Have you ever found yourself half the way to your office, relieved at how little traffic there is, only to realize that it’s Saturday and you don’t have to go in today? How did that happen?
What did you have for breakfast this morning or dinner last night? What color are your cat’s eyes? What were the last words you said to your spouse or partner when you left the house today? These are easy questions with answers that just roll off the tip of your tongue, right? If you had to pause and really try to remember, relax, you are not alone. Actually, you are in the company of the majority of people whose lives have become little more than habits or a series of unintentional activities.
You might ask, what difference does not remembering what I had for breakfast or dinner make in my life? Well, consider this: If you were to eat just one meal each day and that experience takes 15 minutes per day and you live to be 75 years old, those 15 minutes per day add up to 285 days or nine and a half months just for this one activity. So it is easy to imagine that even just a few unintentional activities could easily add up to years out of our lives. Few of us would make a conscious decision to ignore an entire a year’s worth of living, yet we do it all the time.
Our everyday experiences make all the difference, because in fact our lives are not a “big bang” experience, but a series of many, many not-so-spectacular experiences and activities. Even the big bang experiences, the things we easily recall, our wedding day, the birth of a child, buying our very first new car, all are sets of multiple experiences which we compile and commit to a specific memory. Research suggests that these experiences are so memorable for the most part because of their connection to one or more strong emotions. These emotions are activated to their fullest when we fully consciously experience a particular event; we are “in the moment”.
Some experiences are so powerful that we can do little other than be in the moment, however for most of us the number of less compelling, every day experiences far exceeds the “big bangs”. So does this mean that we just have to accept that a major portion of our lives will be lived more out of happen than as a conscious experience? No, of course we can choose to live more consciously at any given moment, so that even the most mundane experiences become much richer, more memorable and thus more real, when we live consciously.
Here are four tips to create a more conscious way of experiencing life:
1. Make the decision to live more consciously. Make a mental note that you choose to live in the moment, fully aware of all that is happening in and around you. Go a step further and write down your intention to live more consciously. Read it aloud. Listen to your voice.
2. Commit to doing EVERYTHING with the intention to live in the moment, fully observing and experiencing all that you do and encounter, for the next 28 days. Research tells us that it takes 21 days to break an old behavior pattern or establish a new one, so add an extra seven days to help anchor your new habits.
Here are a few examples to illustrate that I really do mean do EVERYTHING with intention:
Brush your teeth with the intention. How does your toothpaste taste? Feel the brush on your tongue. Listen to the sounds around you. What position do you take? How is the lighting?
Change in some way, big or small, every habit that you recognize in your day.Do you always park in the same spot although no spot is assigned? For the next 28 days do not allow yourself to park in the same spot two days in a row. Find a new spot each day. Park forward. Park backward. Park on a different floor.
Open and close doors with intention. How does the knob feel in your hand? Is it cold, smooth or structured? Does the door open inward or outward?
3. Create new awareness habits and apply them to all areas of your life. For example, commit to greeting your significant other with a new welcome each day. Be aware of the words you choose. Why did you choose those words? How do you feel saying them? What is your intention in speaking those words?
4. Practice gratitude and be grateful for everything. Again, take this literally and make an effort to find the point of gratitude for all that you have, in every experience, really everything. If you are thinking, there are situations in which there is no point of gratitude, allow me to share a short story about a close friend, who well call Lisa. Shortly after her father was killed in a boating accident, Lisa was talking with another friend and sharing with her that she felt enormous gratitude for the circumstances in which her father had died. Lisa’s friend stared in disbelief and without further thought blurted out “Oh, bull****! A terrible thing has happened and you don’t have to pretend that it’s ok.” Lisa was not pretending, nor was she denying that something terribly sad had happened in her life, but she was truly grateful that her father’s last day of life was spent on the water, on his boat, fishing and doing what he loved to do. Lisa was grateful that he had not died in a hospital intensive unit after struggling with cancer and suffering terribly. This was how her mother had died ten years earlier. Even in the midst of great sadness, hurt and loss, Lisa could be grateful for that. There really is a point of gratitude in everything, even though sometimes we have to search intently to find it.
So here is the recap on four simple tips to create a richer, more conscious way of life:
Decide to live more consciously, then do it meticulously for 28 days and keep going.
Commit to doing EVERYTHING with intention, then adhere to this meticulously for 28 days and keep going.
Create new awareness raising habits, then do it meticulously for 28 days and keep going.
Practice gratitude and be grateful for EVERYTHING for 28 days and keep going.
It really is that simple. Try it. It just might add another year to your life!
I would love to hear from you and get your thoughts on this topic and please let me know if you find this useful and why.