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As we dive into the third week of 21 Damn Early Days, it’s worth taking some time to talk about and understand self-awareness.

Like most of the concepts important to a full life, the word “self-awareness” has been over-used, under-delivered on, and in many ways washed of its meaning.

So before we dive in, let’s take a second to drop the mainstream BS we’ve heard about self-awareness. Not doing so might ruin one of the most valuable things we got.

Note: To make this easily digestible, we've split this up into a two-part series. The first covers what it is, why it matters, some problems we have with it, and how it relates to 21 Damn Early Days. The second (coming in hot tomorrow) focuses on different aspects of self-awareness and how to increase it.

So, What Is “Self–Awareness”?

The simplest and most down to earth way to understand what self-awareness is is to break it down into it’s components.

“Awareness” is what you notice in life. It’s about paying attention to what’s around you, spending time reflecting and analyzing it, and about having knowledge or perception on a certain situation or set of facts. It is the details you pick up by paying attention to the world around you and actively taking in and processing your environment.

In many ways, it’s how you experience life.

Now a days, with the increased flow of communication and information, there’s an endless amount of stuff to be aware. Understanding awareness and being able to only take in what matters and filtering out the noise is more important than ever. Hell, just look up from this post and scan what’s around you. What did you just notice that has been in front of you the whole time?

Keep in mind that everybody takes in the world slightly differently. We all notice certain things depending on the lenses we use to look at the world through. No form is right or wrong, they are just different. All can be useful or damaging depending on the situation and are determined by both natural and learned tendencies.

Looking at the second half, “self”, is simply reflecting that awareness back on you. It is paying attention to the world inside you, actively taking in and processing your physical sensations, thoughts, feelings, habits, actions, emotions, and reactions to life – honestly.

Building self-awareness means you are aware of all those different aspects, as if you were another person on the outside observing them.
 

"Spend your life building, but please don’t spend it building the wrong things."
 

Why It Matters

Self-awareness will help you cut the noise and more quickly align with the important stuff – determined by you. It's the foundation of figuring out who you are, where you are, and where you want to go.

Growth

Self-improvement and growth isn’t possible without self-awareness. Any kind of improvement requires an understanding of where you currently are and the gap between that and where you want to go.

Self-awareness gives you an honest and accurate sense of who you are and helps you sort out what you need to improve. It will reveal what gaps you have that you need to work on or accept.

Strengths and Shortcomings

Self-awareness will help you sort out what you’re good at and what you suck at. Knowing both will help you focus your energy where you can have a big impact.

For example, believe it or not, I suck at getting up early (or more honestly going to bed at the right time). Left to my own devices, 9PM bedtimes quickly turn into 11PM, which rolls into the early hours of the morning. However, I crave what mornings bring. Understanding how bad I am at getting them and how much I gain from them, I know it’s important to surround myself with people who hold me accountable to getting up early and do so effortlessly. This not only gets me out of bed early every day, but makes sure I need way less willpower to do so.

Intuition

While we have built a society that deeply respects logic, we are now beginning to understand the importance of intuition and how our emotional brain and gut-feelings actually work. The science clearly shows we shouldn't discount them.

A well-developed self-awareness will help you understand what and why your intuition is nudging you in the direction it is. Given that many of the decisions we make in our daily lives are done so with large amounts of unstructured and ambiguous information, a honed self-awareness can help us maker decisions that are more inline with who we are and do so more effectively.

Self-awareness can’t change the world as it is, but it can change the way you interpret the world and that can improve your experience of life. Self-awareness can create an understanding and opportunities for better work-life balance, help become more aware of your thoughts and  emotions, and improve your ability to respond to the world.

To put it frankly, self-awareness will help put you in control. Not of the world around you, but in how you react and respond to it and that's the key to a good life.
 

"To have greater self awareness or understanding means to have a better grasp of reality."
– Dalai Lama
 

Why we don't embrace Self–Awareness

If all that above sounds so damn good, then why don’t we chase self-awareness more than we do.

Well, there’s two problems its with:

1. Exploring the unknown is scary

If you fall into the narrative told to us, we believe that we have to have it all figured out. Becoming self-aware about unresolved feelings threatens everything we thought we were supposed to be working towards – that "self-assured, got it all together" person. So instead, we build mechanisms to ignore these feelings, thinking that if we shy away from them for long enough, they’ll go away.

I strongly encourage you not to do that. They’ll never truly go away.

Instead, start exploring them through self-awareness. At the very least you will learn more about yourself and how you can live in closer alignment with who you really are.
 

2. We Build A self-image of how we want others to perceive Us.

You might view yourself as someone who is always on time, but in reality, you’re often late to appointments.

Self-awareness is about focusing on the reality of your actions, behaviours, and habits, and not on the story you tell yourself. The story, of course, has its use. It's generally the goal we want to have, so don't completely disregard it.

Just know that self-awareness requires a healthy dose of self-honesty and that’s enough to send most of us running.
 

"Books can guide you but your heart defines you."
Jay-Z
 

Self-Awareness and 21 Damn Early Days

If you’re in this challenge, I assume you want more time in your life and want to get more done. To get that, you’ve opted to get up early and create that time.

Throughout 21 Damn Early Days, our goal isn’t to tell you what you need to do and know, it’s to give you frameworks to decide that for yourself. That foundation of deciding comes down to your self-awareness.

Looking at that, the true point of 21 Damn Early Days isn't to under sleep, get up at 4:30AM and grind out just to get a little further ahead. It’s to create a structure that allows us to have a distraction-free period each day where we can focus on the things we deem most important.

For many of us, we’re unknowingly drawn to the morning because it brings a distraction-free, FOMO-free period that's void of life’s typical interruptions. But in reality, with the right discipline, we could create this period any time of day.

Self-awareness is the tool that will help you sort out what works best for you and the life you want to live. 

As you go through the rest of 21 Damn Early Days, I challenge you to increase your self-awareness, giving yourself a better understanding of why you're doing this, what you want from it, how you're feeling throughout, and what it enables you to do.

We'll have more on that tomorrow.

But until then, this should quench your thirst.