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From Insight to Outsight

The most effective people I know are the ones who have developed keen self-awareness. Developing insight into one's own self provides opportunities for being able to understand one’s own motivations, preferences and perspectives.

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Self-awareness is an important component of emotional intelligence. That's because it's difficult to understand and empathize with others if you don't first understand yourself.

The ways you gain insights into yourself are numerous. Being able to reflect on what has worked for you, on how you have felt in various situations, and on what truly motivates you is a good place to start.

You’ve probably heard it said “to thine own self be true” and “just be yourself.” Neither is possible if you don't even know yourself or struggle to accept yourself. We are all susceptible to influence from societal norms, peer pressure and the latest trends and fashions. Sorting out what genuinely matters to us individually can be a challenge. When we don't understand ourselves, we may fail to form intimate relationships or to feel “at peace” with ourselves.

The objective of getting this self-awareness is not for the insight alone. That's just the starting point. The real aim of gaining deep level self-awareness is to be able to then discover how you fit into the world around you and are able to complement and bring the most out of others, too.

Once you have developed insight you will be able to also develop outsight. Yes, that is a real word. It's one we don't use very often. Outsight means just what it sounds like. It means being able to see beyond oneself, beyond one's normal frame of reference -- out further than you've ever seen before.

With outsight, you will be able to understand others better and more easily. You'll be able to think in a broad sense beyond what you already know or have already experienced. You will be open to possibilities. You can think about what the future may hold, and you can understand cultural differences without judging. You will also continue developing even greater levels of insight as you look into the mirrors of others who reflect yourself back to you and those who do not.

Without outsight we are unable to fully appreciate the differences around us. We miss out on so much because of a self-limiting perspective.

Think of it as a progression. Some people have very limited sight, or even no sight, beyond what is obvious. Others get to a point where they develop insight, so they are able to see and understand the world through their own lens. But even beyond that, there are others who see the world in the broadest sense possible using their outsight.

What would it mean to you if you developed more outsight? What would be revealed to you? What would you see that you are currently missing and how would that change the way you live your day-to-day life?

Developing outsight requires deliberate focus. It requires setting aside the preconceived notions and judgments you may make when you see something that is different from your "norm's" or difficult to understand. Outsight starts with curiosity. The more you open yourself up, the more you will find that outsight is growing for you.

Insight and outsight can develop simultaneously. In order for this to happen, you must have equal measures of self-confidence and humility. When you are both confident enough and yet also humble enough to acknowledge that you can continually learn and grow by understanding others, you will be able to multiply your outsight exponentially.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself in various situations. Asking these with an open mind will help you to develop both insight and outsight:

1) What am I feeling about this event and why? How are my feelings different from others and why?

2) What matters most of all to me? What matters most of all to people around me? What matters most of all to the people who are most different from me?

3) How am I interpreting this event? What past experiences have caused me to choose this interpretation? What are some other ways that people could interpret this very same event?

You get the idea. It's about reflecting on your own emotions, thoughts and experiences. And then it's about going beyond yourself to understand alternative ways of looking at the situation.

This is not something that can happen overnight. But with conscious attention to development of insight and outsight, you will find over time that you are able to understand things in ways you never thought possible. Others will also notice that you have a generosity of spirit and an empathy that is unique.

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 Editor's Note: This post was originally published May 2013 and has been recently updated.