September at The Mental Movement (albeit this is technically being published in October) has been all about Awareness. I’ve already discussed how our experience of life can be improved by sharpening our internal senses, getting to know ourselves a bit better and making conscious choices in order to live by design, not by default.
This post takes the concept of awareness a bit further – once you’ve got some, how can you harness your power within to really make a difference?
I feel a bit bad for not having mentioned this before but, in isolation, awareness is relatively useless.
I went through a long phase about 10 years ago, when I realised that I was experiencing some kind of depression, where I spent a considerable amount of time trying to understand myself better – reading, therapy and a lot of introverted and pretty negative navel-gazing. I was spending a vast amount of time trying to raise my awareness but my lens was stuck on a very negative setting, I got sucked into too much ‘thinking’ and found it very difficult to get around to any ‘doing’.
Raising your awareness is the preparation. It’s necessary, but if things stop there then nothing actually changes and you quite easily end up torturing yourself by having the information but not knowing what to do with it.
Real change only happens at the point at which you choose to take action.
Here are 6 ways which, once you have some awareness, you can activate and harness your power within:
#1 Ditch what you’re not
You’ve worked out what you’re good at, your sweet spots, what people value and appreciate you for. Now make some real changes in your day-to-day life so that you’re able to spend as much time in this space as possible and ditch activities, roles, relationships which take you out of that zone for prolonged periods of time. That doesn’t mean always sitting in your comfort zone – you can also identify things which you’d like to turn into strengths but make sure you’re finding opportunities to learn and develop.
#2 Spend more time ‘in focus’
Invest some time in understanding your priorities, use these to drive how you want to spend your time and energy and then find your best way of staying ‘in focus’. Comes back to your priorities on a regular basis to keep yourself aligned and, within each activity, spend as much time in a state of Flow as possible – this is where you will be at your most brilliant, most efficient and will find most pleasure.
#3 Forget motivation
I often hear people referring to their will-power as if it’s an external commander who chooses exactly when, where and for what activities they’re going to bother to make an appearance. Many of us seem to have the mindset that we need to have our will-power on full blast before we get started with an activity and if it’s not there then there’s no point in even bothering (or perhaps a convenient excuse for not bothering). I’ve found it’s much easier if I don’t even think about my motivation levels in advance of doing something – if it’s the next thing on the list then I just get started, even if only for 5 minutes, and 99% of the time the motivation kicks in or the task itself ends up being much more fun to do than it was to think about!
Act your way into right thinking, don’t try to think your way into right action.
#4 Use your energy wisely
I recommend avoiding too much ‘thinking’ about motivation but there are two other important things to consider:
- Every morning we wake up with a unique quota of energy – sometimes influenced by what we’ve been up to or what’s going on in our lives, but sometimes not. Have awareness of that energy quota and then decide how you’re going to use it. On a ‘high’ day, take advantage by adding a few extra things to the list or making sure you get some exercise in your day. On a ‘low’ day, back off a bit, avoid the ‘extras’ and stick to the real priorities.
- Be aware that different activities use up different amounts of energy. Be smart and try to spread the difficult things across your week rather than pretending that you’ll be able to get them all done in one day. By doing the former you’ll have stamina to last the week and you’ll do a much better job of all of them.
#5 There is no wagon
I get at least one email per week from a client telling me that they’ve ‘fallen off the wagon’ and their struggles to try to get back on it again. Forget about the wagon, there is no wagon. Your inability to be perfect 100% of the time and the fact that there are bumps in the road are just a reflection of the fact that you’re human and that life has a wonderful habit of being unpredictable.
What is important is your capacity to be both flexible (not creating a rigid high wagon to then fall off) and resilient (taking small potholes in your stride and dusting yourself of to carry on down the road).
Both of these can be developed by:
- doing the preparation by raising your self-awareness
- developing the ability to, when the road gets bumpy, take a step back and observe how you’re reacting
- resisting being pulled down the rabbit hole of negative thinking – or, at least, not being down there for long
- bringing yourself back to your priorities (the road and journey ahead)
- choosing to make a small correction in how you act and then getting back on the road
#6 Practise, practise, practise
This is never what people want to hear but change doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve spent over 30 years practising all the behaviours and thought patterns that make me the way I am today. Hopefully it isn’t going to take me the same again to make some changes but it is going to take some practise to rewire some of my habits and auto-pilot reactions.
In my opinion, if you’re looking to achieve some kind of change and you’re struggling to harness power from within, three great steps to practise are:
- Observation & self-correction – learn to catch yourself when you’re about to disappear down a rabbit hole
- Reconnect and then realign with your priorities
- Move quickly into action, even if only a very small task for 5 minutes
The doing is always more enjoyable than the thought of doing.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Any thoughts/feedback would, as always, be very welcome.
October is going to be all about the scary but very important subject of PURPOSE.