The Trap of Awareness©

I believe that awareness is the key to personal and professional growth, development and change. I also believe that awareness is one of the foundations of leadership, which is highlighted in my upcoming book on leadership (Unmask: Let Go of Who You’reSupposed” to Be & Unleash Your True Leader). And yet I’m becoming more and more aware (pun intended) of the ways that my awareness can be a trap and actually prevent positive change. At the risk of being pun heavy, you must also be aware of the ways that your awareness can get in the way of taking action to make changes in yourself, your business or your relationships. I explore one of these critical ways below.

The simple explanation is that your awareness feels so good (and you feel so great about your awareness) that it can become enough even without changing your thinking or behaviors. Here’s a recent business example. My client became aware (and therefore gained understanding) that he often was not present in conversations with his team members. Whether he was distracted by his cell phone, his computer or simply thinking about other things, he was not present in conversations. He was made aware of this when some of his team members gave him honest feedback on this topic. To his credit, he “heard” the feedback, acknowledged it, and  became aware of the ways that he was not present and the impact his lack of presence had on his team members.

This all sounds terrific, doesn’t it? This is critical to great leadership – the ability and willingness to become more aware of behaviors that are impeding your leadership and to understand how your actions impact others. These are really great insights, BUT – I’m sure you’ve already figured out the “but” – he did not change his behavior despite his new awareness.

Some people would say that awareness without action is not true awareness, but I disagree. I regularly see people who are acutely aware, but for some reason they are not motivated to change based upon the awareness. In fact, keeping them separate – awareness versus new actions – is important since the awareness itself can be the trap that keeps you from changing. However, if you assume that awareness includes the new actions, then you can become a person of action without understanding or awareness (which is often unsustainable or misdirected).

Let’s look at another example. A friend of mine is highly committed to growing as a person and thus a leader. Consistent with this commitment, she is continually sharpening her awareness and seeking the input (and sometimes challenges) of others in order to identify blind spots or misalignments between intentions and actions. The result has been that she is continually sharing her many awareness moments, both big and small. I regularly hear from her that she is aware of this or of that or that she now sees how she does certain things in her communication and interactions with others. However, she is not changing her actions or behaviors. The awareness is heightened, but the actions remain largely the same.

I’ll be blunt – people don’t care what you’re aware of, they care what you do (or how you change). Why? Because people know (and so do you) that all that really matters is what you do, not what you say. You may know these words from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.” Where are we most aware of this truth? In our relationships. The people that I care about don’t care what I’ve learned, figured out or become aware of – they care about how I change my actions or behaviors based upon the new awareness.

You have a question to answer: Do you want to become more aware OR do you want to become a better person and leader? If you simply want to become more aware, then continue to look inside, ask yourself good questions and have others offer you feedback on what you can improve. However, if you want to be different and create new outcomes, then you MUST turn your new awareness into new action. The word I use is actionize – the state of relentlessly taking new and different action based upon whatever awareness you attain.

Being more aware is good; being better and different is great. Being more aware is a good start, but taking new action creates new endings. Being more aware brings good feelings. Changing yourself and your actions does so much more—it changes the world. It’s decision time – will  you get stuck in the trap of merely becoming more aware OR will you commit to becoming a better person and leader through awareness AND new action? The answer will define you, your business, your relationships and your life.


  1. awareness is awareness…

    action will happen when one is ready to act…

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