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All About You: Get to know yourself better

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.

Another new year. Yippee! I’m sure you have at least some aspirations for 2022.

My budgie, Bella, who resides in my office (either in her cage or on my shoulder), doesn’t know it’s a new year. I’ve informed her about it several times, but all she knows is what’s going on right now. I don’t think she even knows she’s a bird!

Two major characteristics that distinguish humans from other animals, plants and all aspects of the natural world are that we’re self-aware to varying degrees and we label “time.” The many plants in my office also don’t know they’re plants and have no concept of what year it is. Yet, they live beautifully. What a lesson for you and me.

However, we humans are self-aware. My main self-improvement goal for this year is to increase my self-awareness drastically. It’s a complicated task, but one that’s well worth pursuing. Yes, I want to eat better, exercise more, get more talks, etc. But increasing my self-awareness to become a better person will improve my life more than anything else I can imagine.

Here’s how I plan to know myself better this year. I hope it inspires you to do the same.

Realize you may be blind to your weaknesses

A few years ago, a close friend suggested I evaluate how much I “joke around.” My internal mental response was, “No way – you’re just being too serious.” But after a bit of self-reflection and paying attention to my behavior, I realized my friend was right.

I didn’t quit being the “make safety fun guy” or stop “clowning around,” but I did learn to temper my desire to be humorous when it wasn’t well received. I also thought deeply about why I like to joke around and what it means about my character – which is a cornerstone of knowing yourself.

Consider these probing self-awareness questions: Am I too serious? Do I promote my ideas and beliefs unreasonably? How is my level of compassion? Why is it that some people don’t like me? These are tough questions, but that’s because honest self-reflection is no easy task, and it’s one that most people don’t pursue objectively.

Get feedback and advice

I’ve received thousands of comments about my talks, books and seminars. Many are positive, which makes me feel good, but the ones that have helped me the most are the suggestions on how to improve my presentations and content. Likewise, getting feedback about how we act can help us know ourselves better and improve our ability to control how we think and act.

It’s impossible to honestly know yourself without input from the people with whom you interact, including your colleagues and those you help as a safety and health professional. Asking a simple question such as, “Am I helping you enough?” or “Is there anything I could do better for you?” can sometimes elicit a recommendation that will help you realize a personal trait and improve your performance.

Seek a mentor

A mentor can be a powerful way to know yourself better. I have two friends who are also mentors. Both have tuned me in to my flaws and assets and spurred me to reflect on my behavior. Mastermind groups can serve the same purpose. So can books. Reading about any subject that delves into who you are and how to improve your mind and methods is like having a mentor.

During your journey to know yourself better, keep two things in mind:

  1. Don’t beat yourself up when you discover a negative aspect of your personality and behavior. Instead, appreciate the fact that you’ve found a way to improve who you are.
  2. There’s no finish line to knowing yourself. So, even if you work hard at self-awareness in 2022, you won’t completely know yourself when 2023 appears. But you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the positive changes you’ve made.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps leaders inspire employees to care more about their safety and health so “nobody gets hurt.” He also has a long history of success getting safety leaders to increase their influence and make safety fun. For more than 35 years, Richard’s safety keynotes, training sessions, books and “Safety Stuff” e-zine have made a positive difference in the safety and health field. Learn more about how Richard can improve your employees’ safety performance at

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