Updated: Feb 25
Research shows that self-awareness is a key fundamental quality of a successful leader. Being self-aware means having the ability to look within ourselves to get a clear snapshot of our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, motivations, and our personality in general.
This ability helps you to become aware of your limiting thoughts, false beliefs, and reactive emotional thought patterns. But it also helps you to achieve clarity on your vision, mission, and purpose in life.
You cannot learn how to become self-aware by reading a book. It can be cultivated by regular and systematic mindfulness training (or related methods.)
Self-reflection is not much different than self-awareness and they are very much connected to each other. It is the process of exercising introspection and learning about your personality, in order to achieve self-awareness. That means self-awareness is the end goal.
Emotional intelligence (being able to identify and control your emotions) is directly connected to becoming self-aware. The authors of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves) based on their research state that 83% with a high level of self-awareness are top performers, while only 2% of the bottom-performers exhibit this trait.
Then there is present awareness (or simply presence), the awareness of the present moment. Your (level of) presence determines how strongly you are connected with the present moment.
I also refer to this as your level of present awareness (LPA), which is a key performance indicator (KPI) in my training. KPIs are typically used in the business context to measure progress.
When you are fully present, alert, and live in the present moment, you can experience life at its fullest. In such a state there is (relatively) low thinking activity (if at all), and you feel like you’re in a flow state. Athletes often report about being in such a state, when they are immersed deeply into an activity like running or rock climbing.
But you don’t have to do any of those (sporting) activities to immerse into a flow state (although it can be a helpful technique.) A simple 5-minute meditation might do the same trick, or just brushing your teeth in the morning, while being fully alert and paying attention to every little detail while doing this activity. This is the core idea behind mindfulness, and mindfulness training in different flavors essentially connects you deeper with the present moment, while gradually increasing your LPA over time.
If your LPA is low, that means your ability of self-reflection will be poor as well. Self-reflection requires clarity and stillness, while looking within, and going through layers of your ego that prevent you from seeing the truth. Presence, therefore, is a requirement for a high level of self-awareness, as well as other capabilities that are based on emotional intelligence.
Therefore you want a high LPA, which can be achieved through regular (mindfulness) training.
However, for me as a scientist, the question came up many years ago …
How to reliably measure your LPA?
As you possibly know from Peter Drucker’s famous quote:
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
It turns out that this is doable if you are diligent and willing to invest a little bit of time in the process of tracking.
At its core, we need to keep track of the number of your mindful moments - or your "mindful minutes" over the course of the day.
A mindful minute is a minute, where you are fully alert and connected to the present moment.
Doing a meditation or yoga
When jogging (or other sports activities)