“I want to live my life more conscious” – is a statement that becomes more and more popular these days, often as a direct consequence of the realization of not having enough control over one’s life or simply by being overwhelmed by nowadays information overload. But it seems that many people don’t really seem to understand what the term “conscious living” really means or conceive it just superficially. How can it be achieved to live life more consciously? And even more important: what are the benefits of living a conscious life?
What does “Living a conscious life” mean?
Living life consciously and consciousness in general is a fairly broad term, which is why I will illustrate it with the difference of being asleep and being awake. Can you remember one of your dreams you had the last night? Nearly all the decisions you made in this dream were unconscious decisions by your subconsciousness, which is influenced by your morals, values, emotions and mindsets. I absolutely don’t remember myself having struggled or having spent time to make a conscious decision in any of my dreams. Whenever I dream it feels like a floating journey where my subconsciousness becomes an autopilot of myself and starts to make all the decisions for me, based on my values and the way I would behave in real life. However, I do not make conscious decisions and I’m drifting through my dreams totally influenced by external factors, which brings us to the point where we can see why dreaming is an excellent metaphor for living life unconsciously.
Living life consciously figuratively means that you have awoken out of a deep, unconscious dream and realize that a huge fraction of your actions were dictated by external influences, habits and your subconsciousness. The state of living conscious means that you are now the one who makes his very own choices that come from deep within yourself, but it also means that you start questioning negative behaviors, actions and habits and substitute them with more positive ones. Consciousness gives you an amazing sensation of control over your life and your situation, which is very motivational and empowering.
Basically, living more consciously is all about making more thoughtful and deliberate decisions, without being affected by our subconsciousness, habits, society and the environment you life in. It is about knowing what your purpose in life is and the realization how to live your life in order to be happy, without living in the past or worrying about the future.
How to Live Life Consciously?
Identify Negative Influences & Barriers
Living life consciously means that we have set ourselves free from negative influences that prohibit us from making deliberate choices. Therefore, it is important to clearly identify what sources in our lives affect us negatively and do not want us to make conscious decisions, e.g. advertisers whose gain for profit is above the benefit for their customers or people that try to manipulate you for their own profit. Besides knowing what affects you negatively you should also clearly know what sources can influence you in a positive way and help you to achieve your goals or simply motivate you. These positive sources could be conversations with your parents and friends, or simply speeches of motivational speakers that empower you. Furthermore, it is important to identify barriers that keep you from living your life consciously and barriers that keep you from accomplishing your goals. These barriers could be relatively general like watching too much TV or more advanced ones like laziness. The very first step towards more consciousness consists of working against negative influences and the attempt to reduce as many barriers as possible.
Sometimes it can be really helpful to start a journal where you write down everything that influences you and evaluate if it influences you in a positive way, e.g. encourages conscious decisions or whether it affects you negative. Whenever you find a negative influence try to find possible solutions that help you to reduce the influence or the effects of the influence.
The Path of Least Resistance
The path of least resistance is an alluring option to accomplish goals in a simple and easy fashion and we tend to choose this path rather than the option of investing hard work, effort and time into our journey towards the accomplishment of our aims. However, one thing the path of least resistance is not: a conscious decision. It is more than likely that external factors or our subconsciousness (e.g. the habit of being lazy) influenced us to make this unconscious decision. Choosing the path of least resistance does not involve the “regular” conscious decision making process, such as evaluating what tasks need to be done and trying to figuring out what possible obstacles and barriers could prohibit you from reaching your goal and it does not involve the creation of own strategies to accomplish the aim. The advertisement industry was one of the firsts to discover this trend, which is why they started to market their products as quick-fix solutions that offered its customers to accomplish their desired objectives with the least necessary effort. Whenever you are confronted with the option to choose the path of least resistance try to keep in mind that it is not always the most conscious choice! However, it can in some cases save you a lot of time, so try to choose the path that fulfills you most, even if it is the consciously chosen path of least resistance.
In our modern society we are confronted with a lot of external pressure and false purposes on how we should spend our lives, mostly spread by companies with the ambition to increase their profit. This form of social programming has led to the delusion that only factors outside of ourselves can make us happy, which is why we try to accumulate tangibles with the purpose of fulfillment. Living life consciously means that you are independent of false purposes, attempts of social conditioning and the pursuit of accumulating tangibles to find happiness. Consciousness is the discovery that true happiness comes from within yourself and cannot be increased by tangibles or other outside influences, if you are not happy with yourself at first! Furthermore, it is the independence to consciously make the decision to buy a product whenever it offers a real benefit for your life and not when an advertiser’s intention is to trigger a demand for one of his products.
Turn off the autopilot
As of lately, I made a really interesting experience when I had some days off. I had a lot of spare time and I didn’t make any plans on how to spend my time at all only to enjoy the sensation of living in the moment, without stress and responsibility. However, as joyful as this time was I also noticed that I started to develop negative habits in just a couple of days: I started drifting through life like a sleep-walker and started to seek entertainment or distraction literally on autopilot, whenever the slightest boredom occurred. It became really complicated to stay in touch with my friends in these days and my productivity was falling to zero. When looking back to that time I notice how much control my autopilot gained over my life and how fast negative habits started to develop. Whenever we do the things we are used to we have reached a point where only very few of our decisions are being made consciously. Turn off the autopilot by breaking out of your routines, habits and the way you are used to address get things done in general. Bring diversion into your lifestyle, even if it is in the beginning just the choice to try brushing your teeth with your left hand, rather than the right one. Turn off the autopilot that has developed negative habits for you and bring diversification into your life; develop the habit to make conscious decisions!
Focus on what is really important
Living life consciously also implies that you start focusing on what is important in your life and invest time to pursue your most important goals, rather than drifting through life on autopilot. One could also say that focusing on what is really important is a minimalistic and more conscious approach of living life. Activities that fulfill you, make you happy and help you to accomplish your goals come to the fore, without being disturbed by meaningless, nonproductive and time wasting activities we do once the autopilot is turned on. Simply put: it is the difference between the unconscious ambition to “do everything, see everything and experience everything” and the choice to focus on a few activities with the most positive outcome for your life and your well-being. Here are some tips on how to focus what is important for you:
1. Evaluation of Importance
The evaluation of importance pertains two sectors: the evaluation of what is most important for you in your life and the evaluation of the activities you are currently performing, regarding their importance towards what is most important for you. Simply start by writing down the goals, activities, hobbies and aspects of your life that are most important and essential for you! Write down what allows you to become truly happy and the activities that truly fulfill you.
Secondly, try to evaluate what activities you are currently performing and try to estimate if these hobbies and goals coincide with the most important areas of your life. Cancel activities that procrastinate, do not fulfill you or do not make you any happier at all, in short: if an activity has no affiliation with one of the most important areas of your life think about its necessity and cancel it if its main purpose has no positive benefit for your life.
After finishing this process you should have identified and stopped activities that have no value for you, things you do out of obligation, procrastinating activities and hobbies with no benefit for your life.
2. Integration of Power Sessions
The above named exercise has helped you to identify the areas and goals that are most important for you in your life. The following trick helps you to focus your attention on what is important during your everyday life: apply power sessions! Power sessions are predetermined periods of time (from half an hour up to one and a half hours), where you focus only on the completion of one or more important task. Make sure that you will not get interrupted during these sessions by telephone, internet, your mobile phone and try to reduce other distractions as much as possible. Such a power session can be tremendously helpful to focus on what is important and will furthermore increase your productivity. However, it is important to restrict yourself from doing anything else that is not related to your main objective/task as this will procrastinate and distract you.
3. Eliminate Distractions
The tips Evaluation of Importance and Integration of Power Sessions have addressed the topic distractions only superficially, however I believe that it is worth to discuss the elimination of distractions more precisely. Distractions are an barrier to live life more conscious, which is why it is important that you start to identify what distracts you, wastes your time, procrastinates you and keeps you from doing what needs to be done. Unplug the TV and only turn it on again, whenever there comes something that truly interests you, rather than watching TV without a purpose. Restrict access to those internet sites that steal your time (social networks, video-sites, etc.), which can be done with the free Firefox plug-in called “LeechBlock” that allows you to block all sorts of sites during given periods of time or even constantly. Reducing and eliminating these distractions helped me to save a lot of time which could be invested into more purposeful activities. I believe that distractions are one of the biggest barriers one needs to overcome in order to start living life more conscious.
4. Don’t fight Boredom
Whenever you start to eliminate distractions you will regain substantial amounts of time that can be spend in a more useful way. This may seem great in your professional life, as you can focus more on your actual work, however it might lead to pure boredom in your private life, especially when you are really used to distract yourself whenever boredom occurs by turning on the TV/internet/etc. As soon as boredom strikes you have entered a truly critical phase as you habitually would have distracted yourself with entertaining activities, which is not possible anymore. You can believe me that nearly hundreds of charming excuses will start to arise and will give you perfect reasons to distract yourself again; however it is important to ignore these! From this point on it is purely your own decision to return to your old habits or to be perseverant and to fight off the excuses. It pays off to persevere as the boredom will help you to redirect focus, declutter your mind and shows you what is really important for you in your life, besides the temporary desire to fill the empty space the boredom causes with entertaining activities. Furthermore, boredom will give you important time to focus on yourself, reflect and think about the decisions you made, which leads after all to more consciousness.
Every once in a while you should take yourself some time to disconnect from all your duties, objectives and tasks that are part of your everyday life. Take some time for yourself and enjoy the moment. Find an activity that completely distracts you, an activity that is so demanding that it completely absorbs you into the experience of the moment so that you cannot think about anything else. For me personally it is listening to some great music that helps me to disconnect and absorbs me completely into a different state of mind, however you will have to find out what helps you to disconnect the most. Here are some activities that have helped others to disconnect: making music, riding, painting, driving (a car, motorbike or bicycle), writing (poems, stories), mountaineering, climbing, etc.
Take Time for Yourself
Reflect and Question Decisions
The importance to reflect your behavior, actions and your decisions should not be underestimated, especially not when it comes to living consciously. By questioning things you can enable yourself to make more conscious decisions in your life, without developing negative habits. It is important that you mainly reflect and question choices that were made in an unconscious way our have developed out of habits, not those that originated out of a conscious decision making process by evaluating the pros and cons of a choice.
Start a Journal, Audio-Journal or Diary
Taking some time for yourself to reflect decisions and actions is in my opinion a very important aspect of living a more conscious life. An excellent way to reflect the attempts to live more conscious is by starting a journal or a diary. I can understand that – especially when you are a man – it might sound rather dull to start writing a diary, so if you are not comfortable with a diary you can also consider start writing a blog or the creation of audio-journals for your own purpose.
An excellent software to create an audio-journal is called “Audacity” or any other software that allows you to record your own voice. However, a microphone is necessary to creat an audio-journal.
Benefits of Living Consciously
The advantages and benefits of living life more consciously range from the ability to make more deliberate choices up to being less procrastinated. The most important benefit of consciousness for me is that I’m the one who takes responsibility for my own life, without being dependent.
- Awareness – The level of consciousness determines how you perceive the world you are living in and by expanding your level of consciousness the more aware you will become of this world and what possibilities it offers you.
- Focus – Living consciously allows you to reduce distractions and helps you to focus towards what is important in your life.
- Greater Decisions – As you start “getting used to life more conscious” you will notice that your decision making skills will advance and the quality of your decisions will improve.
- Independence – Consciousness allows you to be more independent from external factors and negative influences. You are the one who takes action and makes his own decisions, rather than being dependent and responding towards the choices of others. This form of independence gives you also a lot more control over your life, from your private life up to your career and your goals.
- Relaxation – Living consciously literally declutters your mind. It does not only help you to achieve better results in whatever you focus at, but it also allows you to feel more relaxed. A minimalistic approach will leave you much more spare-time you can invest in yourself and your relaxation.
- Reduce Stress – Consciousness will also have a positive effect on your stress level. Whenever you start focusing on what is important you will spend more time for purposeful things that have the highest outcome for your life, rather than unimportant and time intensive activities.
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