Let’s face it: you are the most interesting and important subject in the entire world. You will always be at or near the center of your world. It’s a comfortable place to be! So, one of the most exciting—and, often, one of the most intimidating—experiences lies in gaining a fuller understanding of just who you are.
Life is a perpetual process of becoming. To truly understand ourselves, we need to understand how we view ourselves, how others view us, and how we truly interact with others, not how we think we interact. Self-understanding means knowing what we need and how we desire to grow. It starts with two simple questions:
Do I like who I am?
Am I happy with the person I am becoming?
To answer honestly, we need to have crystal-clear insight into the person who bears our name and Social Security number.
We consciously as well as unconsciously create our own reality through our thoughts (what we tell ourselves), our emotions (how we feel), and our behaviors (how we act). If we are to become self-aware, we must be able to understand our thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Our ability to live the life we desire will depend on our level of self awareness, the thoughts we think, the choices we make, and the behavior we display.
Sociologists tell us that human beings see two ways: First, with our eyesight; secondly, with our minds (this is called insight). We know what we see in the mirror. Insight is a little more challenging. Insight takes into consideration what makes us unique. If we are truly courageous, we will do a little research and take a good look at how our attitudes and actions are perceived by others.
Remember, attitude is always reflected in our behavior toward others. We won’t be remembered by others for our determination or our dedication. We will be remembered by the way we made other people feel about themselves.
Since our entire lives are controlled by our attitudes, we must recognize the fact that our perceptions are involved in everything we think and do. A person cannot think negatively about another person and then feel good about their relationship. So, if we want successful relationships and successful lives, it is our responsibility to control what goes on in our minds. We need to monitor our “mind chatter” and alter our internal storytelling when it’s necessary. Napoleon Hill was right when he said, “Keep your mind on the things you want and off the things you don’t want.”
Self-awareness requires us to recognize our personal energy fluctuations because they determine how we respond physically and mentally. Some of us tend to get shrill and whine when we’re tired. Others shut down and withdraw into silence. We each have different patterns, so we each need to recognize our own individual responses. Although subtle, managing our energy peaks and lows is a creative way to become more effective. Others will know if we face a situation that is difficult or irritating, and they will reward or condemn us for our response. For instance:
One writer we know took her daughter to the mall at the end of a very long and frustrating day. The clerks were struggling to fix the cash machine and the check-out line grew longer and longer, the clock seemed to tick faster and faster, and our friend’s patience grew very thin. When she finally reached the counter, only to discover the machine had broken down once again, she opened her mouth to say something withering. Fortunately, before she had a chance to unload her frustration, the clerk asked her if she was an author. She looked surprised and nodded.
“You were so nice—you signed six of your books for my kids,” the clerk said, smiling. “They love your books.”
Our friend smiled back and left the store vowing never to get irritable or short-tempered in public again. “You never know where you’ll meet someone who will recognize you,” she pointed out when she confessed that story. “I’m fifty years old and I’m still learning valuable lessons about life.”
It’s important to remind ourselves that we will be judged, for good or ill, based on our behavior. One simple way to make things easier for us is to plan our schedule so we interact with others when we are at our peak in energy—our writer friend probably should have scheduled a shopping trip with her daughter on another day.
Therein lies one important secret to maintaining successful relationships: energy management.
Energy management means playing to our strengths, recognizing when we’re capable of doing our best, and using those times productively. We need to learn and abide by a vital lesson: Don’t allow unimportant activities to swallow up our best working hours—we need to budget them, allocate them, and dedicate them for the important things.
Most of us spend our high-energy times dealing with the things that might be urgent, but may not be important. We finish the easy things on our “To Do” list because it feels good to cross off a long line of items. But the things we’re crossing off may not be the things that will help us achieve our goals. We need to keep those goals in mind constantly. When we allow interruptions during our peak times and when we procrastinate—leaving the big jobs until we are under a time crunch—we are showing the classic signs of poor time management. And when that happens, it’s almost guaranteed that unexpected events will pop up and wreak havoc with our schedule and our stress levels.
Many of us have suffered from a chronic case of under-planning and over-scheduling at one time or another.
Some of us are experts at it! Despite our optimism and experience, “To Do” list items almost always take longer to complete than we anticipate. So, if we wait too long to tackle the important jobs, we find ourselves burning the midnight oil, neglecting a pleasurable activity we’d been anticipating, or losing time with a friend or family member. And then we wonder why we feel stressed!
The solution is simple. We need to study our peak performance periods and make the best use of them.
These blocks of time need to be set aside for our biggest and most important tasks. This is the time when we feel energetic and refreshed, most capable of focusing on those things that are most important or require our undivided attention. Most of us will have at least two of these peak periods during the day. Many of us know if we’re morning people or night people, but sometimes we don’t stop to identify our two (or three!) most productive high-energy times.
We also need to identify our low-performance or less-than-peak- performance periods. These are the blocks of time when we plan to do activities that don’t require much focus or energy such as answering emails, returning phone calls, scheduling routine meetings, talking about staff issues, etc.
In order to perform at our best, we all need to re-energize and re-charge our batteries on a regular basis, not just during vacations and national holidays. Many people use early mornings, late afternoons, or early evenings to catch their breath, take a break, meditate, pray, think, or otherwise plan. These are also ideal times to spend with the family, reading, listening to music, watching TV, or enjoying exercise or a hobby.
Travel days offer golden opportunities to re-energize. Don’t waste the hours waiting in an airport lobby or driving a car. Use those times to think, plan, jot down ideas, read a good book, or catch up with someone or something. When we do, we find ourselves feeling prepared, fit, and rested for the meeting or event that arrives at the end of the trip. Often we can do our best creative thinking when we capture “loose” time and tame it.
Career women self-coaching books: