How to Gain More Self-Awareness

You might be familiar with C-Suite Coach Amii Barnard-Bahn, JD, who is the author of the Promotability Index® and a contributor to Harvard Business Review and Fast Company. She’s had an amazing career, much of it spent working within the C-Suite of Fortune 50 companies before becoming an entrepreneur herself. What you might not realize is that like most of us, Amii has navigated plenty of career ups and downs – and looking within has always helped her get unstuck.

Back in the mid-1990’s Amii was working as an attorney at a law firm in San Francisco three years after graduating from Georgetown Law School. She did some work as a student for the ACLU, lobbying through the American Disabilities Act, and loved it. But faced with massive student debt, she took a litigation job that made her miserable. Stress escalated as Amii juggled her job, planned a wedding, and started a non-profit arts group all at once. She decided to take a long honeymoon and quit her job.

“So I wound up jumping off the cliff, which people thought I was nuts for doing without a plan in a not great economy,” said Amii. “It was really humbling because I didn’t realize how much of my professional identity and ego was caught up in the trappings of being an attorney.”

She ended up doing lots of odd jobs and volunteer work. A temporary role in Human Resources helping people and solving workplace issues made her feel fulfilled. Amii caught a break, convincing a small environmental engineering company that did Superfund and other environmental disaster cleanups to serve as their HR person in exchange for using her legal background to improve their employment law practices.

This whole experience taught Amii to look at herself and her career differently. Taking three sabbaticals over several decades as she ascended to Global Fortune 50 executive roles taught Amii to recognize when it is time to move on. Today she capitalizes on those experiences, and the self-awareness gained, to coach others.

“The risks I have taken helped me realize that no situation is forever,” she explains. “Being thoughtful about my choices keeps doors open so I can go in and out. If you do the work, have grit, and take the right risks, you can design the best life and career for you.”

Want to gain more self-awareness? Here are 4 ways to do just that:

Become curious

Almost as if you are looking at yourself from the perspective of another individual, identify what you are like and where you stand. Are you quick to hold a grudge or feel overlooked and hurt when not invited to social events? Do you get an inordinate amount of joy tweeting the endings to hit shows before most people have had a chance to watch?

There is nothing wrong or right about those factors. Being curious without judgment allows you to better understand yourself and determine what you would like to reinforce or change.

Actively seek feedback

Think about who you trust in your personal and professional life. Asking these individuals to provide you with honest opinion feedback about a circumstance, behavior or decision allows you to grow and improve. Just be fully open to receiving the insights you requested.

For example, let’s say that during a staff meeting, you told five direct reports at work that their roles are going to be restructured. If a co-worker responds to your request for feedback saying, “you sprung that news abruptly and didn’t think about how people could be scared about losing their jobs,” don’t get defensive.

Instead, acknowledge their input by asking, “so if I spend more time anticipating the reaction of others, and giving more reassurance about this development, would that make it better next time?” That approach lets people clarify what they mean while reinforcing that you value their unvarnished insights.

Become an enthusiastic learner

There is a tremendous amount of great content available — books, podcasts, videos, webinars and more — that focus on building self-awareness. Check out what’s available, paying attention to reviews from like-minded souls to ensure the content could be a good fit for your needs.

Get support

Working with a trained therapist or coach can be a terrific investment in learning more about yourself.

If you have been feeling a little – or even a lot – stuck these days as we navigate our post-pandemic world, check out my “What Kind of Stuck Are You?” Quiz to gain more insight on what may be holding you back – and what to do about it.

Looking for a step-by-step process to help you get unstuck and stay that way for good? Check out Free and Clear: Get Unstuck and Live the Life You Want. It is chock-full of helpful tips, easy-to-use tools and inspirational stories of individuals who overcame obstacles against the odds.

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