The day I realized that I lack self-awareness was the day I read about self- awareness.
The day I realized that my social skills suck was when I was put in situations where I was supposed to have a certain level of social skills, but I screwed up because I hadn’t. When I met people who I envied because of their charisma. When I couldn’t express a thought or a desire that I had. When I read about the symptoms of social anxiety and recognized myself in many of them.
The day I realized that I need to join a gym was the day I learned more about health, the benefits of lifting weights.
The day I realized that watching porn was harmful was the day I came across several studies and many real stories that resonated with my situation.
These realizations, which led to major changes in my life, wouldn’t have been here if I hadn’t gone through new experiences or tried to gain more knowledge.
Or basically, get out of the safe area where I claim that I know everything about myself and the world.
You would never know how strong you are unless your strength is tested. You could be in a bad situation but oblivious to this fact because you’ve never known better.
Something could be causing you harm and you don’t realize it because you don’t have enough knowledge about this thing and how the world works.
If you’ve been living inside of a cave for your entire life, then most probably you would have no clue what light is.
If you’ve never seen better, you would never realize that you could be better. If darkness was your norm, the light would make no sense.
It’s Time to Leave the Cave
We all have our own caves –a.k.a. things that we’re oblivious to.
Saying that you don’t have a cave that you need to leave could be a cave in and of itself and a subtle form of obliviousness (and even self-deception).
The cave could be the fact that you’re living with lots of negative and painful emotions, but you don’t even realize that because they’ve become your norm.
It could be the fact that a certain behavior that you’re doing is pushing people away from you (complaining, victimizing yourself, being judgmental, gossiping, shutting off …etc). And you have no clue that this behavior is subtly making people avoid/dislike you.
It could be a flaw with your personality (that’s nothing to be ashamed of, we’re humans) but you have no idea that it exists. And the only way to see it is to put yourself in situations that can reveal that to you.
Each person is different. Each cave is unique. To find your way out of these limiting caves, you need …
Learn and Fail and Succeed
The obliviousness of the fact that we live in a cave is one of the reasons we stay in that cave.
This obliviousness usually comes from two major sources: lack of knowledge and lack of experiences 1Some people might argue that there are deeper, subtler mechanisms which drive this lack of knowledge and the avoidance of experiences, which is true..
At least, lack of initial amount of knowledge and experiences as we’re going to see. You don’t have to know it all to start leaving your cave.
- Knowledge gives you a keen eye on how things work. When you have an idea about how things work, you will be more aware of whether a change needs to happen or not. And more importantly, how to go about making this change happen.
- Experiences, on the other hand, are eye-openers. I’ve had most of my “aha!” moments while going through new and different experiences. Trying new things. Scary things. Exciting things. Useful things. And sometimes stupid things. Experiences can make you realize a lot about who you are, your skills, your flaws, your abilities, and your potential, though they can be quite painful and scary.
There is a very simple and obvious solution. Nothing revolutionary or earth-shattering!
You simply have to follow the next 2 rules.
But you have to understand that, although they are simple, these rules aren’t easy to follow. Why? Because they make you leave the cave and begin to experiment with light, which is going to hurt your eyes a bit and make you feel the sun for the first time.
1. Constant learning
Since you’re reading this article, you’re already applying this tip. You just have to keep it up and promise yourself that you’ll never stop learning. Especially in today’s world of constant distraction and noise.
Knowledge isn’t just to make you sound smart and intellectual.
It’s to have a better understanding that can lead to a better quality of life.
First and foremost, your learning should be focused on where you want to improve and what you want to change. For instance, if you struggle with self-confidence, then you need to learn more about self-confidence. As simple as that.
If you want to change your body shape, you need to learn about how your body works, how to build muscles, how to burn fats, how to have energy and so on.
If you want to create a business, you need to learn about marketing, your specific marketplace, adding value, promoting yourself and so on.
Do you want to improve your social skills? Learn about charisma, social- intelligence, body language, and how to communicate with people effectively.
Do you struggle with your emotions? Learn about emotions in general, how emotionally healthy individual act and feel like, how to handle uncomfortable emotions …etc.
Want to learn about relationships and how to make them work? Dive in the research and the findings of smart people about this topic.
Do you want to become a writer, a musician, a programmer, a public speaker, an actor? You need to start learning and practicing.
Whatever you want to do, you need an initial amount of knowledge.
There’s an example that illustrates how important knowledge is that goes like: if you don’t know that electricity can kill you when you touch a naked wire, then it’s just a matter of time before you find a naked wire to touch and end your life. It’s a good piece of information to have that electricity can kill you. If you don’t have it, you’ll die.
(I’ve heard this metaphor from Jim Rohn a long time ago and put it into other words. It’s none of my inventions!)
Make it a long-term and never-ending goal to always learn and improve. Make it a habit to read articles and books. The day you stop learning is the day you stop growing. The day you stop growing is the day you’ll start dying.
More importantly, take advantage of the time that we’re living in. Knowledge is available, I believe, more than it’s ever been. The Internet made sharing knowledge a lot easier. Yes, not everything online is correct and true. But you still can find valuable and reliable resources.
You can find articles; you can download books. You can have an unlimited number of books in your pocket and be able to read them anywhere and anytime. You can find videos on YouTube made by professionals who know what they’re talking about. A professor who’s been doing research for years can share his results and conclusions with you in a video that you get to watch for free.
The downside is that as the internet is a source of infinite knowledge, it is also a source of infinite distraction.
Who wants to read an article about emotional intelligence when they can watch cat videos?
And you already know that. Knowledge is available. You just need to make it your mission, and your responsibility, to get the knowledge that’s out there. (And then to act upon it, as we are going to see)
Start small. An article a day. And only in topics that you care about. But always aim to learn something. The fact that you’ve read this far is telling me that I shouldn’t worry much about this. You’re already learning and improving –just don’t ever stop. It’ll improve the quality of your life if you took actions based on that knowledge, which leads us to the next point …
2. Always put yourself out there
While knowledge is great, it is never enough.
And sometimes you end up learning new things you couldn’t have learned by solely reading. Thus, experiences are also means to acquire practical knowledge.
Also, experiences allow you to put the knowledge that you’ve acquired into action. They test your abilities and sometimes force you to apply what you know (or to acquire what you don’t have).
As Jim Rohn suggests, meet every person you can possibly meet. Watch every (meaningful) movie you can possibly watch. Read every book you can possibly read. Go to every adventure you can possibly go to. Try new interesting things as much as you can. Go out there and experience this life as much as you can.
I have a friend who always complains that he’s bored; he doesn’t know what to do with his time. And the problem is that he always stays at home and rarely goes out to experience new things. When he does go out, he goes out to do the comfortable and the average things he usually does (his usual friends in the usual places).
My advice to him? Go out there and experience the damn life!! Say “yes” to new experiences, opportunities, and adventures. Create new experiences, opportunities, and adventures. A ship is safe at the damn harbor, but that’s not what the damn ship is made for!!
And I’m not pointing fingers. Sometimes I have to give this advice to myself when I get too comfortable. I’ve experienced the effects of going through new experiences: boosted self-esteem, better self-confidence, more skills, raised self-awareness, hurt and joy, pain and glory, and failure and success. And they’re worth it.
Also, sometimes when you go out there and experience new things, you meet new people who’ll inspire you to become a better version of yourself.
You might meet people who’ll make you feel inferior. But if you leveraged these feelings of inferiority, they would push you to become better.
You’ll see how life can be and you’ll wonder, sincerely, why not? Why not live your life this way, this better way?
Don’t underestimate the effect a single experience can have on your entire life and even personality.
Those experiences can be as small as meeting someone who you’ve always wanted to be like and then getting inspired to work towards that. They can be as simple as giving a presentation. They can be as simple as going to a conference or an event about something that you’re interested in.
While sometimes you’ll be put in experiences, you need to be proactive and put yourself purposely out there and be in new experiences and situations. Don’t wait for life to come to you, go for it!
The more you learn, and the more you proactively experience life, the more self-aware you will be. The more self-aware you are, the better your emotional well-being and the better you will be able to create positive changes in your life. And isn’t it this mysterious world that lies within us that we are most inclined to discover and unravel? Well, sometimes it’s discovering and unraveling the outside world that will allow us to understand our own inner, mysterious world.