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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Self Awareness is Key to Personal Improvement

I was talking to a very good first-aid trainer the other day. He was quite amused of the trends of local governments and private institutions scurrying to have training on safety, first aid and other disaster recovery and rescue right after a disaster happens like, a strong typhoon, earthquake or fire. There is always an upsurge of request for his training right after natural or man-made calamites. Right before it, there was hardly any inkling of the need to have the training for survival and rescue. I laughed with him because the same is so true even in other areas of life. We sometimes need a serious whacking on the side of our heads before we realize the need to learn something.

Complacency seems to be a bad word. I have not heard of anyone who like to be called complacent because to be called such means that one is so arrogantly satisfied with one’s situation that one fails to recognize the need for change. We don’t like to be called complacent because it would mean that we are waiting for disasters to happen before we realize we cannot afford to be smug. In reality however a lot of us are in fact, complacent. Many of us fail to foresee disasters in our lives or organization waiting to happen because we think that we have everything that we need to run our lives or run our business. Don’t get me wrong, having some degree of satisfaction with how things work in your life and organization is not at all bad. We deserve to have some happiness for the amount of work we do. But to think of settling on what we have now as the key or the panacea to all the challenges that we are going to encounter in the future can lead us to disastrous failures.

A Manager in a large organization projects that she is very good at what she does. This person seems to brim with confidence when she deals with people in her organization and outside. She’s quite fast in bragging about her accomplishments in her past organizations. I’m always amazed at how she likes to project that all decisions she make are right and that all failures are caused by other people or her staff. Yes, her staff, the poor people who work their ass off to clean up the mess she makes are always used as fall guys whenever it is convenient for her to point at them when angry parties get affected by her poor decisions and organizing skills. A friend of mine calls people like her “unconscious, incompetent,” incompetent people who think they are otherwise. I’d like to call her “a bull in a china shop.” Everyone knows she’s breaking everything except her. Everyone else call her “scatter-brained”. What could stop her in her tracks toward inevitable failure? What could make her stop from being the pain in the ass that she is to becoming a more effective manager? Acceptance, acceptance of the fact that she is incompetent in so many things and that she needs to change for her own sake and for the sake of all the people she works with. Acceptance leads to awareness and awareness of the need to grow could lead to growth. It’s just a matter of decision. I wonder however how much humility she has in her person to accept her need to be better. I bet she can be better. Let me rephrase that question to involve all of us. How much humility do we have in ourselves to accept that we have some degree of incompetence that needs to be dealt with? I bet we can all be better.

One of the biggest challenges I guess that people who conduct training or those who are in the business of helping others help themselves is the task of breaking down the barriers to self discovery. These barriers are like false mirrors that reflect false images of us. These mirrors show us how we like to see ourselves, rather than how everyone else sees us. Only two things can break these barriers, a disastrous situation so intense that it makes us realize how foolish we were to ignore the signs, and the other one, a simple acknowledgement that as we journey through our professional and personal lives, challenges mount and that there is a constant need to improve ourselves, equip ourselves and to get ourselves ready to face these challenges.