If I asked about your awareness, how awake, alert, aware and connected would you say you are right now to what’s going on with, in, on and around you?
How aware are you of who you are, where you are, what you are actually doing, what is going on around you right now? That may sound like a silly question, but how conscious are you really about all these things and what is happening unconsciously without you really being aware of them? You know, on autopilot, like let’s say you drove to where you are now – do you recall that drive consciously or would you admit that you don’t really remember because you did so “on autopilot”?
Awareness – what I call a state of being present – right now.
What is Awareness and why does it matter?
I liked Wikipedia’s broad definitions of awareness: it is the state or ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects, or sensory patterns. In this level of consciousness, sense data can be confirmed by an observer without necessarily implying understanding. More broadly, it is the state or quality of being aware of something. In biological psychology, awareness is defined as a human’s or an animal’s perception and cognitive reaction to a condition or event.
By way of background, I was fortunate enough to participate in a recent 2 hour live video-streaming of Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra, in which they were also briefly joined by Dr. Wayne Dwyer. They are all so different however it was such a good session with some truly excellent universal insights, each from their different perspectives. I was reminded that living in the present moment doesn’t need any thoughts, just awareness and that in fact that thoughts just get in the way of that. To me Eckhart Tolle (Author of “The Power of Now”) has to be one of the most “collected and connected” people, by which I mean how he exudes a calm and a present-moment awareness like no other I know. It inspires me.
Amongst other things I learned that you can’t have empathy through thoughts; that we need a space or a “present moment presence” in order to connect ourselves to others in empathy. That empathy requires awareness and connection. You see, I’d forgotten that, but now that it’s back, I can be more aware of that again in my every day dealings with those around me.
When are we “all there”?
We are all so very busy doing what we do all day and every day be it in our work or whatever we do on a daily basis, that it is quite easy to lose the awareness of us in fact doing what we do. How often do we stop and take a breather and just reflect on where we are at and what we are actually doing? When we do that, isn’t it remarkable how much clarity such a short gap can provide?
To highlight how much we do without being aware of doing it is well illustrated by the habits displayed by a cigarette smoker, who can go through the day absent-mindedly reaching for the packet, extracting and lighting a cigarette and finishing it often without being consciously aware of what they have just done.
How does a project get to be late by a month or more? One day at a time. How do we become overweight? One day at a time. How do relationships go sour? One day at a time. And what is a common factor in these and most other illustrative examples we could all think of? That for it to be any different we need to become more aware of who we are; what we are doing; how we are going about what we are about, so we can influence the outcomes we need and want.
So before we leave this aspect, what is the antidote to all the above examples of “life slipping away from us”? Awareness. Willpower also works, but I have learned that it is hard to rely on that alone to break habits. But aren’t awareness of the situation we want to change and maintaining the awareness of the reason for wanting to change it also key factors in making the change?
Are you in Rhythm?
In my blog Rhythm I speak about how useful and productively healthy the daily playing out of the harmonious patterns of life around us and within us can be. That we are more in Balance; We talk about how much better we can be in rhythm when we are aware of the cycles and seasons etc around us and that stress comes from the erratic rather than the balanced order of being in rhythm. That requires awareness.
In that article I spoke of having lost 14kgs in weight in a 4 month period mainly by the awareness of my daily life rhythms and also the awareness of when and what I did and didn’t consume and how I expended that energy. I know that my maintaining my awareness was key to this outcome, as is the continued awareness to keep it so.
Eating in front of the TV or standing up in the kitchen “on the run” before we go just doesn’t work, does it? We are distracted and no longer aware. In those situations we have all the elements of “drifting” unconsciously through life and find ourselves at the end of yet another year Anyway.
My wife and I recently subscribed to the Oprah & Chopra 21 day meditation challenge around “perfect health”and worked that into our daily morning ritual. Since then we have gone through it daily a second time so it has now truly become one of our habits. I have found how much more grounded and aware I am of everything around me and what really matters to me. Awareness. Rhythm.
Awareness and Goals
Isn’t that what goals helps us achieve; that we set and monitor them to keep us focused and to invoke all the things necessary for us to do on a daily / weekly / monthly basis in order to achieve our intended outcomes? That having set goals, we need to maintain the necessary milestones and checks to assure that we stay on track? To me that is an awareness of where we are – like regular Board meetings assure we are on track to budget or forecast. By the way, how often do you and your partner have a “Board meeting” to maintain awareness of where you are at with your life goals?
Leadership and Awareness
How aware are you of the vibes around your office or project? How aware are you of the needs of your people? How aware are your people of our vision and what their role is and how empowered they feel to deliver it? Isn’t the maintaining of awareness and the focus on what matters your job as the leader, so that there is clarity of purpose? Isn’t the absence of this that allows confusion and distraction? Isn’t that when we create space for ego’s and politics to find fertile ground to propagate?
Recent blogs all went to similar places in terms of being present eg Are you really connecting? and also Complacency and Urgency. Awareness is the catalyst that enables that degree of engagement those we lead expect from us.
What are we learning?
Whether it is from a specific work or relationship challenge or adversities within the broader context of work and life, one of the great opportunities an open mind and a great attitude will give us from those challenges or from having experienced defeat is to ask ourselves: “what have I learned from this?” or “why is this happening to me or why has this happened to me – what am I mean to learn from it”?
I know I sometimes allow what I wrote in Using “the Gap” to reframe yourself when I’m in the midst of a struggle to help me look it differently and wonder why and what I’m meant to be seeing or learning. When I do that, it means I am bringing a different level of awareness to it. How do I know that? Well, when I don’t apply that, I know I can get pretty down on myself and that’s not a good place to be, is it? Awareness.
I was recently involved in a 3 day leadership course and experienced the inspiration that this dynamic event generated for each participant, feeling the energy all their new learnings and awareness had created for each one. Can you relate from when you were last on a good course?
How energized and motivated to try their new skills do you think they were on the following Monday? Very, right? However, how long will that energy have lasted before the daily stuff took over again? And what will have influenced that? Their awareness. If they had set a goal for specific areas they wanted to assure new and ongoing outcomes in, don’t you think they would have raised the reality of maintaining that awareness until that became an unconscious competence like the muscle maintained in peak condition? Maintaining awareness.
You see when I’m coaching and notice limiting language or behaviour patterns in my clients that may be indicative of limiting beliefs or unsustainable behaviour traits I will usually challenge them, reminding them of how these often play out unconsciously, meaning that they aren’t aware of them doing so. Just bringing them into their awareness is usually already enough for them to be addressed positively and effectively.
So what if you picked one area of your life? You know, one behaviour or one habit that you know has been holding you back? Whether you are a leader or led and whether it is in your work or personal life domain? Go on, what if you just stopped to think of one right now?
What if you focused your awareness on this every day this week? Keeping yourself mindful of it. What if you set a goal to change it? What if you allowed yourself to give it your priority every day of this week starting today (not waiting for Monday!)? What difference could that make for you? What if it could help you make all the difference in your compelling life and career?
What if you could?