Your Guide To Building Self-Awareness - 8 Activities To Create Meaningful Change

by Jennifer Harper

If you know you want to change career or overcome a challenge at work but really don’t know what to do, then developing your self-awareness can help you to understand your thoughts, emotions and actions to help you make progress. Developing self-awareness can really help you get more insight into who you are in this moment, what you enjoy, and why.


First of all, exactly what is self-awareness?

Self-awareness is being conscious of your thoughts, emotions and actions. The result of being self-aware in this way means that you can interpret your thoughts, emotions and actions and understand why you may be thinking, feeling, acting or reacting in a certain way.


To become self-aware it is important to understand why you think, feel or act the way that you do, as opposed to simply focusing on the emotion that you have experienced.


Why is this useful? 

Developing your self-awareness enables you to better understand who you are, what your strengths and weaknesses are, what skills you have, what your values are, and to recognise what makes you happy. The ultimate goal is to see yourself as others see you, but to also have compassion and empathy for others – in essence, if you understand yourself then you are in a stronger position to understand why other people think, feel and act the way they do.


For instance, it’s fine to acknowledge that you feel frustrated, but self-awareness helps you to understand why you are frustrated – which, in turn, helps you to do something about it. If you recognise this in yourself then you are more likely to ask what the underlying reasons are for someone you work with, or live with, feeling frustrated. Having self-awareness:

  • Helps you build stronger relationships;
  • Enables you to view situations and people from different perspectives;
  • Builds and develops resilience;
  • Empowers you to be more adaptable;
  • Brings greater happiness and contentment.

Developing your own self-awareness can have a positive impact on you, your work and your life in general, but your self-awareness can also positively impact others too.


Here, we will explore different ways that you can become aware of your thoughts and feelings, recognise your actions and develop your self-awareness.


1. Journaling

Keeping a journal is a tried and tested method of raising your self-awareness. Handwriting your thoughts into a notebook is the traditional method, which works for many people who enjoy the hands-on approach. But with today’s technology, you don’t necessarily need to be writing in a book, you can keep notes on your mobile phone, or you can create a spreadsheet on your PC or tablet – essentially, use whichever method is going to fit in with your lifestyle.

The key is to make sure you are capturing the thoughts you are having and the emotion attached to them. Take note of what is/was happening at that time (in other words, the potential triggers). The more you capture, the more patterns you will be able to identify – but approach this in a non-judgemental way. You are not looking to apportion blame, or duck out of responsibilities, it is a case of trying to understand why a certain moment, action, person, situation, or even environment generates that thought and emotion in you, and the subsequent action. Understanding this allows you to make positive changes.

2. Ask people who know you well

Those who are around us every day, or every week, have a good understanding of our usual traits and responses. So, be brave, and ask your most trusted friends, family or work colleagues to share with you what they think your strengths and weaknesses are. Ask each person to name three strengths and three weaknesses (or areas for improvement) – they must be honest! Don’t take this as criticism.

Are there patterns to what people are sharing with you?

Which areas are being highlighted for development?

What can you do to develop those?

Take note and be aware of what is shared with you.


3. Know your Values

What is important to you? Knowing and understanding your values can help you to recognise what you do and why. Therefore, supporting your self-awareness.

The Stay Nimble platform has various values exercises to try when you sign up, but one that particularly supports self-awareness is the Personal Values assessment, which forms part of the article ‘Why are Values important?’ which you can access with our Premium subscription.


Do this assessment, uncover your top five values and explore how you are using these, which is most important to you, and why. Knowing your values – and living them – can develop your self-awareness, as well as lead to a happier you. But, remember, your values can change as you develop, it’s worthwhile taking stock of them every so often.


4. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a technique that you can learn and develop to enhance your self-awareness. Through mindfulness, you learn to be fully conscious and present in the moment, without casting judgement. This process allows you to calmly be aware of your breathing, your body and your thoughts, with the outcome of being able to manage your thoughts better, feeling calmer, and potentially improving your relationships.


5. Write yourself a letter

It can be helpful to put feelings from the past into words in a bid to understand who you are now, and who you want to be in the future. There are lots of online apps to help you do this, but you can also do it yourself at home.

Write a letter to yourself – choose your topic.

It may be talking about a past relationship or friendship, decisions you have made, things you wish you had said, or even telling yourself motivational thoughts (for instance, ‘you can do this’, ‘you are a good person’, ‘you are a great Dad’, ‘you are a caring and loving person’).

Once written, re-read it as many times as you need to. Be aware of the messages you are giving yourself. Be aware of the emotion, the needs and desires, the challenges you face, as well as the moments of joy.

Writing yourself a letter supports you to know yourself a little better.


6. Stream of Consciousness

Sometimes our thoughts and feelings can be jumbled and we may not know how to unravel them. Writing, using the stream of consciousness, enables you to capture some of the thoughts and feelings that you are experiencing in any given moment. The term ‘stream of consciousness’ in writing has its roots back in the mid-1800s, so it’s a well tried and tested method of self-awareness. The idea is to sit down and simply write, without stopping – even capture those ‘I don’t know what else to write’ moments as these are important indicators of when you are getting stuck, and your subsequent thought process that got you ‘unstuck’. So, write for three minutes.

When you have finished, read what you have written.

Select one element of it that captures your thoughts and write about that part for a further two minutes. Read again, select one part and write for a further minute.

What do you notice?

What core thought have you unravelled?

What are you more aware of now?

You can also use this method to come up with work ideas, or as a tool to try to unblock creativity, so you can have fun with it too.

7. Do something new

Deliberately putting yourself out of your comfort zone can reveal a lot to you in terms of what you feel comfortable with, where your boundary of fear is, what you enjoy and what you don’t. In other words, it supports you to be more self-aware.

New activities you could consider might include learning about a new topic (our Learning Hub has hundreds of free courses for you to access when you sign up). Or you may choose to join a group or a club.

Alternatively, you may consider volunteering.

So what topic would you study – why?

What kind of group or club would you join – why?

Where would you consider volunteering – why?

Keep asking yourself ‘why’ to get to the ultimate reason why you want to do something. Now give it a go, but be aware of how you feel before you start, while you are there and how you feel afterwards.


8. Listen to yourself

We have all done it – we are asked to do something by a friend or colleague and our inner thought is saying ‘no’ but our mouth says ‘yes’. When asked to do something, listen to your inner voice – that little voice that we all have in our head. If it is saying ‘no’, or ‘yes’ for that matter, then listen to it.

How is your body reacting?

Are you feeling awkward, hot, excited, is your stomach churning, or perhaps you feel scared?

Listen to your body. Paying attention to your automatic thoughts and reactions tells you a thousand stories, so listen to yourself. Then consider why you are having those reactions.

What can you do to help yourself in this situation?

Or what can you change?

What are you aware of now?

If you are contemplating a change in career but can’t figure out what to do, or simply wanting to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, these techniques can support you with achieving this.

Practice these alongside the support from a qualified coach, and you can reap the rewards of self-awareness more quickly.

Grab a free 30 minute session with a dedicated coach below and get started today.

Subscribe to Spark! our fortnightly newsletter for teams & managers

Subscribe to our fortnightly newsletter

Spark! is where we share the latest career development and team performance insights, inspiring articles and podcasts along with free resources for teams and managers.