Perhaps if one really knew when one was happy one would know the things that were necessary for one’s life.
Over time we can become a series of conditioned responses and our spontaneity and awareness is greatly diminished. Up to 95% of the average person’s behavior is nothing more than conditioned responses. We become creatures of habit in both our thinking and our behavior. The average person has 40,000 to 60,000 thoughts daily. Unfortunately 90% of the thoughts you have today have been recycled from the previous day. We get into the habit of thinking the same thoughts day in and day out. Habits rule our lives. Habits help explain why people continue to work at the same job, associate with the same people, drive the same route to work, engage in the same leisure activities, watch the same TV shows and read the same type of books.
To help you better understand what I mean by conditioned responses, imagine the following scenario. At a crowded restaurant a woman screams; stands up, slaps the face of her date and storms out of the restaurant. The reactions among the people in the restaurant vary. One man is terribly upset; a young teenager is angry; a divorcee is saddened; a counselor is curious; a pastor is embarrassed; the waiter is amused and another couple ignores the whole scene. The same event triggered a different response in each of the observers.
Our response is determined by how we have been conditioned by prior life experiences. It is often an automatic, knee jerk type of feeling and reaction. The man who was terribly upset painfully remembers being struck by his mom as a child. The teenager thinks this is just another example that women can get away with anything (just like his sister never gets yelled at and his mom and dad are always screaming at him). The divorcee sees it as yet another example of the conflict between men and women. The counselor is curious about the dynamics of the relationship that resulted in the woman’s angry response. The pastor is shamed by the possibility that these people are in his congregation and are setting a bad example for others. The waiter has seen it all and is no longer surprised or upset by people’s behavior, especially after they have had a couple of drinks. The couple have become sophisticated and jaded; they feign indifference.
Most of what we think, feel and the way we respond is based on prior conditioning. Greater awareness allows you more choices. Without choices, change is not possible. Awareness is a skill that can be learned and practiced. You can begin to examine patterns of behavior and habits and assess whether they are desirable or unwanted. Good habits (e.g. brushing your teeth twice a day) don’t need to be addressed; other habits need to be brought to the light of day and modified or eliminated. A lot of automatic behavior is benign and heightened awareness of this kind of behavior doesn’t provide opportunities for significant change and personal growth. Men get into the habit of always first putting on either their shirts or their pants when dressing. Men who shave start shaving in the same spot each time. There isn’t much payback in terms of personal growth to modify this type of behavior. It’s only important to grasp how much of our behavior is automatic. We sleep on the same side of the bed each night. If you want to understand the power of a habit, try convincing your significant other to swap sides of the bed. It ain’t going to happen.
When we are living unconsciously, we aren’t living in the present. We aren’t responding to what is currently happening. Our lives are being conditioned and controlled by the past. When we are chained to the past, our choices are limited.
Have you every encountered a total stranger and felt an instant like or dislike? You are projecting attributes of someone from your past onto this person, perhaps a former boss, a controlling father or an ex boyfriend.
Lack of awareness condemns you to going through life on automatic pilot, repeating the same patterns of behavior that create the same predictable results. One definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.
Heightened awareness enables you to better interpret the signposts and clues strewn along the path that you are traveling and assists you in understanding what you should be doing and what decisions you need to make. We need to learn how to pay attention to these messages that are telling us who we really are and what we truly need.
All my life I have been fascinated with human potential and self-empowerment. I love to read and prefer non-fiction books that focus on some aspect of personal growth. Every book I own has been “magic markered” to death and contains scribbled notes in the margins. I take copious notes on whatever is available – yellow pads, cocktail napkins, the back of business cards; you name it and I’ve written on it. Imbedded in all of this behavior were clues that were telling me what my real passions were and what I should be doing with my life. If I had had the courage to pay attention and to acknowledge how important these clues were in helping me understand who I really was and what I really should be doing with my life, I would have pursued a career or calling that was in line with my real interests much earlier in life.
Heightened awareness and acceptance of the real me allowed me to acknowledge my strong introversion and need for ample personal space and solitude. If I don’t have a few hours to myself everyday, my life doesn’t work. I don’t leave this to chance. I make sure that I get and also my wife gets the necessary amount of solitude we both need. Introverts are energized by thinking, whereas people and social contact energize extroverts. We introverts like people in small doses and prefer one-to-one relationships and meaningful conversion. We believe the larger the group, the smaller the conversation. We aren’t into small talk. My first wife was much more extroverted than I and required much more social contact; she enjoyed parties and large social functions. This lack of awareness about who we were and what we needed created a perpetual disagreement as to how we should spend our time. This was a big factor in the marriage not working and ultimately ending in divorce.
One of my biggest moments of revelation was when I accepted the reality that no matter how well paid I was and how well others thought I did my job, if the work wasn’t in alignment with who I really was, I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of really being happy. I was in marketing for a small company and my boss was happy because I would always make my sales quota, the customers were satisfied because I listened and provided good customer service. Everyone was happy or reasonably satisfied, except one person and I was that person, the person whose opinion I most needed to listen to.
Marketing jobs are a good fit for extroverts, those who like to mingle and genuinely enjoy the wining, dining and schmoozing part of the job. This wasn’t me; I much preferred being in my office thinking deep thoughts rather than engaging in small talk and chitchat with clients. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it reasonably well, it was just that I didn’t enjoy it.
This was a watershed epiphany for me. The awareness that I desperately needed to be myself and find work and a career that allowed me to use rather than suppress my natural and real desires. So I said to myself, “OK, Riley, accept that you are a flaming introvert – what now?” I would always test off the scale for introversion whenever I took a vocational aptitude test. Being a lighthouse keeper on a small desolate island off the coast of New England coast never sounded that bad to me. I do wonder, however, how lighthouse keepers handle the need for hazelnut-flavored coffee in the morning.
When I began to allow the real me to surface and to develop the skills and the courage to pursue my passion and realness. My life slowly transformed from a financially well heeled, purposeless existence to an existence of having all I really needed, plus purpose that gave everyday meaning. I began to write, publishing a couple of short articles on self-help and producing a newsletter called the Winner’s Edge. I wouldn’t want to apply any type of cost accounting or profit analysis to my earlier efforts; they were labors of love. I do know that I was much happier following this path and always had enough money to enjoy life.
In the earlier stages, my wife was concerned that I was following a path to financial oblivion and ultimately would become a homeless street person. My Smart Alec response would always be “But the real question is, would I be a happy street person?” What I discovered is that when you begin going down the right path everything turns out OK and it’s a much more pleasurable journey.
Writing is a natural for introvert; it requires lots of thinking, observing (witnessing life) and solitude. I also began to do some counseling; good counseling is intense and devoid of small talk. Meaningful conversation and intelligent dialogue is what introverts crave. I began teaching and doing self-empowerment seminars. The preparation for a class or series of lectures requires research, reading, thinking, interpretation, synthesis and stitching information from multiple disparate sources into a seamless presentation that has meaning and value for the class members. All of these endeavors are consistent with who I am and provide me with a feeling of profound gratitude knowing that I’m on the right track and am living a purposeful conscious life.
Awareness means paying attention to messages you are receiving and often choose to ignore. Do you have recurring dreams? One of my dreams was visualizing page after page of text in which I could actually read the words. I wish all my dreams were as obvious in meaning as this one. Is your body trying to tell you something (headaches, stomachaches, tension in the neck, etc.)? Are there song lyrics that just keep popping into your head and you sing them to yourself over and over?
Awareness can lead to life changing insights and can be applicable to all areas on your life: work, personal and professional relationships and overall lifestyle. Awareness can help you identify where you need to make a major decision. It can be a call to action. Quit that job that depresses and stifles you and become self-employed. Go back to school and get the necessary training you need to pursue what you want. End a debilitating or toxic relationship that diminishes you and causes you to experience damaging, negative feelings rather than positive, exhilarating feelings.
Awareness can bring to light the necessity to take the next step, perhaps finding a new relationship or renewing your commitment to an existing relationship. Awareness can make you see the urgency in moving from an environment that doesn’t inspire and rejuvenate to one that makes you feel good, that makes you feel grateful, an environment that you look forward to experiencing. Awareness of your core essence can help you understand why you have to change careers. Awareness might allow you to see the joy (and hard work and sacrifice) of having or adopting a child. Awareness can be about personal change and growth. You might discover that you need or desire to become more creative, less judgmental, more loving, less fearful. Awareness is awakening. You begin to pay attention and trust what you are hearing and feeling. All our lives we are taught to conform, we are taught to abandon our intuition, to obey societal imperatives, to allow others to decide what’s best for us, to allow others to do our thinking and to make decisions that affect our lives. We are taught to abandon our souls.
Awareness needs to be accorded the highest priority. You need to learn to constantly check in with yourself and make sure you are doing things for the right reasons. Train and discipline yourself to ask those hard, disturbing soul-searching questions:
Is it in my best interest and not a societal imperative in which I feel I must or should?
Is it something you really want to do for yourself? Or are you trying to please your parents or your spouse or to seek some other form of societal approval?
You need to understand why you are doing the things you are doing. These are the types of questions asked by people who have raised their level of awareness:
Why am I practicing the piano two hours every day? Is it because I am highly competitive and have to be better than everyone else or does playing the piano and improving my skills bring me genuine pleasure?
Is my interest in learning and my “bookworm” type behavior based on natural curiosity or do I have to make high grades (straight A’s) to please my parents and to look smart?
Do I enjoy talking to my friends because I love to show how smart I am and really like to put them down by engaging in debates that I know I will win or I am receptive to hear new ideas and different perspectives that I haven’t heard or considered?
Did I take that expensive vacation and do all those expensive things to impress my friends and look cosmopolitan or did I really do it for fun and to satiate my curiosity and learn more about my particular areas of interest?
Kathy and I are both history buffs and we recently took a trip to Bismark, North Dakota to visit and see the winter camping site of Lewis and Clark. We had a fabulous time at a very reasonable cost. When we told one of our friends that we went to Bismark. He looked incredulous and remarked “You mean, you went there on purpose?” It was beyond pale of his imagination that anyone could have a enjoyable vacation in Bismark or any other locale devoid of big time attractions such as theme parks or 5 star restaurants.
Awareness is about living consciously. When you begin living in a state of higher awareness, you begin to question and examine not only the large activities of your life but also the small. Life-long habits that no longer make sense surface in your consciousness. A small example: All my life I have been putting two packets of sugar into my coffee. I have always opened one, then the other. Today, I found myself placing one packet on top of the other and making one opening operation. Much simpler.
I was preparing to teach a class recently and I inadvertently ripped a page of notes out of a three ring binder. My first instinct was to do what I had always done: search throughout the apartment for a box of those little “paste over the torn hole thingies.” I paused and asked myself is there another alternative to searching for a 1/2 hour for something that I might or might not find? Is there another way? I thought why not just put some scotch tape over the hole and re-punch it. That pause and examination of the problem and being open to alternatives is what I call living consciously. Practicing awareness provides you more options and choices. I find it helpful to target areas in my life where I think greater awareness can provide a big payback.
Here are some areas in my life and examples of the benefits that flow from greater awareness:
Awareness of when fear kicks in and creates paralysis or procrastination:
The question I always want answered: Am I not doing something because of some underlying fear or is it that I truly don’t want to do it? If I conclude that I really don’t want to do something then I need to let go and move on. If I conclude that fear is the culprit that is blocking the road I wish to travel, then I want to do what’s necessary to push through the fear and past the blockage. A general guideline for me is whenever I contemplate an action that makes me feel uncomfortable, it’s probably something that would be good for me and something I need to do.
Awareness of the patterns that cause friction between my wife and myself:
Most of time the friction is based on my expectation of what married life should be. Buddha said all suffering is caused by expectations. When I let go of my expectations and focus on the many wonderful benefits (rather than our differences) of being married to Kathy – problem solved and case closed. I need practice in acceptance of perspectives and values that differ from mine. Kathy says that if two of you are exactly alike, one of you isn’t necessary. Would you really want to be married to a person exactly like you? It’s very painful for me when Kathy (or anybody else) doesn’t see things from my perspective. Awareness means seeing things as they really are and this can be painful. As an example, I could characterize my marriage as being a difficult one. However, awareness, though painful, has provided me with the insight that all relationships are hard for me. My wife has hundreds of friends; I can count all my good friends on one hand and have several fingers left over.
Awareness of what risk I am not taking today and why.
Awareness of where assistance and advice is appreciated rather than resented:
I don’t want to be like the Boy Scout who helped a little old lady across the street. But she didn’t want to cross the street.
Awareness about what lessons I can learn from my marriage:
Is Kathy lovable? Immensely so. If I’m having trouble loving Kathy then being loving is something that I really need to work on. Besides bringing immense joy to my life, she also highlights the lessons that I need to work on.
Awareness that I had outgrown the support group that I had attended for 5 years, that it was time to move on:
One of the risks of support groups is the necessity to stay stuck and wounded, the necessity to continually relive your pain and injury to gain sympathy and have a justification for being in the group. What the group often has in common is that they are into talking about recovery rather than going through the hard, sometimes painful, work of actually recovering and growing. It’s too easy to “remain in recovery,” to remain stuck and never make serious progress in healing. Some never throw away the crutches and learn to walk without support. The risk many support groups run is becoming more of a permanent social club and less of a transitional support group to help you heal and be on your way. The founder of the support group dropped out and I suspect he had reached similar conclusions.
Awareness of how very necessary it is for me to spend 1-2 hours every morning on personal growth and enlightenment. My life works so much better.
Awareness that the class experience is better for both the students and myself when I relate my own personal experiences rather than rely wholly on theory from books. I can teach only what I know and have experienced. The more authentic you are, the better you connect with people.
Awareness about why I was having trouble writing this book: The fear that it wouldn’t be acceptable or that I had nothing to say or contribute. This fear of failure was impeding my progress.
Awareness of my self-destructive desire to be myself at all costs (I’m right and the world is wrong syndrome). I am too often unnecessarily controversial and confrontational on insignificant issues that aren’t worth the energy of a pitched battle or last stand.
Awareness of my impatience and desire for instant gratification and not being a good sport about doing the work and paying the dues necessary for success, growth and progress.
Once you understand that greater awareness can be learned, you can practice and develop a skill that will really enhance the enjoyment of your life. Here is a suggested list of ways that you can heighten your awareness and practice conscious living:
1. Notice where perfectionism is crippling you. Here is an interesting question to ask yourself: What could you do if you didn’t have to do it perfectly? The answer: a great deal more than you are currently doing. Anyone who has ever done any writing knows that you could spend the rest of your life fine tuning your current work in progress. At some point you have to say to yourself, “That’s a wrap,” let it go and move on. Whenever we look at something in retrospect, we will always have regrets or see ways that it could have been improved. Here is the problem with perfectionism. We’ve all heard that the unexamined life is not worth living, but consider too that the unlived life is not worth examining. Perfectionism greatly diminishes the living of life.
2. Notice whether you are living in the past, present or future. The more you can live in the present, the better you life is working. You must have a rigorous relationship with the present moment, because what you put into play today determines how your future will unfold. Ask yourself what do you want your life to look like a year from now and then ask yourself what first step must you take and what new habits must you acquire to head in the proper direction. If you see yourself today as you were in the past, the past is destined to become your future. Don’t get discouraged because your mind is burdened with regrets about the past or feel guilty about fantasies related to the future. We are all afflicted with wandering minds. Nobody can live fully in the present. Even the gurus measure their progress in minutes rather than hours. Julia Camaron said, “The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight.” The capacity for delight is the gift for paying attention. To pay attention you must be living in the present.
You live in the past when you start too many thoughts with the phrase “if only.” What happened yesterday should be as irrelevant to your happiness as what happened 10,000 years ago. It’s all dead history.
It takes either a certain amount of arrogance or naïveté to plan and anticipate the future with any degree of certainty. It’s necessary to plan; just don’t get upset when life’s agenda seems to be different from yours. How do you know you have a future? How do you know that when you leave your house today the wind isn’t going to blow a brick off the roof, that hit you in the head? How do you know a meteorite or a dislodged airplane part isn’t going to strike you dead? How do you know that a terminal illness isn’t going to be detected at your next routine physical examination? You have no ironclad guarantee of a future, much less any certainty as to the details of the future. Life is what happens while you are making other plans. We have all heard the saying “Eat dessert first; life is short.” Whenever I hear of someone’s life that ends unexpectedly in some bizarre fashion (like being squashed by a piano that fell out of a third story window), I think, “I sure hope he had dessert.” The present moment is all that you can count on; make the most of it.
You live in the future, when you start too many thoughts with the phrase “When this ends then everything will be all right.” We tend to put off living. “When I lose 20 lbs., then I’ll start living.” Stephen Leacock said it well:
The child says, “When I am a big boy.”
The big boy says, “When I grow up.”
The grown up says, “When I get married.”
The married say, “When I’m retired.”
3. Notice what your first thoughts are when awakening. If they aren’t energizing and positive here are some strategies to help you jump-start the day:
A. Take action. Get out of bed and do something; don’t lay there and think dark, somber, depressing thoughts. Getting up promptly when I awaken doesn’t come easily to me. (My wife on the other hand leaps out of bed like she has been drinking coffee all night.) To make this an easier decision, I made a little pact with myself: if after being up for awhile I’m still tired or sleepy, I can go back to bed. I have discovered that very seldom do I go back to bed once I’m up.
B. Start the day with music or play a tape that inspires or motivates you.
C. Ask yourself a series of questions that force you to see the positive aspects of your life:
(i). What are the good things that I’m looking forward to?
(ii). What am I currently involved in that is exciting?
(iii). What are some possibilities that I might like to explore?
(iv). What are some activities that bring me pleasure?
(v). What am I doing that makes me feel proud?
4. Notice as you prepare for the day, whether you are excited about the day, whether you dread it or is it “just another day.” If you seem to be having too many ho-hum, routine, stuck in a rut days, be proactive and try to build something into each day to look forward to:
Having lunch with a friend
Buying or starting a new mystery by your favorite author
Window shopping after work for a new outfit
Get into the habit of thinking about it before going to bed and first thing in the morning. Anticipating pleasure is good for the soul.
5. Notice your thinking: Are you a positive thinker or a negative thinker? Do you look for the good or focus on the problem and whose fault it is? If you are a born pessimist, I recommend reading Learned Optimism: How To Change Your Mind & Life by Martin Seligman.
6. Notice what the most important part of your day is. Notice what is the most enjoyable part of your day. Notice what is the least important part of your day. Notice what is the least enjoyable part of your day. After you get a handle on what’s working and what’s not working for you, you want to search for ways to maximize the good and minimize the bad. This exercise made me aware that I sometimes, at the end of the day, turned on the TV and mindlessly watched whatever was on. This was neither relaxing nor enjoyable; it was merely a bad habit that needed to be addressed. I decided to begin videotaping shows that would not only be enjoyable to watch but could be viewed on my schedule. Another perk to watching videotapes is that you can fast forward through the commercials.
7. Notice what it is you willingly set aside everything to do. I discovered that I really enjoy being with my wife and was comfortable following her agenda. She gets to pick the restaurants we eat in, the movies we view and the vacations we take. This isn’t a sacrifice. We have similar interests and I just enjoy hanging out with her.
8. Notice whether money is a problem or a joy for you. Do you have a healthy relationship with money? Is it to be spent or to be hoarded? Are you in debt? Are your credit cards maxed out? I think one of the fundamental secrets to money management and eliminating financial stress and worry is simply to live within your means.
9. Notice the kinds of people you spend time with. Do you feel more alive around them or do you feel bored or drained? If you want to be creative, hang around creative people. If you want to be happy, hang around happy people. If you want to be productive, hang around productive people. Don’t expect support from people who are stuck in toxic, dysfunctional behavior that they know and are comfortable with. Any recovering alcoholic will tell you that he can’t expect his friends from the bar to celebrate and support his sobriety. How can they, when their own drinking is something they want to hold on to?
10. Notice the types of people you are attracted to and for what reasons.
11. Notice who and when you are trying to impress.
12. Notice your surroundings. Do they support you? Your surroundings can make you feel inspired and creative or depressed and lethargic. We experience places almost the way we do people. Some places we love at first sight and other places make us uncomfortable.
13. Notice how you feel when someone asks you what type of work you do? Are proud, shamed or indifferent?
14. Notice whether spirituality is important to you. How much time do you give it during the day? Is the concept of a higher power meaningful to you? Do you put more energy into trusting or doubting and worrying? My take on spirituality is that I’m part of something much bigger than my own needs and this bigness has to be honored even though not fully understood.
15. Notice how your body feels. Are you tense and worn out or are you energetic?
16. Notice the times and conditions when your energy is at a peak level. I’m a morning person and that is when my energy is consistently high. I schedule my creative efforts to coincide with peak energy levels and do the rote things (pay bills, return phone calls, run errands, etc.) in the afternoon.
17. Notice moments when you feel fully alive. I feel alive when I’m taking a risk and stepping out of my comfort zone. I feel alive when I’m being creative and in touch with my potential and the possibilities of life. I feel alive when I’m living in the present and paying attention. (Someone once said that God is in the details.) When I’m taking my early morning walk during the summer and have a heightened sense of awareness, I observe more. I will frequently notice a new wild flower or birds I haven’t seen before.
18. Notice which activities move you to give nothing less than your best.
19. Notice where your passion lies. What creates real enthusiasm for you?
20. Notice what you appreciate, what makes you happy, what fills you with delight (however small), what makes you feel energized and optimistic, what action and experiences make you feel as if you count in your own eyes. Special moments that I really treasure are those where I feel I have really connected with someone. I am always looking for ways to make this happen. I have discovered that, though it sometimes makes me feel uncomfortable because intimacy isn’t my strong suit, being authentic, doing small loving, real acts and being willing to go first (acknowledging the other person, smiling, beginning the conversation) break down barriers and allow intimacy to occur. It also makes it much easier to connect with people when I view strangers as friends I haven’t yet made.
21. Notice who you put first. Notice who you put last.
22. Notice what you pay attention to.
23. Notice when you give your power away. Is it with encounters with the opposite sex? Does controlling people intimidate you?
24. Notice what makes you feel loved? Notice what makes your partner feel loved?
25. Notice what you do that makes you feel nurtured. How many ways do you have to nurture yourself? One problem many of us face is that we have a limited repertoire of healthy ways to celebrate life’s little victories. We have been conditioned to equate overeating and overdrinking with celebration. Some of the institutionalized ways corporate America rewards employees and some of the other celebratory practices in the workplace really need to be examined. Is the annual Christmas party really that much fun and do you really enjoy participating in those monthly pot luck lunches where everyone brings something and it’s practically impossible to eat sensibly? We get a promotion or increase in salary or complete a major project and feel like we have the world by the tail. We feel good and understandably want to celebrate. Is your first instinct to have a night on the town, go party and get drunk or celebrate by dining out and wind up overeating and overspending? You want to develop awareness about the experiences that you really enjoy and have them mentally on call so that when celebration is appropriate you have a list of choices that really work for you. I will share a couple of examples. I consider a hot shower in the middle of the day an excellent way to take a well-deserved break. When I complete a task, I will reward myself by browsing in a bookstore and possibly buying a book. If I have had a very productive day and have accomplished my goals, a little nap isn’t out of the question. These are small rewards for small victories, but I find them healthier and much more nurturing than restless snacking or going out for a candy bar in the middle of the afternoon.
26. Notice when you are being real and when you are being phony and posturing. You aren’t real when you present a false image to others and never let the real you shine through. Like one-dimensional characters, we play-act through life instead of really living it. When you don’t allow the real self to shine through, you use an enormous amount of energy maintaining that facade. You pay a big price for not being real, especially if you are never real. It’s OK to show genuine like (or disappointment) in your daily interactions with other people. I spend a lot of time in our local Barnes & Noble. I really enjoy the experience and like the people that work there. I’m not shy or reserved about my enjoyment and it’s a day brightener for all. The real you is much more attractive than the phony you. The real you is very lovable and very powerful.
27. Notice when you overeat. If I buy a bag of potato chips, I will eat the entire bag in one sitting. There are some foods that I am powerless around and I acknowledge that and I just don’t bring them in the house. I also know that once something is on my plate it’s history. I have to be selective about which restaurants I frequent. There is an excellent steak house nearby that serves gargantuan portions. Whenever I used to eat there, I always felt like I violated one of Miss Piggy’s rules on dining. Miss Piggy says never eat more than you can lift. This awareness gives me control over my eating and allows me to eat sensibly without having to fight daily, losing battles with temptation.
28. Notice whether your clothes make you feel self-conscious or allow you to be comfortable with yourself.
I practically live in tennis shoes and discovered that when they got beyond the point of being presentable, I would try to hide my feet. I was unknowingly self-conscious about this part of my appearance. Any apparel that attacks your self-esteem needs to be tossed.
29. Notice when you feel anxious or stressed out. Pay attention to what you do during the stressful times in your day. Do you head for the refrigerator, even though you are not hungry? Do you pick up the phone and call your boyfriend/husband to see if he really loves you? Do you obsess about the company you would start if you had the resources, or the book you would write if you had the time, or the traveling you would do if you had the money? Notice any distraction that takes you away from the action or result you desire. Notice when your thoughts wander. Notice what was happening just before they strayed. Often our thoughts wander when we are faced with an emotion we’re trying to avoid. Be aware of your thoughts as they hunt for somewhere to focus rather than on the task at hand.
30. Notice what your body language says. Words are only about 8% of communication. The rate of speech, tonal inflection, facial gestures and body language are the true communicators. When I teach the Dare To Date class, I always say, If you don’t look approachable you won’t be approached. Even though you may want a relationship, if your body language says STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM ME, you aren’t going to have much success. My wife had unknowingly perfected negative body language that contributed to a total lack of success in dating. The pattern didn’t change until she was in her forties. Here are some specific ways to develop positive body language that can help develop relationships:
Practice having warm and positive thoughts about the opposite sex. If you either fear or hate the opposite sex, you body language will betray you.
Practice being gracious and charming. Next time you go to a social function pretend to be the host rather than the guest.
You may desire companionship and warmth, but if your unconscious intentions and behavior are to keep people at a distance, the experiences of separation and pain will surface again and again until you come to understand that you are the culprit.
31. Notice when your significant other irritates you. Are there patterns of actions or events that frequently lead to conflict?
Are you each comfortable with the other’s driving? Kathy and I used to both terrify each other (for different reasons) when driving in the mountains. I had to learn to respect Kathy’s fear and drive more cautiously. Kathy had to understand that driving too slowly would cause other drivers to take chances and pass on curves.
32. Notice when you rain on your own parade. Are you the type that looks a gift horse in the mouth? You want to practice enjoying, rather than questioning in a negative manner.
33. Notice how bountiful life is. If this isn’t apparent to you, read about life under Stalin in the 1930’s or the experiences of the holocaust survivors or listen to stories of the depression from your parents or grandparents. Rent and view Schindler’s List.
34. Notice how much freedom you experience in life.
Freedom of movement
Freedom from religious persecution
Freedom from arbitrary imprisonment
Freedom of thought and expression
Freedom to be the best you can be
35. Notice if you notice.