Life is really complicated. It’s, at times, almost impossible to make sense of. There are moments that we feel absolutely clear on who we are, what we are doing and all our energies align, but a lot of life is spent in a whirlwind of busyness that feels productive, but in reality isn’t at all. When thinking about why we get swept away into these bursts of activity that seem quite out of control, we must consider our relationship with our subconscious. Of course, our subconscious is vital in running the show efficiently and quietly in the background. We need it to take care of simple repetitive tasks so that we can be more energy efficient machines. Because of the subconscious, the brain can conserve energy-draining conscious processing for the stuff that counts: activities that require our full attention and focus. When we drive a long distance and can’t recall huge chunks of the journey, it’s because our subconscious took over so that we don’t deplete our mental energy with taxing conscious thought. The challenge is that as time goes on and our 24/7 lives become busier and busier, the subconscious deliberately chooses patterns that it recognizes and we therefore become more and more habituated in our daily life. Now some may say that the more habituated we are, the easier life becomes. And there is some truth in that. The problem is that when the subconscious runs the show most of the time, we lose our shine and the feeling creeps in that somebody else is running our lives. We are running on autopilot. We can start to make some pretty disastrous decisions as a result. If you find yourself buying more things than you need, that is driven by the subconscious. If you find yourself reacting to situations in ways that you feel a little uncomfortable about, that is driven by the subconscious. If you eat too much, drink too much, watch too much television, spend hours on social media, that is driven by the subconscious. We know we need our subconscious to function well and to help us live our lives efficiently, but we do also need to learn how to escape autopilot deliberately every day, to ensure we are not being swept away by hundreds of small decisions that add up having a big impact on our life. We have all had moments of clarity and connection when everything feels just right and we are totally present, when it feels like we are in the right place at the right time. These are moments of consciousness. They happen to us almost accidentally in an array of situations, like when we are walking by the ocean, playing with our children, talking about our passions or feeling inspired. We all have these moments but what we often struggle with is making them happen on demand. Wake Up! is a series of experiments for us to try to see if we can deliberately escape autopilot once a day and then see what impact it has on our lives. Thousands of people have taken part so far and what we know is that its impact can be profound. We call them experiments because everybody is different and therefore what works for one person may not work for another. But what we do know is if you try them out over a couple of weeks with enough positive intention, there will be a shift in your consciousness. Small things can have a huge impact. The experiments are not big or clever or technical but simple, playful actions that take little effort but have a big payback. Some of my favorites include:
- Spend the first 10 minutes of the day outside without any digital distractions of any kind and take a moment to connect with what’s important.
- Share the love – find one person a day in your life and tell them what it is that you love about them.
- Only buy food and water so that you free your mind from constant consumption and realize what really counts.
- Climb a tree and remember how good it is to be playful.
It doesn’t really matter which ones you choose as long as you keep trying new ones and you deliberately make time for yourself to see the world differently. By becoming conscious and escaping autopilot you can then step back from this frenetic world in which we live and ask, “what’s needed here?” By answering that you may just have the most extraordinary day.
Chris Barez-Brown is a TEDx inspirational speaker and the author of Wake Up!: A Handbook to Living in the Here and Now (The Experiment Publishing, September 19). Wake Up! the app is available through The App Store and Google Play. He’s at www.barez-brown.com/ @barezbrown