Know Thyself

Self-awareness is invaluable. It is a humbling tool for personal development and growth. It is a doorway to understanding yourself and others. Without it, we are just primates running on autopilot of habitual thinking and doing. A lack of self-awareness can turn us into a wrecker ball smashing relationships, sabotaging careers and in some cases adding a certified a-hole label to our description by other people. 

There is no right or wrong time to start working on self-awareness. This is because before we can work on awareness there has to be sufficient self. So the time is always right. The Internet isn’t only great because it gave us cat videos and Shiba memes. It also can save us hours that we would otherwise spend figuring out how to do things by ourselves.

Instead of trying to make my own mayo by reading the ingredients label, I can just google the recipe. This approach works equally well for understanding our complex personalities. Instead of trying to ponder on what we are like to work with i.e. what our strengths and weaknesses we can use a personality profiling system to help us.

There are many systems to choose from with their advantages and drawbacks. There are some that work well in a particular context. But at the end of the day, it is the same as choosing a winner in Mr Olympia’s competition. The top 10 guys look very similar and it comes down to charisma and jury preference. The enneagram system was always my Arnold Schwarzenegger but recently I was introduced to a worthy contender Clifton’s strengths profile.

This system impressed me with an accurate description of how I run myself and seem to do as well for my teammates. Based on a long list of questions the test identifies 10 top talents with an idea that if you focus on our strong traits it will create exceptional results. We are built differently with some parts of our bodies being more muscular and having potential for future development and better-than-average performance. Trying to be an all-rounded athlete is a path to mediocrity.

Identifying those strength traits can help someone in a lot of ways. People generally don’t like to beat their own drum to show off how great they are. We tend to focus on our weaknesses – hello glass half empty team! Clifton’s system helps us to recognise and own the traits that make us who we are. It is not digging its head in the sand either by identifying blind spots and suggesting how to deal with them.

Every trait of your personality is a tool working great in some contexts and terrible in others. For instance one of my top 10 is intellectuality. Which is basically pondering intently on the nature of things, trying to solve a problem or connect the dots. While it’s great for analytical tasks it can be a pain in the butt if you are trying to take action. Analysis paralysis is a common side effect in people with this strength.

But I am aware of this quality and have stop-gaps in place. For instance, if I am looking for a thumbnail photo for this post I will take 5 minutes to find a couple of suitable matches at each point I will pick one of them. Without self-awareness, I would probably spend close to an hour debating if the plumage of the bird corresponded with the overall colour scheme of the website.

There is another issue with being strong in our area and having nothing in others. If you are a sprinter it’s unlikely you are good at running an ultra marathon. But in life, we can’t be locked into one style. It’s a mix of long-distance and sprint runs, boxing matches and horse riding. You may be curious how you win in this game. The answer is in the photo of this post.

Crocodiles are pretty formidable predators. They hunt sometimes in groups by patiently learning the moving patterns of their prey. But they have a massive problem. Unlike humans, they have no hands to grab a toothbrush to clean their teeth. That must be annoying right? Imagine the dentist’s bill after 80 years of this bad hygiene. What do they do? They pair up with a bird called Egyptian plover that does it for them. Plovers get breakfast, crocodiles save money on dental work. Despite being pretty monstrous to others crocodiles play nice with little birdies because even cold-hearted reptiles understand the benefits of teamwork.

For those who haven’t tried it already pick a personality profile that resonates with you and take a test. And if you feel brave enough show the results to people close to you. It will confirm the accuracy and help them to understand you better.

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