The Secret Formula for Making the Best Choice

If you’re a leader, then you probably have one or more leaders who’ve inspired you and you want to be more like. The best of these leaders have developed a good mastery themselves, which maximizes their effectiveness with other people, especially those they lead. I described one of my own experiences with one such leader in a previous post.

That particular leader and moment stuck out for me because in similar situations, I never handled things nearly as well as she did in that instance.  I remember thinking afterward “how in the heck is she able to do that?!”  Now I know: she had (and has) an incredibly high level of self-awareness.

Why self-awareness is important

Our emotions are strongly shaped by our experiences, especially those in childhood.  Unfortunately, our deeply engrained and habitual responses to these emotions don’t automatically mature along the way.  Reactions that once served us well may now actually be saboteurs of our success!

At the most basic level, emotions are information. Emotions are our brain’s way of telling us of our likes and dislikes, when to prepare for a threat, and when to move and meet a need.  No question that the work place and everyday life have their fair share of real threats and stressors. And when you add to that the stress that comes from the “stories” we tell ourselves and perceptions of our experiences, you can end up with a toxic emotional and physiologic stew that can literally kill you (and unfortunately sometimes others)!

By becoming aware and attuned to our emotions, we can become intentional about the responses we choose. Self awareness provides us the ability to replace long-standing habits and patterns that have become self-sabotaging with ones that serve our better self-interests. As Covey aptly put it: “in between stimulus and response is a space”. Without a high level of self awareness, the space to choose is minimal at best and often not big enough to see daylight through. I think we’ve seen enough people, leaders in particular, who need a lot more space.

How do I grow my self-awareness?

People with high levels of self-awareness don’t just come by it naturally. Instead, they’ve developed an ability for mindfulness and self-reflection through extensive practice to the point that these practices become habitual. The good news is that getting started isn’t that hard: just thinking about self-awareness actually helps you improve the skill!

But growing your self-awareness ability and taking to the next level isn’t easy. It requires you to overcome your fear of your emotional “mistakes” and face emotions you don’t want or don’t like.  The pay-off, though, is huge: a high level of self-awareness gives you the ability to read your own emotions and recognize their impact on you as well as others.

Why self-awareness is the secret

The formula and product of self-awareness then is: Read your emotions + Recognize impact= Space to choose. So, Self-awareness = Space to choose.1103 SEISecretSuccessPotion

There is no way around it. If you want to make better decisions….the best decision…’re gonna need space. Taking a cue from the old “got milk” commercials– “Got space?” The better question is “how much more space do you need to become the leader you want to be?”

Self-awareness also facilitates empathy and self-management, which ultimately works in concert and allows for effective relationship management. And relationship management ability, the 4th domain or category of S+EI, will determine how well we are able to “get stuff done” with others.

We’ll discuss specific S+EI training concepts and strategies in upcoming posts. In the meantime,what do you need to do to get the space you said you needed?  Go do it, or at least keep thinking about it.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

4 thoughts on “The Secret Formula for Making the Best Choice

  1. Rob,
    Thanks for the post and bringing this back to my attention. The first time I read this in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – it was like a light bulb exploded in my head. I had never that about a gap and my ability to expand or even control this space between stimulus and response. I used to get upset when people would cut in front of me when driving and now I think; I am not going to let someone that I don’t know put me in an angry or aggressive mood. It is my choice and in my control. This ability gives me so much freedom and control. It is still not easy for me but getting better.
    Can’t wait to read more.

    • Thanks for the comments Bridgit. It’s kind of perverse that until we become self-aware, we are by default ceding power and control to strangers over our own behavior!

      As Victor Frankle observed, the power to choose our attitude and responses is ours alone and something no one can take from us. We have to either knowingly….. or unknowingly (ie. lack of self-awareness) give it up.

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