What is the most useful skill I can develop in 3 months?

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This skill can be developed in 3 months, but it will take a lifetime of practice to master. I would argue, though, that it is THE most useful skill you can develop: It’s called self-awareness.

We’ll address self-awareness from 3 angles:

  1. Why we’re not as self-aware as we think
  2. The ripple-effect self-awareness has on our lives
  3. 3 ways to to become more self-aware

Let me just add in that this is one of those answers where it’s very easy to sound pretentious, like I know it all, and like I am a master. This is not the case… I work on this skill every day, so let’s do this together!

By the way, follow me on Quora here for more great answers!

Why we’re not as self-aware as we think

  • Nature — As advanced as we (think we) are, part of our brains are still very primitive. Also referred to as the reptilian brain, this part controls basic survival mechanisms, but it also programs us with many instincts.
    • Sadly, many of these instincts that once served work against us in our current society. Read the book Salt Sugar Fat, and see how our eating instincts have been flipped on their heads (for those of us fortunate enough to live in a food-abundant society).
    • Furthermore, these instincts adapt based on our experience. Ever get really sick, throw up, and now you can’t look at the food you just happened to be eating without gagging?
  • Nurture — Our friends, family, education, and culture program us from day 1. One strong example of this in action is this: Are you the same religion as your parents? Whatever you choose to believe, that’s great, but recognize the impact that others’ have on our beliefs. Here’s a related Quora question with some interesting support on this.

The ripple-effect self-awareness has on our lives

  • Strategy — Because of the previously mentioned programming, it’s easy to be on a path not of our own choosing. The one that I followed for a long time was “get good grades, go to a good college, get a good job, and retire.”Turns out this path didn’t make me happy, and it took some serious time to figure this out.
  • Action — Once we take the time to know what we really want, we’re more motivated to take action to achieve it. Not only that, but now our effort is moving us in the right direction! IF you have the right strategy, then the difference between the haves and have notes becomes the difference between the dos and the do nots.
  • Reflection — If you think this is an easy one… think again. How often do you sit quietly without stimuli from other people or some kind of electronic device? In today’s busy world, we need to make a conscious effort to find time to reflect. Only by doing this can we understand what’s really working and what needs changing.

How to become more self-aware

  • Proactive — Set up a regular time to sit down with no distractions and reflect. I recommend frequency to build this habit, so do 5 minutes per day for a month or so. Then, adjust to what works for you. Reflect on your activity, feelings, goals etc… you may learn a lot about yourself.
  • Reactive — Emotions are a natural and beautiful part of being human, but strong reactions, especially those that cause outbursts, can often do more damage than good. Anytime you have a strong emotional response to someone or something, find the time later to reflect on why.
  • Authenticity — From a first date to a job interview, I think most would agree that we all put up a facade. This is because we have an outcome that we want, and we think we know the behavior that will get it. The problem is the stress this puts on us to always behave “appropriately.” Sure, put your best foot forward, but be true to yourself.

This question was fun and very easy to write a lot about… obviously.

Summary

I believe self-awareness is the most important skill to develop, and it separates the successful from the rest. The first step is to recognize that we’ve been brainwashed,for good or bad. The second step is to stop, reflect, and define what is really important to us—not everyone else. The final step is to develop a strategy, take action, respond to feedback, and work towards making ourselves happy.

By the way, there is no happy ending. Life just goes on, until it doesn’t. We will always create new challenges and goals. So, make sure you’re enjoying the day-to-day, or else, what’s the point? That’s why my business teaches people how to create online businesses around their passion. I quit my job to help you quit yours!


Steve Buller

Leap from Employee to Entrepreneur