It would be easy to keep on doing what you’ve always done. Life today can be quick, busy, hectic. Rarely do we take a moment to reflect on who we are, why we do what we do, say what we say, think what we think. But without stopping to figure out what makes us tick, we can lose ourselves. We act out of habit, fail to question our actions and before we know it, our lives implode and we find ourselves in the midst of a crisis.
If you are reading this and would like to live your life consciously, here are some suggestions on how you can begin the process. This article is about removing the barriers to a more informed way of living:
1. ACCEPT RESISTANCE
We are all resistant to something. The first thing to do when you commit to becoming more self-aware is accept this. We become resistant when we are given information that does not chime with what we believe to be ‘right’. It doesn’t fit with what we’ve been told about life, or our long-held beliefs. Some of you reading this will be saying ‘no I don’t!’ This is resistance. When you dismiss things you hear as rubbish or wrong, you are resisting.
Resistance is so subtle that we can often be unaware that we are actually in resistance mode. When we drop our resistance we open ourselves to hear what is being said. When we allow ourselves to hear what is being said, we can make informed choices about how to act and think and what to say.
EXERCISE: ASK YOURSELF THIS QUESTION – WHAT AM I RESISTING?
ACTION: BECOME AWARE OF YOUR RESISTANCE
2. COMMIT TO THINKING ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT
Few of us think about what we think about. We behave impulsively, speak impulsively. We think without thinking. Start observing your thoughts. If it helps, visualise a person inside your hide, a scientist, if you like, with a clipboard and pen, recording your thoughts.
At the end of the day review your thoughts. What kinds of things did you think about? Here are a few suggestions: judgements about people and yourself; other people; what’s good and what’s bad; who’s good and who’s bad; who’s right who’s wrong; who’s better who’s worse.
When you start to think about what you think about, you begin the process of increasing self-awareness. You can make positive changes in your life when you think about what you think about.
EXERCISE: CARRY A PEN AND PIECE OF PAPER AROUND WITH YOU AND WRITE DOWN AS MANY OF THE THOUGHTS YOU HAVE ON ANY GIVEN DAY.
ACTION: START THINKING ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT
3. STOP NEEDING TO BE RIGHT
Have you ever noticed that you always have to be right? Maybe you need to be right when arguing with your partner, children, family and friends. We grow up observing others asserting their rightness, insisting on having the last word. Parents assert their rightness when they interact with their children, teachers assert their rightness when they reprimand their students. Authority figures in general habitually assert their rightness.
There is another way, though: it is possible to allow others to be right – even if you don’t believe they really are. I’m not talking about letting people to jeopardise your safety or the safety of others. In day-to-day interactions, however, we cause ourselves unnecessary aggravation by insisting on being right. Heated discussions can be cut short when we realise our power lies in something much deeper than a victory in a petty argument.
TASK: ASK YOURSELF THE QUESTION: WHAT DO I NEED TO BE RIGHT ABOUT?
ACTION: ALLOW OTHERS TO BE RIGHT FOR A CHANGE
4. THE INNER CRITIC
The inner critic can also be called ‘negative self talk’, the ‘chatterbox’ or the ‘internal negative dialogue’. Some people call it ‘radio me’!
The inner critic is that voice that starts up the minute we wake up in the morning and only shuts down when we fall asleep. We all have the inner critic (yes, even you!) and for the most part it governs our beliefs, our actions and the quality of our relationships.
Practice flipping inner critic statements. It is possible to teach yourself to ‘flip’ negative statements so that, for example, “I can’t” becomes “I can” or “I’m going to give it my best shot”. The inner critic’s opposite is the cheerleader. You are your first cheerleader. Encourage yourself.
EXERCISE: FOR ONE DAY MAKE A NOTE OF THE KINDS OF THINGS YOUR INNER CRITIC SAYS TO YOU.
ACTION: BECOME AWARE OF YOUR INNER CRITIC AND THE KINDS OF THINGS IT SAYS
5. TAKING RESPONSIBILITY
What are you not taking responsibility for? Perhaps you’re resisting the possibility that you may not be taking responsibility for something. We live in a culture where we constantly look outside of ourselves for a place to lay the blame. Whenever something goes wrong, we look for a fall guy, a scapegoat. How often have you blamed the bus for your late arrival to work rather than accept that you chose not to set of earlier in order to allow for traffic? How often have you blamed your failure to keep your word on your memory when what really happened was that you did nothing to ensure you remembered your commitment?
It’s not surprising we shift the blame onto other people or things: taking responsibility for everything that happens in our lives puts us in the driving seat, and just as you wouldn’t blame the passenger for whatever happens in your car, when you’re the driver, you cannot blame anything or anyone for what happens in your life. This realisation takes some getting used to. What are the implications of knowing that you are responsible for everything that happens in your life? It’s great when we think of all of the wonderful things we’ve done, but what about the not so wonderful things?
EXERCISE: MAKE A LIST OF ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE NOT TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR. THIS CAN BE IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH PEOPLE, YOUR WORK, YOUR HEALTH OR YOUR BELIEFS
ACTION: LOOK AT WHAT YOU CAN START TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR
6. INTERNAL BARRIERS
We can look outside of ourselves for the answers to why things don’t happen the way we would like them to: why we didn’t get the job of our dreams, the husband or wife of our dreams, the promotion we wanted. We can look outside for answers to why we were treated unfairly, denied our rights or subject to disadvantage. There is no doubt that we are all subjected to the effects of external barriers – people, conditions, rules and regulations, lack of money, lack of education. It is rare for us, however, to examine the internal barriers, those that we erect ourselves and that we allow to prevent us from living our best lives.
Examples of internal barriers are: lack of self-confidence; rampant inner critic; long-held beliefs; low self-esteem; not taking responsibility for your life; anger issues; refusal to let go of past events.
Most external barriers can be overcome when we make the conscious decision to search for internal barriers that allow them to rule our lives.
EXERCISE: ASK YOURSELF THE QUESTION: CAN THE EXTERNAL BARRIERS I FACE BE TRACED BACK TO MY INTERNAL BARRIERS
ACTION: LOOK AT YOUR INTERNAL BARRIERS
Spend some time looking at the 6 areas above. When you can address them you will be well on your way to greater self-awareness.
Make your luck!