Who are you? What are you really feeling right now? If you do not make changes to your environment, how are you going to feel in five minutes, ten minutes, or an hour? These might seem like big questions, but harnessing the power of self-awareness can show you the answer. Not everyone is born with self-awareness. Understanding our feelings, behaviors, and general personalities takes time, intention, and practice. On this page, you will find self-awareness exercises to help you tap into the person you are and all that you bring to this world.
What Is Self-Awareness?
Self-awareness is the experience of ourselves as unique individuals. Every single human being on the planet has a different set of experiences, thoughts, and memories that shape who they are, what decisions they make, and how they feel. When you build self-awareness, you can identify what makes you the person you are.
Why is this so important? Self-awareness can help you make tough decisions, reflect on your goals, and set yourself up for success in whatever you want to achieve. If you have a solid understanding of who you are, you will know what you’re capable of and what you need to do to get to where you want to go. Self-awareness can also show you where you want to go in the first place!
Self-awareness is harder to grasp than it seems. The world is constantly telling us who to be or what to do. These self-awareness exercises will help you determine who you are, outside of what the world says or believes.
12 Self-Awareness Exercises
- Mindfulness Meditation
- Mind Mapping
- Personality Tests
- Talking to Friends or Family
- Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone
- Listening To How You Talk to Yourself
- Create a Personal Mission Statement
- Write a Letter to Your Young Self
- Do the Funeral Test
- Make a Bucket List
- Reflect…While at the Gym
Mindfulness is awareness without judgment. You could be mindful of your surroundings or mindful of what’s going on inside yourself. As you build your self-awareness, you will notice when you feel tension throughout your body or that feelings of anger, sadness, or frustration are welling up. Mindfulness meditation can help you notice these feelings and increase self-awareness. Without self-awareness, these feelings can build to a point that you act out of extreme emotions (with likely negative consequences.) Self-awareness exercises like mindfulness meditation can help you anticipate uncontrollable stress so that you can control it and change your surroundings appropriately.
You can start a mindfulness practice by looking up guided meditations on YouTube, Calm, Headspace, or Insight Timer. Or, you can sit very still and just listen to the sound of your breath. It isn’t easy to stay this still and aware for a long period of time, but you do not have to be perfect to gain something from your meditation practice.
What’s on your mind? A mind map can help you organize your thoughts. Start by drawing one central idea or question in the middle of the map. To make your self-awareness exercise, that central question can be, “Who am I?” Reflect on this question and write the answer as various “branches” on your mind map. Elaborate with branches off of these branches as you see fit. This is a great exercise for visual learners who want to “see” their mind on the page.
Writing your thoughts and feelings down on paper will stimulate other parts of your brain than if you let your mind wander and ramble. Take some time each day to write down how you are feeling or what you did that day. If you are focusing on self-awareness, consider writing down one decision you made that day and why you made it. What factors went into that decision? How did you feel when you made that decision? Had you eaten, slept properly, or just had a stressful phone call before that decision was made? As you explore these decisions, you may discover what you can change about your routine to make better decisions.
(Interested in journaling? Find prompts, studies on journaling, and more by reading about the Benefits of Journaling.)
Curious as to how your personality compares to others? Take a test! There are plenty of personality tests available for business leaders, social butterflies, and your average Joe! Keep in mind that these tests don’t tell the entire story of your personality, and your personality can change over time. Use these results as a springboard for reflection, introspection, and conversations about who you are.
Talking to Friends or Family
We are the only people who cannot see ourselves without the help of a mirror. Isn’t that fascinating? We can gain self-awareness by talking to people who have an outside perspective on our actions, behaviors, and decisions. Sit down with friends and family and let them know what your goals are regarding self-awareness. Then, ask if they have the space and time to share their thoughts with you. If they are open to a conversation, listen to what they have to say. Their insight can show you what your actions look like to a bystander, and where you may be miscommunicating your feelings through your words or actions.
Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone
What would you do if you were faced with a really tough decision? Maybe you don’t know today, but there’s one way to find out for sure! Plan to get out of your comfort zone. Try a new hobby, travel to a new country, or introduce yourself to someone who intimidates you. You may just surprise yourself with your courage.
Listening To How You Talk to Yourself
Would you talk to your friends the way that you talk to yourself? If you’re not sure, listen to how you talk to yourself. Record or write down the reactions you have as you approach the day, make decisions, and interact with others. Put them away and read them out loud to yourself at a later time. Do you speak to yourself too harshly sometimes? Do you make excuses for yourself? How do your mood, physical health, and external factors affect the way you speak to yourself? Seeking to answer all of these questions is a great self-awareness exercise.
Create a Personal Mission Statement
Businesses create mission statements to communicate their goals and values as an organization. In times of distress or confusion, leaders and teams can refer back to the mission statement for guidance. As a self-awareness exercise, create a mission statement for yourself. What is your mission in this world? What values guide you as you set out to accomplish it? Your mission statement is uniquely yours. Create it without judgment and keep it nearby when you need to make a decision or want to reflect.
Write a Letter to Your Young Self
Part of self-awareness is understanding how you’ve changed and grown over the years. Take some time to write a letter to your younger self. Answer the following questions:
- What should your younger self love about themselves?
- How has the world shaped your younger self to be the person they are?
- What changes are coming up? What should they prepare for?
- Is your younger self worrying about something that resolves itself?
- Will you accomplish the goals of your younger self?
Take this self-exercise as a time to reflect on how the events of your life have shaped you into the person you are today.
Do the Funeral Test
Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, created this self-awareness exercise. He encourages people to sit and reflect on what people might say about them at their funerals. You can engage in this practice while journaling or going on a walk. What will people say about you? What stories might they tell? Who will show up at your funeral? Although this exercise can feel morbid, it offers an opportunity to think about your life today and what you would like it to look like before you die. Are there relationships you need to mend? Are there relationships you need to seek out? The reality of life is that it ends in death. After yours, what will people have to say? How can you change that, if necessary, for the better?
Make a Bucket List
Another morbid but eye-opening exercise is writing a bucket list. What things do you want to do before you kick the bucket? While many people add once-in-a-lifetime activities, like bungee jumping or skydiving, a bucket list is more than these events. You could put falling in love on your bucket list or forgiving someone who hurt you in the past. Maybe you want to help people or visit a certain place in the US. As you write down these bucket list items, consider what they say about you and the type of life you want to live.
Reflect…While at the Gym
Sometimes, it’s not what you reflect on that makes a difference but where you do your reflection. Changing up where you think about yourself and your life could give you a new perspective. One example of this is thinking about your goals while completing a workout. Talk through your goals with a personal trainer or just reflect on where you are in life while going for a walk. Bilateral stimulation (or using the right and left side of your body in a pattern) encourages different thinking patterns and allows you to see yourself in a new way.