Building awareness of the self is perhaps the most important step we can take to progress into higher states of consciousness. This skill can be compared to a puzzle, whose pieces together form a picture of earnest wisdom. Below, I outline the pieces I'm aware of and utilize to form an optimized path towards progress in all areas of life, simultaneously.
I encourage you to comment to help me fill in the pieces I have undoubtedly missed.
1. Clarity of Intent
Without an in-depth understanding of our desires - and, for many of us, a vigorous interrogation of their origin - we have no method by which to evaluate our progress. Even if our goal is as simple as "be reasonably happy most of the time", we need to be clear that it *is* our goal, because that allows us to be aware of when we are unhappy. Then, we can explore the causes of our unhappiness, and make decisions which avoid those mistakes in the future. Even vague, broad goals are effective in this regard.
2. Habitual Decision Making
Imagine an individual who is overweight, who sets a goal to become healthy and fit. When this person chooses to eat a healthy meal, they are making a decision which supports their intent. However, if they only do this once, or even a hundred times, their goal will never come to fruition. The decision must become habitual, and supported across thousands of instances where bad decisions are possible.
3. Strength of Desire
When our desire is overwhelmingly strong, habitual, supportive decision making is easy and effortless. The individual must *truly* want to reach a new level of accomplishment if they are going to be able to make the time, effort, and lifestyle which allows them to proceed.
Indeed, when our desires are strong enough, we naturally put the pieces of this puzzle together.
4. The Ability to Create Results Over Long Periods of Time
The larger a goal, the more time it will take to accomplish. Patience in seeing results come to fruition is necessary in a broad context. However, patience *is not* useful for achieving incremental results. And, it's the habitual push for incremental results which allow big goals to solidify.
Again, the weight loss example makes this clear. If a person is very overweight, it will take a long time for them to reach their goal of being fit, even if they succeed in habitual healthy eating. However, if they choose to make bad decisions about their eating by saying "I must be patient with myself", this is a counterproductive mental trick. Instead, we must actively and aggressively push towards our goals at every instance, even though results may not be immediate.