know thyself

know thyself

Know thyself

I recently had to attend a speed awareness course. Reason being I was in in such a rush to get to work one morning that I ‘crept’ over the speed limit ‘marginally’. Now I’d like to say unequivocally that I didn’t realise, however my moral convictions compel me to tell you the whole truth and nothing but the truth :),  so the truth is that I may have been acutely aware that I had crossed the speed limit but at that moment getting to work a few minutes faster was more of a priority for me than whether or not I inched over the speed limit by a few miles an hour (eek! – don’t judge me).

Although I was initially pained to pay for and attend the course it was an unexpectedly valuable experience, because it caused me to reflect on myself and my actions in a way that I previously hadn’t. It got me thinking about how we can be so focused on getting to our ‘goals’ and destinations that we fail to take stock of our behaviour along the way, and how it impacts others.

This type of goal orientated tunnel visioned behaviour is typical of type ‘A’ personalities.  In a nutshell, type A personalities tend to be hard driving and competitive and type B personalities more easy going and laid back. It’s not that one type is necessarily more goal orientated than the other, but more that they go about achieving their goals in very different ways. I’m naturally type A and although there are some positive aspects it can be a problem; type A’s can be prone to causing collateral damage, in the sense that they are so focused on the end goal that they can loose sight of the importance of those around them. I’ve had to learn to check myself on this to make sure my ‘behaviour’ doesn’t get out of wack in the name of ‘achieving a goal’.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself

One of the most important qualities I look for when evaluating whether or not to promote the individuals I manage is self-awareness. Their ability to take an accurate inventory of their strengths and weaknesses and modify their behaviour accordingly.

In fact I feel so strongly about this that  the one and only occasion I’ve felt the need to relinquish someone of their job was because of a detrimental lack of self-awareness. I dismissed this person not  because they made mistakes but because their perception of their ability was so inflated that they were unable to see their mistakes, receive correction and therefore improve their performance. Essentially their confidence exceeded their capability and this is always a slippery slope.

It occurred to me that in our digitally driven age where knowledge is created, shared and consumed at a rate more rapid than at any other point in history, it seems we know a lot more about ‘stuff’ and a lot less about ‘ourselves’.

Has social media hindered our ability to see ourselves clearly?

I’m a big fan of social media but one of the downsides is that it can feed narcissism, in that it thrives on ‘grandiose exhibitionism, inflated self-views, superficial personalities and shameless self-promotion‘.  

We all have a tendency to display are best bits on social media and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that per se,  but we can be deceived into thinking that those 100 likes on that flawless photo render us faultless. it’s very easy to ‘believe the hype’ and forfeit humility for pride (the quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance) so that we no longer see our weaknesses, only our strengths.

It would seem that this Old Testament Bible verse could have been written for us today:

Obadiah 1:3

The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?

I believe social media is a positive addition to society but balance is key in everything and I believe it’s important to remain grounded.

So here’s 4 practices that I think keep us grounded

I’m listening to Dan Pinks audio book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us at the moment, in it there is a section entitled ‘Move 5 Steps Closer to Mastery’ (Mastery is the urge to get better and better at something that matters) ironically I also think they’re beneficial for keeping us grounded:

1. Practice: To improve performance practice is essential. Both Dan Pink and Malcolm Gladwell (in Outliers: The Story of Success) mention that it takes about 10 years of consistent effort and hard work to master your craft. In fact mastery is impossible to realise fully as there is always more to learn and always room to get better. This in itself is humbling.

2. Repeat: In the words of Robert Collier: success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out. Monotony is also humbling, I’m reminded of the ‘wax on, wax off’ scene in Karate kid:

3. Seek feedback: To seek feedback means we acknowledge that we don’t know everything and we can learn from others.

4. Focus on where you need help: This requires us to acknowledge our flaws in the first place.

I say all that to say this, it’s great to know stuff but even more important to ‘know thyself’.

Speak soon,

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