I am a passionate person. Passion drives my emotions across everything that I do. When I first came across the quantified self concept, it immediately interested me. “Quantified self” is a term that refers to self-knowledge through self-tracking. Even though I was doing a great amount of it for my physical aspect, could I apply this concept to measure my emotions and happiness?
I consider myself a self-aware person, but I wanted to know more about the topic, so I researched Tasha Eurich, one of the most prominent figures in the field of self-awareness. To my surprise, in her latest research she found that even though most people believe they are self-aware, self-awareness is a truly rare quality that only an average 10%–15% of the people might actually possess.
It immediately dawned on me that I needed to take action so I embarked on a journey to track my happiness for thirty days via a number of apps and offline journaling. This is what I learned about the process of becoming more self-aware:
- Start with the why. It’s important to take a few minutes and think why you want to become more self-aware. The answer shouldn’t be “because it’s good to be self-aware” it must be something deeper - you have to define the purpose. Knowing the purpose will drive what you need to find out which will then allow you to decide how you will do so. Having a why, a what and a how will keep you committed to continue to track.
- Make it an enjoyable activity. Nobody wants to add yet another chore to their already busy life. Find a way to make this an enjoyable activity. This way chances are that you will continue to do it and have fun while doing it. Think of a nice tea/coffee moment, maybe 5 minutes before going to sleep with some nice music or before/after dinner.
- Find what works best for you. There are several apps, as well as offline journals tracking different aspects of your life, but the objective is to become more self-aware of certain aspects of your life. I was interested in becoming more aware of my emotions and while I started trying out many options and tracking many aspects, I soon learned what worked best for me and my goal.
- Tomorrow is a fresh beginning. While there were definitely bad days during the period that I was tracking my happiness, they were just that, random bad days which were done when I went to bed. After a night of sleep, yesterday’s problems lost importance. Starting the following morning with a gratitude thought was an easy way to prime my brain to think positively. Just one gratitude thought has the power to help your entire day.
- Track the cause. As important as the result is, it's important to keep a record of what caused a certain emotion. For me the best tool from all that I used was a personal tracker that I created for myself. It consists of noting down one word that best summarizes the cause of a certain feeling. It helped me become aware of the fact that if I am having a bad day it's pretty much one of three things that cause it, while on the opposite there are a large number of things that make my days happy. Pretty interesting finding.
- Reflect on your week. To my surprise, while I consider myself a self-aware person, at the end of a week I would check my happiness score on one of the apps and couldn’t necessarily remember what determined my score. To remember I’d go to my personal tracker and check the word I had noted down. This proved to me the little relevance some of the things really have in my life and started changing my behavior in certain situations.
- Anticipate the good and be grateful. Thinking of something that you are looking for helps your emotions to stay positive and savor the anticipation. In the same way, reflecting on the good that happened and being grateful not only brings back the same good feelings that you had in the moment you experienced them, but it allows you to become more aware of all the good happening to you.
Researchers such as Tasha Eurich have identified a gap between the science and the practice of self-awareness. By taking action and tracking my own happiness I realized I wasn’t as self-aware as I initially believed.
On our day to day we switch the autopilot and go through the day. We rely on our instincts to guide us through the day, but the reality is that we need to be aware and intentional about what we do. Increasing self-awareness regarding my emotions allows me to be more in control of them and be able to respond rather than react to what happens to me and around me. This is however a long journey, but as I always say, to initiate change you first must become aware.
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