Good morning, good afternoon or good evening, wherever you are
For many people, all that stuff about awareness is new age and coach-speak, the fluffy, soft stuff. Yet, the scientists tell us that a lack of awareness is at the heart of some serious diseases – cancer, heart disease, anxiety and depression. Cancer and heart disease alone apparently cause seventy-five percent of deaths globally.
It works like this. Something triggers us to react. After all, we are taught that for every stimulus there is a reaction. What generally happens, then, is that we immediately go into autopilot – we fall back into the unhelpful patterns of thinking, feeling and acting that we habitually react with, without thinking – if you like, the reflexive, self-defeating behaviours of our personalities. We have, as Riso and Hudson, remind us, “fallen asleep to our true nature.” As a result, we keep repeating the same behaviours and habits, many of which don’t serve us well.
If we are asleep to these recurrent reactions, then surely we need to wake up to what is happening, that is become aware of what we are doing, in order to respond more appropriately, actually more healthily, to these stimuli. It takes conscious choice to do so – in fact, we are always able to choose our response to a stimulus, and we must if we are to clean up our act and show up more positively or constructively. This process of being asleep, waking up, cleaning up and showing up is probably better known in the West as moving from unconscious incompetence (we don’t know what we don’t know), to conscious incompetence (we know what we don’t know), conscious competence (we consciously practise our new responses) and finally unconscious competence (a new and better serving habit to replace the old knee-jerk reaction).
All change, growth and development, then, starts with awareness. Without awareness, we continue doing what we have always done, reacting in a way that our personality has become comfortable with. Very often these responses involve negative emotions – anxiety, anger, frustration etc., which over time lead to depression, hypertension, heart disease and/or cancer. What horrible things we do to ourselves!
So, how might we become more aware? Well, the first thing we need to do is to STOP, step back from the stimulus or situation – take a couple of deep breaths, if necessary. Without stopping, we automatically go back into, well, autopilot – those reflexive, self-defeating behaviours. The first compulsory step to awareness, is to stop!
In fact, Timothy Gallwey used the acronym S.T.O.P. years ago as a tool that you might find useful. As you may have guessed, the ‘S’ stands for stop! The ‘T’ stands for think: think about what has just happened (the stimulus), how you are feeling, and why. ‘O’ is for options or, as I prefer, organizing your thoughts (the one’s under ‘T’) by pivoting them into more appropriate thoughts, where appropriate. Finally, the ‘P’ stands for proceed – now just go ahead and carry out the more appropriate thoughts.
With practice (conscious competence) I have found that once one stops, the rest of the steps flow automatically, a new more effective autopilot approach (unconscious competence). This means that carrying out the steps can soon be done in a second or two, or as long as you like.
Try this: set an alarm on your mobile for at least five or six times during the day. When your alarm goes off, take fifteen to thirty seconds only, to go through the STOP steps. The thing here is to get into the habit of doing it – of cleaning up the automatic unhelpful patterns of thinking, feeling and acting that we habitually present. The quality will come later, with practice – there’s that conscious competence phase again!
Of course, we all know about “best intentions”, don’t we! As Marcia Reynolds says in her great book, Coach the Person, not the Problem:
“When we question what we know, we are open to learning. We just don’t do this well when left to figure things out on our own.”
So, if you’re getting in your own way again (as we all tend to do from time to time), please feel free to reach out to me (without any obligation) and let’s see how I might be able to help you raise your awareness and your game so that you can show up at your best more of the time.
I’d love to hear your comments of the views and ideas I have shared this week. Please feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Either way, I look forward to hearing from you.
In the meanwhile, please take wearing your mask, washing your hands and social distancing seriously at this time. Keep safe and keep well!