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All About You: Improve your life through self-reflection

All About You by Richard Hawk

EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

“Know thyself,” a maxim once inscribed above the entrance to the ancient Temple of Apollo at Delphi in Greece, is a wise precept. Great thinkers throughout the centuries have spoken about the value of learning about your true self. It can be messy, but the benefits greatly outweigh any pain you experience from objectively examining your motives, dreams, habits and other aspects of your “self.”

It’s not easy. Benjamin Franklin said that “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” That’s because it’s tough to put aside your biases and lifelong influences when you examine yourself. Plus, there’s a bit of favoritism going on! Still, getting to know who you are is a powerful way to improve your life. Here’s why:

You’ll feel more empathy

By knowing yourself, you’ll know other people, because we all share many similar experiences and emotions. If someone says something hurtful to you, you’re less likely to lash back at them if you’ve spent time examining how you feel when someone hurts you. You’ll also realize that you’ve said hurtful things before, too. On the other hand, if you’ve examined how it felt when someone lifted your spirits, you’ll be quicker to encourage someone who’s sad or discouraged.

You’re more likely to realize what you want

When you examine how different actions make you feel, you’ll realize which ones bring you the most pleasure and happiness. The reverse is true as well: You’ll discover what doesn’t feel good and what makes you momentarily miserable.

Be honest with yourself. Just because you’re supposed to like something doesn’t mean you will. But you still can perform a task you don’t like, and do your best, if it’s for important reasons. (For example, you may not enjoy going to a regularly scheduled staff meeting, but when you’re there, it’s a good practice to stay engaged and participate.) Overall, this awareness of what you do and don’t like can inspire you to make changes that will give you direction and make you happier.

Two ways to ‘know thyself’

  1. Pay attention. Mindfulness has become a popular movement. Many books, articles and research results are regularly published about its benefits. Mindfulness is simply the objective of paying attention to what’s going on. If you direct that attention to yourself, you’ll discover more about how you react and who you really are. Plus, it’s free! Try it for a few moments each day, and it won’t be long before you realize it’s worth the time and effort.
  2. Ask personal questions. Ask yourself “why” questions such as “Why do I go to work at this job each day?” Don’t stop at an obvious answer such as “To make money to pay bills.” Of course that’s one reason – but try to dig deeper. Is it because your office is close to home? Or, did you not have any other choices? Was it a perfect match? The questions you can ask yourself are endless. Here are a few more to get you started:
    What tasks at work do I enjoy the most and why?
  • Is fear stopping me from pursuing a life-changing goal?
  • Are certain habits holding me back from doing much better at work (or home)?
  • Am I too severe when I discipline someone for a safety violation?
  • Do I laugh too much or not enough?
  • How well do I handle stressful situations?

When you question your life, you force yourself to think about who you are and why you do the things you do. Be honest with yourself. Even if some of the answers are disturbing, you’re the only person who will know about it, so let the response freely form in your mind.

And be kind to yourself. Nobody has zero flaws or aspects of their life that they would like to change. The goal of self-reflection isn’t to become perfect; it’s simply a process that helps you “better thyself!”

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Richard Hawk helps companies around the world create more vibrant safety cultures by showing them how to make safety fun. As a professional speaker, author and musician, he also inspires employees to focus better and enlightens safety leaders about ways to increase their influence. To learn more about Richard, visit

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