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The Power of Self-Awareness in Professional Development

Self-awareness is a foundation of professional development. Understanding your strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and behaviours can profoundly impact your career trajectory. By cultivating self-awareness, you can make informed decisions, build stronger relationships, and achieve your professional goals more effectively.


We hear about self-awareness all the time now-a-days, but what does it really mean to be self-aware?

Self-awareness is more than just knowing your likes and dislikes or recognizing your strengths and weaknesses. Self-awareness is the conscious knowledge of your own character, feelings, motives, and desires. It involves an understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and how these elements impact your behaviour and interactions with others. Self-awareness is a crucial aspect of emotional intelligence as well as personal and professional growth, serving as the foundation for self-regulation, empathy, and effective communication.

Two types of self-awareness include internal self-awareness and external self-awareness. Internal self-awareness refers to how clearly we see our own values, passions, aspirations, fit with our environment, reactions (including thoughts, feelings, behaviours, strengths, and weaknesses), and impact on others. High internal self-awareness leads to greater job satisfaction and personal and social control.

External self-awareness is the understanding of how others view and perceive you. It involves recognizing how your actions and behaviours impact those around you. People who know how others see them are more skilled at showing empathy and taking others’ perspectives.


There are many positive impacts of self-awareness on professional development:

  • Enhanced Decision-Making: Self-aware individuals are better equipped to make decisions that align with their values and long-term goals. Understanding your personal drivers allows you to choose career paths and projects that genuinely resonate with you, leading to greater satisfaction and success.
  • Improved Emotional Regulation: By understanding their emotional triggers and responses, self-aware professionals can manage their emotions more effectively. This leads to better stress management and resilience in the face of workplace challenges.
  • Improved Communication: Being aware of your communication style and how others perceive you can help you convey your ideas more clearly and persuasively. This skill is invaluable in team settings, leadership roles, and client interactions.
  • Stronger Relationships: Self-awareness fosters empathy and emotional intelligence. By recognizing your own emotional triggers and responses, you can navigate interpersonal dynamics more effectively, leading to stronger, more collaborative professional relationships.
  • Better Stress Management: Knowing your stressors and how you typically respond to stress allows you to develop effective coping strategies. This can improve your resilience and prevent burnout, enabling sustained performance in high-pressure environments.
  • Continual Growth: Self-aware professionals are more likely to seek feedback and embrace lifelong learning. They view challenges as opportunities for growth and are open to making adjustments that enhance their skills and competencies.
  • Increased Job Satisfaction: Understanding one’s own needs and preferences allows individuals to seek roles and tasks that they find fulfilling. This alignment can lead to higher job satisfaction and motivation, reducing burnout and increasing productivity.
  • Leadership Development: Leaders with high self-awareness are often more effective. They understand their leadership style and its impact on their team. This insight helps in developing authentic leadership qualities, fostering trust and respect among team members.


A key aspect of developing self-awareness is the ability to ask insightful questions.

While many different questions can be useful, “what” questions are particularly powerful for fostering self-awareness and driving professional development.

“What” questions encourage a focus on specific actions and behaviours, leading to actionable insights. For example, asking “What can I do to improve my time management?” helps you identify practical steps you can take to enhance your efficiency.

Unfortunately, many people get caught up in the “Why” questions. While “why” questions can provide valuable context, they often lead to introspection that can become overly abstract or negative. For instance, asking “Why do I always miss deadlines?” might lead to self-blame without offering a clear path forward.

By shifting from “why” to “what,” you transition from a mindset of introspection to one of action. This change not only enhances self-awareness but also empowers you to make tangible improvements in your professional life.

Read more about emotional Intelligence training to improve your self-awareness


What can you do to enhance your self-awareness?

There are a number of ways and tools you can engage in to develop your own self-awareness, such as:

  • Seeking Feedback: Regularly ask colleagues, mentors, and supervisors for feedback. Use “what” questions to gain specific insights: “What can I do to enhance my presentation skills?” This helps you understand how others perceive you and identify areas for growth.
  • Reflecting on Experiences: After completing a project or facing a challenging situation, take time to reflect. Ask yourself, “What went well?” and “What could I do differently next time?” This practice encourages continuous learning and improvement.
  • Engaging in Mindfulness Practices: Engage in mindfulness activities like meditation or journaling. These practices can help you become more attuned to your thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, enhancing your overall self-awareness.
  • Seek Professional Development Programs: Participate in workshops, training sessions, and seminars focused on self-awareness and emotional intelligence. These programs can provide valuable tools and frameworks for self-discovery.
  • Taking Personality Assessments: Tools like the Everything DiSC Assessment can offer insights into your personality, how you respond to challenges, how you influence others, your management style, and other behavioural tendencies.
  • Coaching and Mentoring: Professional coaching and mentoring can provide guidance and support in developing self-awareness and addressing areas for improvement.


In Conclusion

Self-awareness is not just a buzzword; it is a vital component of professional development. By understanding yourself better, you can make more informed decisions, build stronger relationships, and navigate your career with greater confidence and clarity. Embrace the power of “what” questions to gain actionable insights and drive your professional growth. Remember, the journey to self-awareness is ongoing, and each step you take brings you closer to realizing your full potential.


About the author: Jessica Derksen, Training Coordinator and Facilitator, X5 Management

Jessica Derksen is a powerhouse of ambition and action, dedicated to the pursuit of personal and professional growth while uplifting those around her. With a diverse skill set and a passion for empowerment, Jessica has carved a remarkable path for herself and her community.

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in law, Jessica’s journey toward becoming a catalyst for change began. She recognized that her true calling was to guide and inspire others, prompting her to become a certified health, life, and habit coach. Additionally, Jessica has recently become certified through X5 Management as an Everything DiSC® Facilitator. These qualifications provide her with a unique toolbox to support individuals in their holistic development, making her a beacon of progress and transformation.

Jessica epitomizes the essence of a goal-oriented action-taker who believes in the limitless potential of people. Her journey of empowerment, from the boardroom to the great outdoors, exemplifies her dedication to personal and professional growth. In the heart of Edmonton, Jessica’s leadership shines as she paves the way for others to realize their potential and transform their aspirations into achievements.


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