successful in business and life?
It may not be what you think.
It’s not talent. It’s not technical skill. It’s not experience.
It must be IQ then.
The answer? Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Your EQ is the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them, says Howard Gardner, influential Harvard theorist. EQ is thought to be as important and in many cases more important than IQ to peoples success professionally and in life.
Its easy to see the role that EQ plays in sales and marketing. The more you can tune into the people you're trying to help, the more effective you can be.
Increase your EQ and increase your success.
The Foundation of Emotional Intelligence
Self-awareness is the foundation of EQ and it is the most important trait of successful business people and leaders. (source)
It catapults your ability to influence.
It drives your ability to build high-performing teams - being in touch with your weak points allows you to fill them with complimentary talent.
It creates self-control allowing you to react purposefully in your life.
It allows you to continue to grow personally and professionally by being in touch with your strengths, weaknesses, and motivations.
You Can Develop Self-Awareness
Self-awareness requires you to expand your focus beyond what you do to why and how you do it - a process which may not come naturally to you. But self-awareness can be strengthened through simple, consistent effort.
Here are 5 easy habits that will increase your awareness and drive success.
1. Create quiet in order to hear yourself.
Ever feel like you don't know yourself? Has your inner voice gotten lost in the swirl of business and life demands? Trying to keep your head above water? Trying to survive?
Quiet, still time will allow you to regain control and grow.
Find quiet time to spend with yourself every day. It is imperative to your success.
As a wife, mom, business owner, boss, friend, councilor, cook, driver, and household manager (you get the point) - quiet time is rare. You need to actually create these moments.
Schedule quiet time like you would a business meeting. Try 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes at night. Use 15 minutes in between meetings or project work to connect with yourself. Take advantage of the 5 minutes that you have waiting for your kids to get out of school.
Make it non-negotiable. Be ruthless with your time.
During this time, perform some self-reflection. I like to call this "white space". Ask yourself questions like, "Whats really important to me and does that match up with what I am focused on? How do I want to be perceived, what contribution do I want to make in this meeting or activity? Did I handle that conversation the way that I intended? Did I make the impression that I had intended to make? Why did I act/not act? Why do I feel that way?"
This gives you the opportunity to reconnect with yourself, ultimately developing a deeper sense of self-awareness.
2. Be Mindful.
Have you ever gotten in the car to go somewhere and then arrive, with no recollection of the drive there? Did it freak you out?
You were on autopilot.
It can be scary when you realize you're autopilot.
Autopilot is the enemy of self-awareness. When you are operating on autopilot, you are oblivious to things going on around you. You are focused on whats happened and what may happen, rather than what is happening right now. Making it impossible for you to know what’s going on with yourself or others presently.
Practice mindfulness to counter this mindless state. Mindfulness is the process of bringing your attention to and focusing on whats happening in the present moment. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad allowing you to live in the present moment, not dwelling on the past, or worrying about the future.
Mindfulness exercises are simple, fast and can be done anywhere. Perfect for a busy business owner.
3. Monitor your Self-talk.
Emotional reactions and decisions can hurt your credibility, reduce your influence and damage your relationships.
To avoid this fallout be mindful of your self-talk. We all have an inner dialogue, an ongoing conversation in our mind. Unsurprisingly, this conversation has a dramatic impact on what, how and why you do things. Negative thoughts can quickly spiral into negative feelings, impacting interactions, decisions, and life.
The first step is observing your self-talk. Is the tone positive and happy or negative and disruptive? Look for patterns and triggers. Why are you reacting that way?
When you are able to develop an awareness of your triggers and the motivations behind them you are better able to manage yourself and prevent them from impacting your decisions, interactions, and motivations.
When you recognize a negative thought such as anger or frustration, take a deep breathe and an extra second to reassess before you respond. Whats driving your reaction? Whats an appropriate, reasonable response in this situation?
Self-control is driven by awareness of your inner dialogue.
4. Test Yourself.
If you're getting sweaty palms and having flashbacks of your college finals week, don't fret.
It isn't that type of test. There are no right or wrong answers. Just cool information that makes it easer for you to understand your natural tendencies, strengths and weaknesses through an objective (and scientifically valid) evaluation. It removes biases and provides factual information.
There are several personality and strengths tests that help you better understand yourself. Two of the most well known tests are Myers-Briggs and Predictive Index, both are aimed at helping you understand how you can leverage your unique abilities and tendencies for success. Additionally, he Social Styles Test (my recommendation as an easy starting point) and several tests aimed at helping you determine your introvert/extrovert tendencies.
Break out the #2 pencils and start the exam.
5. Ask Others.
Fear of feedback is a major obstacle to self-awareness. Soliciting feedback from others can be scary - no one wants to hear negative things about themselves. But it is vital to your growth as a leader, if you arenâ€™t able to see yourself as others do your perception and growth will be extremely limited.
Be vulnerable. Know that you'll be stronger and more capable because of it.
Seek feedback from people that you trust and respect in different situations. Try asking, "What do you think I did well in that situation? What do you think I could improve on? How did you perceive my commentary and tone?"
Once you have the feedback, take a moment to compare that to your own view of that interaction - are there overlaps or conflicts? What motivated your tone? What can you do differently next time based on that feedback?
Build this feedback loop into your routine by constantly soliciting feedback, comparing your perspective to others, thinking about your motivations, and building on your learnings.
6. Keep a Journal.
Did your journal habit die when you left 12th grade?
Journaling isn't just for 16 year olds and documenting crushes.
Brilliant people throughout history - Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Virginia Wolfe, John D. Rockefeller, Louisa May Alcott, Bob Dylan to name a few, to fuel their success and growth.
Maintaining a journal has a ton of self-awareness benefits. It allows you to identify, process, and understand your feelings. It creates headspace, allowing us to be more mindful and reflective.
Journaling doesn't have to be all about feelings.
Consider the "Warren Buffet Method" for decision making for example. Each time he is faced with an important decision, he documents the decision and why he is making it. These entries serve as a record that he goes back over to assess his decisions and how they may inform his future decisions.
Time to dust off those notebooks (or pull out your phone).
A Word Of Caution
When you begin a habit of introspection it can be easy to over analyze yourself and get stuck. Stay balanced to avoid self-obsession (navel gazing). Remember that it's not all about you, its about you and the people around you.
Start by building one self-awareness habit into your daily routine.
You will experience significant growth.
Self-awareness isn't something that you master and then move on from. It is an on-going journey and any progress forward is a huge accomplishment that should be celebrated.
You're already one step ahead of where you were when you began this article. And you're several steps ahead of many others who are blindly walking through their lives.
Imagine where you'll be a month from now when you are even more self-aware.