For the next three months, I want to work with you on your awareness skills. It’s a shame you paid all that money for college and never learned what I think of as an essential intelligence trait.” That was what Sandy Malcolm said to her protégé Scott Sowers. The company had a mentoring program for new hires that was mostly a joke, but Sandy took her role seriously.

“Let’s start by having you shadow me at a department head’s meeting. I want you to practice your awareness skills and tell me what you learned after the meeting.” 

Once the meeting was over, Sandy asked Scott to write down answers to questions she asked. She began:

  • “Who had a presentation prepared but never gave it? Why do you think that was the case?
  • What was the most troubling thing the Director said to those in attendance? How do you know?
  • Who seemed to be distracted? And how do you know?
  • What wasn’t said or brought up that would have been expected?”


Scott had no answers to any of the questions. In fact, he thought they were unfair.

As Sandy shook her head, she said, “Now you see what I mean by awareness. It’s a sense of the world we live in that isn’t apparent by what is most observable or said. You can’t be aware unless you completely immerse yourself in the moment.”

“But how do I do that?” asked Scott.

“There’s no formula, rules, technique or any guidance I can give you,” responded Sandy. “Every one of us has to develop our own approach to becoming aware.” 

Sandy continued, “Here’s what I want you to do. For the next month, I want you to meet with me every Friday. Come prepared for that meeting with an awareness journal. Your journal should include awareness insights you develop for every part of your life. What did you observe? What did you perceive? What did you wonder about? What triggered you to think more deeply? Again, this should be a total life immersion in awareness.” 

The following Friday when they met, Scott’s journal was ok, but didn’t exhibit the deep awareness that Sandy was looking for. Rather than being critical, Sandy asked Scott: “What have you learned about your own awareness?” That triggered a self-reflection exploration that raised Scott’s sense of what it meant to be aware. At the end of the discussion Sandy said: “Scott, this was a great example of how you are becoming more self-aware. Now start debriefing yourself each day on your awareness development.” 

This became the routine for the remaining part of the month. Every week, Scott’s journal became more insightful. At their final debriefing on awareness, Sandy said to Scott: “Now what I want you to do is to teach someone you are close to how to become more aware. You never really learn something until you share what you learned with another.” 

Think of how awareness affects every aspect of our lives. It’s the core of our relationships with others. It’s how we think about issues in the workplace and in society. It’s at the core of how we live our lives and view our contributions to others as caring adults and citizens. And it’s something we have to learn on our own, hopefully with guidance and mentoring.

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“Although it is difficult to pinpoint the physical base or location of awareness, it is perhaps the most precious thing concealed within our brains. And it is something that the individual alone can feel and experience. Each of us cherishes it highly, yet it is private.” – Dalai Lama

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