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3.1 Seven pillars of insight

So how do you build self-awareness?

In her book Insight, Eurich describes seven pillars of insight (2018, pp. 24–37) that will help you to become more self-aware. They are:

  1. values – a core set of principles that guide how we want to live our lives
  2. passions – what we love to do
  3. aspirations – what we really want out of life
  4. fit – the type of environment we require to be happy and engaged
  5. patterns – our consistent ways of thinking, feeling and behaving across different situations
  6. reactions – the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that reveal our capabilities
  7. impact – how our behaviour affects others.

By taking the time to work out what your values, passions and aspirations are, you will get to know yourself better. In the next activity you’ll start to identify your values.

Activity 3 What are my values?

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes for this activity

Identifying your values is a key part of becoming more self-aware. Think of values as motivators or drivers influencing everything you do in life. There are no right or wrong answers.

Start this activity by spending a few minutes thinking about times in your home or work life when you felt happiest, proudest or most fulfilled.

When you have reflected on those occasions for a few minutes, consider the values that best represent why those times in your life made you feel so positive and write a list in the box below.

The following image will give you some ideas of values but if you think of others that fit better, add them to your list. If you’re running out of ideas, there are numerous lists of core values available online – type ‘core values’ into your preferred search engine to find them.

Go with your initial reaction to each word. Don’t overthink it.

Word cloud including words such as: compassion, philanthropy, justice, professionalism, community and efficiency.
Figure 1 What are my values?
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Now narrow down your list to between three and five values that resonate the most with you. These are your core values.

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Your core values will already be reflected in what you do and what you say when you are comfortable in your environment. Identifying and labelling them in this type of exercise can help you to keep them front and centre when you are considering what work experience to choose or reflecting on how things are going.

Understanding the values that are important to you will help you to recognise good career opportunities when they arise. If you’ve already done the thinking, it will be easier to see if a particular role aligns with what you feel is important. For example, if you chose ‘wealth’, salary will be a serious consideration. If you value ‘individuality’, a work environment that requires you to conform might not be a comfortable one.

Understanding your values can also help you to identify why you felt stressed in a particular situation that didn’t align well with them.

This can be a challenging exercise so do seek support and feedback if you need to, either from a careers adviser or coach, or a trusted friend or colleague.

This is an exercise that is worth repeating throughout your career as values can change as you grow and mature. For example, having children is an experience that changes many people’s values and this can have an impact on future career choices.

Another significant advantage to be gained from work experience is building your self-confidence, and you’ll explore that in more detail in the next section.