Awareness Drives Performance
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and suddenly realized you’re not really listening? You see them. You hear them. But your mind is somewhere else.
Chances are you’re thinking about what you’re going to say next. Maybe you’re in the future, anticipating travel plans for your next journey; maybe you’re in the past, worrying about an argument you had with your boss the day before…notice how being in the future and the past can trigger emotion? Would you be willing to admit that some internal chatter keeps you from being present in the moment?
One of my early clients said, “I just haven’t been very present most of my life.” Sometimes in Coaching, our clients mirror us or we mirror them. Yes, that statement really resonated with me.
So, I’ve been working with my clients, and coaching myself – on being present, more self-aware, and more aware of others – all leading to many good things. Greater awareness results in a positive outlook, better relationships, and higher performance.
To illustrate the point, you may have heard the story of the frog experiment. (I promise you that I did not conduct this experiment myself. I heard about it during one of Tony Schwartz’s webinars from The Energy Project.)
If you drop a frog in hot water it will jump out immediately to survive. Drop a frog into cold water and it will happily swim around. Then slowly heat the water, very slowly, until it boils – what happens to the frog? Unfortunately, it dies. The frog slowly adapts to the temperature, eventually goes numb, and fails to notice it’s in boiling water.
Fortunately, most of the time, lacking awareness is not a life and death situation. However, the more you know yourself, the more you live in the moment, the more present you are, the more attractive you become. Attraction leads to better choices, higher performance, and a real competitive advantage.
- Awareness is the foundation for social and behavioral skills.
- Awareness affects how we communicate and make decisions that achieve positive results.
- Awareness is the strongest driver of personal excellence and performance.
So, here are a couple of easy tips I’ve learned and want to share with you.
The first key to greater awareness is to simply notice. Rick Carson, in his book, Taming Your Gremlin, says that “simply noticing” and “thinking about” are different. Don’t try to notice, just simply notice when you experience the natural you and your surroundings. This takes practice.
To quote Lao Tzu, who wrote more than 2500 years ago:
“Simply notice the natural order of things.
Work with it, rather than against it.
For to try to change what is only sets up resistance.”
Even the Delphic Oracle of “know thyself,” was written 800BC. These are not new concepts.
Now, the next tip is to breathe! Breathing is another critical element to gaining awareness. Many of you may think breathing is breathing. What’s the big deal? … Someone once said, “Breathing is the secret to life.”
We could point to Eastern philosophies and Western research that prove the value of meditation, which requires a focus on deep, rhythmic breathing. For many people, it’s just common sense. You’ve heard the expression “slow down and take a few deep breaths!”
Deep rhythmic breathing can center you, bring you back to the here and now, and keep you in the present. It can even keep your emotions from hijacking your awareness. Breathing is even easier than simply noticing. Just practice!
Now to put this in the context of our working world and ….why does this matter to me?
It was Maslow, who instead of studying mental illness and pathology, studied healthy, fully functioning people to gain insight into human nature. He found that fulfillment of human potential was achieved through greater self-awareness. (Maslow studied the healthiest 1% of the college student population.)
Robert Keegan, Harvard professor of Adult Learning, says that we are the most over-informed, under reflective people in the history of civilization. Wow! That got my attention.
Daniel Goleman coined the phrase Emotional Intelligence, or put more simply, personal and social competence. In his research he realized that the range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. (Remember the frog?) We can’t change what we don’t notice.
Goleman and many others have proven research that shows awareness and social competence are common themes among great leaders and great performance.
The most effective interactions occur when people are mutually present to each other. That’s when rapport happens. That’s when chemistry happens. That’s when you’re going to have the most powerful communication and mutual understanding. With shared understanding you’ll gain shared outcomes and shared success.
So, simply notice and simply breathe, and trust that this kind of awareness will attract better choices, build rewarding relationships, and achieve higher performance.