Self-improvement is impossible without self-awareness; it’s the starting point.   Understanding your own needs, beliefs, desires, strengths, weaknesses – everything that makes you tick; everything that makes you unique is critical.  The more you know yourself, the better you will be at adapting to life’s challenges in a healthy and successful manner.

Emotions can provide valuable information about how we understand the world around us. People who know their own emotions and are good at reading others’ emotions can be more effective in the workplace.

Emotional intelligence refers to an individual’s ability to be: self-aware, attuned to the emotions of others, and able to manage emotional cues and information.

As you get better at recognizing and understanding your emotions, you gain the power to control them as opposed to being controlled by them. 

Benefits of Recognizing Your Emotions

Recognizing and articulating your emotions, and the intensity of your emotions is critical.  But many of us do not have a large emotional vocabulary.  We may know some of the common emotions we hear every day like happy, sad, angry, afraid, or ashamed.  But, emotions are similar to the colours of the rainbow, and all the variations between them. Therefore, we need to widen our feelings wordlist.

For example, if a situation makes you angry, it is important to determine how angry you are.  Are you furious or simply annoyed?  If you are able to recognize how you are feeling specifically, you then have the ability to make a choice on how you are going to respond to the situation.  In other words, once you can name it, you can tame it. Having the self-awareness, conveying your feelings, and articulating its intensity will help you determine what action you need to take.

Emotional self-awareness allows us to act responsibly no matter what. Without it we may react, making ourselves, and possibly others, victims of our emotions.

Self-awareness is the first step. Acknowledge your emotions, not as good or bad, right or wrong, but as a source of information that can improve your decision-making.

Exercise to Enhance Your Self-Awareness

Try this simple exercise. Take a sheet of paper, and draw four columns down the page.  In the first column, write the title “Emotion.”  In the second column write the title “Trigger.”  In the third column, write the title “Action’, and in the last column write the title “Impact.”

Now, try to identify your emotions throughout your day, and put a label on how you are feeling. This will help you build your emotional vocabulary as you become more familiar with the ebb and flow of your moods.  Once you have identified your feelings, write it down in the first “Emotion” column.  Next, try to figure out what triggered that emotion.  Write down the root cause, reason, or situation that sparked that emotion in the second “Trigger” column.  Next, decide what is the emotionally intelligent action you should take so that your emotions are not ruling you.  Write this down in the third “Action” column.  Finally, determine the impact that your action will have on others and yourself.  Write that down in the final column, “Impact.”

By practicing this simple exercise three times throughout the day, you will be able to gain a deeper understanding of the situation and of yourself.  When you start to become an observer of your life, you begin to notice things – things you may not have ever been aware of.  And once you know better, you do better.

Emotions are a powerful tool.  They provide valuable information that we, as leaders, can use to make better decisions. Emotional self-awareness allows leaders to make the right decisions which are in the best interest of the organization and congruent with their own values. It also allows us to recognize when we might be falling into behaviour patterns that we would like to change.

If you would like to assess your own emotional self-awareness, check out our emotional intelligence assessments, where self-awareness is just one of the fifteen competencies explored. You can also check out our online classes to learn more about emotional intelligence! 

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