Live Consciously with these 6 Steps

Many people are operating in the world automatically based on a set of habits, routines and desire for comfort. These mechanisms are set in place and are repeated daily for a sense of security and safety in the world. You come to believe that these behavior patterns make you who you are and you form your identity in the world around them. As human beings, we like predictability. We feel out of danger and in control when we can easily predict what we will be doing tomorrow, how relationships will progress, and how we will feel in the future. While most of the time routines and habits serve us well, they can also work to our detriment. They only supplement the expression of our identity - they are not the definition of who we are. If you have habits of behavior and emotional responses that you engrain in your minds only more deeply as they are practiced with each day, you are making it all the more difficult to release those habits and mold yourself with changing tides that life so often demands. 

With each new life circumstance, large and small, you must either adjust our habits slightly or create new ones completely. You will be less resistant to change, challenges and the unpredictability of life if you are not completely tied to your habits and understand that your repetitive behavior and emotional responses are not your true identity. This brings me to my first step in living more consciously. 

1 Understand that habits are not permanent. 

Reflect on all of the habits you currently have. Make a list. Which activities do you perform daily? What small behaviors do you continually practice? How do you automatically react to things, people and circumstances around you? Whether you believe it or not, habits can be changed, broken, forgotten about and made anew. If you feel a clinginess to your habits because of comfort or to reinforce personal identity, you have to understand they are not permanent and will most likely change. Different seasons of life require ease and flow and the fluidity of action and emotion. When an unpredictable circumstance comes our way that requires us to change but we are clinging to old patterns of behavior and emotions, you will have a tough time accepting and adjusting. If you not only understand but expect that your behaviors will need to change and morph, your adjustment to new events will be easy and you will find joy in becoming someone new. 

2 Perform introspection. (Become aware)

You are closer to living consciously when you perform introspection and simply recognize how you behave in the world. This time of reflection is not a time to judge yourself, but to become aware (conscious) of yourself more intimately. Throughout your day, stop yourself at least three times and ask some of the following questions. You can answer these in your own head, or for a deeper dive, write out your answers on paper and elaborate. . . 

  • How have I been behaving today?
  • What is my overall mood?
  • What judgements have I made about other people?
  • What was my first thought when I woke up?
  • What was my response when someone asked, “How are you?” 
  • What thoughts have I had about myself, personally?
  • How did I react to something unfavorable?

Write anything else that comes to mind and elaborate. Remember, the goal is to identify behaviors, thoughts and emotions within yourself. Answer these questions at least three times throughout your day. If you often forget to do this, set an alarm on your phone for the late morning, afternoon and evening for a reminder of this practice. 

3 Ask yourself, “Why?” 

Now is the time to ask “Why?” about all of the behaviors, thoughts and emotions you identified in step 2. This is when we really begin to learn about ourselves and emerge into consciousness. We must become like little philosophers and question everything, asking “why” until we reach the end and can no longer answer the question. There should be an intent and purpose behind every behavior, judgment, emotion and reaction. If you can not answer the question”why?” after some time because of a lack of self knowledge or understanding, this may be an indicator that you are behaving in a way which does not serve you and requires a change.

4 Reflect - “Is this something I want to continue?”

After introspection and understanding how you behave, the next thing to consider is if you want the behavior to continue. Think about how this behavior impacts you, your family, coworkers and society. Is it working for your own benefit? Is it working only for the benefit of  others? Is it causing harm (emotional or physical) to others? Is it causing harm to myself? How do I feel when this behavior is performed, or when I react this way? Consider these questions when determining whether or not there is a need for personal change. 

5 Be open minded to change 

Life is not one linear experience. Each season of life demands you to mold and evolve as a human being. You may need to leave behind old identities and behaviors so you can make room for new ones. The person you are as a manager requires a different person you were as a student. The person you will become as a parent will be almost unrecognizable to the person you are before children. Having a spouse, traveling, starting a business, moving to a new state, etc are quite common events in life that will train you in our personalities and identities. You will forego old thoughts and habits to gain new knowledge, skills and to become a more efficient and developed person as a whole. Know that this is the reality of life. A linear and predictable life does not exist. When you understand this, you will move with more ease and flow when you find yourself inevitably challenged by new demands of life. 

6 Pull Yourself Back to the Present Moment

Did you drive home again without remembering if you stopped at any red lights? This is a classic example of living becoming so wrapped up in our minds and thoughts that we forgot about the task at hand or living in the present moment. Do you half listen to someone speaking to you because you’re scrolling on your phone? When you become more attuned to your common behaviors, you will get better at catching yourself when you are pulled from the present and your mind drifts off to a land of thoughts far far away. Yesterday is gone forever. Tomorrow, next week and next month will most likely unfold differently than we are anticipating now, so stop overthinking. Just be. Take a deep breath. Observe your environment around you. Observe your body and any tension you are holding. Relax your body a little bit more. Observe what is pleasing to you. What are you hearing? What are you smelling or tasting? Slow down, bring yourself back to the present moment, observe and just be.