Moving from Self-Awareness to Self-Management to Self-Improvement

Human Behavior
Knowledge Center

Chloe Xu
Director, Australia

Moving from Self-Awareness to Self-Management to Self-Improvement

Why quit smoking is so difficult although most smokers are aware of its impact on health and well-being? Why we keep doing things that we know may not be appropriate or helpful? This is because knowing and doing are different.
Doing something is much harder than knowing the same thing. In the workplace, we are educated to increase our self-awareness, know our strengths, weaknesses, feelings, thoughts, and values. But that is not enough. Self-awareness is useless, unless it is accompanies by actions of self-management, which is another important skill and domain of emotional intelligence.

What is Self-management? Definition

Jennifer Porter (2019) identifies self-management as "a conscious choice to resist a preference or habit and show a more productive behaviour" and suggests a 4-step process on self-management:
  1. BE MORE PRESENT: Pay attention to what you are saying and doing now.
  2. PRACTICE SELF-AWARENESS: Recognize what is happening around you—what are you seeing, hearing, feeling, and considering.
  3. IDENTIFY A RANGE OF BEHAVIORAL CHOICES—what actions can you take next and the consequences of each action.
  4. CHOOSE the behavior that is believed to generate the best outcome.

Improving your self-management

Self-management (choosing the most productive behaviour) takes work. As a human, we feel more comfortable when we default to an old habit than to spend energy in creating a new one. However, self-management still can be learnt with the following steps:
  1. Decide what to manage. Identify in what situation our current approach does not work as expected and self-management might help.
  2. Identify the driver of our lack of self-management. Consider why we do that instead of choosing the most productive action in a situation. This step is crucial to changing our behaviours.
  3. Consider our choices and the reactions to these choices. Imagine we are self-managing, what can we do? What are our reactions to the options? And what are we trying to avoid when we default to a habit or preference?
  4. Plan and practice. Now we know what needs to change in our behaviours, think of steps we can take and practice until we can consistently manage that behaviour. Meanwhile, notice our reactions to the practice and fine-tune our actions.
  5. Repeat the process. We will be able to learn more about how we are operating and how we can improve in each successive iteration.
It is natural for us to act in ways that feel good and familiar, but if we did this all the time, we would never get better at anything. Following the process summarised above will help us move from self-awareness to self-management and as a result become more effective.

Source: Porter, J., 2019. How to Move from Self-Awareness to Self-Improvement. HBR, Winter 2019, pp.37-38.

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