So-called advances in education (as in, children not learning multiplication tables?!) notwithstanding, there’s plenty to be said for enhancing self-awareness the personal way, via introspection blended with own experiences, stories of the streets, etc.
The June edition of Psychology Today includes a list of skills which are likely to be only truly clarified, then absorbed, outside the classroom. The key rewards for doing so lie in linking one’s vision with achieving life goals.
Here are some of these ‘positive behaviour modification’ techniques:
- A significant lesson for those in power, or with other means of disproportionate influence, is to appreciate that not everything we experience is about ourselves; an excellent daily example in bigger cities is dealing with a traffic jam – which has a habit of performing on its own schedule, not ours; for a less reactive and more directed life we need to be aware of ‘egocentric bias’, indeed “to recognize that our own point of view isn’t the only one, or necessarily the best one”
- We can take advantage that we are not, or don’t have to be, as transparent as we think we are, since others don’t notice and judge us as much as we think they do; this means we can disguise our persona if we’re not at our best or feeling defensive; ‘self-distancing’ can become self-regulation, by communicating internally as from an outsider viewpoint, creating ‘mental space’; this space in turn permits the emotional experience to be mitigated, so reaction can be better controlled
- A prime attitude to ensure that a life of meaning is possible is to recognize that one’s own needs and values matter; not acting this way paves the way to ‘a life of regret or resentment’; a thoughtful employing of passions and skills requires that one “discover what they are and equip (one)self to deploy them”; there is a vital balancing act involved, since both internal and external factors impact self-awareness; the skill is reconciling “the part of us that knows its own desires and passions and remains essentially stable over time and the part that derives meaning and identity from a social context which by definition is in flux”; the challenge is illustrated in realizing that “People high in both internal and external self-awareness are at best navigating the dueling expectations”
- Whatever our prime goals and directive, we need to avoid falling into a path in which an accumulated sense of constancy morphs into rigid thinking and reaction; with or without our inputs, circumstances around us change, so exhibiting behaviours based on learning principles and then being constrained by them may cause us to reject changes, and in so doing, personal growth; a challenge of age is that ‘neural flexibility cedes ground to efficiency’; fortunately, ‘cognitive flexibility’ can be rekindled by physical activity mixed with mental training, particularly permitting curiosity to be more vital than mastery in exposure to new things
- If we want to accomplish tasks, we need to find and keep to habits which support self-motivation; regular activities which can help are writing down affirmative outcomes, imagining having a ‘coach in the head’ or competing with peers, or adhering to behavioral routines which represent steps on the way, perhaps even taking pleasure in the process
- The increasing pace of modern life means we must accept acting on the basis of less-than-fully definitive information, and so must tolerate ambiguity; the rewards of accepting ambiguity include being more able to experiment, to be flexible, to not reject new information out of hand, and to let situations develop; we’ll probably never know all there is to know about an issue, and thus never able to be 100% certain; clarity is a substance that ‘develops best over time’
We can appreciate how the average, structured classroom environment is not conducive to engaging these lessons, given they exhibit amorphous parameters which require shifting mind-sets and responses. Perhaps it’s a good thing that graduation ceremonies give out diplomas, and not carte blanche road maps.