Children are so fun to watch.  They can get lost in their own little world and forget about everything around them.  Or get consumed by all they want to say to you and tell you everything they know in the five minutes that you are slowly walking by them in a grocery store.  I find interactions and observations of children so amusing.  However, the same behavior from an adult is not enjoyable at all!  

We realize that children are not self-aware; but we expect our adult co-workers, family members, fellow planet inhabitors to be cognizant.   Self-awareness comes from developing a straightforward and honest understanding of how you are designed — what you do well, what motivates and satisfies you, which people and situations push your buttons.  

If people say that you remain calm, cool, and collected even in times when you must have felt frustrated or angry, then you have a high level of self-awareness.  Managing your emotions, not letting your emotions manage you, demonstrates your attentiveness.  On the other hand, if you score low on the self-awareness scale, people might be saying that you are in your “own little world.”  Do you notice that your co-worker is busy with something else before you jump in and start talking?  Are you fully aware of how you come across to people?  

Here are some strategies for increasing your self-awareness:

Label-Free Feelings

Judging your emotions as good or bad keeps you from really understanding what it is you are feeling.  Emotions always come from somewhere.  If you label them as bad or good, you might be less likely to investigate the root.   It’s important to find out why something gets a reaction from you.  The next time you feel an emotion building, take notice!

Emotional Domino Effect

My sons used to love to set up lines of dominoes throughout the house, tip the first one over and watch the entire configuration fall down one domino at a time.  Our outpouring of emotions are much like that, they surge through the people in our lives.  Think about the last time you watched a manager berate an employee in front of the whole team.  The entire team feels the wrath, not just the one who took the lashing.  Maybe productivity increased for the afternoon but fear settles in and creates a cautiousness that in the long run will impair productivity.  The more you understand that your emotions ripple across the landscape, the better you’ll be at choosing what type of ripples you want to make.

Watch Yourself

To develop a more objective understanding of your own behavior, practice taking notice of your emotions, thoughts and behaviors.  The goal is to slow yourself down enough to take in all that is going on around and within you.   If you are currently raising teenagers, you have the perfect place to practice watching yourself.  When your teenager is two hours past curfew and not answering your phone calls, you begin to think about how he’s disregarded you, robbed you of sleep and so on.  At this point you’ve completely forgotten that your original concern was for his safety.  This is the time to realize that your brooding has just fueled your anger.  Anger is not going to make him change but if your not watching yourself it will be the first thing that rumbles when he walks through the door.  The better response is to explain the rationale for his punishment and why you are so upset (safety, if you’ve forgotten).  

Grounded in Values

We live in a fast-paced society, where we juggle relationships, projects, deadlines, errands, family, job, neighbors, and more.  This requires a great deal of focus and effort which leaves little time for looking at ourselves.  When the “to do” list runs us ragged, we often find ourselves saying things and doing things that we don’t feel good about or don’t even believe.  Put some time on your calendar to ask yourself what kind of values you want to live by.  Write down your values and the things you’ve done or said recently that you aren’t proud of.  Is what you value lining up with the way you’ve behaved?  If not, write down possible behaviors that would line up with your values.  Repeat this exercise weekly for the next six weeks.  

As you incorporate these strategies in your daily routine you will develop an increased capacity to respond effectively to your emotions.  Emotions are not something to get rid of, just a piece of ourselves to understand.  

What are some strategies you use to stay calm, cool and collected?