Self-Awareness: Uncovering Assumptions, Beliefs & Conditioning for Personal GrowthSep 25, 2023
In my last few articles I’ve shared some practical steps for growth, and while all are important practices, the common denominator between them is the need for AWARENESS.
You hear it all the time… “in order to grow, you need to raise your awareness…” To which I used to respond “awareness of what, exactly?" I spent years stumbling along, changing habits, working on systems, and paying for programs, only to realize I was sabotaging my own progress.
You see, when you “don’t know what you don’t know,” it’s difficult to make any lasting and real change. Working from the outside, in, will never cut it. While that’s the hard truth, the good news is that when you DO know, you DO know.
But don’t go beating yourself up over your time spent in the dark, even if it includes yesterday, or this morning! You can't work with (or on) what you don't see.
You know WHAT you know WHEN you know it. Not before.
When I’m given the gift of seeing what’s there - AWARENESS - I have learned to get to work on it and move forward.
Today I’d like to offer a quick tool to assist you in identifying areas you either need awareness in, or may now have, allowing you to put in the work, and grow.
There are three main categories of AWARENESS that nearly all personal or professional growth can be separated into. Yep, they are your Assumptions, Beliefs and Conditioning, your A,B,C’s: you have to know what they are to work on them.
The clearest way to illustrate this is using the Iceberg model, with Assumptions at the top, Beliefs in the middle & Conditioning at the bottom. Anything above the water line is pretty apparent, evident, and identifiable - Assumptions. Beliefs fall right at the water line - some are above, clear and public, while others are below, never examined or questioned. Conditioning provides the foundation of it all, and runs much deeper than we expect.
These are associated with your perspective. A very simple way to recognize an assumption is when an expectation has not been met. You’ll find these expectations are almost always undefined or unspoken.
I see this happen on a regular basis in the area of (what should be) simple communication. My husband will explain to my son the homework assignment, and my son sees it as something altogether different.
Another area where assumptions show up, and overlap with your beliefs and conditioning, is thinking others "know better." In a recent meeting with a client, she expressed frustration over her team’s lack of critical thinking when it comes to figuring out solutions. They Assume those above them in the organizational structure know the answer, and don’t question or look for a better solution. Obviously, this hurts the productivity of her team, especially when they receive faulty or outdated information without examining it in order to find a better solution.
The good news is that of all three, Assumptions are the easiest thing to do something about. We tend to be less emotional about them, and when presented with another perspective, or the simple facts of the situation, many times we’re open to adjusting our own.
When you know your Assumptions, the work needed to do something about them falls on the lighter lift side of the scale. It’s a great place to start developing your Awareness skills, and usually, you can adjust your perspective with just a few tweaks.
Your Beliefs tend to have a little more thought applied to them, are more nuanced, and fall on a continuum from neutral, all the way to a “hill you’re willing to die on.” For instance, believing that your son’s football team is capable of winning tonight’s game is something you decide to do based on their ability, and possibly your love and care for your son and the rest of the players. Other beliefs are truly foundational to your faith, community, family structure, politics, and money.
Like Assumptions, Beliefs are 100% changeable. You get to examine, develop, and choose them based on your understanding and awareness you have at the moment. Lest that sound too “squishy” for you, remember you only know what you know when you know it. That’s why Beliefs change.
Beliefs are unique in this example in that some sit above the water line, in full view, and we are clear on why we have them. However, many fall below the water line, and have received very little, if any attention or examination.
These Beliefs are usually tightly aligned with or entangled with our conditioning, and take a good bit more work, requiring you to dive in and look at what’s there. Knowing what you believe and why you believe it - in any area of your life - provides the confidence to think critically, or pivot your assumptions with a new perspective.
Becoming aware of Beliefs that have been hidden “under the water” allows you to decide whether or not those Beliefs serve you or don’t. Changing them may involve grief and hard work, but once you are aware, they are “above the water line” and you can do something about them. This is where much of the work done with coaches resides, and where the term “raising your awareness” makes sense.
This is the foundation upon which all your Beliefs and Assumptions are built. When you start looking at your Assumptions at the top of that iceberg, you get a glimpse of what your Conditioning might include. Doing the work of becoming aware of your Beliefs, however, really starts to expose your Conditioning, and gets you into the hard work.
Most of us don’t think we’ve been “conditioned” for anything, about anything, or in any way. If you fall into that category, as I did, congratulations. You’ve just defined conditioning.
You have grown, lived, been nurtured (or not) in an environment… all your life. Every aspect of that environment has had an effect on you. From the food you think of as “comfort,” to the music that makes you feel at home, to where and when you feel comfortable in public.
This is the hard work of Self Awareness.
The simplest way to see where Conditioning shows up is in your self-talk, and how difficult it is to change it. I’ve lost over 180 pounds. I did that 17 years ago. I still work on the self-talk around the way my body looks and what I make that mean about my self worth.
Diving deep under the surface to become aware of all the different conditioning that has shaped you isn’t for the faint of heart. Becoming aware of ways you’ve either been complicit with a paradigm that has held you (and others back), like patriarchy or racism, is jarring, convicting and grief ridden.
While you cannot change the Conditioning of your past, the beauty of awareness on this level, provides you the opportunity to change Beliefs based on new Awareness, which will eventually become a new foundation, and change the course of your life.
The goal of Self-Awareness: Seeing your Assumptions, Beliefs and Conditioning, and changing what no longer serves you.
Moving as much of this iceberg up above the water line as possible so you can see it and do something with it is the work of Self-Awareness.
If this sounds too hard or to big for you, think about the benefits:
- The weight lifted, anything that floats above the water is lighter!
- The clarity of seeing what’s there and even if you don’t like it, knowing what to work on.
- The understanding of who you are, what you believe and why, and the ability to give yourself grace for the things you’ve yet to examine.
The BEST way I know to become aware of your A,B,C’s, is to start with your Core Values.
Uncovering your Core Values allows you to take a good hard look at you, what is important, and why. This begins your AWARENESS work.
Of course, this is my JAM, and I have three easy ways to begin the work
- For the Self Starter: if you're pretty good at doing the work on your own, check out the easy Core Values Exercise, a simple downloadable to walk you through the process.
- If you need a Digital Course: Uncover Your Core Values, includes helpful videos and detailed course materials.
- If you’re new to this kind of work or you need a sounding board: I’m looking for up to 10 Alpha Testers for some 1:1 work, helping me develop a Hybrid Group Coaching Program I’d like to launch early in 2024. Message me or email me at [email protected], and I'll get you the information
What about you?
- Is Self-Awareness a new topic?
- Did this finally explain it to you in a way you can understand?
My GOAL here is to equip you to define a new culture by trusting your own ability to think critically, create imaginatively and lead effectively. So I’d like to know:
- Are you already becoming aware of A,B,C’s?
- Is there a topic I used as an example that resonated with you?
I want to hear from you - I want to help you to Stand Tall & Own ALL of it…
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