Introspection: Effective pathway to Self-Awareness

First step to resolving any issue or problem is to accept that you have one to resolve. This step plays an important role in “Smelling the coffee”. In a nutshell, when in situation, it should immediately alert you that something is not working the way you want it. You probably made an error in judgment or decision due to which the feeling of not working is coming through. Hence, it is pivotal to understand and acknowledge the fact that there is problem to be resolved for. Acknowledgement is the first pitstop of this step. From here on, we need to start thinking about causes, repercussions, impact etc. through some of the techniques which have worked well for me.

Personally, Introspection has played as an effective tool in this step. “Critically Thinking” and “Self-Reflection” about the “Why is?” and “What is?” of the situation do help you to figure out the crux of issue or problem you have been facing. There could be many more such tools one could use for figuring out the issue or problem.

To me, Introspection has been a very effective tool in this regard. Introspection is invariably the most effective path to self-awareness. After all, what better way is there to increase our self-knowledge than to look inward, to delve deeply into our experiences and emotions, and to understand the questions which have rippled the pond of thinking. Questions like Why we are the way we are? Or Why am I so upset after that meeting?”, or even questioning our beliefs like “Do I really believe what I think I believe?”.

The only conundrum with introspection is, in general we do not do it with right perspective. Introspection can cloud our self-perceptions and unleash a host of unintended consequences. Sometimes it may surface unproductive and upsetting emotions that can swamp us and impede positive action. Introspection might also lull us into a false sense of certainty that we have identified the real issue. Buddhist scholar Tarthang Tulku in one of his numerous books uses an apt analogy: when we introspect, our response is like a hungry cat watching mice. We eagerly pounce on whatever “insights” we find without questioning their validity or value. Hence, its pivotal that one needs to understand validity and value of such insights appropriately

So, when it comes to developing internal self-awareness, it like coaching one own self. Hence, I like to use a simple method borrowed from one of the coaches I met. It was called “What Not Why” methodology. She used to ask more of “What” questions and not “Why” ones. It got me curious, and one day I asked her the same. As per her interpretation, “Why” questions can draw us to our limitations; “What” questions help us see our potential. Why questions stir up negativity; what questions keep us curious. Why questions trap us in our past; what questions help us create a better future. In addition to helping us gain insight, asking what instead of why can be used to help us better understand and manage our emotions. Let us say you are in a terrible mood after work one day. Asking “Why do I feel this way?” might elicit such unhelpful answers as “Because I hate Mondays!” or “Because I’m just a negative person!” Instead, if you ask, “What am I feeling right now?” you could realize you are feeling overwhelmed at work, exhausted and hungry. Armed with that knowledge, you might decide to fix yourself dinner, call a friend or commit to an early bedtime.

To summarize, introspect to figure you issues or problems. Figure out using the positive way of introspection to impede positive action for further steps.


Nihit M

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Rajesh Agarwal
Rajesh Agarwal
9 months ago

great article

8 months ago

very enlightening, the notion of “what not why”

Who is Nihit Mohan?

12.5 years of experience operating at the intersection of Risk, Retail Banking and Stress Testing within globally recognised Banks in Singapore.


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