Monday, September 14, 2009

Self-Awareness 101

Today's one minute writer asks the question, what basic course should be offered to all college students? Self-Awareness 101 was the first that popped to mind.

When I was checking out the possibility of going to college, a professor told the prospective students that the most valuable course he ever took was....typing. His colleagues irked at that. But his premise was simple. He used his typing skills every day.

The same way, self-awareness allows us to grow. Not just a few times, but with every encounter in the day. So much of the rest of our learning is to absorb, build, and catalogue our collection of facts. He with the most knowledge wins. But that's not quite true, is it? Society doesn't reward the most knowledgeable. Not if he isn't convincing. So how about a class on influencing others? But that has flaws, too. No-one wants to be won over by trickery.

We want to be engaged, honored, listened to. If there were a hole in the North American heart, it would be the great yawning desire to be heard. We're shouting loud enough, that is to be sure. But in the shouting we are not listening to each other.

Which is where self-awareness comes in. With every encounter, good and bad, there are two players. The "opponent" and me. In a few small ways I can influence an opponent to my point of view. Especially if I have taken the time to really understand what he is trying to say. Especially if I honor him by letting him know he's been heard. But the great power in my hands is to change me. I have total control over theory. If I can walk past a pastry in the window shop, surely I can examine my own motives and scrub out found flaws.

Believe me, people can sense that strength. A self aware person does not lash out at every swipe. A self aware person controls how she responds. She looks for a better way. People feel safe around her, because deep down they know, even when provoked, she will be reasonable.

Now, just imagine a single class of college students, successful grads of Self-Awareness 101. Imagine thirty people who really listen to others and themselves, and are willing to challenge their most precious beliefs about themselves. Imagine what they can accomplish with those skills in a lifetime. They won't hit middle age with a huge wad of regrets, or perhaps totally unaware, hit middle age bewildered, unsure how they failed to grab opportunities?

Except we really must change the name. Self-Awareness sounds so...basket-weaving-hippy-space-out-there.

How about Aware 101? Or maybe "It's All Over Here", a day catching fish at Pike Place.