One of the first and most critical tools you need in your toolbox to help you develop compassion is awareness.

Your awareness is always on something. ALWAYS. You are constantly focused on something whether you are aware of it or not. For a few moments, your awareness may be on the present moment. However, most people, most of the time, are constantly ruminating, fretting, fantasizing or worrying about the future or the past.

However, there is a consensus that staying in the moment is healthy for the brain and it helps us reset and deal with problems better. It also helps us to be more creative.

Awareness is like a pair of glasses that you put on and all of a sudden you see what is invisible and present. You see nuances and it raises your intentionality. Awareness is also important because it helps you choose your thoughts: It helps you focus your intention on what you want and not what you don’t want. Once you are aware, you can direct your thoughts towards compassion. 

In 2010, a professor of psychiatry, Daniel J. Siegel, wrote a book called
“Mindsight.” In this book, he addresses this potent skill that is the basis for both emotional and social intelligence.

“Mindsight is a kind of focused attention that allows us to the internal workings of our own minds. It helps us to be aware of our mental processes without being swept away by them, enables us to get ourselves off the autopilot of ingrained behaviors and habitual responses, and moves us beyond the reactive emotional loops we all have a tendency to get trapped in.”

He defines mindfulness as a way of intentionally paying attention to the present moment without being swept up by judgments.  He says, “Mindfulness is a form of mental activity that trains the mind to become aware of awareness itself and to pay attention to one’s own intention.”

You cannot increase your compassion unless you are aware of the focus of your attention. You also cannot generate compassion if you are judging everything and everyone all around you negatively. Defensiveness does not support compassion. However, gratitude and appreciation support compassion.

As you harness your awareness, you choose to direct it where you want it to go. Do you want to be kind? Do you want to understand? Do you want to bridge a gap? There is an intentionality that goes hand in hand with awareness to create compassion.

The very first building block of emotional intelligence is emotional self-awareness. It is “the ability to recognize your feelings, differentiate between them, know why you are feeling these feelings, and recognize the impact your feelings have on others around you.” – The EQ Edge.

My invitation to you is to develop your mindsight: Become more aware of your internal emotional ecology. What are you paying attention to?
Are you judging? Are you appreciative? Do you know the impact you are having on others? Do you actually know how you feel? 

This is how you fine tune your self awareness and in turn become more compassionate to yourself and others. Let me know how it goes.

Iyabo Onipede
Leadership Development Coach
Leadership Matters, LLC

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