Radical self-awareness is, as far as we know, uniquely human. It is the awareness that we have a choice in who we are being. If you meet someone and want to get to know them, you ask them questions. It’s no different when you want to get to know yourself more deeply. In many ways, we are strangers to ourselves. When we realize this, it helps to ask a few questions to get to know ourselves better. This is how we get closer to our essence and, therefore, connect better to others.
There are three critical questions you can ask yourself that can help you develop radical self-awareness, to locate yourself on your journey, to identify who you’re being and why, and to change your song when you find yourself off course.
When you ask yourself these three questions, it helps you break the cycle of your nonsense ideas about yourself. It helps you identify which voices in your head are inauthentic and not worth listening to and which voices are calling you to a real sense of who you are and what you need. The more practiced you become at running yourself through the questions, the more effective you’ll be in your work, in your life, and in your relationships including, most important, your relationship with yourself.
1. Where are you?
The first question is about locating yourself in the moment. Where you are physically may be important, but the question really points to your state of mind. Where are you in your head and in your heart?
This question comes first because it helps us locate ourselves. It can be as broad as asking where you are on the journey of your years. It can be as specific as asking what room you are in. And it can be as internal as identifying the head space you find yourself in.
2. Why are you here?
Knowing how you arrived in this position helps you understand the situation better. Asking why you’re here is nonjudgmental. You may be right where you want to be or you may be in the middle of a big mess. All that matters is recognizing the cause. Just as important, now that you’re here, what does this moment ask of you? What are you called to give?
The power of this question is to supercharge your life and your leadership with purpose. If you are here because you are being asked to take account of past actions and decisions that have caused what feels like a wrong turn, that realization can become your turning point for change. If you are here because you are called to help someone else find their own turning point, that’s a powerful reason to identify in the moment. And if you have no idea why you’re here, then your purpose is to be intensely curious about what the moment asks of you.
3. Who are you being?
When you know where you are and why, you can open the door to the question at the heart of matters. Who are you being? is the core question because once you know who you’re being and why, you have an existential choice. You can choose to change who you are being.
Who you are being is important. But it’s not as important as knowing who you are being. In the moment that you truly know who you are being, you can change.
When I coach leaders of giant organizations, this is where we start. Every morning when you wake up, ask yourself this question. Ask it every moment of the day, from the moment you get to work until the moment your head hits the pillow. Before you write that email, pick up that phone, or walk into that meeting. Every time you walk through a door.
Radical self-awareness is not a formula or a process. It’s a constant practice of calling yourself back to now, to this present moment, and checking on where your awareness is. Like any other art, the more you practice it, the more natural and beautiful it becomes.
Dain Dunston has spent 35 years as an advisor and coach to leaders, helping them frame the foundation of their personal and professional journeys. He’s a founding Partner at Reservoir LLC. Dunston is a frequent speaker on leadership, culture and coaching topics. He is author of “Being Essential: Seven Questions for Living and Leading with Radical Self-Awareness“.