Self awareness before knowledge

People can read as many books as they like, but if they’re unable to read themselves they’ll never really learn a thing

Self awareness before knowledge
Self Awareness before Knowledge by Martin Adams

In a podcast episode between Steven Bartlett and Simon Sinek, the topic of self awareness came up in the context of personal improvement.

Steven says:

People can read as many books as they like, but if they’re unable to read themselves they’ll never really learn a thing

This stands out because we live in a world where information is so dense, and so easily accessible that we can become knowledgeable in almost any area, but fail to change.

I had the opportunity to work with a performance coach and in our first session he says to me that ‘I’m a very knowledgeable person’, but ‘that doesn’t mean I’ll put it into action’.

While my why is to inspire a generation of thinkers and doers, what it really comes down to is figuring out how to allow knowledge to drive change. Self awareness may be key to this discovery.

Learning a technical skill through knowledge is relatively straight forward. Start at the beginning, follow the steps, and av voila, you have acquired a new skill.

But what about changes that help us be happier, healthier and a better human being for the ones we love? This is a lot harder. It requires us to get uncomfortable with ourselves. And I feel a lack of self awareness is key to achieving this.

Permission. This is a thought that I keep circling back to. I think it’s possible that what we lack is the ability to give ourselves permission. Permission to introspect ourselves—in an honest and constructive way—to find the root cause and the root motivation of what we need to do.

So why do we lack permission? This can be for a variety of reasons. One might be our self esteem simply wants to avoid being  uncomfortable. Another might be an obligation to someone else and we don’t want to disappoint them. There may be a fear of how they would perceive it, as it would be asking them to make a sacrifice. Stress can be a signalling factor. To give ourselves the thinking space when stressed can be hard as we’re unable to clear our mind properly.

I don’t think it’s just a case to ‘become more self aware’. I think the question is deeper. Yes, we need the initial spark to introspect, but taking action and actually doing it has a lot more nuance. And we need to give ourselves permission to dig deeper.

In today’s Ah-Ha moment, ask yourself if you’re chasing new knowledge but not really putting it into action. Is it because you lack a self awareness to read a more truthful understanding of your situation? And even when you are self aware, are you giving yourself permission to change your priorities to make use of this new knowledge?

Want to level up your note-taking and be a deep meaningful thinker? Check out my book Atomic Note-Taking.