When you work on yourself, there are two main things you can work on.
The first one is awareness.
“Self-love is a good thing but self-awareness is more important. You need to once in a while go ‘Uh, I’m kind of an asshole.” ― Louis C.K.
Becoming aware of who we are, our feelings, how we act and why, gives us a lot to reflect upon. It expands our model of the world and it changes the way we see ourselves and others. This is the prerequisite of any growth. Sometimes we search for this awareness ourselves by reading books, listening to people we admire or studying. And sometimes we just experience something new that has a deep impact on our psyche. This is what they call an epiphany or a “ah-ah” moment, and it resonates with our core.
I still remember going through the pages of a book and stopping after a sentence struck me like lightning. I was in awe and something just clicked in my brain. Somehow I felt these new connections happening in my brain and suddenly I could see a lot of my past experiences in a complete new light.
Many self-help tools and books aim at giving us more awareness and learning more about ourselves. For example, we can use these tools to discover what type of personality we have, what is our preferred mode of communication, our unique set of strengths or what are some of our favorite ways of expressing and receiving love. (MBTI/Process Com/Strengthfinders/The 5 Love languages)
Some tools focus on developing our awareness about others. We learn how they look differently at the world, how to better communicate with them, how to relate to them better and what their needs are.
There are also countless methods and techniques whose purpose is building awareness through meditation, breathing, mindfulness, or even something as crazy as meeting other people and talking to them. As an avid reader, I love to collect those like little shiny memorabilia made of porcelain.
So awareness truly is something really really cool and the more we peel the layers of the “onion” that is our own consciousness, the wider our world becomes.
Unfortunately, awareness is not enough. Well for most people anyway. Some guys like Eckhart Tolle or Mohandas Ghandi just need this one time experience where their consciousness shifts and they just fall deep in Wonderland and never come back.
Sadly for most of us, raising our awareness is more like a nice documentary on television.
You watch the documentary. You find it fascinating and you learn so many new things you had no idea even existed in the first place. And then, you turn it off and go to bed. That’s it.
There is of course the slight chance that someone will speak about that particular topic or that you yourself think about it in the future. In that case, you will be quite thrilled to share your knowledge on the subject and maybe even make a very insightful comment about it like: “Hey yes, I know about that ! It is so cool !"
But very likely, your life will not be affected by this documentary you watched. And you will probably never personally encounter anything that actually was in it.
It’s the same deal with raising awareness. It’s a nice ride, you will learn a lot from it and it sure looks inspiring and fascinating. And yes it might even make you aware of some problems or concepts you have never heard of. But usually, people don’t follow through on it.
What do we do now ? (Amazing wisdom from my wife)
My wife gave me a wonderful summary of human development one day. It goes like this: Awareness + Practice = Growth
And I think it’s brilliant ! It should be written in golden letters on the doors of every school !
Awareness without practice will give you a lot of frustration and possibly a “wise ass” syndrome.
Practice without awareness is like watching these guys competing in eating contests:
They don’t know why they are doing it. It’s just something they started doing and kept getting better at, destroying their body and self-respect in the process.
Without awareness, you are like a ship in a storm. It does not matter how good, strong or smart you are, you will end up stranded somewhere you did not intend to.
But with both of them, oh yes now we are talking !
Being aware of what makes you tick AND being able to act on it.
And even more : not just doing something about it but practicing it. That is the key.
"Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do. "
Johan Wolfgang von Goethe
There is an endless list of books who speak almost exclusively about practice and its super powers: the compound effect, the power of habit, Think and grow rich, Practice Perfect, Talent is overrated, The Achievement Factory, 7 habits of highly effective people, etc.
They all agree on one thing: practice is he holy grail and to make something effective and see real results it needs to be practiced again and again, and again and again…
The repetition of practice is what makes it so powerful. By repeating on a daily basis, a physical, intellectual or even spiritual practice, we integrate it in our mind and our body. It becomes a part of us. This new practice which was strange to us a couple months ago or even painful has now become a habit.
It is very important that we make sure to include the results of our awareness in our daily practice if we want to see visible changes in ourselves and in our lives.
We all know a lot of stuff, we have been to school, we have read a lot of books and watched thousands of hours of videos. We learned so many concepts and discovered so much about ourselves and others. But it does not mean that we apply what we know. It does not mean we do anything differently.
Actually most of the time, we don’t apply any of it and just go back to our default mode. Just look at people’s new year resolutions.
Self-improvement is not different than golf, running or singing, practice makes perfect.
Purposeful practice. (Feedback, Focus, Forward pushing)
“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”
― Samuel Johnson
How should we practice ? It’s not enough to repeat something until nausea if it does not give us the results we are looking for.
Knowing what to practice and how to practice it, is essential to getting the results we want. I remember working out like crazy when I was younger and not seeing any visible results for months except being tired, sore and miserable. I was overworking my already weak body and I was certainly not eating accordingly to my daily regimen. There was no way my body could keep up with the pace at which I was training. In no time I was hurting everywhere and was still not seeing much improvement. Reducing my workout and focusing on my diet and sleep gave me much better results. It’s exactly the same with everything else, if you try to practice without knowing the laws, chances are that you won’t see much improvement.
I have read a wonderful book excerpt on the benefits of purposeful practice and the authors explains what are the three components of purposeful or deliberate practice.
"Purposeful practice has well-defined, specific goals."
This kind of practice differs from “naive practice” in the way that every time you practice, you have a clear and detailed goal. For example if you are practicing music on your drum kit. Instead of just playing for 15-30 minutes and trying to play one song. Your goal might be to go through the piece 3 times without stopping and losing the beat. Or maybe it could be to finish the song twice without any mistake.
You want these practices to all aim toward small baby steps, and then each step will bring you closer to the bigger objective. You need to be able to gather feedback after each practice to measure your progress and know what works and what doesn't.
“Purposeful practice is focused.”
Your whole attention must be focused on whatever you are practicing right now. We all get distracted, especially nowadays with all the different screens and connected devices around us that demand our attention and constantly reward us for not focusing on a single task.
You want to close those curtains, turn off your phone, mute your app and just focus on what you are practicing now.
Especially if this practice is important to your results.
Don’t be the person who studies in front of the TV, who works while surfing the internet or works out while checking your apps.
"Purposeful practice requires getting out of one’s comfort zone”
Every time you practice, you are looking to achieve more. It does not mean you actually improve every time. But you want to go further every time.
So if you did it in 5 minutes last time, you want to try to go down to 4 minutes. Once you can do it in 4 minutes, you want to try to do it in 3 minutes…
Whatever your metrics are, you want to make sure to improve one of them every time you practice.
This permanent thirst for growth is something well summarised by the japanese concept of Kaizen. Kaizen means "constant improvement" and is used in many business areas including in world famous companies to improve productivity and involvement on every level.
This philosophy of improvement values any kind of amelioration, even the smallest ones. If you can do one thing better during your practice. Even if it’s a very small enhancement, you might want to go for it and reap the rewards of these constant improvements.
If you invest 10000 hours of practice into something, make sure they count and that you are actually spending those hours getting better and not just practicing what you already know.
Find the awareness, practice purposefully and watch yourself grow.
How to apply this :
This is something you have never done but always wanted to. Whatever “this” is, it is something you are aware of and if you have not done it yet, it will get you out of your comfort zone, however small it is.
5 minutes and "the first step" is very specific and focused. If you do this, you are much more likely to follow through on the next step and the next one, until you have done it.
Let me know how it goes and if you actually do the first step.
Here is the original article posted on Steemit.
Performance coach, world traveler, tribe builder, NLP enthusiast and mnemonist. I am passionate about self-development and life changing coaching tools.
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