A Lifetime Journey: 5 Steps For Greater Development Of Self-Awareness

It's important to be more self-aware.

woman outdoors in the dark getty

There are destinations you've never reached but you persevere through the journey. There are books that are never finished but authors continue to outline and edit. ,

But what about the self — that perpetual, cradle-to-coffin quest that remains ever-elusive? Can we consciously "build" on it? And, if so, what does developing self-awareness entail?

The irony of self-awareness is that it exceeds mere awareness.


At some point early in life, the child looks in the mirror and connects his reflection with the physical being standing before the glass.

This objective awareness is just that — objective. It doesn’t exude from evaluative processing or contemplation of experience. It has no moral relevance, no inspiration for behavioral modification.

And, yet, awareness of the objective self is foundational to what comes afterward: the subjective self.

Without developing self-awareness, the journey to reach your true potential will be fraught. 

RELATED: Here's Why Emotional Self-Awareness Is Difficult For Some People To Attain


It’s here, where the mirror reflects inward, that self-awareness steps out on a lifetime journey. And, though there may be looking back, there can never be turning back.

Roy Baumeister describes the concept of self-awareness as: "Anticipating how others perceive you, evaluating yourself and your actions according to collective beliefs and values, and caring about how others evaluate you."

We can easily vouch for the ongoing human effort to improve or, in some cases, destroy the world. It’s that intentional application of consciousness that separates us from creatures of pure instinct.

But not every "self" has the same level of awareness or the same merit of intention. The often glaring disparity is the maddening undercurrent of broken relationships and even wars.


In order to have a better world — within ourselves, our families, and our communities — we must ask and answer this question: How can self-awareness be developed?

Here are 5 steps for developing self-awareness as you get started on this worthwhile journey.

1. Look at yourself objectively.

Once you have launched your lifetime journey of the subjective self, looking at yourself objectively can feel unnatural, even risky.

It means stepping back from yourself enough that you can be "aware of your awareness."

It means detaching from your ego — its insecurities, fears, and pride — so you can observe and evaluate your thoughts and behaviors.

What’s working well? What’s not? Where and why are you succeeding? Where and why is your progress stalled?


What kinds of reactions and responses do you get from others? And how do you react and respond to others?

This ability to self-evaluate without sheltering your ego is an essential building block to integrity and leadership.

2. Clear your brain space by journaling.

There’s something about writing things down that's both liberating and edifying.

By dumping your thoughts and musings onto paper, you free yourself of the need to keep them circulating in your active memory.

Also, if a thought, feeling, fear, idea, or goal makes it from your brain to your pen, it’s important enough to reflect on.

Sometimes, you need your unconscious mind to help your conscious mind stand up and take notice.


The other benefit of keeping a journal is that you free up that mental logjam so fresh thoughts and ideas can come in. Think of it as a process of getting unstuck and creating mental movement.

Change, after all, is just a form of movement. How can self-awareness be developed without change?

3. Practice daily reflection.

This practice is really the heart of all self-awareness work. It’s only by that journey inward that self-awareness evolves.

It’s easier said than done, obviously, especially in a fast-paced, demanding world. Start small and work your way up.

Create space for yourself to be reflective — a quiet room or a walk in nature.

Think about recent events and encounters in your life. What triggered you, inspired you, delighted you, upset you? How did you respond?


Did you respond out of your old, conditioned self or out of your evolving self?

Think about your goals. What have you settled for and why?

As you can see, reflection can take any number of paths.

And that’s the point —to bravely try the various paths and decide which you should tread again on your journey.

RELATED: How Being Self-Aware Can Help You Value Life’s Simple Pleasures

4. Make a bucket list.

Dreaming and planning are essential elements of vital life. They keep you connected to both purpose and possibility.

Having bucket list goals can give you a reason to get up in the morning. It can also indirectly shape your behaviors because the goals are your own. Therefore, you're the only one who can work toward them.


Something as simple as planning a mini-vacation can be a revealing process of growth in self-awareness.

Perhaps, you haven’t been conscious of saving money but now you need money for your vacation. Suddenly, you're in the position of having to examine your own habits and how they've held you back.

Creating a bucket list not only gives you experiences to anticipate but connects you to the thoughts and behaviors necessary to manifest them.

5. Ask for and welcome feedback.

How can self-awareness be developed without a sense of who you are in relation to others?

Everything in life is about relationships — with yourself, others, nature, with God/the Universe/your higher self.


And it’s in this context that every "self" has the boundless opportunity to grow and ascend to new heights of being.

But this is also the context that puts the mirror right in front of your face.

The key to living a healthy social dynamic is being aware of your contributions to that dynamic and the nature of their influence.

Some of that awareness can and should be self-generated. But, it takes great courage and a commitment to personal growth to seek out the perspectives and feedback of others.

Sometimes, it’s the thoughtfully and genuinely communicated feedback of others that most effectively cuts through the veil of self-delusion, denial, and avoidance.


Like the unconscious mind dumping its thoughts into a journal like a cry for acknowledgment, honest feedback from others can be profoundly influencing.

The commitment to developing your self-awareness will have its natural ebbs and flows. But, once you realize how self-awareness can help you, you’ll begin to see it as the key to unlocking your best life.

And remember, self-awareness, like all the intangible treasures of life, is not a destination. It is, as Thoreau describes, an ongoing search, an ever-new acquaintance.

"Let me forever go in search of myself; never for a moment think that I have found myself; be as a stranger to myself, never a familiar, seeking acquaintance still."


RELATED: 5 (Sometimes Harsh) Realities You'll Face When You Finally Decide To Get Real With Yourself

Dr. Karen Finn is a life coach. Her writing has appeared on MSN, Yahoo! & eHarmony among others. You can learn more about Karen and her work on her website.