Exploring career mentoring and coaching
Exploring career mentoring and coaching

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Exploring career mentoring and coaching

4 What might get in my way?

Described image
Figure 4 Obstacles to self-awareness

When you are working towards becoming more self-aware, there are potential obstacles to your progress.

Farmer (2017) writes about 12 obstacles to building self-awareness. They include:

Fear: Fear of unpleasant emotions; of opening a Pandora’s Box of memories; of trying something new.

Discomfort: People are uncomfortable changing what they’ve always done, even if it’s not working; people feel uncomfortable focusing on themselves.

Accountability: It’s easier to live unconsciously; it’s easier to live through other people; it’s easier to give responsibility for your happiness or success to someone or something else.

Negativity: Self-awareness takes a lot of work; it’s difficult to break habits; self-awareness is intangible; people don’t see the value in getting to know themselves.

(adapted from Farmer, 2017)

If you are interested in mentoring and coaching, it is unlikely that you will hold negative views about self-awareness – you’re already exploring methods of enhancing your own. So, do you have any other blocks to becoming more self-aware?

Watch this short video from Tasha Eurich in which she explains ‘Why we’re not as self-aware as we think’.

Download this video clip.Video player: Why we’re not as self-aware as we think
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Transcript: Why we’re not as self-aware as we think

One hot summer day in Pittsburgh, 48-year-old, Dennis Hawkins made a big decision. Today, he was finally going to rob a bank. As he planned his heist, he knew he'd need a disguise to help him flee the scene of the crime. His choice? A long blond wig, fake breasts, and brightly coloured clown pants. Obviously, right? So after Dennis Hawkins robbed a poor bank teller, the police released his colourful description. And just minutes later, they found him sitting in a car he was trying to steal, still in his glorious disguise with his face covered in red dye from a pack that exploded when he took the cash. The predictable ending to this rather bizarre story begs the question, how could Hawkins have been so delusional to think he could pull this off?
For our purposes, Dennis Hawkins lacks the most important, and yet the least examined foundation for success in today's world, self-awareness. Research shows that people who know themselves and how others see them live happier and more successful lives. At home, they build stronger relationships and raise more mature children. At school, they get better grades. At work, they're more confident, more creative, and they get more promotions. They even lead more profitable companies. But there's just one problem. Even though 95% of us think that we're self-aware, the real figure is closer to 10% to 15%. So why can't we see ourselves clearly?
I explore the answers to this question in my book insight, but let me briefly give you two reasons. First, no matter how much we try, our brains simply can't access many of our thoughts, our feelings, and our behaviours. The most dangerous part about these blind spots is that we don't even know we have them.
The second is something I call the cult of self. Regardless of our age or gender, cultural forces are conspiring to keep us more self-absorbed and less self-aware. Luckily my research shows we can overcome many of these barriers and that self-awareness is a surprisingly learnable skill. One simple, but not always easy suggestion, is simply to ask for more feedback.
Even though other people rarely volunteer such information, they usually see us far more clearly than we see ourselves. I suggest finding at least one loving critic, that is someone who wants you to succeed and is brave enough to tell you the truth. In hindsight, I offer dozens of other tips to get an edge by increasing your self-awareness in an increasingly unself-aware world.
End transcript: Why we’re not as self-aware as we think
Why we’re not as self-aware as we think
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Activity 5 What’s in my way?

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Eurich refers to blind spots and self-absorption in her research, and Farmer’s list suggests lack of self-confidence, fear or a negative attitude. Finding the time to actually sit down and think might be another problem! Use the boxes below to answer these questions.

What are your obstacles to becoming more self-aware?

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What can you do about them?

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You may have identified a range of obstacles and they may be difficult to overcome without support. Think about who could help you, or how you could set aside some time each day. For example, finding 10 minutes to reflect might be manageable - perhaps on your journey to work or instead of browsing your social media. But don’t be disheartened. By taking the time to self-reflect and do this week’s activities, you are already doing better than the 95% of people who think they are self-aware, but aren’t.

Self-awareness and self-reflection are skills like any other. The more you use them, the better you will get.

As Dr Julia Yates explained at the beginning of this week, self-awareness is at the heart of coaching and mentoring, and your own self-awareness will grow when you work with a mentor or coach. Over the next few weeks of this course, you’ll have a chance to consider in more detail the support that a mentor or coach can offer and make some decisions about how they could help you.


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