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September has been dubbed Self-Awareness Month, but what exactly does self-awareness mean? You might know when someone has it, and it’s rather obvious when someone doesn’t, but if it’s not your strong suit, how do you develop it?

I find the Johari Window helpful as a tool to discover how self-aware you are. The Johari Window was developed in the 1950s by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham (they put their first names together to name their product). It is used mostly in self-help groups and as a coaching tool. It can be used to assess and describe where one is during any given time, depending on the situation or process.

The Johari Window is divided into four quadrants along two axes. The horizontal axis is “What I Know,” while the vertical axis is “What Others Know.” The upper left-hand quadrant contains what I and others both know; it’s called the Open Quadrant or the Arena. The lower left-hand quadrant contains what I know that others don’t. It’s called the Hidden Quadrant or the Façade. It represents the things you know are true about yourself but keep hidden from others. The lower right-hand quadrant represents things unknown to you and others. It’s called the Unknown. The final upper right-hand quadrant represents the area of growth in the self-awareness department. It’s called the Blind Spot Quadrant—and we all have blind spots. These are things that are unknown to us but known to others.

When self-awareness is your goal, you want to reduce the size of your Blind Spot Quadrant. The first step is believing its possible. A growth mindset, written about by Carol Dweck in Mindset, is required to more forward with reducing this quadrant. Otherwise, it’s just too easy to believe: This is just how I am. There’s nothing I can do about it. That’s not true. Until you realize you can increase your level of self-awareness, you won’t do anything about it.

Try the Johari Window exercise at www.bit.ly/JHWindow. Consider the list of 56 adjectives and choose the ones that describe you. Then, ask others who know you well to choose the adjectives they would use to describe you. Next, compare the two lists. Adjectives both you and your peers selected go in the Open Quadrant. Adjectives selected by you but not your peers go in the Hidden Quadrant. These “hidden” traits you selected may be unknown by your peers or they are false. Adjectives not selected by anyone belong in the Unknown category. Either everyone is ignorant of these traits or they don’t apply to you.

Adjectives you don’t select but your peers do go in the Blind Spot Quadrant. This would be the area you focus on when you are trying to expand your level of self-awareness. Remember, just because your peers see something in you that you don’t doesn’t necessarily make it true. You need to take a step back so you can be the objective (as much as you can possibly be objective) observer of your own behavior. Ask yourself, I wonder what others see when they watch what I do? Search your brain and heart for your true motivations. Others are not exposed to your intentions so they can jump to inaccurate conclusions. However, it could just as likely be a true blind spot for you.

You might have blind spots about positive and negative qualities. When you examine the traits and believe it might be a blind spot for you, ask yourself, “Is this true about me? Do I like it? Do I want to change it?

If your peers notice something positive in you that you can’t see, you may be having a self-esteem or self-confidence issue. If this is true, you will want to work on seeing yourself in a more positive, kinder light.

If it is a negative trait and you decide it is true for you, then talk to others or a good coach to make a plan to address changing it, if you choose. If you believe this trait is true for you but you don’t want to change, then work on acceptance, or embracing this trait, and discount what other people have to say about it.

Should you decide the trait is negative and you think your peers are misinterpreting your behavior, you can either try to explain yourself to shift their perception or you could look at your behavior to see what might be causing this perception and make some changes accordingly.

Changing long-term habits, particularly ones you haven’t been aware of, can be difficult on your own. Of course, you can do it yourself, but hiring a coach could reduce the time it takes to accomplish the change you’re seeking.

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