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Take Your SELF to the Next Level - 4 Steps to Simplify Your Path to Success

Do you have goals, dreams, ambitions? Before you endeavor to achieve them, take time to maximize your potential by understanding and implementing the four S’s - the SELF skills - self-awareness, self-advocacy, self-management and self-care. These behaviors will positively impact your health, your relationships, your success and your happiness.


Step into the light so you can see what’s going on. With self-awareness, we allow our curiosity and open-mind to uncover the reality of who we are and what we do. This insight is the basis for all positive change.

Take an inventory of what you have going for you. You’ll see that no one has the same set of talents, interests, and experiences. Knowing this, you can be confident that you are worthy and have lots to contribute. There’s no need to compare yourself to others or to morph into someone else. Appreciate and use your special gifts. Take the example of Miguel.

Miguel volunteered for the Red Cross not sure of what he had to offer. When a hurricane hit, there was a desperate need for translators. Luckily, he spoke both English and Spanish. Sometimes, we don’t understand that what is easy for us is needed most.

You also have strongly held values. Creativity, bravery, leadership, fairness, compassion - whatever the values, let them guide you.

Of course, none of us is perfect. By accepting this fact, we can put our energy into improving without the pressure of unrealistic standards.

Sometimes, our blind spots and limiting beliefs hold us back. Perhaps, we don’t see how that the inconvenience caused by our lateness is turning people off at work and in our personal life. Self-awareness can give us a reality check and the motivation to change.

Closely related to blind spots are our unconscious limiting beliefs about ourselves. For example, if you think. “I’m shy. I can’t go to that networking event”, it’s time to question if this is true. Just ask how this premise is working for you. Knowing ourselves is the prerequisite for personal advancement. It requires that we notice our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Through self-awareness, we live with attention and intention, which makes it more likely that we will get the results we want.


As youngsters, we were experts in self-advocacy. We cried, begged and, at times, demanded. We got what we needed and wanted. It worked! We were fed, given cool clothes, and some of us hit the jackpot with a new cost-free car, all because we asked.

As adults, self-advocating isn’t about staying dependent, being selfish or feeling entitled to an easy life. It involves knowing when we need help. It’s asking for assistance to be more effective.

Appropriate self-advocating can make a world of difference. Michael Phelps, the Olympian with 28 medals, sought therapy for severe depression. Bill Gates, whose net worth is about $96,000,000,000, credits investor Warren Buffet as his mentor. The timeshare manager in the following story demonstrated how self-advocacy can a magic ingredient for success. (Summary of Shari Levitin’s YouTube video, “Do Me A Favor” )

A time-share sales manager had a pressing problem. There was a leak, dripping water from the ceiling. It would soon ruin the expensive Persian rugs. Worst of all, his boss was scheduled to visit. The supervisor was desperate. He interrupted the time-share presentations that were going on and asked for help in clearing the area to prevent additional damage. Everyone pitched in to move the furniture and roll up the carpets. Afterwards, something amazing happened. Seventy percent of the prospects purchased timeshares, even though they received shortened presentations. It seems that being asked to help out made the prospective clients more inclined to make the purchases. Self-advocacy saved the day!

Yet, many of us are uncomfortable asking for what we need and want. We may hesitate to seek assistance due to fear of getting an upsetting reaction. We may worry about inconveniencing the other person. We may consider it a sign of incompetence to need help. Yet most of these fears are unfounded.

A presenter at Toastmasters, a public speaking club, once explained why everyone benefits from self-advocacy. She held out three horizontal fingers. Then she said, “Consider that you are represented by the finger between the other two. The top finger stands for someone you ask for assistance. The bottom finger is someone who asks you for help.” Indeed, we all are sources and receivers of help. When you get the help that you need and give what others need, everyone wins!


Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city. Proverbs 16:32 addresses the importance of restraint. Unfortunately, most adults never master this skill. Even though we know we shouldn’t allow our out of control emotions to drive our actions, we do. Here’s just one example of how lack of self-management affects relationships.

Amanda and Bob love each other but argue a lot. Conversations start calmly but soon escalate into heated discussions or deteriorate into a breakdown of communication. Amanda is overly sensitive and anxious. Bob is rigid and closed-minded. Both need to learn to manage themselves so their relationship can thrive.

Our thoughts and emotions are related to our behavior. When we feel angry, it is hard to identify the real emotion. Dr. Phil stresses that what feels like anger may be hurt, fear or frustration. Relabeling the feeling helps us to understand what’s upsetting us.

Other feelings, such as guilt, grief, rejection, embarrassment, overwhelm, jealousy, disappointment, fatigue, regret, and insecurity might cause us to lose control. As Dr. Sue Johnson says, “What we name, we can tame; when we give meaning to something, we can tolerate it and even change its impact.”

This image can remind us of our emotional state. Green signals that things are good or OK. Yellow is a warning of our experiencing an upsetting emotion like stress, anxiety, fear or anger. Red stands for the need to STOP the acceleration of the negative emotion. It’s time to do something different - take a deep breath, count to ten, slow down, think of something calming or remove ourselves from the stressful situation. Self-management, though challenging, pays big dividends in our personal and professional lives.


Self-care is a part-time job - a job that can’t be outsourced or delegated. In the last census, the number of Americans over the age 100 was 53,364. Obviously, not everyone will make it to old age. Looking around, we can see people with a variety of health issues, which were brought about due to lack of self-care. Dr. Travis Stock, co-host of The Doctors, stresses that most people who are in hospital emergency rooms don’t have to be there. Many accidents and illnesses are preventable.

Each person knows his own body. If something seems wrong and persists, it’s time to check it out. Waiting until the condition worsens can result in a complicated medical issue. Wearing a bike helmet and a seat belt, driving defensively, quitting smoking, and keeping fit are all under our control. Preserving our health is a serious responsibility. The alternatives are illness, injury and rapid aging – all which can be difficult to reverse.

For a good quality of life, our decisions often determine our health and well-being. Do you keep your medical and dental appointments? Are you getting adequate nutrition, exercise, and sleep? Do you use sunscreen? Is there time every day to unwind? By not taking our health for granted, we are able to preserve it.

Without these skills, the 4 SELF skills, there will be unnecessary obstacles on your path to your goals.

By applying the four strategies, you’ll pave the way for a smoother, more fulfilling life.

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