Consciousness, Ego & Authenticity

Past blogs have begun to lay out some understandings about what Consciousness, Leadership, and Conscious Leadership are, and why they are important topics in our world of work today. Being a more conscious, self-aware person will enhance your ability to get along with others and be a more effective leader. Self-awareness is the gateway into our own authenticity, our own unique selves, whereby we show up in our relationships reflecting our own highest truth.

In order to get to our own truth, introspection, reflection, deep questioning, and honest evaluation are required. Tapping in to your “inner voice” will reveal your own truths to you. To reach a higher level of honest self-awareness, we also must take into account that there are “multiple voices” inside our head, and often vying for the alpha position in our minds.

We have many beliefs, stories, values, mores, and fears that have been passed to us from so many sources. Parents, grand-parents, relatives, siblings, teachers, clergy, books, TV, heroes, villains, and more have shared their beliefs, stories, values mores and fears with us, intentionally and unintentionally. By the time we become adults we have taken on so much of other peoples’ stuff that we become a mirror of what we have been exposed to without even consciously thinking about it anymore. At the same time that inner voice that is and has always been there gets drowned out more and more by the noise of what others think we should think, do and say.

Consider for a moment that we have three levels of awareness available to us: two halves of Ego (the Healthy and the Negative), and an Authentic Self. The ego is our default, hard wired survival program. Ego looks out for our survival, our sustenance, and our ability to get around. It sees the world as two centers, one as itself and the other is everything outside it. Being apart and needing to live, succeed, and progress, it seeks to keep us safe, free from danger, and able to thrive.

The unhealthy aspects of ego keep us mired in some form of fear-based thinking. Whether experiencing sadness, anger, depression, blaming, regret, despair, unworthiness, disappointment or hate from things in the past – or worry, anxiety, pessimism, frustration, doubt, insecurity, overwhelm, insecurity or powerlessness from things not yet manifested in the future, unhealthy ego keeps our consciousness below the level of active self-awareness. When we are focused on the past or the future we have no room to be present. These are the “other voices” we listen to, and they often scream so loud and kick up our emotional states in such a tizzy that we don’t allow our higher self much room to show-up and offer its wisdom.

A healthy aspect of ego is the in-between state of the unhealthy and our authentic selves. This blossoms when we mature and see that living from unhealthy ego has its limits, creates too much pain, and doesn’t provide the better things in life most of us seek. As we learn to grow and develop the healthy aspects of ego, life takes on more positive flavors, and improved relationships and results are realized. This takes a good deal of effort, and is accomplished through some form of personal or professional development, over time, and also just by being more open to the life-lessons that constantly come to us.

We will talk more about the authentic self in upcoming blogs; I wanted to include it here for you to see a wider field of awareness can be sought, developed and lived. Each of us experience some level of our authentic selves, we call these “peak’ moments, during our days, yet get pulled back into ego consciousness far too often. In these peak moments is where our higher self is most active; it allows a more dynamic level of awareness to look at people, issues, and life in ways most of us deeply desire.

The chart below may help visualize these three levels of awareness, how they reveal where our awareness typically resides, and of how we bounce between states, often automatically without any conscious thinking. See which words and states speak to you, reflect back to you, and see where your awareness spends its time. You’ll have bouts of time in each section, and only you get to determine what’s real and true for you, and what you’d like to see improved.

Aspects of Three Levels of  Consciousness and Leadership

Conditional Self                       Awakening Self                      Authentic Self 

Unconscious                               Healthy Ego Emerging                   Aware

Unhealthy Ego                           Strengthening Ego                       Authentic-self

Doer                                              Thinker                                            Perceiver

Focused by conditioning    Focus on inner guidance      Connected to Higher Self

Fear                                                Love                                               Connection

Reactive                                         Receptive                                      Attentive

Automatic Patterns/Monkey-mind       Mindfulness                   Awareness

Outer-focused                      Inner-focused                                       Inclusive

Insecure                                 Safe                                                         Trust-worthy

I Own – “mine”                    We Share – “ours”                                Steward – “us”

Unfeeling                          Empathy                                     Compassion

Politics prevail                    Truth-telling prevails                     Wisdom-prevails

Strong Persona, Image          Humble                                                   Genuine

Protects Own Image          Seeks to Understand                       Serves Others

Selfish                                Self & Us awareness                      Benevolence

Narrow                                Inclusive                                      Comprehensive

Stuck                                           Grow                                                      Evolve

Physical / Mental                     Emotional                                              Spiritual

Force                                  Power                                       Presence

Scarcity                               Abundance                               Prosperity

Survival                               Reformation                                  Transformation

Success                              Significance                                Meaningfulness

Building on the themes above, leadership can be separated into its own levels of consciousness/ awareness as follows:

Unhealthy Ego                               Awakening Ego                       Conscious

Leadership                                      Leadership                               Leadership

Autocratic / Authoritarian       Achiever / Collaborator             Integral / Holistic

Dictatorial                                       Democratic                              Self-leading teams

Directive                                         Empowering                               Inspirational

Domination                                   Collaboration                                    Mastery

Obedience                                     Trust                                       Align & Engage

Self-esteem                                 Self-actualization                                  Service

Individual                                       Team                                  Stakeholder Community

Direct                                   Coach                                            Entrust

Push                                    Attract                   Resonance / Congruence

Reject                                  Recognize                                      Rejoice

Contractual                                    Covenant                                                 Trust

This is such a huge subject, and we are only scratching the surface here. I just want to share what I have learned, and am still learning about consciousness and my own levels of awareness. We will refer to ego and authentic self as we dialog about consciousness and conscious leadership over time, so this gives us a context for future conversations.

It’s up to each of us to be open to adding and expanding our own awareness. Let me know your thoughts on this, and let’s help each other learn, grow and evolve to be the highest and best people and leaders possible!

5 Tips to Increase Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the cornerstone to any personal or professional growth process. We grow, learn, and develop by taking in new information, analyzing and processing it and allowing it to expand some aspect of ourselves, either by changing our thinking and behaviors or by releasing old habits and healing emotional roadblocks. Self-awareness is the opposite of our reactive, repetitive, subconscious-driven selves that most often run our lives on auto-pilot.

Many have been quoted telling us that we should “be true to ourselves,” and yet who are we at our core to be true to? Which ‘one’ of us is our real self? How much honest self-reflection is undertaken? Which “voices in our head” take center stage, and are they the ones we truly align to and authentically resonate around? Which persona is our truth, the one we are supposed to be true to? Being alive is easy compared to turning on the light of your own introspection inside where our truth needs excavating.

More business leaders and organizations are realizing the power in helping their employees with self-reflection, self-assessment, and expanding individual self-awareness, and are finding that the outcomes far exceed the cost in time and dollars invested. Increasing self-awareness has significant benefits:

– learn more about yourself

– get more grounded and increase focus

– clarify and live by your core values

– appreciate and utilize your innate strengths

– release limiting beliefs and fears that drive negative/reactive behaviors

– tap into your passion and increase energy and effectiveness

– boost creativity

– improve your communication and conflict resolution skills

– deepen relationship and build trust

– realize your life and work purpose

All conscious leaders have various methods they use to tap into the deeper, more authentic aspects of themselves. Below are the top five that I recommend will most impactfully increase your own self-awareness.

  1. Taking an honest, real self-assessment, while uncomfortable at times, is the first step to progress. Pay attention to your self-talk. Are your thoughts negative or positive, and are they focused on the past/future or are they grounded in the present moment? Are you building yourself and others up or tearing yourself and others down? What beliefs do you hold, which are working for you, and which are limiting in some way? What fears are present and what pattern of fear is predominant in you (such as the fear of separation, of not being good enough, of failing, of being wrong, rejection, or being emotionally uncomfortable)? Where have you made trade-offs in your life that lodged regrets within? What masks do you wear to protect yourself from others? What is working that should continue, what’s not working that you’d like to stop and let go, what new change is waiting to start in your life?
  1. Have a process of self-inquiry and self-reflection that brings more of your authenticity to light.

Uncover your core values. Get clear on your innate strengths and gifts. Reconnect with your passion and creative pursuits. Conduct 360-feedback from trusted others and become more aware of your blind-spots and how you are showing up in relationships. Conduct self-assessments on your emotional intelligence, leadership style, worldview, and personality aspects (using tools such as Myers Briggs, the Enneagram and others). Ask yourself the deep questions about your life’s purpose, and bring to life your “Why” for your existence, and for your team/organization.

  1. Pay attention to your feelings, your emotions, and your triggers. Honestly see your own patterns, and find ways to access your deep emotions to allow them to process out rather than stay bottled up. Pay attention to what triggers negative reactions in you, and try to own and clean up your messes after they occur. See what things, people and events generate judgement and biases within you. Self-help books, therapy, developing a spiritual practice, being a member of a peer group, and confiding in others openly and honestly about what you feel all are pathways to a healthier emotional you. Learn to tread more lovingly with yourself as you more deeply connect.
  1. Set regular intervals for calming your mind, stilling the constant flow of thoughts and emotions. Frequent check-ins with yourself on how you are feeling, and what you are thinking keeps you centered in the powerful now. Finding time to meditate, or contemplate, slows the automatic thinking process down, allows stress to dissolve, and frees access to our higher centers of thinking/feeling/being. Developing a mindfulness process that helps keep your self-awareness active and alive in the present moment will not only help you assess what’s really going on around you but will also allow you to be more of higher service to others.
  1. Set your intentions to become more self-disciplined in fulfilling your goals, overcoming obstacles and living more authentically in the present moment. Getting re-acquainted with commitment to your own self-improvement and growth is a powerful state of mind, and will pay benefits unimagined. Take responsibility for your actions and be honestly self-accountable with your outcomes. Have a daily reminder process to reset your attention around what you most desire to manifest.

Being self-aware is a process, a state, a power that will always serve you. Expanding self-awareness deepens your understanding of life, of others, of work. Self-awareness will enrich your leadership practice, and thereby positively touch others in your world. Take the time to allow your own authentic self to courageously live through you, and watch your life take on new vistas!