How much of your life has happened without your conscious awareness? Sure, there’s the approximately 8 hours a day of sleep, which, doing the math, is 2920 hours, translated to 121 days or 4 months. Yup, 4 months out of the year is spent sleeping. Now let’s expand on that and consider the number of times you’ve ‘snapped to attention’ and realized you’d been daydreaming and, amusingly, can’t remember what was so much more important. This can be embarrassing when in a conversation with someone else and potentially quite dangerous when driving, with a full third of accidents occurring within one mile of home and often by running into parked cars. That’s why reminding yourself of the ground is so important.
Moving from Autopilot to Awareness
Stepping away from the dangerous and into the mundane, have you ever considered yourself to be on ‘autopilot’? For that matter, think back over the last week, how much can you fully remember and how much is hazy recall? Understand that this is completely normal. If we were to attempt actively paying attention to every single bit of data, internal and external, we’d be overrun and go through a system crash. It’d be like watching Netflix and having a crystal clear image, only to have your internet provider throttle your speed and everything goes grainy or stops altogether.
While we certainly don’t want to get ourselves into a shutdown experience, even the minutest increase in awareness can help us live healthier mental lives. In fact, doing so doesn’t even have to be all the time, it can simply be focused around relationships, work, physical health and so on. What area of your life would you like to understand better? Doing so requires a greater awareness.
We like to be right and that leads us to double-down on our stories of ‘what is.’ To challenge them requires two things: 1) increased awareness and 2) actively doing so from a space of positive exploration. Now, I don’t mean ‘positive’ in the sense of happy, joyful and smiling. ‘Positive’ here means active engagement or deliberate movement, or in other words, adding to what you’re doing, rather than subtracting or avoiding. Sometimes doing so is not at all joyful and may even initially result in feelings of hurt or discontent. Thankfully, increasing awareness does not require any particular feeling attached to it.
Feet on the Ground
So where to start? Regardless of what area in your life you’d like more awareness about, starting anywhere will have spillover. With that in mind: how are your feet? Seriously, how are they? What are they doing right now? How do they feel? Do you really only notice them when they are in pain?
Our feet carry us everywhere, but while in use, we rarely pay them much attention. In fact, while walking, to pay special attention to your feet will result in slowing down. That this results in not getting to a destination as quickly is likely why we’re good with ignoring them so long as they’re functioning. So it is with a great many parts of our lives.
Unless there’s some kind of difficulty, we go about our lives without much awareness. Unfortunately, there are little things that can creep up on us and do us and our relationships harm if we’re not paying attention. Further, the world in and around us doesn’t stop influencing our decisions and ideas of who we are simply because we don’t actively notice parts of it. Taking even a small step, like deliberately noticing how you are stepping/moving, to expand awareness to a part of your life you aren’t generally aware of can lay the ground for new decisions and behaviors.
The more you see, the more there is to work with. The more you see, the greater potential there is to step away from the habits keeping you from moving forward. So remind yourself of the ground and build a lifestyle of daily habits that support the goals you are moving towards.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Being Wrong by Kathryn Schultz