Joe Cavanaugh III
In my previous blog, I shared how a self-aware parent or leader is a great gift to those they care about and lead. Gallup research has shown that self-awareness was the one defining quality that set “the best of the best” apart in various roles throughout the world. Generally, most people think they are self-aware. However, Gallup found that meaningful self-awareness is relatively rare among the global population. Until questions were asked about their level self-awareness, most people were profoundly unaware of their lack of self-awareness. Why is this the case in every country throughout the world?
Today, we are blessed with an abundance of research to help us understand and address the issue of self-awareness. This research can help us understand why over 80% of the population does not possess significant self-awareness.
To understand our lack of self-awareness, we can first look to the neurological reason: our wonderful, incredible brains are constantly, relentlessly trying to automate everything we do, including the decisions we make every day. The reason for this automation is that conscious thought is hard work which consumes large amounts of blood glucose. In fact, we can exhaust the available blood glucose in less than 15 seconds with intense conscious thought. In contrast, subconscious or unconscious thought is amazingly efficient in its use of blood glucose. The more the brain can automate our thought processes in the subconscious, the more it can accomplish. For example, have you ever been driving to a destination and upon arrival suddenly realized that you cannot remember exactly how you got there? This phenomenon is an example of subconscious thought taking over the controls. Or, do you remember when you first learned to ride a bike, or to roller skate or to ski? Do you remember how difficult these skills were in the beginning, requiring huge amounts of focused conscious thought? And, now it is “second nature”; you barely give these actions a thought because your brain has automated the activity. In reality, your brain is performing thousands of these automatic subconscious processes throughout each day. This automation includes the use of your amazing talents, motivations and intelligences. As a result, people do not know why they do what they do in the way they do it. They just do. They are on autopilot. This will help explain the second point.
The second reason we lack self-awareness is that most of the people of influence in our lives have not been very self-aware individuals themselves. Generally, these individuals have not been aware of their own uniqueness, their immense talents, intelligences, and unique motivations. Their dominate way of thinking is, “I am a pretty average person, not particularly talented. This task has always been relatively easy for me and I am highly motivated to do it. Therefore, it should also be easy for anyone else, if they will just show the same motivation and do it the way that it has worked best for me.” These people of influence may even have said “If I can do it, then I know you can do it.” In my book, The Language of Blessing, I introduce this concept as the Minimization/Projection cycle. First, we unconsciously minimize our own uniqueness (un-self-awareness), then project our uniqueness onto others, as if they shared it with us. Even though this behavior borders on being delusional, we do it all the time because so many others have done it to us, we are not self-aware, and we see it as normative behavior. In turn, we try to fulfill all of the projected unfounded expectations of those in our lives. We want to be responsible, and don’t want to let these people down. We desire to live up to the expectations of our parents, our teachers, our bosses, our friends, and even our spouses. The tragedy of this cycle is that before long, we begin to lose ourselves, our authentic identity, and our self-awareness.
However, there is good news. You can rediscover your own uniqueness: your greatest talents, your unique motivations, and your passion to make a difference in this world. It is not easy and it takes commitment, but the rewards for you and the ones you care about are priceless!
Send us an email or call an Equip 2 Equip coach. We would love to share our proven process to equip you for the authentic life you were created to live.