As many of you who read my newsletters, blog, or have elected me to be your coach, you know how enthusiastic I am about self-awareness. If we aren’t terribly aware of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors, we won’t get very far socially in life, our career path will be a series of short spurts, and relationships will be virtually non-existent. Or to use the word in another way, you’ll be “virtually” aware but not actually!

This may be obvious but what I’m referring to here is the quality of your self-awareness and not just the quantity. Science shows that, yes, we become better at just about any skill if we put some quantity of practice behind what we hope to accomplish. This is true of tennis players and other athletes, chess players, surgeons, even scientists. However, it is the quality that will determine the degree of expertise to which we arrive. This comes from K. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist and scientific researcher out of the Florida State University. (Harvard Business Review, July-August 2007)

My point is that in order to get to the place of “deliberate practice” we have to become an expert in “Deliberate Self-awareness”. And that can be a problem because most of us have been programmed in some fashion to think and behave as we have been taught. Not to mention what given personality we have.

Ericsson says that in order to become an expert at almost anything we have to put in 10,000 hours, (20 hours a week for 50 weeks for 10 years = 10,000). Ah, but remember, he also states that it is the quality of practice that will help us become an expert.

So, how do we become an expert in “Deliberate Self-awareness?” Surely, practicing the above recommended amount would drive us to a life of narcissism or at least a nauseating way to live!

Instead, try what’s called “Observe & Correct.” Observe & Correct is a self-mastery technique that helps you validate yourself when you are practicing “less than perfect behavior.” It also helps you to quickly correct the behavior instead of wasting time and energy making up reasons, excuses and/or explanations as to why you need to be “perfect.” Perfection only leads to self-judgement which then leads to more wasted time! Below is a brief explanation of how to observe your unwanted behavior and correct it thus leading to more “Deliberate Self-awareness.”

Observe & Correct Method

First, internalize and emotionalize, that is, know what is coming up for you, understand that you are looking at something from your own perception or from the Gremlin that sits on your shoulder, your Critic.  Then feel your judgement, perfection, etc. and identify where you feel it (stomach, head, heart pulsing, even a sense of calm) and know that it is now safe for you to make a mistake. As a self-empowered adult you are responsible only for your actions. What other people think of you is none of your business!

When I coach clients I ask them to think of a something they caused and wish they had rethought. I ask them to get “into that space” when it happened and try to feel everything that was a part of that experience. It’s always best to begin with something that isn’t a huge embarrassment because it’s more likely that we’ll stay with that one and work on it.

When my client has surfaced the feelings that they remember concerning that moment I ask them to describe it with as much detail as possible. For example, what were you feeling? Where in your body did you feel it? Where there any sounds, sights, odors, fragrances that you associate with that moment? This is done to really “get into the moment.” The brain “records” all of these sensory experiences. Since they are no longer serving you, you have to consciously detach and “dis-create” them, first intellectually, then internally (body), and then emotionalize them.

We then have a conversation about being the “observer” of our own behavior, not ourselves as the “Doer of the Act.” I’ll ask them to envision a circle that they are standing in. That circle is the regrettable action they took. The client is in the circle feeling everything he/she felt that day. They talk about it.

Then I ask them to step out of that circle and into another one called “The Observer.” This is where they are being as non-judgmental as possible about themselves realizing that the “mistake” was actually a lesson for them to understand that they are human. It’s part and parcel of who we are.

If we can learn from the previous lesson (mistake) we are more apt to be able to observe ourselves the next time we begin expecting “perfect behavior” from ourselves. We will know the feeling we get when we are about to make that mistake/lesson because we’ve worked on training our brain to respond differently.

With time and more experiences, we see that there is no need to go into “perfectionism” since we’ll never achieve it. Thus, we have a life of Observe & Correct instead of “Observe & Explain.”

Where in your life would you like to practice “Deliberate Self-awareness?” Are you in sales and wonder how you are coming off to potential clients? Are you the owner of a franchise and are so consumed  with the day-to-day workings that you have no idea of how you interact with others?

 Linda McCarrin & Associates, LLC

Ripple Effect Development