Insight: Why We're Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life - Tasha Eurich 2017
Understanding our passions—the second pillar of insight—is key to making choices and decisions that line up with what we love to do, both in our careers and in our personal lives. Here are a few questions to help you get started in exploring your passions:
1.What kind of day would make you leap out of bed in the morning?
2.What types of projects or activities do you never seem to get sick of?
3.What types of projects or activities do you find least enjoyable?
4.If you retired tomorrow, what would you miss the most about your work?
5.What are your hobbies and what do you like about them?
If you’re looking for more guidance to unlock your passions, there is no shortage of “What color is your parachute”—like assessments, and I certainly encourage you to take them. But not all are created equal, so make sure you’re taking a test that’s been well validated. Two of the best are:
1.The Holland RIASEC Model (you can find a free version at: http://personality-testing.info/tests/RIASEC/ or http://www.truity.com/test/holland-code-career-test).
2.The Strong Interest Inventory (you can purchase the test at http://www.discoveryourpersonality.com/strong-interest-inventory-career-test.html or http://careerassessmentsite.com/tests/strong-tests/about-the-strong-interest-inventory/).
Steve Jobs once said, “I want to make a dent in the universe.” This is the essence of the third pillar of insight: our aspirations, or what we want to experience and achieve. Here are a few questions to help you identify your dent:
1.When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up and what drew you to this profession?
2.Is the way you’re currently spending your time meaningful and gratifying to you? Is there anything you feel is missing?
3.Imagine that you are an impartial party reading a list of your values and passions. What might a person like this want to do and experience in his or her life?
4.What legacy do you want to leave behind?
5.Imagine that you only had one year left on earth. How would you spend that time?
Understanding where we fit—that is, the type of environment we require to be happy and engaged—is the fourth pillar of insight. Fit can help guide us in making major life decisions: what city to live in, what kind of life partner will fulfill us, what career or company will help us thrive, etc. Here are a few questions to help you understand your ideal environment:
1.In the past, when have you performed at your best at work, and what were the characteristics of those settings?
2.span>In school, what type of learning approach or classroom setting helps/helped you learn the most and the least?
3.Have you ever left a job because the environment wasn’t a good fit for you? If so, what about it didn’t work for you?
4.If you had to describe your ideal work environment, what would it be?
5.What types of social situations and relationships tend to make you the happiest?
The sixth pillar of insight is our reactions—that is, our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in any given moment. Such reactions, at their core, are often a reflection of our strengths and weaknesses. Here are a few questions to help you begin to understand yours.
1.In the past, what have you picked up easily without a lot of training?
2.What do you seem to do faster or better than other people?
3.What type of work makes you feel most productive?
4.What type of work do you feel the most proud of?
5.What have you accomplished that’s genuinely surprised you?
1.What are your biggest failures and what commonalities exist between them?
2.When have you been most disappointed with your performance?
3.What piece of constructive feedback have you heard from others most often?
4.What tasks and activities do you dread most?
5.What qualities do your loved ones playfully tease you about?
Remember, when it comes to gaining real-time insight on our momentary reactions to the world, the trick is to reflect less and notice more—so instead of pondering these things, you might examine the tool of mindfulness in chapter 6, which is arguably the most effective approach for actually gaining insight about our reactions.
As we’ve seen throughout the book, it’s easy to lose sight of the effect that our behavior has on others—the seventh pillar—yet examining people’s reactions and responses to us is a critical part of becoming more self-aware. Here are some initial questions to help you start to reflect on the impact you might be having on others:
1.In your life and work, who are the people in whom you have a vested interest (employees, spouse, kids, customers, etc.)? 2. For each of these people or groups, what is the impression that you would like to create?
3.Think about your behavior in the last week with each person or group. If you were a neutral party observing that behavior, would you see it as having the impact you’re aiming for?
4.In the last week, what reactions have you observed from each person or group? Think back to your interactions and try to recall not just how they responded to you verbally, but also their facial expressions, body language, and tone. Do these match up with your intentions? If not, what changes could you make?
5.If you see an opportunity to change your approach in ways that would help you to achieve the impact you desire, what could you experiment with starting tomorrow, and how will you assess your impact?
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is famous for his statement about “known knowns,” “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns.” When it comes to self-awareness, the “unknown unknowns” are what can hurt us most. It’s uncomfortable to consider the possibility that we don’t know ourselves as well as we think, but it’s absolutely essential.
Read the statements below and circle the ones that apply to you. The more statements you’ve circled, the more you should be questioning your beliefs about yourself and getting feedback to calibrate those beliefs.
1.Has your job or career made you feel unhappy or unfulfilled for a prolonged period of time?
2.span>Have you ever been surprised that you didn’t get a promotion or a job you applied for?
3.Have you ever failed at a task or project when you were sure that you’d succeed?
4.Have you ever been surprised by the results of a performance evaluation or a 360 assessment?
5.Have you ever been blindsided by negative feedback from a boss, peer, employee, or loved one?
6.Has a work colleague or loved one ever been angry with you without your knowing why?
7.Have any of your romantic or platonic relationships taken a sudden turn for the worse for reasons you didn’t completely understand?
8.Have any of your romantic or platonic relationships ended unexpectedly?
What Are Your Assumptions?
One way to avoid the Three Blindspots is to identify your assumptions before you make critical decisions. Here are a few questions to help you surface your assumptions in a work context:
1.How will this decision impact the various stakeholder groups within and outside your company? Are there any stakeholders that you haven’t considered?
2.What are the best and worst cases if you implement this decision?
3.What consequences for this decision have you failed to consider?
4.How would a smart and savvy competitor view this decision and how might they respond?
5.What would someone totally unconnected to this decision like and dislike about it?
6.What developments might change the thinking you’ve used to arrive at this decision?
7.What sources of information or data might you have overlooked in arriving at this decision?
For each item below, circle which of the two options (the left or right) best describes you:
The test you just took is a sampling of items from the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.* The more items on the left you circled, the more narcissistic qualities you may possess. Don’t worry—having a few narcissistic tendencies doesn’t necessarily mean you are a narcissist. But it might mean you have some work to do in resisting the Cult of Self.
* Daniel R. Ames, Paul Rose, and Cameron P. Anderson. “The NPI-16 as a short measure of narcissism.” Journal of Research in Personality 40.4 (2006): 440—450.
Although it’s in increasingly rare supply in our Cult of Self world, humility is a necessary ingredient of self-awareness. Being humble means having an appreciation for our weaknesses, keeping our successes in perspective, and acknowledging the contributions of others.
For each item below, choose the number that best describes your behavior in general. Try to look at how you’re actually behaving, rather than how you wish to behave. Because others can often see what we can’t, it may be helpful to have a trusted advisor weigh in as well. When you’re finished, average your responses and review the guide on the next page.
As you read in chapter 5, a need for absolute truth is an enemy of insight because it blinds us to our many complexities, contradictions, and nuances. To find out whether a need for absolute truth is closing you off to a multifaceted understanding of yourself, for each item below, choose the number that best describes your behavior in general. Try to look at how you’re actually behaving, rather than how you wish to behave. When you’re finished, average your responses and review the guide on the following page.*
* Omer Faruk Simsek. “Self-absorption paradox is not a paradox: Illuminating the dark side of self-reflection.” International Journal of Psychology 48.6 (2013): 1109—1121.
As you read in chapter 5, we all have a Ruminator buried inside of us—a nefarious character lying in wait to sabotage our attempts at insight by second-guessing our choices, reminding us of our failings, and sending us down an unproductive spiral of self-criticism and self-doubt. To see how much power the Ruminator is exerting over you, for each item below, choose the number that best describes your behavior in general. Try to look at how you’re actually behaving, rather than how you wish to behave. When you’re finished, average your responses and review the guide on the next page.*
* Paul D. Trapnell and Jennifer D. Campbell. “Private self-consciousness and the five-factor model of personality: Distinguishing rumination from reflection.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 76.2 (1999): 284.
As you read in chapter 5, when faced with a challenging task, seeing it as an opportunity for learning (a “learn-well” mindset”) rather than performance (a “do-well” mindset) can stop us from ruminating in the face of failure—and at the same time help us improve our performance. To see which mindset you gravitate toward, read the statements below and circle the ones that apply to you. When making your selections, try to look at how you’re actually behaving, rather than how you wish to behave.
1.I like it when my colleagues know how well I’m doing on a project.
2.I am willing to select challenging work assignments that will help me improve my skills.
3.I’d be more likely to choose to work on a project I know I can do well than experiment with a new project.
4.I often look for ways to improve my knowledge.
5.I tend to avoid situations where I might not perform well.
6.I like to set challenging goals I might not meet versus easy goals I know I can surpass.
7.When others are trying to solve a problem, I enjoy it when I already know the answer.
8.I prefer to work in environments with extremely high expectations.
If you found yourself circling more odd-numbered questions, you’re more likely to have a do-well mindset, and if you circled more even-numbered ones, you probably have a learn-well one.
As you’ve seen throughout the book, getting honest, objective feedback from others is the best tool we have for becoming more externally self-aware. To see if you are using this valuable tool to its fullest advantage, for each item below, choose the number that best describes your behavior in general. Try to look at how you’re actually behaving, rather than how you wish to behave. When you’re finished, average your responses and review the guide below.
If your company doesn’t have institutionalized 360s, it doesn’t mean you can’t take one. Though many can cost upwards of $500, here are a few “forever free” options:
1.PersonalityPad.org was developed by Eric Papas and his research team at the University of Virginia. Their noble goal is to make multi-source feedback available to everyone. The 10-question assessment is easy to complete, and the results are high-level but enlightening.
2. SelfStir.com is more comprehensive: it’s longer, includes open-ended responses, and even spits out a detailed report.
3.BankableLeadership.com is one I created for the launch of my first book, Bankable Leadership. The 12-item survey will help you learn how you see yourself, and how others see you, with regard to your “people” and “results” behaviors.
If you decide to use one or more of these tools, I suggest that you contact the people you want to rate you in advance. Just explain that you’re doing a 360, that you’d love to have them anonymously participate, and that they’ll be getting an e-mail with a link to a survey so they can provide their observations of your behavior. Not only does this ensure the survey e-mail doesn’t get lost in their junk folder; a personal appeal will help them understand the context and how important their participation is for your continued growth and development.
First and foremost, thanks to the self-awareness unicorns across the globe who participated in our study. Each and every one of you is proof that becoming more self-aware is not just possible, but well worth the time and energy it takes to get there. We’re all a work in progress, and it’s heartening to know that you’re out there, making yourselves—and the world—better.
To my study collaborators Apryl Broderson, Haley Woznyj, and Eric Heggestad, and my research assistants Uma Kedharnath, Sean Thomas, Julie Anne Applegate, Lacy Christ, Mike Jacobson, and Lauren Tronick (unicorn and matchless interviewer). When our team asked the adorably naive question “How hard could it really be to define and measure self-awareness?” we had no idea what we were getting into. Three years later, we now know the answer, and your dedication, wisdom, and can-do spirit made it possible. I’d also like to extend my gratitude to the friends, family, and clients who opened their networks to help us recruit study participants.
Thank you to the incredible colleagues who make my speaking, writing, and consulting career possible. To the team at Fletcher & Company: Grainne Fox, Veronica Goldstein, Melissa Chinchill, Erin McFadden, Sarah Fuentes, and especially my superlative literary agent Christy Fletcher: thank you for taking a chance on me, for your steady hand, and for your incomparable support. To Michelle Longmire, my partner in crime at The Eurich Group: every time I think I’ve fully come to grasp your all-around awesomeness, you do something even more awesome. I am privileged to work with you every day. To my fabulous speaking management team at SpeakersOffice: Holli Catchpole, Michele Walace, Cassie Glasgow, and Kim Stark: it’s been quite a ride, ladies, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
I owe an immense debt of gratitude to the outstanding professionals who shepherded this book at every stage of the process. Lari Bishop, you helped me turn a feeble musing into a full-fledged idea. Michael Palgon, you believed in this book long before I believed in it myself, and I’m forever grateful for your partnership and friendship. Will Storr, thank you for helping me tell my stories, for your gift of humor, and for convincing me to nix the bank-robbing clown. Thank you as well to my reviewers for their invaluable comments on the manuscript: Chuck Blakeman, Alan Mulally, Michele Walace, Michael Palgon, Chip Heath, and Lynda Spillane.
To the exceptional team at Crown: Talia Krohn, Tina Constable, Campbell Wharton, Ayelet Gruenspecht, Megan Schuman, Julia Elliott, Tal Goretsky, and Roger Scholl: working with you on this book has been a dream come true. Your professionalism, dedication, and kindness are beyond measure. Talia Krohn, my editor extraordinaire, kindred spirit, OCD compatriot, and true friend: thank you for your unparalleled abilities and problem-solving skills, for cheerfully responding to my incessant after-hours e-mails, for being my accomplice in the frog-prince practical joke of 2016, and most important, for being the best partner I could possibly imagine.
To my friends, colleagues, and mentors who provided their wisdom and assistance throughout the process: Alan Mulally, Marshall Goldsmith, Adam Grant, Ed Catmull, Tommy Spaulding, Lynda Spillane (love you, gal!), Michelle Gielan, Constantine Sedikides, Herb Blumberg, Ari Hagler, Cindy Hammel, Dana Sednek, Sarah Daly, Elisa Speranza, Florence Ozor, Eleanor Allen, Robin Kane, Roger Burleigh, Stephen Ladek, Mike Herron, Dana Graber Ladek, Linda Henman, Robin Kane, Mike Walker, Teresa Gray, Barry Nelson, Bill Whalen, Doug Griffes, Ted McMurdo, Scott Page, and most especially Chip Heath (without whom quite literally none of this would have been possible).
And last but not least, I want to thank the wonderful souls who help me stay grounded and self-aware—and who love me in spite of my many faults. To Gibson, Coles, Allie, Abs, Marita, Rogey, Dana, Ray Ray, Jason, Ang, Kristin, Apryl, Marc, G$, Mike, Sue, Rob, Teresa, Kristen, and Lynda for being my most valued and cherished loving critics. To my friends at Orange Theory Fitness for providing a safe haven during my frequent bouts of writer’s block (Kaitlyn, Lindsay, Daniel, Eric, Jason, Jose, and Mia). To my writing companions, Fred and Willow. To MamaRichie (and all my family) for your unending love and support. Most especially, thank you to Dave (aka HB) for diagnosing and enduring my ABD (Author Bipolar Disorder), for forcing me to be self-aware (whether I want to be or not), and for your boundless love, encouragement, optimism, help, humor, and generosity. ILYVVM.