I was going to write a blog this week about reflection.
Taking the time to reflect on who we are, how we are, and how things are going in general.
However, due to a repetitive theme with podcasts guests, I have changed my mind.
I want to talk about being conscious.
Because so often we are not.
It was Henry David Thoreau that said ‘our truest life is when we are in our dreams awake.’
It does seem today that the opposite rings true – we are in our lives asleep and are often shocked into wakefulness when something significant happens.
Kate Morland, a registered Dietician, talked about ‘unconscious’ eating. People are consuming food with little regard how what they consumed contributed to their health.
Lisa Dudson, a financial advisor, talked about unconscious spending. People are building vast sums of credit card debt with nothing to show for it.
And Kathryn Jackson referred to unconscious action. She went on to talk about what she calls the ‘sleepwalk of doom’. Living our lives by just following a path that we are neither aware of nor think about until we find ourselves somewhere we never intended to be or, worse, do not desire to be.
While this may be ok during early adulthood as we establish ourselves in the world, it can be a different story in mid-life.
Waking up often occurs because a significant birthday looms, a relationship ends, or retirement seems way too close for comfort. When we finally wake up, it can feel we have limited time to change anything.
Mid-life malaise can happen because our lives are not what we thought they would be, and we feel the vicious hand of the time ticking faster than ever.
I have witnessed unconscious actions many times and have partaken in them myself. I am sure all of you remember a drive that upon arrival you realised you remembered very little of the trip. You got into auto-pilot, particularly if it is a journey you regularly take.
The problem is that we get into ‘auto-pilot’ for many of the days we spend our lives.
We say we want to change the way we look and then continue on the habits we have already established that are in complete contradiction of that.
We say we want to save more or get out of debt and yet continue to pull credit cards out of our wallets without even thinking.
And worst of all, we dream of having work that inspires us only to turn up to workplaces that we loathe, because it is familiar and comfortable.
We consistently lose the battle between conscious action and doing what we always do.
Between making change and being ruled by the pleasure centre of our brains.
Too much action and not enough conscious thinking.
We all want life to be comfortable and sometimes going against what is familiar, is not.
Or at least that is what we tell ourselves.
The big question is, how do we wake up?
How do we become conscious and notice what actions we are taking?
I wonder if the first thing is wanting to. If we wake up, we can no longer avoid taking responsibility for our actions.
Once you become conscious, you begin to become aware of what is not going so well, and it is a lot harder to appoint blame on those around us.
The second thing may be turning our pleasure towards the actions we wish to take and the results we want to achieve.
For example, taking pleasure in our increased energy because of conscious eating.
Paying off the credit card because you stopped adding items you purchased unconsciously but did not need.
Taking pleasure from the building numbers in your savings account or taking the trip you have always wanted but told yourself you cannot afford.
And making plans to transition out of the job you hate and into the work, you can wake up and feel enthusiastic.
I have had many a client say to me that they have no idea how they got to be in the position they are.
With a panicked tone and a sadness that traps their enthusiasm, it is a state that is avoidable.
When all we have to do is wake up.