I started this series last week focusing on the critical soft skill of being 'adaptable', which many of us have had to embrace in 2020 and will need it even more so as we enter 2021. The next soft skill I'm going to focus on is 'Awareness'; this is what is needed if you want to have more control over your mind, your actions and ultimately the results you get in your life.
Everyone has moments of awareness before falling back into what could be called a trance. Back in 1991, I remember going to a lecture where a Tibetan monk told the audience that 95% of the population were asleep. I didn't quite understand what he meant back then. He was referring to the fact that most people live in their heads, always thinking, thinking and more thinking, operating out of awareness hence walking around asleep or in a kind of trance, unaware state.
If you drive a car, you'll recognise those moments of coming our of trance into present moment awareness; have you ever felt sleepy or on autopilot whilst driving, opened the window to get a blast of fresh air and suddenly felt yourself come back into the 'here and now'. During lockdown, many people reported how they were noticing nature, becoming aware of the sounds of the birds in the garden, the colour of the trees - which have always been there just out of present moment awareness.
Being able to live more in present moment awareness has many positive outcomes for the quality and wellbeing of our lives and the relationship we have with ourselves and others. Awareness is everything but as I stated in my last blog, learning soft skills takes practice and commitment but the rewards are worth it. Below I offer tips on practicing present moment awareness.
3. Have an intention to notice
Each time you come into the present moment, notice that you were in a trance - then you will come to know the difference. You will most likely go back into your thoughts but each time you become aware, you weaken the muscle memory and start staying in awareness for longer.
4. Practice makes permanent
You can have fun practicing being present every day. When you go for a walk, commit to noticing what's around you - like the trees, a car, the clouds or whisper the words to yourself - this keeps bringing you back to the present. Another way is to pick an activity and feel the feeling - when washing the dishes, feel the water on your hands; as you breathe, feel the rise and fall of your chest; as you sit quietly, hear the sound of the cars outside.
5. Running the movie
I remember watching the news in the height of lockdown. Upon hearing how grim the near future was looking, I started to feel my breathing become shallow, I felt fear enter my body as my thoughts started to concoct a story of how my life could end up in ruin if things got really bad. This is an example of awfulising the future and anticipating what might happen without any real evidence. As soon as I noticed this (i.e. became aware) I was able to stop myself going down a rabbit hole of incessant thinking by 'running the movie' to get back in the driving seat of my mind. I was able to switch my thought process on to something that supported a positive over a negative mind-state at will.
To do this, recall a time when you felt happy and content to be in the world, it might be a piece of music, watching a sunset, a time with your family - find that time and go there experiencing it with all your senses - if it's being by the sea, smell the sea salt, hear the waves, feel the wind on your skin - tune into all the senses and practice it so that you can recall it easily and at will.
How will these skills help me in my work and life?
As your level of awareness grows, also referred to as 'raising of consciousness' you start to take control of the software of your mind. When challenging situations arise, you are less triggered. You are able to respond from a place of rational objective thinking instead of from a highly emotional state. This contributes to reduced stress, inner calm, better creative problem solving and decision making and all round health and wellbeing in your life and relationships. Ultimately, this is what most people want more of in their lives.
Next time, I'll be talking about 'Resilience'.
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