Written by: Molly Ahrens
Edited by: Eric Frasco
Development of soft skills is too often under-emphasized and overlooked in favor of developing more technical or “hard” skills. However, you can easily develop both! Soft skills are particularly important because they’re necessary for both your professional life and your personal life. Fortunately, developing soft skills can be done just as effectively at home as it can at work -- and you probably already do more work on your soft skills than you think!
In our Soft Skill Development series, we discuss simple and effective ways to hone and strengthen your soft skills right in the comfort of your own home. To get started on improving your soft skills, you need to take an honest self-assessment of what skills you already have and what skills you need to develop more. Knowing yourself enough to take an objective inventory of your own strengths and weaknesses can be tricky for a lot of people, so this first entry in this series will discuss ways to evaluate and improve your own self-awareness.
What is Self-Awareness?
Self-awareness is a set of skills revolving around gaining knowledge about yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, your emotions, and your goals. To be truly self-aware, you have to know not only where you are in your life right now, but who you are at your core, where you’re going, and how you’re feeling along the way. You should also know that any and all of these things are fluid and can change at any time. Therefore, self-awareness is not a process with an end-goal, but is a set of skills and habits that you carry with you and continuously work on throughout your life.
Why is Self-Awareness Important?
If you aren’t in tune with yourself, it can be hard to understand who you really are and what you really want, which can lead to feelings of aimlessness or to wasted potential and missed opportunities. Not understanding your strengths means you can’t emphasize them and use them to your advantage, and not understanding your weaknesses means you can’t make steps to improve on them. Misunderstood or misinterpreted emotions can carry over into other parts of your life and negatively impact your career and your personal relationships. Regularly practicing habits that promote self-awareness can lead to heightened self-esteem, a fuller sense of self, and greater motivation to make moves towards your goals.
Ways To Improve Your Self-Awareness Skills At Home
1. Take a self-inventory of your soft skill strengths and weaknesses.
This list of the top soft skills that employers look for is a good place to start! Go through the list, and perform an honest assessment of your skill levels in each area. Make a list with three columns: Strong, Almost There, and Needs Improvement. Sort the soft skills on that list (along with any others you can think of!) into one of those three columns. Try to be as honest and unbiased as you can, as this list is only for your own personal gain. Refer to this list regularly, and see if anything should be moved as you practice your soft skills and gain more confidence in them.
TIP: Once you have an idea of what you need to work on, you can find more resources in our career advice series, or if you don’t see what you’re looking for there, you can register topics you’re interested in learning more about here to suggest them as a topic for future skill workshops led by one of our mentors!
2. Keep a journal.
If you don’t have a spare notebook on hand, write in a document on your computer. Write non-judgmentally as regularly as you possibly can about whatever is on your mind at the time that you’re writing. You can write about your thoughts, your feelings, your goals, or your memories. The content doesn’t matter quite as much as the habit of writing about yourself and your life does. Re-read old entries occasionally. When you do, take mental note of how you’ve grown, how your perspective on old situations may have changed, and what remains constant throughout your entries. Don’t give up if you miss a few entries -- you can jump back in whenever you have the time and energy. The longer you keep your journal, the more insight about yourself you’ll gain from it, so try to keep up with your entries!
3. Try meditation.
Meditation is a powerful tool proven to improve not only self-awareness, but also attention span, stress management ability, and self-control. Getting started meditating is easy, but getting really good at it takes practice, so if you don’t like it right away, keep trying before you give up! Sit quietly and remain still, focusing on your breathing. When you experience thoughts or feelings during your meditation, simply notice them, name them, acknowledge them, and then let them go. The purpose of meditation is not, as many people think, to clear your mind completely and achieve some sort of magical enlightenment. The purpose of meditation is to gain a sense of awareness and control over your mind and your emotional state. Learning to acknowledge and recognize thoughts and emotions without acting on them is a valuable tool for all aspects of life, and so is gaining comfort and a sense of control within your own mind.
4. Make a list of your goals and dreams.
They can be big long-term goals, or small short-term goals. Ideally, your list will be a combination of both. The point of this exercise is to gain some insight into who you are and what you want out of life. Keep this list somewhere you can revisit it regularly. Add to this list as you make new goals, and cross goals off as you achieve them or change your mind about them. The goal of this list is not to check off every item, it’s simply an inventory of where your goals lie at the moment, and it is allowed to change as you change.
5. Try something new!
Pick up a new hobby, eat a food that’s out of your comfort zone, or listen to music from a genre you aren’t particularly familiar with. Remember, self-awareness involves not only knowing what you like, but knowing what you don’t like. If you don’t think something on this list isn’t for you, that’s okay -- you don’t have to do it. However, you should also remember that you can’t truly know what you do or don’t like or benefit from if you don’t give new things an honest try. Trying new things to see what they have to teach you is an important part of personal growth and the self-awareness journey.
How will you fine-tune your self-awareness skills at home? Stay tuned for the next installment in the Soft Skill Development series, which will focus on communication skills!
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