- Michael Thompson
When speaking on self-awareness, self-made billionaire, Warren Rustand, said the average person doesn’t discover who they are until they’re 45 years old. Then according to Warren, most people don’t begin to do something about it until they’ve had their first heart attack.
This may sound depressing. But if you take the steps to raise your self-awareness, and begin to bet on yourself before the time you retire, you’re ahead of the curve.
Over the last four years, as a career coach, I’ve been collecting the questions that have not only helped me to raise my self-awareness, but also those that have had the biggest benefit on my clients.
When reading the 22 questions below, listen to yourself, and trust your gut. There are no wrong answers, just your answers.
Most of all, write your answers down and schedule regular check-ins with yourself. Doing so will help you to better evaluate your emotions, values, and behaviors while providing you with valuable insights regarding how other people truly see you.
“What get’s measured, gets managed.” —Peter Drucker
1. How much time am I reserving each day for myself?
To make a dent in the world you need to have clarity in your vision, confidence in your actions, and certainly in your values. This cannot happen if you’re always choosing to be busy. Reserve just 20 minutes a day to be alone with your thoughts. Meditate. If that’s not your thing, sit alone and think. Progress is made when we live in the present.
2. Which activities give me energy?
Break out a piece of paper each evening and write the word “Love” at the top. Then write detailed notes of anything or anyone who gave you fuel throughout the day or lifted you up. The name of the self-awareness game is pattern recognition. If done consistently, this simple exercise can help tremendously to bring these patterns to light.
3. Which activities steal my energy?
Break out another piece of paper and write the word “Hate” at the top. Then write detailed notes of anything or anyone who brought you down. Subtraction is often the fastest way to add more value to our lives.
4. Which activities help me to relax?
The people that move the fastest are experts at moving slow. Identify the activities that allow you to properly disconnect and recharge. Allow your mind and body to breathe.
5. Which people light me up?
Who you decide to let into your life demands serious thought and consideration. Accept Jim Rohn’s words, “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with,” as truth. Spend time with those who bring out the best in you. Make it a priority to do whatever you can to lift them up also.
6. Which people bring me down?
Identify what a toxic person looks like to you and remove them from your life. Maybe dishonest people steal your energy or those who are always complaining. Be ruthless with your time.
7. When negative thoughts or feelings arise, how do I deal with them?
It’s impossible to live in a perpetual state of bliss. Observe your feelings and thoughts when you feel angry, sad, or envious. Breathe. Slowly look for patterns. Often times the actions that anger us in others are rooted in something we dislike in ourselves.
8. What times of the day am I most effective and energized?
Track your actions for a week. Get clear as to when you do your best work and when you enter into a state of flow. Ask yourself when you’re at your best. Plan your prioritizes around these times.
9. What times of the day am I least effective and energized?
If you don’t have a lot of brainpower and energy during certain times of the day don’t choose to do important things. Protect your brainpower. Energy management is everything.
10. What are my weaknesses?
Identify the areas in which you are struggling. Choose to focus on the one that is holding you back the most from maximizing your strengths. As for the rest? If you can’t change them quickly, outsource them, or ditch them. Identifying where you should not spend your time is extremely valuable.
11. What are my strengths?
You become truly valuable when your skillset helps people to solve their individual problems. Get clear on your circle of competence. Tinker with ways to mesh these skills together to create your unique offering. You may find the passion you’re fighting to find takes care of itself when you begin to make the lives of the people around you better.
12. What are my values?
Make a list of your values. Make another list of the values of 3 people you admire. Cross-reference the list and circle congruencies. Then write out a personal growth statement that reflects these values. Don’t overthink it. Find the one true sentence that best represents who you are as an individual. Revisit this statement. Grow into it. Over time, when necessary, change it.
13. What is my biggest fear?
Nothing paralyzes us more in life than our fears. Write out your biggest, badest fears. Give them a name. Engage with them. Push them out a little bit each chance you get. Learn to dance on the edges.
14. What’s the one thing I’m not doing that I wish I was?
Write out the first thing that comes to mind. More times than not we fail to act on the things we really want to do because we fear other people’s judgment. Don’t let this stop you from chasing what you want. Amazing things will happen once you stop giving a shit.
15. If I could take the stage of TED and talk about one topic, what would it be?
Think about the topic you are always passionate about. The one that never bores you and ignites a fire under you in your conversation. Lean into it. Treat your curiosity like a responsibility.
16. Am I opening myself up to regular and diverse feedback?
Create an advisory board of people who will give it to you straight. Be proactive in making friends with people who see things differently than you. Ask them how they see you. Ask them what you are missing.
17. Am I surrounding myself with people who have lived a different experience?
It’s hard to learn new things about ourselves if we always hang out with the same 3 people. Pick up books that challenge you. Be proactive in learning from people who have lived a different experience. The best way to write our own story is by learning the stories of others.
18. What do people compliment me on?
Sometimes our most valuable offering is right in front of us and we are too blind to see it. Something like making friends easily is a seriously valuable skill. Collect these compliments. Look for patterns. Build your life around how you can be the most helpful.
19. Am I saying no to things I don’t want to do?
Make a list of your priorities right now. If family always comes first, say yes to them. Do not, however, make yourself miserable and stretched too thin just to please others.
20. Am I saying no to things I do want to do?
If fear, judgment, or lack of experience is stopping you from doing something, suck it up and say yes. These are the moments that shape you. Embrace the hurt. Learning you are stronger than you think is priceless.
21. When I am old and grew, what does a meaningful life look like to me?
You’re on your own for this one.
22. What is your definition of happiness?
Don’t worry about success. It’s a byproduct of the life you design for yourself.
At 41 years old, this question has also been seriously valuable: Am I getting enough sleep? Be the person who makes the right choices to ensure that you age slowly.
Tying it all together
While reading over the questions and recommendations above you probably thought to yourself how simple some of them are. That’s the point. Big questions like “Who am I?” and “What do I want to do with my life?” can be overwhelming and cause us anxiety when we don’t have clear answers.
Take it easy on yourself by instead asking yourself the right small questions that allow you to slowly discover yourself and keep track of your answers. Over time, you may find that when you do sit down to ask yourself the big questions, the little dots you have collected have already begun to connect.
Most of all, never stop asking yourself questions.
You’re worth knowing.