One of my life goals is to live with awareness, and to use that awareness to improve some aspect of myself every day. The improvement must be at a fundamental (mind/body/thought) level. I am not referring to goals such as “be a better product designer”, or “be a better mother”. This goal is more about my inside track, the one that my mind and body plays out every day.
Two questions have helped me identify those little things where I can improve.
Question 1 (for the visible you): Is this my ‘normal’?
In those brief moments of the day when I am self-aware, I notice visible patterns or habits that just exist because they always have. For example, eating bread in the evening when I am hungry (a habit I picked up in the US that has no place in India where roti and other healthier alternatives are available), or walking to the elevator each morning although the stairs are next door, or switching tabs all the time while working on an email, or forgetting to attentively say ‘good-bye’ to my nanny when she leaves the house everyday. Little things that just accumulate because we forget to ask ourselves “Is this normal? Is this a behavior or a pattern that I want to define as my personal normal?”. Once you question the pattern deeply, you fix it by finding ways to replace it with a better one.
As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Awareness is about questioning what we repeatedly do. Eating bread for 10 days will not matter, but 10 years of eating it will matter.
Question 2 (for the invisible you). Name one thing that’s making me anxious?
Once I name it, I automatically explore ways to fix it or focus elsewhere. This question takes time to get used to because it requires introspection. I have to first be aware that I am anxious and there is something underlying this anxiousness. Often it is unnecessary, and could be just a bio-reaction. For example, I often forget to eat something before I drop my son to preschool. Morning hunger makes a person irritated and anxious. If I had eaten well, I would have been in a much better frame of mind.
Other things that make me anxious are – Not writing down a few things that I must accomplish during the day. Not having a plan for some upcoming event. Picking up the phone when my mind craves silence. Once I identify these triggers, I can take steps to fix them proactively. Even if I cannot fix them, just by asking this question, I create alternatives for my mind. Anxiousness is about the present moment, and as long as you can be at peace in the present moment you’ve cured the problem.
To quote one of my favorite movies (Peaceful Warrior),
“Where are you? Here.
What time is it? Now.
What are you? This moment.”