Awareness of what is going on around you, and awareness of what is going on inside of you. Being aware is the single most important thing you need in your quest to self-improvement.
A lot of people are completely oblivious to what is happening around them. They are too caught up in talking, or too absorbed in thought, and are not paying attention to their surroundings. Next time you are out at a bar, a coffee shop, or a social gathering, sit back and observe for a minute. I guarantee you will notice things about other people’s behaviour or body language that you have never noticed before.
Why is it important to observe and be aware of your surroundings? Because at any moment in any given day, someone around us is doing something that works, and by being aware, we can notice what it is that they are doing. Why does your friend Rick always come across as so charming and charismatic? Sit back and watch him interact with other people for a minute.
It is also important to be aware of your surroundings so that you can act appropriately. This can contribute to your likeability and how you are perceived socially. Social smarts has A LOT to do with simply being aware of what is happening around you and what people might be thinking. Observe people’s facial expressions and body language, and pay attention to their words. Even if you have no idea how to read body language or what to make of facial expressions, just do it. You will develop that intuition over time.
Ever come across an individual who obnoxiously rambles on and on about himself while the audience is completely bored or turned off? Or seen those FOB guys who are so oblivious that they would often stand in the middle of a busy hallway chatting and not realizing that they are blocking everybody? Yeah, don’t be that person. That person has zero awareness of his surroundings, and is living in his own head rather than being in touch with his environment. I have seen people in job interviews who behave like that – they ramble on and on about some topic, not noticing that he is way off on a tangent and that the interviewers have already decided that he’s not suitable for the job. A massive part of being social savvy and having street smarts is simply being aware of what’s going on around you and being able to mentally establish the relationships between you and everything around you.
Just as important as being aware of your surroundings, it is important to be aware of YOURSELF. By this I mean knowing exactly what your strengths and weaknesses are, what qualities you have that make people like you and what traits you have that make people despise you. Knowing yourself is the starting point of any self-improvement plan – you simply cannot start without knowing what you are working with. For example, currently I know that one of my main weaknesses socially is that I do not bring a consistent level of enthusiasm into my everyday social interactions. Sometimes I am high-energy, enthusiastic, have tonal variety in my voice, and come across as approachable and outgoing. Some other days, however, I am monotoned, not in a social mood, or am impatient. This is one area I am currently working on – I know what my weaknesses are and I will address them by making a conscious effort to manage my mindset better and be more enthusiastic on a consistent basis.
If you are unsure whether you really know yourself yet, do not worry. It took at least 25 years of living on this Earth before I could truthfully say to myself that I know (almost) everything about myself. Live your life with an open mind, be open to new experiences, and take time to reflect. Self-discovery takes time and many people today simply do not take the time to think about things and reflect, as a result they are lost, they do not know who they are and what they want. I recommend taking a walk by yourself every now and then, especially if you live in a city with a scenic area. The scenery will put you in a calm and positive state of mind, and as you walk alone you can really think about your life.
Be aware, or you might as well live your life as a blind man.