Self-awareness is necessary for self-change. But, self-awareness isn’t enough.
When it comes to making changes in our beliefs, habits, actions, it’s the application of learning (from the self-awareness) that leads to change. Perfectionists struggle with the application piece because we want to do it “right” and that can get in the way of doing anything at all.
An example from my own life
Let me give you an example, from my own life: I have struggled with overworking for decades. I am constantly adding to my “to do” list, and each work day is a process of trying to get as much [work] done as possible. I often feel a sense of compression as I endeavour to move swiftly from one task to another.
Not only do I overwork but, when I am not working I fret about the work I’m not getting done. This means that, even when I give myself breaks from work, I often think about my projects and work goals. Does this sound familiar to any of you “I’ve got goals!” folx?!
I’ve observed this overworking pattern for 25+ years. In other words, I have the self-awareness.
But, unless I actually shift my thinking and step into a different ways of being, my self-awareness isn’t going to stop me from continuing this way for another 25+ years. That’s not what I want (note: I don’t want to suggest that it’s like this 100% of the time, but this default/way of being is in action more than I would like).
Where does that leave me? In other words, how do I actually make a change?
Moving into action after some initial self-awareness
Here’s what I’ve done, specifically around the overworking issue.
1) I’ve gone deeper into the self-awareness.
(Ok, I know it may sound like I’m contradicting myself here–but, hear me out) Instead of stopping at “yeah, I do this”, I’ve journaled about what I’m gaining by overworking and what I’m afraid of when I step into an identity where work is still central, but not all-consuming (I came up with a fairly long list).
2) I practice taking time for the activities I enjoy and people I love.
I do this to show myself that it doesn’t need to be an “all or nothing” situation, i.e., I can work in a bounded way and be more whole. I take small actions and prove to myself that I am someone who can have fun when she gives herself the time to do so! I use the word practice intentionally here, to highlight that this (taking time off) doesn’t come naturally to me — it needs to be planned and I am aware of my resistance.
3) I track and celebrate my moments of success
I write down those moments when I put my attention to non-work activities and have put boundaries on the amount of work I am doing. The high-achieving people I coach frequently resist the celebrating step: they think only epic wins count. I used to be like that and now have learned to celebrate even micro wins 😀.
4) I notice instances of resistance when I resist taking the “easy route”
Overworking is like driving down a well paved, well marked highway with little traffic. It’s easy. Deviating from that is like taking the pot-hole, poorly maintained back road. The latter is more effort. When I want to take the superhighway but don’t, I experience resistance. I notice it and I take a breath, relax my jaw, show self-compassion. Sometimes, I sing.
5) I hired a coach.
I’m committed to making a change, and I know I’ll get there faster with my coach’s support. (there = living a life not memorable for overworking). Sure, I could probably get there myself…but how’s that been working for me so far (rhetorical question)?
Your thing may not be overworking. It could be something else entirely—whatever it is, you already have the self-awareness. My point is that change won’t come about with self-awareness alone. You need to plan AND execute steps that will bring about the change you want. You can borrow inspiration from the steps above or come up with your own.