Our lifestyle choices – such as the work we do, how we live and shop, where we vacation - are about how we act, and produce effects, in the world around us. They impact our immediate circle of family and friends, society at large, and the environment. We are most fulfilled when these choices reflect our passions and values; when they impact our happiness.
Learning to activate and use our awareness is the first and most important step in growing our ability to make the ‘right’ choices. And those ‘right’ choices may well be different for each and every one of us depending on our situation, our passions and our values. So to keep this simple – and relevant to all who are reading this – I am going to keep to a very straightforward definition of awareness, and illustrate this using a choice that we all face each and every day.
Activating and using our awareness means stopping to reflect before we act. It means stopping before we resort to reacting according to our patterns. Stopping to examine the situation from different perspectives. Then choosing to respond rather than react, and taking responsibility for that choice.
We all experience life through emotions, and all too often we resort to reacting on our ‘emotional automatic pilot’. We put a label on a situation according to our likes and dislikes, and react accordingly. And in many situations this works. However we all experience situations where our automatic emotional reaction is a ‘negative’ one, such as anger or fear. And whilst in some circumstances this reaction has a function, in many instances this reaction does not work. It is not useful – it does not improve our relationship with ourselves or with those around us.
So next time you find yourself in a situation where you find yourself in a state of anger take minute or two to cool off. Take a few deep breaths, and ask yourself a few simple questions. Questions like: How can I look at this situation differently? How can I respond when I do not assume that Ms A or Mr B had not said/done this to deliberately annoy me? What is the worst thing that can happen if I let this anger go? Cooling off gives us the space for awareness to grow, the fertile ground from which we can choose to respond in a more conscious and effective way.
When we start to grow our awareness in one area of life – in this case our emotional response – this will filter through into all other areas of our life, into all our lifestyle choices. And growing our awareness is an ongoing process – it is part of our life’s work, and it is fun and empowering. So once you start you can’t put the genie back in the bottle!