Using Self-Awareness to Create a Better Work Situation

2 min read

The older I get, the more I realize the importance of self-awareness – the ability to recognize exactly what makes me stressed, happy, sad, or energized.

I first heard the term “self-awareness” used in a YouTube video by Gary Vaynerchuk, when he told a young entrepreneur that it was an important soft skill to develop.

When I heard this, I brushed it off.

Doesn’t everyone already have self-awareness? Who doesn’t know what they like and dislike?

But the older I get, the more I begin to see that very few people have high levels of self-awareness, myself included. Especially when it comes to work.

It was only a year ago that I held the belief:

A 9-5 is so pointless. I have to escape the rat race as fast as possible.

But recently, I have been actively working to identify what drains and feeds my energy. Slowly, my views on work are becoming more nuanced:

I dislike many aspects of my 9-5 job, but there are some parts I enjoy. I love creating data visualizations, I like writing code, I dislike pointless meetings, and I hate the 9-5 schedule. 

I no longer lump my opinion into one big “I hate my job.” Because I don’t. There are simply aspects I enjoy more than others.


In general, I enjoy the work itself. It’s the environment that it’s wrapped in that I can’t stand.

The Personality and Totem Pole Factors

I also recognize that part of my dissatisfaction comes from being the lowest employee on the totem pole.

I’m the youngest person on my team by several years and I have the least experience. Of course I don’t have the flexibility to choose my own projects or delegate the annoying work to people below me.

Another factor is my personality. I recently asked a friend how their job was going at a major bank, to which they responded,

“It’s awesome, I love being a small piece in a massive machine full of people all working towards one single goal. It’s a good feeling.”

Our views couldn’t be more different. I feel like a cog in a wheel of a machine where I can’t see my impact on the larger goal.

This is mostly due to my personality. I’m naturally introverted and I prefer to work alone, or sometimes with a small team. I like to see the impact of my work.

These preferences don’t align well with a corporate environment where collaboration, meetings, and large team-building activities are encouraged. Or where the work that I do gets mixed in with larger projects.

Mixing Short-Term and Long-Term Thinking

By increasing my self-awareness, I have started to identify exactly what I like and dislike about work. This way, I can start to create a work situation that suits my personality and interests better. 

To create a better work situation in the short-term, I’m doing a couple things:

1. Volunteering for any projects or work that involve data visualization in my current role.

2. Applying for actual data viz jobs.

To create a better work situation in the long-term, I’m also doing a couple things:

1. Saving money. The higher my net worth, the less dependent I am on a corporate job to support me financially.

2. Creating alternative income streams. Over the past two years, the money I have earned from dividend stocks and from blogging has increased each quarter. As these two income streams continue to increase and eventually catch up to my monthly expenses, the possibility of quitting my job entirely becomes more realistic. If this were the case, I would have complete freedom over the type of work I could pursue.

By pursuing data viz work, I’m attempting to create a better work situation in the short-term. By building up my finances, I’m attempting to create a better work situation in the long-term. 

Through developing self-awareness, I am getting better at identifying what I like and dislike about work. This helps me make smart decisions that align with my personality and interests, and helps me inch closer towards an optimal work situation.

My favorite free financial tool I use is Personal Capital. I use it to track my net worth, manage my spending, and keep an eye on my monthly cash flow. It only takes a few minutes to set up and it makes tracking your finances simple and straightforward. I recommend using it.

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8 Replies to “Using Self-Awareness to Create a Better Work Situation”

  1. I’m also focusing on self-awareness more and more (e.g., what AND who makes me happy). I never realized how important it is to sit down and do….and then revisit this exercise from time to time.

    I’ve actually gone back to doing things I liked as a child such as relistening to music from the late 80s early 90s. 🙂

  2. Couldn’t agree more. Good for you.

    I’ve realised that I cannot stand watching or listening to Gary Vaynerchuk. He comes across, to me as an angry little guy that spouts words like what he is saying is something new and profound. Yet most of it has been said before, by better minds.
    That said, I realised just now that occasionally he may say something of value. So I may need to read one of his books or blogs so I don’t need to see or listen to the angry little man.

    1. His personality can definitely be a turn-off for some people. I have found that he does distill useful knowledge about work ethic and mindset, if you can look past his intense personality haha. As you said, reading one of his books might be a better way to consume his content 🙂

  3. Hey Zach,

    Recently became a new reader on your site and I have been really enjoying what you write. I definitely agree with you here. I dislike parts of my job, while really enjoying other parts. It is just since we are young and at the bottom we can’t make our work how we want it yet and that can be frustrating.

    Keep writing and working hard though.!

  4. Fantastic post, Zach! This is a great way of thinking. The 9-5 schedule, the pointless meetings, and the commuting are the worst parts for me. Like you said, it’s the environment, not the work itself. This is a very productive way to approach jobbing. Thanks for sharing.

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