"Principles are ways of successfully dealing with reality to get what you want out of life." — Ray Dalio, macro investor and founder of Bridgewater Associates

In the last couple of years since reading [Dalio's book](https://www.amazon.com/Principles-Life-Work-Ray-Dalio/dp/1501124021#:~:text=In Principles%2C Dalio shares what,rules and understood like machines.), I've established a few of my own principles that have helped guide me through life. Among my most valuable principles is this:

Self-awareness is the foundation of all human potential.

Starting with definitions:

To go anywhere, you must first understand where you are. But what does that understanding actually mean? How do you use that perspective to benefit your future? And once you have a clear perspective on yourself, and a clear perspective on how you're perceived by others — which is never accurate or complete — how do you use that to grow, to increase your potential? And finally, once you have a basic understanding of yourself, the real work begins to understand how you got there. What history of experiences shaped who you are today? These are some of the most difficult, most important questions you can spend the time to answer. The answers give you the keys to your life.

A lack of self-awareness is loud and easy to identify. We all know that person. They are constantly acting. Everything seems forced, fake, and even scripted. Their acting becomes obvious to others and the palpable inauthenticity pushes them, sadly, further and further away from connection and trust, and from quality relationships.

On the other hand, great self-awareness is quiet, calm, steady, and less obvious. Those with great self-awareness know their flaws, they embrace them, they are always learning, and are thus more humble. Humility typically makes them grounded, more open, trustworthy, and confident. They are real, and they don't need to oversell anything.

But what is the value of focusing on and embracing our internal truths and the challenges that come with gaining a greater sense of self?

Self-awareness is the "you are here" dot on the map. Without it, a map is cool, interesting, even beautiful, but functionally, it's useless. With it, the map becomes a key to unlock the world; it becomes a guide. That dot is clarity of relative positioning. When you know where, who, and what you are, you can direct yourself through life with purpose. You learn methods to get what you want, and critically, you learn with whom to engage.

Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses can show you what to work on and what to emphasize. You get a clear sense of how external factors affect you, how you learn, what and who you are influenced by. Self-awareness gives you a guide from the inside out about where you want to go and what paths to take. It gives you the ability to make a plan.