Note: This is the 4th post in a series of posts about the 7 Laws of Living a Life on Your Terms. Links to the first 3 posts are at the bottom of the post.
It’s as if you died, but your body was so used to going through the habit of being alive, that it just continued doing what it was doing. Your body wasn’t removed from the world because the habits of your life are so insignificant that it doesn’t matter whether you’re mind is here or not.
When you’re living unconsciously, your impact on the world is so minute, so insignificant, that it wouldn’t really matter if your stopped living completely (metaphorically!).
That may sound harsh, but it’s true. I don’t want you to get discouraged, I want you to get mad.
If you think you may be one of those people floating through life without thinking, because you’ve ceased doing anything different so you’ve memorized the acts of life, I want you to get mad at me.
I want you to read this post and implement everything and come back to me and gloat.
Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of conscious living.
The last time I decided to forego conscious living, I ended up face down in a gutter somewhere between Ocean and Collins in Miami Beach, but that’s neither here nor there.
Most people have heard this term before. It’s becoming a buzz word, which is unfortunate since the concept is so vital.
If you haven’t yet heard of conscious living, you may be wondering what in the name of squirrel poo I’m talking about and why I’m equating it to death.
The concept can be somewhat abstract, which is why I’m choosing to cheat and go with a few examples.
(I’m having a love affair with Infographics these days.)
We have a choice to either be aware, or to avoid awareness and induce a mental fog that protects us from the truths of life.
That’s free will in it’s most basic form. You can choose to see, or to blind yourself from reality.
If you choose to see and to know, then you choose to think.
If you choose to think, you choose to live the way men were supposed to live.
The first part of living consciously is learning to make, trust, and stand by your own judgments. You must be willing to think for yourself and stand by your convictions.
In other words, you need intellectual independence.
Conscious living goes hand-in-hand with intellectual independence, which just means having the courage to think for yourself.
You’re a a person with individual opinions, desires, judgments, and thoughts.
So, stop thinking through the minds of others.
You’ll respect yourself more if you make your own decisions and form your own opinions.
Think for yourself, even when it’s scary.
Think for yourself, even when you don’t know what the right answer is.
Think for yourself, even if you’re struggling with uncertainty and insecurity (especially here).
Choose to think. Choose to be conscious. Choose to live.
Yes, you’ll be stepping into the unknown.
Yes, it will be hard.
Yes, you will be scared.
Yes, it will be worth it.
The Courage to Know
Choosing to live consciously is one of the bravest decisions you can make in your life.
It takes much more courage than any single act you’ll ever have to do, because you have to commit to doing it all the time.
To decide to live consciously means that from now until the end of your existence, there’s no escape from your life, there is no escape from the truth.
This should be a good thing, but for many of us it’s not.
So many of us are used to playing it safe, avoiding danger, going with the flow, taking the path of least resistance, and generally avoiding confrontation altogether.
You feel as if there’s so much in life you don’t have any control over…yet you do.
Everything is within your power to change or, at the very least, influence.
It takes massive courage to realize this. Once you do, your responsibilities in life quadruple.
It takes still more courage to do something about it. You have to start questioning everything.
You’ll have to have every conversation with yourself over again.
You’ll need to make sure the beliefs you hold are actually your own and weren’t implanted in your subconscious mind by default.
You have to respect that, no matter how much you avoid something, the truth will be the truth and the only escape you can attain will be at the expense of your self-respect.
It’s facing the fact that you have a horrible temper and you treat people like shit, instead of telling yourself that people are just idiots.
It’s admitting to yourself that you sleep with a different person every week and that makes you a whore, instead of convincing yourself that you’re the ‘man’ or you’re just having fun.
It’s about recognizing that you’re new boyfriend/girlfriend is controlling and not protective.
You have to have the courage to admit that your parents were wrong instead of telling yourself that they were just trying to do what they thought best so it’s ok. Just because they were trying to do what they thought best doesn’t make it ok.
Yea, I know it’s scary.
But I promise you, it’s not as scary as an unconscious life in the dark.
Fear and Unconsciousness: A Match Made in Hell
Being unconscious all the time is like having a protective bubble around you.
You’re less likely to get hurt, you feel less sensation, you don’t have to worry.
The longer you stay unconscious, the longer you stay in the bubble, the more scared you get of the outside world and the less likely you are to break out of the bubble.
It’s safe in there. Why risk it, right?
When you make an attempt at escape, you get so anxious at the thought of exposure that you retreat back into the bubble, instantly feeling relief and promising yourself you’ll never pull a stunt like that ever again.
This is why you have to start now, because the longer you wait the harder it gets.
Your fear at this moment is real. There’s no doubt about that. But whether or not your fear is reasonable, or is unmovable, or insurmountable, or grounded in reality is a different story.
Remember when I said that your emotions are great tools, but they need calibrating once in a while?
This is one of those times.
When you fear something and take measures to avoid it, you feel a natural relief when the fear dissipates.
This is going to happen whether the fear is grounded in reality or not. So you can be reinforcing your fears, making them harder and harder to overcome.
You may be able to rationalize your actions for a while, but unless it’s what you truly believe, there’s always going to be that voice in the back of your head reminding you that this is not what it had in mind when it escaped the womb. It expects something better and wonders why you’re not doing something about it.
Note: You shouldn’t actually be hearing a voice. That would be weird. It’s probably more like a gut feeling or the source of a negative emotion. If you are hearing voices – I mean clear and distinct voices – there are professionals that can help you work that out.
But you ignore it. No time to think about stuff like that when you have a family to feed, work to do, shows to watch, sleep to catch up on.
No no no. No time to think about it.
This is you deciding to live unconsciously.
Like an animal.
You respond to your fears without using your mind to evaluate them, so you turn into a primal animal who relies only on his instincts and feelings.
Is that what you wanted to be?
Of course not.
But it’s so hard to not be an animal when everyone else around you is behaving like an animal as well, right? It must be normal. “If it wasn’t normal, why would everyone be doing it,” you ask yourself.
You convince yourself that courage is not living consciously, but being able to live unconsciously without going mad. Then you wonder why you go mad anyway.
Raising Your Consciousness From the Dead
This is the point in the post where you come with me if you want to live. (see what I did there?)
We’re going to do a seance of sorts. Except instead of raising Kurt Kobain from the dead, we’re going to raise your consciousness from wherever abandoned consciousnesses go when their owners decide to be jerks.
- Sit in a quiet place, and let your mind wander. You can guide it of course. Don’t let it wander to Disney Land or anything like that. Make it wander toward the hard places. When it starts to retreat, force it forward. Don’t force thoughts, force the focus of your mind.
- What thoughts are floating across your brain? It probably starts with something like : ‘I want pizza.’ or ‘I wonder if I can get out of work early tomorrow.’ or ‘Did I feed the dog?’ and that’s ok. Let it do that for a little while, then start thinking about the hard stuff.
For example, ‘I wonder if I can get out of work early tomorrow’ makes you feel a little weird. When you dig deeper you realize that you feel resentful that you have to hope for something like that.
Then you think that your boss sucks because he controls your life.
Then you start to get angry and think something like ‘I hate my job.’
Eventually you get to ‘I want to work for myself.’
- Continue doing this until you identify several painful pressure points and the beliefs behind them. I’ll give you a few examples of mine when I did this exercise a few years back.
- I’m sick. I know I’m sick. But I don’t actually want to get better, because being sick absolves me of responsibility. I believe that being sick makes it ok for me to be irresponsible.
- I’m not brave enough to face my problems. I’m avoidant and it makes the problems worse. I believe that facing your problems is scary.
- I’m manipulative in my relationships. I make them feel bad using passive aggressive techniques because, for some reason, I’d rather see them low. I believe that one person has to be dominant in the relationship. I believe that manipulation is an effective way to control your partner. I believe it’s ok to want to control my partner.
- I say that I want to quit smoking but that’s not true. I don’t want to quit at all, even though I know that it’s bad for me. I believe that I won’t be able to handle life without smoking.
- I want to do work I love so badly it hurts. I believe you should do work you love.Now you have to recognize and accept as truth everything you’ve come up with.
Don’t deny it.
Don’t come up with all of the reasons why it’s not possible, rational, practical, reasonable, doable, etc.
That doesn’t change the fact that it’s true.
Truth is truth, no matter what kind of salami you decide to cover it with.This practice of not even entertaining the possibility of something desirable is quite common.
For example, when I used to ask former coworkers ‘Don’t you want to work for yourself and do work you love?’ their response is a ‘Yes, but I also want to fly and you don’t see that happening.’
They know that it’s possible, but they equate it to flying as if it were equally impossible to spontaneously sprout wings from your back. For some reason, they count themselves as the one exception. They are the one person that can’t do it.
There are two parts to this:
1. They’re afraid to consider the possibility of doing it, and the fact that it still remains impossible to them is more comfortable than openly admitting they’re too afraid to get on with it.
2. They don’t think that they would make it, even if they tried.
- Now that you’re fully conscious again, you’re probably going to be freaking out. That’s ok. What you need to do right now is make a conscious judgment on your new discoveries. Which of your beliefs you feel are right to have, and which you feel are wrong to have. Which add value to your life, and which don’t? You’ll end up purely accepting the beliefs you feel as right to have, and absolve yourself of the negative feelings you have about it, or you’ll take action on the beliefs you feel are holding you back.
- Accept beliefs you don’t want or need to change. For example, you may have wanted to believe that you make friends easily and everyone you meet instantly likes you, when the reality is your just like everyone else. That’s why you’ve always felt so uncomfortable at parties. If you’re ok with that, accept it and get on with your life. Stop pretending to be a social butterfly and just be you.
- On the other hand, you may realize that you’ve been going to work every day as a habit because it was too scary to consider the alternative. Now you need to take action to eliminate the beliefs that are causing you to feel fear.
There are a few ways to do this but I’m only going to talk about 2.
I used to be deathly afraid of flying. I knew that, logically, I was in no real immediate danger. That didn’t matter to my emotions. I still got scared anyway. I couldn’t bring myself to be calm on an airplane, no matter how many times I reminded myself that I was safe.
The problem was I didn’t know why I was safe. I was safe because everyone told me that I was safe. Me being who I am didn’t care what you said. I don’t care about your statistics, and I sure as hell don’t care about your opinion. I’m thousands of feet in the air in a metal craft. Don’t tell me not to be scared!
Then I took the time to understand why airplanes stay up. It’s not magic, as I previously thought. There’s actual physics to the whole affair. From then on I felt much more safe.
Although the fear isn’t completely contained yet, I no longer go into fits of anxiety.
This process of overcoming irrational fear by logic can work on a number of things. If you’re afraid of quitting your job, you’re probably not 100% educated on your options and possibilities. Educate yourself. Join a mastermind group, read books, do research. Build your confidence in the subject so you know the possibilities are within your reach.
B.) Incremental Wins
For a long time I was so paralyzed of speaking in front of even two people I didn’t know, that I’d sweat, shake, and throw-up. Now, not so much. I started talking in front of a small group of kind-of strangers, then in front of a small group of strangers and so forth and so on. Eventually, I was able to speak in front of 500 strangers without breaking a sweat.
Courage is a mental skill that can be practiced and strengthened. Each of these steps make you a little stronger. Each one makes you a little braver.
On the other extreme, if you’re not practicing courage, you’re strengthening fear. There’s no getting around this. If you’re not facing the fear, you’re avoiding it. If you’re avoiding it, you’re getting that momentary feeling of relief which is strengthening your fear.
This is a good thing.
This means that the more you face your fears, the more ‘fearless’ you become.
Hopefully, you will never be without fear. Because without it, how would you challenge yourself? How would you know how to grow?
Eleanor Roosevelt has been telling us to do one thing each day that scares us for a long time. What would happen if we ran out of things to do?
As you get better and better at this, your mind, as a result, will think more consciously and your quality of life, as a consequence, will get better.
You will get addicted to the amazing feeling of overcoming obstacles and you will begin to create challenges for yourself.
The Uncomfortable Truth
It may turn out that you just don’t want to deal with it. You may want to just continue living the easy, comfortable, predicable, boring life of an animal.
There’s no judgment here!
You may want to live like that, and if you do, that’s ok. The only requirement is that you do it by choice, fully aware of the consequences.
It is unacceptable to default into this state of life and then exclaim years later that you didn’t know, because you did know. The only way you can respect yourself is to make the conscious decision to let your fears win.
However, I really hope that you don’t do that! In my opinion, it would be a waste.
In my opinion, you haven’t tried hard enough.
In my opinion, you’re better than that.
Don’t die before you’ve even had a chance to live.
No matter how risky it seems, no matter how scary, it’s always better to live consciously.
The alternative is to live your life as something less than human. A life of a fear-driven creature with unfocused eyes, cornered and grotesque, motivated by the absence of pain, uninterested in the presence of pleasure, and empty inside.
The alternative is to watch your dreams die right before your lifeless eyes.
And the death of your dreams won’t even be the worst part.
The worst part will be that you didn’t feel a thing as they burned.
Lean into the risk and display every scar proudly as proof of a life lived courageously. Because you know that’s the only life worth living.
So go baby go.
We’ve waited long enough for you let yourself believe you were meant for so much more.