STRONGER TOGETHER: How improved self-awareness can be life changing

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"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya focuses on self-awareness and the benefits of improving emotional literacy.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

‘How are you?’ -  It’s a question engrained in social greetings, but how often are do we check-in with ourselves? And how sincere is the response?

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director
Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Good, bad, happy, sad, angry, tired: these are responses that may roll off the tongue without too much reflection. But there’s believed to be 27 distinct emotional experiences and feelings aren’t isolated – they’re complex and intertwined.  

By expanding our emotional vocabulary, it can become easier identifying and describing what’s happening, how we feel and how to make a change, should we need to, ultimately improving our self-awareness.

The Feelings Wheel provides a great starting point for increasing emotional literacy. The Wheel demonstrates the broad language which can be used to capture human emotions beyond terms like happy, sad, bad, disgust, angry, surprised, and fearful.

It extends vocabulary from ‘bad’ to indifference, pressure, overwhelmed, or unfocused.

To effectively calm yourself down, or change your emotional state, it can be empowering to be aware of your current emotions and notice what is actually going on. This comes from a level of self-awareness which is not always instinctive.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take notice of what’s driving that feeling, you may realise you’re tired or busy and it’s only temporary, not forever.

For some people this is easy, they know how to self-regulate and refocus. But for those unfamiliar, keep a tool like the Feelings Wheel handy (Google to find free version online).

The Feelings Wheel will support you to bring awareness to the feeling and the confidence to be able to articulate what is going on for you in that moment. This insight, this pause to take notice and articulate how you’re feeling, creates space for growth, insight and the freedom to decide what to do next.

It’s also helpful when communicating with others; whether it’s with your partner when you feel frustrated or a work colleague if you’re under pressure.

Pausing, and taking a breath to increase your self-awareness in that moment can be awkward. But using this time to check in with ourselves before reacting can be life changing.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya focuses on ways to create change in your life

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

When we feel stuck or dissatisfied in our life, it is usually a sign that something needs to change as our basic needs are not being met.   

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director
Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

It is a signal, to get out of our head and become curious about what is going on for us, around us and to us.

Last week, we discussed how we can find ourselves accustomed to boredom, simply because we become stuck in unchecked patterns of behaviour and routines that do not serve us. If we don’t break these patterns and create change, it becomes hard to grow.

And it is my belief that if we aren’t growing, we are not really living our best life.

Stepping outside our comfort zone for a road you’ve not yet travelled is challenging – it’s sometimes hard to see that change needs to occur, and harder still to make that change a reality.

Continually thinking about doing something differently can get us caught in a loop where nothing actually happens. We just continue to think about it.

Action is therefore essential – you must go beyond thinking about change to live it.

Forcing ourselves to confront these challenges despite our discomfort, enables us to start.

It enables us to push outside of the limits that we place on ourselves and start making the change that we want to see.

Perhaps you begin with a self-audit, consider how you may be robbing yourself of the life you actually want.

Be honest, what is holding you back? Where are you holding yourself captive?

Once you recognise what ‘it’ is, work out what change you can make today that will release you from past behaviours and create the shift that you want to see.

This doesn’t have to be an immediately life-altering decision. This is not about quitting your job, or dissolving a partnership or jumping on a plane with a ticket to travel the world.

This is about creating clarity, and from that, starting to set a plan for not only the change that you want to make, but also how you are going to make it happen.

It is about taking notice and introducing small and consistent actions aligned to a bigger goal.

Start small with something that you can incorporate into less than 2 minutes of your day, and where possible link it to a reward.

According to James Clear, habits are built around a feedback loop consisting of cue, craving, response, reward. A cue triggers a craving, leading to a response that results in a reward which satisfies the craving.

New habits will start to build and feel worthwhile when they are linked to feelings of success. Our brain is hardwired in a way that it will tell us a new habit is worth it if we start to feel positive feelings that are associated with reward, like satisfaction and enjoyment. When we feel disappointed, sad, or unfulfilled, we tend to avoid doing the same thing again.

The reality is that with persistence, patience, self-compassion, and a little bit of insight into how our biology can assist us, we can enact change.

So, what does this look like in practice?

Imagine you would like to become a person who likes to exercise in the morning, but you find yourself hitting the snooze button and staying in bed. There are little steps you can take to create that AM fitness lifestyle for yourself.

On the days that you get up as soon as your alarm goes off, reward yourself. Even if that reward is that you get 10 minutes of quiet to read the news on your phone before the rest of the house gets up.

Once you develop the practice of getting out of bed, you put your exercise shoes on.


Maybe even do a few push ups or lunges while listening to your favourite podcast or song. On those days when you get up and do some exercise, your reward might be that you grab a coffee or phone a friend on the way to work. That feels good doesn’t it!

The key is starting, because once you start, you begin to develop and embed new routines that support your bigger goal.

What small step can you take today that will get you started?  

By Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services' Managing Director.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya focuses on IMPACT's recent annual celebration and the organisation's vision - Improving Lives.

The law of inertia states that a body at rest or moving at consistent speed will remain in that same state unless it is acted upon by a force – a change, an impact.

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director
Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Arguably, the same can be said for visions of a more inclusive and safer future.

Action is what can turn an idea into reality.

Imagine a world where everyone who wanted to work had a job.

Imagine a world where everyone was welcomed, accepted and respected, free from fear of judgement, discrimination, harassment and bias.

Imagine a world where children and young people didn’t fear being hurt or killed – in their own home.

These scenarios are the things that the IMPACT Community Services team imagine every day.

They are aligned to our vision of Improving Lives and are the reason why we do what we do.

Reflecting on the last 12 months ahead of the IMPACT annual celebration, it was undeniable that the current environment brings challenges that many of us have never faced before.

Lockdowns, separation from loved ones, loss of power and control in decision-making, loss of income and a loss of connection with others.

Amid these challenges, people are facing an increased levels of uncertainty, anxiety, and concern for the future.

From an early age, we are taught to break problems apart to make complex subjects and tasks more manageable. The reality however is that problems never exist in isolation – they are always surrounded by other problems.

If we think about these intertwined complex issues at a global level, it feels completely overwhelming.

Yet, at a local level IMPACT is dedicated to our vision of improving lives and supporting people to change their world every day.

This vision is implemented through our Live, Grow, Prosper pillars; every IMPACT program and service must fit within our vision and align to at least one of the pillars. 

In reviewing the year that was, the annual celebration was an opportunity to shine a spotlight on who we are and what we do.

Three of our staff members, Clayton, Jarrod and Luke, shared their inspiring stories of resilience, bravery and determination, so that they might be of help to others.

We can never underestimate the power of our real personal stories and lived experience.

These three men reminded us that it is about grit, persistence, compassion, resilience and the learnings, and drawing on all of that to create change.

They stepped into their personal power, which reminds us that even though we cannot always control what happens to us, we can control how we react to it – even when it appears that we do not have a choice.

Leaning into our personal story and truly owning it is a gift.

Their embodiment of our vision and continued growth is the reason we are here.

This celebration also saw the launch of our Culture Book; a new digital experience illustrating the essence of IMPACT – our people and how they epitomize our values.

Much like our organisation, the Culture Book is an abundance of personality, sincerity and compassion. You can view our inspiring staff stories and the Culture Book on our website.

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