It never ceases to amaze me how much you can learn from movies, books and music, even if it’s completely fictional. Take Harry Potter, for example. No matter how many times I watch it, read it, or think about it, I always find something new that’s interesting. Here’s what I learned from it this week:
In every trio there is a thinker, a watcher and a doer. Take our three aspiring magicians, for example.
Who’s who is obvious:
When you try to identify these types for the people in your life, you’ll see the thinkers are the ones who seem to have it the easiest while the doers are frustrated a lot. That’s because this categorization corresponds to different levels of self-awareness: the thinkers know themselves best.
This is not to say one is better than the other. In fact, we have to carry all of these types within us. It’s just that the thinkers tend to know best when to take on which role. At the same time, it’s the capacity most of us have developed the least.
Whatever mode you spend the majority if your time in, there are certain things you can practice to get to the next level. Today, I’d like to show you three self-awareness exercises to achieve just that.
Since he does first and thinks later, Ron is often wrong. That’s why he’s making a fair share of apologies. Apologies to Harry, apologies to Hermione, apologies to his family.
As a doer, that’s one of the best things he can do. You can’t apologize without acknowledging you’ve made a mistake. This acknowledgement is where self-awareness comes from.
Exercise: The next time you feel embarrassed because you know you just made a mistake, don’t brush off that feeling. Take it as a chance to quickly turn this obstacle around by apologizing.
I used to hate apologies. Especially as a teenager. Over the years I’ve come to see that not only is the transparency and vulnerability of it liberating, but it actually helps you see the kinks in your armor – and how could you iron out what you can’t see?
We hate admitting mistakes more than making them, but when you do, you won’t turn into a hypocrite and can reflect on how you can do better next time.
Apologize fast, apologize often.
When you observe so much, it’s hard to keep track of everything without writing it down. And write a lot Harry does. He writes letters to everyone, he writes in detention and he even had a diary that one time…
This is a good idea for watchers in general. There’s a saying by Confucius:
“You cannot open a book without learning something.” – Confucius
Well, you also can’t write a sentence without learning something. The simplest form of journaling I know is the 1-sentence journal.
Exercise: Take a thought-provoking question and answer it in one sentence, but answer differently each day.
There are endless possibilities to design this exercise and you can change the question from each week or month to the next.
You can also gear your questions towards when in the day you’re answering them. For example, here are some ideas for good questions to ask yourself in the morning:
Then again, you might want to journal before bed. In that case, you could answer an evening question. Here are some examples:
If I had to guess, I’d say most of us are watchers. We idle and idle until it hurts. Even in this tiny format, journaling helps your brain structure the things you observe and get better at filtering what matters. That way you can take action in a more targeted way and have to apologize less.
If you want to grow this habit over time and slowly spend some more time each day, there are a lot of pre-structured journals out there too. Here are a few some of my coaching clients and I have used:
If you’re a watcher, you’re great at watching life. Might as well remember what’s important. Journaling helps you do just that.
When you generally have a good sense of what’s going on, which events are most important and where action’s required, it’s up to you to now extend this knowledge at the right ends. That’s why Hermione’s favorite place is the library.
Thinkers transform their good contributions to great contributions through selective and well-timed reading. Reading the right thing at the right time allows your neurons to find the best connections between the pictures in your mind.
Exercise: Read at least one page a day.
Wittgenstein prompted us to read many books to expand our language. You can only know if you’re an ambivalent person when you know what that means. But you don’t have to overdose either. Thinkers usually have a fairly ingrained reading habit as is, but here are some resources that have helped make mine better:
The extension of knowledge we get from reading always comes with a side of self-awareness: are you the kind of person who can put it to good use? Being able to tell what you need to learn next and where you can find it is one of the highest forms of self-awareness.
A page a day goes a long way.
Only the best of us carry multiple characters around in our chest that we can draw on at will. We all begin one way or another. Start looking around. You’ll find this 3-type pattern in all famous trios. Them…
…even those guys:
Doers must learn to watch. Watchers must learn to think. Thinkers must learn to think better. The way you do that is by practicing.
The question is:
Which one are you and what do you need to find out about yourself to get to the next level?
PS: I’ve listed 24 more self-awareness activities here.
Originally published at niklasgoeke.com