Hey guys! How are your EMOTIONS doing this beautiful day?
It’s time for yet another challenge in the line of INCREASING OUR Self-awareness – the fourth week with this theme – and this time daily awareness is the focus! With the help of a structured action plan throughout the day, we’ll try to improve our self-observation ability.
But Alex, Isn’t time to stop this madness – mindfulness, meditation, new age-hippie b.s to stop?
Well, no. At least not quite yet, because we have one week left with this intensified aimed focus, at least under the current title. But more on that later in the week.
First of – let us remind ourselves why we are pursuing an increased self-awareness. I’ve been doing this channel for almost a year, and it’s quite frankly been a bit too random “oh what am I in the mood for this week?”. But this year I decided to take on this joint personal development challenge on a more serious note, so I asked myself the question; “where does one begin when wanting to become the best version of oneself?” Well the answer was obvious; “within”. We have to start with building a solid foundation for ourselves, getting clarity in who we are right now – accepting our current state – and then decide who we want to become -> direction and motivation. And so logically, self-awareness is the first necessary step on this lifelong personal development journey.
“conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings.” – self-awareness
You See, I’ve always been the person in the opposite spectre of mindful, always so devoted to keep my self-occupied with stuff, always being productive or entertained. The thought of being alone in my own head; what a waste, pain, torture, kill me now. And I’m still battling this; wanting to maximize my time every minute I’m awake. So when we start to talk about awareness and mindfulness, it doesn’t come easy for me. And not for you either I can imagine? But we can’t live our lives on 100% capacity all the time, it’s not “lean” thinking, as any Toyota strategist would have noted. It will cause for errors, ques and bottlenecks; reactive thinking that will do more harm than good. And that’s what I’ve come to realise, and that’s why this is a necessary step in our personal development journey, to invest time and energy within. For real. A step I avoided for years before starting…
Emotions vs. Feelings
But before I get into the details of this week’s challenge, I want to clarify the connection between the self-awareness and awareness and why they are so closely intertwined. Why you can’t reach full self-awareness if you don’t increase your ability to be aware in your everyday life.
We first need to understand, and I can’t believe I haven’t explained this earlier, the difference between feelings and emotions, which will simplify the terminology when talking about awareness and how to go about it. For this I’m simply going to borrow Debbie Hamptons (2015) own words and let her describe it (Yes, I’m hungry) :
“Emotions are lower level responses occurring in the subcortical regions of the brain, the amygdala and the ventromedial prefrontal cortices, creating biochemical reactions in your body altering your physical state. They originally helped our species survive by producing quick reactions to threat, reward, and everything in between in their environments. Emotional reactions are coded in our genes and while they do vary slightly individually and depending on circumstances, are generally universally similar across all humans and even other species. For example, you smile and your dog wags its tail.
The amygdala play a role in emotional arousal and regulate the release of neurotransmitters essential for memory consolidation which is why emotional memories can be so much stronger and longer-lasting. Emotions proceed feelings, are physical, and instinctual. Because they are physical, they can be objectively measured by blood flow, brain activity, facial micro-expressions, and body language.”
Feelings originate in the neocortical regions of the brain, are mental associations and reactions to emotions, and are subjective being influenced by personal experience, beliefs, and memories. A feeling is the mental portrayal of what is going on in your body when you have an emotion and is the byproduct of your brain perceiving and assigning meaning to the emotion. Feelings are the next thing that happens after having an emotion, involve cognitive input, usually subconscious, and cannot be measured precisely.”
I also found a nice picture that describes the different emotions we can have:
By Machine Elf 1735 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
So, again, how does awareness and self-awareness relate to one and other?
Well, if we first look at the first week, when we were supposed to outline our strengths and weaknesses; the things that makes us feel alive and easily get us into a state of flow, and the later the opposite. You could have quantifiable good results in an area you don’t enjoy – then that’s not necessarily something you need or should pursue. But most likely, you’re good at that one thing because it entails an ability of yours that you might use in a more enjoyable way in a different context. It’s about honing in on what your naturally good at, because logic reason and studies find that we will live a better and happier life then!
We are aware of most of the things we enjoy doing, we have made the connection between a specific type of activity and the feelings and emotions it has created within us. We maybe haven’t thought about it all the times, but if you would have looked for the signs, they would have been there. This is a what you could blame a lower state of awareness for, because if you had paused your life to reach a higher state of awareness, those emotions could have been interpret and verbalised in your mind to more accurate thoughts and feelings. However, when it’s very strong emotions, they translate to strong feelings that are hard to miss. This is also why we in the first week asked for other people’s options about our strengths and weaknesses – we sometimes go blind to the things that should be so obvious to us.
But so by becoming better at being present and aware, we become better at listening to our natural response – unfiltered emotions which are not manipulated by our mind; our biases and lies we keep telling ourselves to protect our self-image. To interpret our true response in different situations and contexts gives us guidance and direction for what serves us and what does not. If we become self-aware of what activates and doings that truly serves us, makes us feel alive, then we then have the clarity to make change. Our true voice can once again be heard – as it was when we were new-borns.
However, awareness itself is only half the battle, you then have to translate this to action. But it’s not until you have reach that state of self-awareness, that action will follow. When you have a clear mirror image – clearer – of who you are, you can start that change process of becoming the person you truly want to be. Filling in that delta between who you are, and who you want to be.
So am I suggesting you shouldn’t be happy with who you are? I’m happy with who I am, but I also now I have the potential to grow so much more, to live an even greater life – and that’s the journey I will enjoy taking, because it means I over time incrementally will grow every day, and so the journey becomes part of the result; if you constantly live a life where the end goal is the only way to be happy; you’ll never get what you truly seek.
Back to the topic, so we all do this through life, translate our emotions to feelings and thoughts, and have always been doing so. But our sensitivity scale is just so bad in comparison to its capacity! It’s like we have super high definition TV’s, but the signal we receive is just too bad for us to show any high resolution video, its blurry and bad. But if we increase the signal strength and start to transmit… Well I think you get the pictureJ.
So what I’m trying to get at is that when we practice awareness and self-observation, it will in fact translate to a heightened self-awareness which has the potential to change your life. Some even say that awareness itself is curative, because you won’t allow yourself to go in living the life you are when you become truly aware. And I really believe in that too. So I’m determined we need to start listening to our internal radar in a much greater extend, which in today’s society is going in totally wrong direction with everybody keeping themselves entrained 24/7 – guilty as charged.
If we don’t take the time to feel and accept that we’re not living the life we should, how can change happen? It’s not until we accept our current state, that we can start to ask the right questions, which we then can begin the journey to find the right answers to.
SO HOW WILL WE WORK TO INCREASE OUR AWARENESS, SO WE CAN INCREASE OUR SELF-AWARENESS?
Simple! This week’s challenge will boil down do a nice combination of all the previous challenges!
Main Objective: Daily awareness – practical application
To once an hour just paus your life for ten seconds and tune in on how your feeling – TEN SECONDS – do you feel stressed, hungry, joy; etc. I don’t say that you should manipulate your state. Just take in and observe – try to be aware! As I’ve mentioned in previous videos, distinguish between thinking and awareness, and remember what I said about feelings vs. emotions.
Now my watch beeps every whole hour, so that’s my que for checking in on myself. If that’s hard for you to arrange, chose a repetitive moment in your day that could work as your que; when you got to the bathroom, when you eat, when you sit down, when you walk through a door post. Just make sure to decide on ONE thing so you actually do it, and then it doesn’t hurt if you get some bonus awaerens in there as wellJ.
Secondary#1: (don’t want the weekly challenges to be overwhelming – less is more than nothing.)
Take some notes and journal about your observation, this so you can look back at the end of the week to reflect and recognize patterns. How often did you feel alive, fulfilled, like you did the things that really means something to you! Or are you a train wreck all the time? This is important, it’s observations like these that can awaken us from the lies we keep telling ourselves. It’s hard to lie to ourselves when it’s “data” presented to us; reading your own words that says that you felt like shit every day for a week.
Secondary#2: Meditation – “The gym exercise”
Do some daily meditation for at least 5 minutes – just trying to be aware and listen to your emotions. But don’t force emptiness, if thoughts pop up, let them pop up. Happens for me 99,9% of the time. But it’s still really nice, and sometimes not. But the meditation can be seen as the GYM practice that prepares you for the awareness in your everyday life!
If you want more info on this look at last week’s challenge http://alexandernilsson.nu/increasing-self-awareness-with-meditation/ )
So that’s this week’s challenge, don’t let it overwhelm you, start with little if that feels better. I know we don’t do things at all when it seems like too much of an effort. ESPECIOULLY on this topic, when you have a hard time grasping the benefits. Because it’s often not until one has started to feel some of the juicy stuff that I’ll bring, one will find the time and motivation to do this, which makes it a bit problematic. So hope you feel motivated!!
Make sure to subscribe and like IF you like what I’m doing, otherwise, don’tJ.
Have a great day, and remember to watch the weekly LIVE STREAM at Friday 17.00 (Swedish time)! There, as always, will I first do a weekly evaluation, and then in the second part of the video have an individual goal evaluation & planning session; looking back at the week and evaluate how we’ve been progressing on our goals, course correct if necessary, but also plan for the week that will come.
My name is Alexander Nilsson, thank you for reading,
(1) Hampton, D. (2015) What’s the difference between feelings and emotions? Available at: http://www.thebestbrainpossible.com/whats-the-difference-between-feelings-and-emotions/ (Accessed: 30 January 2017).
(2) Wikipedia (2011) File: Plutchik-wheel.Svg – Wikimedia commons. Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13285286 (Accessed: 30 January 2017).