Why You Will Never Make Progress Without Self-Awareness

“Know Thyself.” - Scribes of Delphi

Imagine you have just been hired as CEO of a Fortune 500 company. You’re excited about all of the changes and improvements you can make for the company, and you’re eager to get started. But, there’s a catch - you have no information.

Accounting, finance, sales, marketing, you have absolutely no numbers on any of them from the time before you took over, or during your tenure as CEO. So how would you make the best decisions for the company? If you have no quantifiable data, how can you see if any of your new ideas are working?

All of your goals would simply be measured by whether you “felt” like you were making progress with the company. This is obviously a horrible way to run an organization, so why do we apply that to our lives?  

Why do we start an exercise program and judge ourselves merely by how we look in the mirror? Why do we eat “healthier” without knowing the difference in nutrition information between what we were eating before, and what we’re eating now? Without the right information, we will never be able to make the best decisions that help us reach our goals. That is why self-awareness is the first step toward self-improvement.


Self-awareness is being able to step outside of yourself to see what’s really going on. The best way to do this is to get as much data about yourself as possible. Great decisions, after all, cannot be made without accurate information. The reason why many people fail at achieving their goals is because they fail to see whether or not they’re progressing. Because they don’t have the right information, they see their efforts to improve as hopeless and ultimately give up. [1]


By being more aware of your decisions and their consequences, you have the ability to see the situation objectively. It has actually been proven that we give our best friends better advice than we give ourselves because we are more removed from the situation. This allows us to assess the facts with less emotional attachments, leading to better advice. By increasing your level of self-awareness, it helps you attain similar distance from a situation, thus allowing you to make the better decision for yourself.  


The best example of this is the proven number one way that dieters lose weight - by keeping a food journal. By keeping a food journal, even without restricting any foods, people become more aware of what they’re putting into their bodies [2]. This allows them to do things like have healthy food on hand when they have an afternoon snack craving, as well as planning healthy meals in advance. It also changes the perspective of dieting from “I can’t eat these cookies because my diet won’t let me” to “I don’t want to eat these cookies, because I’ll have to record it.” This subtle change in perspective is important, because it empowers the person to make the right decision, rather than feeling imposed by their restrictions.  


Self-awareness is a fundamental principle of achieving great performance. The more you can gain objective information about yourself or your progress towards your goals, the more likely you are to reach them. It’s much easier to make the right decision when you know what the right decision is. So invest time in tracking information about yourself.

Here are some useful tools to get started!

MyFitnessPal - Food Diary App

Mint - Personal Budgeting App

Fitocracy - Fitness Tracking App


  1. A theory of objective self awareness. Duval, Shelley; Wicklund, Robert A. Oxford, England: Academic Press. (1972). x 238 pp.
  2. Hollis, Jack F., Christina M. Gullion, Victor J. Stevens, Phillip J. Brantley, Lawrence J. Appel, Jamy D. Ard, Catherine M. Champagne, Arlene Dalcin, Thomas P. Erlinger, Kristine Funk, Daniel Laferriere, Pao-Hwa Lin, Catherine M. Loria, Carmen Samuel-Hodge, William M. Vollmer, and Laura P. Svetkey. "Weight Loss During the Intensive Intervention Phase of the Weight-Loss Maintenance Trial." American Journal of Preventive Medicine 35.2 (2008): 118-26.