The Illusion of Self-Awareness

In the last decade I have worked with zeal to become more self-aware.  During the last four years my efforts moved into crescendo and that diligence has resulted in a generous amount of healing and understanding.  In the life I lead now the words “I’m happy” can come from my lips knowing I am telling the pure truth.  There are still wake up calls along the way and today I have been humbled!

Bouncing around the net I came across a statement whose timeliness could not have been better aimed: 

The Illusion of Self-Awareness: We are more Unaware than Aware.

The punctuality of this statement arriving in my presence is a near cosmic occurrence as a biting reminder of my lack of awareness.  Less than a half hour ago the realization hit me; early last week I missed the birthday of my dearest male friend (other than my Brother)! I completely spaced it!  To add to the embarrassment I visited my friend for a few hours over this past weekend.  His birthday did not dawn on me then and he is too much of a gentleman to hint at it.  I feel like a schmuck! (Yes, I know what the word means and it fits how I feel about myself at this moment). 

While I still need to buy a card, the birthday present for my friend’s birthday was purchased over two months ago; so long ago I darn near forgot about it.  There is wisdom to be gained in realizing my self-awareness is not nearly as complete as I have myself believing sometimes.  There is weighty truth for me to be reminded of in the words “we are more unaware than aware”.  Sure ‘nuff!

Yes, I had an important out-of-town company meeting last week and a lot of prep was necessary before the trip.  I am head over heels in love with a wonderful woman in a growing relationship that takes not only my breath away, but also at times my focus (it’s a wonderful thing!). Further, work is challenging in the present economy (I don’t know anyone who has not felt some effect).  None of those reasons are acceptable ones for letting my friend’s birthday slip my mind.  I have no doubt he will be kind and understanding about my absent-mindedness.  I am grateful for that. 

Neuroscientist Dr. David Rock, PhD reported almost 50% of the time we are operating on automatic or not consciously aware of what we are doing. Apparently that is when we’re going at average speed.  When we get busy and really wrapped up in specific things our auto-pilot goes into acute over-use.

Here are a few eye-openers from psychologist Relly Nadler of why our awareness can be so skewed from what is going on around us: 

  1. Intention and execution gap: We have 100% intentions and only 50% effectiveness in carrying out our intentions (at best!).
  2. Our thoughts are facts fallacy: Believing because you think something therefore it is true and don’t check your assumptions with others and worse act only on limited or skewed data.
  3. Superiority illusion: We overestimate our strengths. We think we are more successful, interesting, attractive, and friendly than the average person.
  4. Our memory distorts reality: We create false attributions and stories about the facts of a situation.

OK.  I admit my at-least-sometimes guilt to all four!  Of such things I am sorely aware at this moment after having been humbled with a new lesson about awareness.  A ‘lack’ recognized is again my teacher.  At least for now my awareness is far keener than yesterday.  My fallacies have been shown to me as a reminder that no matter how much I grow, there is always more to go.  And further, there is no arrival or ‘getting there’.  I will always be a work in progress as long as I live.

This morning there is renewed self-awareness that allows me to see where my thoughts and emotions can take me, even when it is to places I did not intend to visit.  When all wrapped up in certain things, I can go mostly blind and my awareness of everything else diminishes. 

Life has so much to teach to a willing student.  I am.  All I have to do is remember to pay attention.  Gratefully I have been reminded of that. 

By becoming more aware, one BECOMES more aware
There is no other method to it. It is a simple process.

3 thoughts on “The Illusion of Self-Awareness

  1. A very interesting, thought provoking post. Thanks for putting it up. There are numerous ideas here for me to consider.
    I agree that we humans are always a work in progress. We are constantly developing and learning from our mistakes.( or should be) If we were all perfect, life would be very boring! However, i don’t think you should beat yourself up too much about missing your friend’s birthday. Afterall, you did visit him that weekend and a visit is more meaningful and valuable than a card or a present. We all forget stuff sometimes, especially as we get older.(I’m talking about myself here!)
    Good luck with everything.
    Best Wishes — Stuart.

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