Every year, like clockwork, most of us begin to plan our new year resolutions and write out our goals. Even after a truly unexpected year like 2020, I believe many of us are still quietly contemplating what we want out of our 2021. Some of us may have grand plans, while others may be hesitant to do so because of the year we just endured.
Wherever you may fall in the spectrum of goal setting and fulfillment, I’d like to encourage you not to view the beginning of a new year as a time to reset, but more so a time to revise. Resetting implies that you are starting at square one. Here’s the deal: There’s no such thing. We cannot erase what we’ve experienced and what we have learned. Regardless of how much we would like to try.
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we have to be flexible and everything we once believed were “have-tos” aren’t necessarily “need-tos.” 2020 gave us some hard lessons, but it also gave us the gift of recognizing how important it is to evaluate and take inventory of how we are living our lives.
So, in preparing for the new year, we can use the strength skills that emotional intelligence provides to help us better revise how we want our lives to look. Here are four ways you can use the emotional intelligence competency of self-awareness to help you create a better life by design.
Self-awareness with work
How often do you take the time to actually practice self and emotional awareness throughout the day? Asking yourself a simple question like, “How do I feel doing this task?” can help you to realize what you want to do more or less of in the coming year. Some things you may not enjoy at all. For those, can you delegate them to someone else or ask for assistance if it’s a task that doesn’t play to your strengths? Sometimes it isn’t about enjoyment, but more about the mental energy needed to complete the task.
Practicing self-awareness will allow you to recognize what part of the day you have the most energy to therefore schedule the more challenging tasks during those times. You want to use your brain optimally so that those self-check-ins are golden moments that will help you achieve what you want more efficiently.
How do the position, people, and processes make you feel? Being able to access how these things individually and collectively make you feel will help you to navigate whether you may need to switch teams, departments, or the company altogether. Not applying self-awareness can have us making rash decisions fueled by an emotional response rather than reflection.
It may not be that you need to quit your job, it could be that you aren’t being challenged enough or would be more satisfied working for a different leader. Consistent practice of self-awareness will encourage you to be more mindful and gather emotional and cognitive feedback to help guide your days and decision-making.
Self-awareness with activities
Similar to using self-awareness to better assess how you feel about your work, you can use this same skill to evaluate the day-to-day activities in your life. Are there some activities that take too much of your time or energy? Note that there can be activities that you deem positive, however, actively recognize if the timing of these activities works for you in this season.
Do you have the capacity to do these activities? Are they high on your priority list, or will they lose their luster because you are worn out with trying to do too many? Remember that sometimes even too much of a good thing can have a bad outcome.
Self-awareness with others
This goes for relationships as well. Who in your circle energizes you and who drains you? Often times we keep people in our lives long past their expiration date. We often miss red flags because we don’t slow ourselves down to really be present in the moment and check-in with ourselves. People will hurt us and we will quickly dismiss our own feelings in order to “keep the peace” while we ignore the war within.
This coming year, choose self-advocacy over self-abandonment. The latter is something that was learned as a way to survive. Giving voice to your feelings and validating them will provide you some clarity as to what new boundaries you need to put in place to help keep the good in and the bad out.
Self-awareness with yourself
Looking in the mirror is not a comfortable exercise. It’s an activity that we would otherwise not do because it means that we have to deal with the truth of who we are. Lean into courage and vulnerability and take more than just a glance. Really look at yourself. What habits do you have that help you or harm you? Give yourself permission to observe how you show up, think, and feel throughout the day. Ask someone you can trust to give you feedback. The more you are aware of who you are, the more authentically you will be able to show up in the world.
We can create better work-life alignment when we use emotional intelligence as part of our guide. Just by elevating the competency of self-awareness we can decrease unnecessary stressors and improve our overall satisfaction in multiple areas of our lives.
Farah Harris is a psychotherapist and the founder and CEO of WorkingWell Daily, a company committed to improving work environments by addressing work-life alignment, equity, and mental wellness.