The concept of self-awareness can be traced back to ancient history and the Greek aphorism, ‘Know thyself’ is identified as one of the Delphic maxims (Mackenzie, 1988) which was inscribed on Apollo’s ancient temple (Shusterman, 2007). It is suggested that the aphorism is advice for personal development, personal expansion and acquisition of wisdom, as well as admonition of restraint (Andren, 2012). ‘Know thyself’ is the foundation of Socrates’ philosophy; Socrates suggests that in order to know thyself, individuals must see themselves by looking through the eyes of another and seeing the self, as if in a mirror (Betz, 1981). Socrates stated that with wisdom comes an understanding of what the self does not know, “I seem to be wiser than this man in so far as I do not think I know what I do not know.  I recognise myself…as knowing nothing” (Mackenzie, 1988).  This is borne out in studies explored later in this chapter; as professionals become more self-aware, there is a realisation of how little they know about themselves and the world.  The converse being the case as explained by the Kruger-Dunning effect (Kruger and Dunning, 1999), presented later, where people without knowledge of themselves have over-confidence in their beliefs and judgements (McCarthy and Garavan, 1999).  In exploring Socratic ignorance, Mackenzie (1988), defines self-knowledge as the knowledge of one’s own ignorance or knowledge.

In the literature, the pursuit of ‘know thyself’ appear to have two elements. Firstly, there is the pursuit of defining what ‘know thyself’ means and the method by which this can be achieved.   Secondly, there is the implementation of that method and the quest to have knowledge of the self. Taking these two elements further, they could be considered as the pursuit of ‘what’ to do and the pursuit of ‘how’ to do it.  This exemplifies the first of the fundamental beliefs running through this thesis that, ‘it is not what you do but the way you do it’ that ensures success.

Know thyself is referred to in the first line of the poem, ‘Essay on Man’ by Alexander Pope in 1734, “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan…The proper study of Mankind is Man” (Beyrer, 2015, p.1724). The philosopher, Immanuel Kant states that self-knowledge is the beginning of all wisdom (Bourner, 1996).  Betz (1981) states that knowledge of the self is knowledge of the soul.  The literature demonstrates that the search for self-awareness and indeed, defining a clear and concise definition against which to develop self-awareness has continued to be a challenge over the centuries.  The aphorism ‘know thyself’ will be referred to frequently throughout this thesis, as it is felt to encapsulate the enduring challenge of achieving self-awareness.