Most of us want to reach our full potential, which means at some stage there are some things that you will want to change from what you are doing now. These things are highly likely to be habitual things. Things you have practised so well that you might not even notice them anymore.
Here are 3 simple steps you might find useful in helping you achieve this transformation:
Each of these steps are explored further below.
“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and are looking for the circumstances they want, and: if they can’t find them create them. ”
George Bernhard Shaw
Identify what you do and think automatically when you want to avoid the pain of what you don’t want to do. You are becoming aware of your behaviours and the connected thinking.
It is crucial to raise our level of self-awareness around these specific habits. Why? Because we forget that we are on autopilot and that means we no longer control these habits. Instead, they control us!!
Someone with self-awareness for example might notice that every time their boss calls for a review meeting some urgent client problem appears and they end up cancelling the review. They notice that this might not be a coincidence.
We avoid pain through distraction – books, phone calls, games, videos, pleasantries, food alcohol, nicotine, sport etc. all this to stay in our “harmony bubble” of ALL IS WELL!!
There is a lot to be said about positive psychology, but to apply it purposefully we firstly have to be sure that we are choosing the distractions and so that the distractions don’t choose us. Driving the car down the motorway and not realising where we are, might be a great example of a distraction choosing us.
Sometimes we pretend to be passionate about something when truly deep down it is simply about a fear we have. Take sport: How many people do you know that proclaim to have a passion for sport, when the real driver is the fear of gaining weight? There really is no judgment in noticing these things, it is merely an observation. This is the first level of self-awareness which is a simple understanding where your mind goes and when. Noticing what your habits actually are in daily life and what effect these have on our quality of life.
For example you might have:
Generally, human beings innately avoid pain through distractions. Everybody wants an easy life, don’t they? So we go on and distract ourselves with social media, the news, TV computer games or music to carry us into a painless world.
And that is great – as long as we are choosing them and they don’t choose us! A bit like driving down the motorway not noticing where we are – so disconnecting from the pain of the long drive. Yet we think we are present most of the time, know how we are using our time or think we are better listeners than we actually are. In reality we are all pretty bad at it.
Gaining an understanding of the impact of this behaviour and deciding what we might want to change and for what purpose.
So here is the question: When are you checking out mentally and why? How much do you think you do out of compulsion? Find out what paths your mind likes to take and don’t judge it – just observe. Go and write them down somewhere, all of them that come up.
Once you have these observations we move on to level 2 of self-awareness and this is finding out what we are feeling when these things happen. Correct, this means facing our emotions head on, because the more we move away from distraction, the more we are forced to deal with lost emotions.
This is where YOU start to show up and shine in your full glory and all your personality.
Whilst in level 1 we mainly follow directions and distract ourselves, here in this level, we experience our individual emotions and how we express them. An uncomfortable place, BUT immensely important to navigate and become familiar with, to allow them to take place and then move on to level 3 of self-awareness.
Because if we do, we find out that emotions essentially don’t mean anything other than the meaning we give it.
Think about it… i.e. a situation at work: a colleague that you don’t particularly like asks some other colleagues that actually sit near you to lunch, but he does not ask you. You feel anger rising in you thinking: typically, he is such a tw..t: He invites everyone else but me just to be spiteful and rub it in my face!!
Here is the question: How true is this really? Did we get from one into another emotion spiralling ourselves into our own inner head cinema by making up this story in our head that he did what he did to be spiteful? Stepping away and watching this same scenario through a camera, what do we see?
There is an interesting story from 16th century India that might help us realise some of the inherent myths we all get into: A young man climbs a large mountain to speak to the sage at the top. Supposedly this sage knew, like, everything and stuff. This young man was anxious to understand the secrets of the world.
Upon arriving at the top of the mountain, the sage greeted the young man and invited him to ask him anything. The young man then asked: “Great sage, we stand upon the world, but what does the world stand upon?
The sage immediately replied, “The world rests upon the back of a number of great elephants.”
The young man thought for a moment and then asked, “Yes, but what do the elephants stand upon?”
The sage replied again, without hesitation, “The elephants rest upon the back of a great turtle.”
The young man, still not satisfied asked, “Yes, but what does the great turtle rest upon?”
The sage replied, “It rests upon an even greater turtle.”
The young man, growing frustrated, began to ask, “But what does-“
“No, no,” the sage interrupted, “stop there – it is turtles all the way down.”
Too much navel gazing spirals us into helplessness – it is turtles all the way down! We know that it is helpful to look at layers of intention, purpose and intention until we get to a point where we start repeating ourselves.
This is the point where we ask ourselves: What is the automated habit here that stops me from finding a solution? Will this particular habit help me improve my quality of life / work / job?
Remember this: If new know our weaknesses they stop being weaknesses.
...and practise the behaviour that goes with it as often as you can in your day to day. Align it as appropriate along the way.
The truth is only the truth until one person telling the story stops! The moment someone else looks at the same story, the previous truth changes and gets altered by the reality of the next person. So our truth may no longer apply, no matter how strongly we believe it to be.
Here are some tips that help with accepting oneself and to understand the biases and irrational mechanism that drive the internal flaws in order to change habits that no longer serve us:
It might at first make you a little bit disgruntled with yourself. This is what it is. Research shows that self-awareness does not automatically make us happier, it rather makes some people more miserable. This is because of self-judgment kicking in, which means, all of a sudden we become aware of how others might think or even judge us.
Here we are at discovering our “blind spots”, things that other people might see but we don’t, as the Johari Window describes as information that is in the public domain but not in your personal one.
Plato said: All evil is rooted in ignorance!
Point well made, because: if I am not aware or ignore my “evil” side, it cannot cause me any pain! It just means this person is unaware of the irrationality, derangement, insensitivity of their own thoughts. These are often borne out of irrational beliefs and impossible assumptions they learnt to design to protect themselves from the pain – therefore an automated distraction.
Before we can become truly empathetic, only accepting the flaws of our own emotions and own mind will allow us to accept these of others. Then we are able to show the all important ingredient for trust: compassion. As long as we distract and numb ourselves, put a blind eye to our faults we will look for ways to manipulate, change or accuse others in our relationships to be a person they are not. These kind of relationships ultimately fail and are toxic, creating blame and conflict around us.
So here is to exciting discovery!!