Whenever life feels stagnant or I feel like I’ve plateaued working towards a goal, it’s easy to fall into a spiral of critical thoughts. Instead of beating ourselves up trying to figure out what we’re doing wrong, what if we just flip the script and ask different, more intentional questions to help improve our self-awareness?
Researchers love to study happiness and daily habits of successful people. What studies consistently uncover is that people who reach the end of their lives feeling grateful and fulfilled with limited regrets do so by being intentiona in how they show up every day and in their relationship with others. But more importantly, in their relationship with themselves.
Here are some self-reflection questions that can help us improve our self-awareness and be more honest with how we’re showing up and the directions we’re taking.
Questions to Improve Your Self-Awareness
1. Am I doing this for myself or for the opinions of others?
Anytime clients come to me to work on self-confidence, this is always one of the first questions I ask them to honestly answer. Living in a society that puts so much pressure on performance and appearance, it’s easy to fall into the trap of making choices based on how we want people to see us. But when we depend on others to make us feel a certain way, those external opinions end up controlling a lot of our lives.
Take back your power and start making decisions for yourself. It might feel weird to refer to yourself first and what you truly want, but self-confidence and self-awareness is a muscle. We have to use it to strengthen it!
2. Are my goals my own or influenced by other people?
For any goal you set for yourself, always get brutally honest and ask yourself this question. Setting goals is a huge part of life, but if we’re choosing them because we think it’s what we should be doing, or because we think we want what other people want, those goals probably won’t feel too inspiring or motivating.
Take a good look at your goals. If there are any that don’t feel inspiring, ask if these are goals you really want to be working towards.
3. Why are each of my life goals important to me?
You’d be surprised how many people have a hard time answering this question. When it comes to any goals, asking “why” can help determine if this what we truly want or not. Uncovering your “why” creates an emotional connection to your goals. Our “why” is what gets us out of bed in the morning. It helps us maintain habits. It’s what lights a fire in bellies to take action when our brain is trying to convince us otherwise.
4. Am I afraid of failing or am I really afraid of succeeding?
Failure is a regular part of life. It’s normal and it happens all the time. Think about this, we arbitrarily make up a goal in our head, and then we decide what’s going to happen. But if the goal doesn’t happen, we get upset and can be hard on ourselves. In reality, the definition of failure is almost always self-invented. So the question is, are we really afraid of failing, or are we self-sabotaging because we’re actually afraid of succeeding? If success isn’t something we’re used to, we might actually fear that more than failure.
Next time you fear failure, envision what it would feel like to actually succeed and see what comes up for you.
5. What do I need to say “no” to in order to protect my “yes”?
We’ve heard it before “‘No’ is the new ‘Yes’,“ but are we actually practicing that? The pandemic forced a lot of us to reconsider how we spend our time, with who and doing what. Of all the things we used to schedule, what do we actually miss, if anything?
Take a look at your calendar and see if there are any social plans that you aren’t thrilled about. If you were to cancel, what would you rather be spending your time doing? How can intentionally saying ‘no’ allow for more of what you want in life?
6. Am I being true to my values?
Have you ever felt that nagging feeling in your gut like something just feels off? Whenever our behaviors go against our values, our body can sense that, hence the gut feeling. If spending quality time with our family and loved ones is one of our core values, working late can create conflict and trigger that nagging feeling.
Pay attention to when those feelings surface. When they do, just check-in to see if your behaviors are aligned with your values.
7. How can I be grateful for what I have, while still working towards what I want?
Gratitude is Queen. Besides numerous studies proving that gratitude literally rewires your brain for happiness, improves anxiety, stress, overwhelm, sleep, mood, energy, and endless other health benefits, it just feels really darn good. Like really good. If we only find ourselves expressing gratitude for achievements or major life milestones, those moments might only come a handful of times. But if we find ourselves being grateful every day for the small and big things, that’s an entire lifetime of little moments of happiness.
There is tremendous power in being grateful for what is right now, even if we’re working towards something else. Remember, consistency and intentionality is the key.
Asking the hard questions can feel uncomfortable, but we can’t learn or improve our self-awareness by sticking with what’s comfortable. Embrace the uncomfortableness because that’s where the real change is.
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