Are you conscious right now?
That sounds like a daft question, doesn’t it? Of course you are conscious – you’re awake and reading this article.
You may be conscious in the literal sense, but being awake and scanning your eyes over this text isn’t the same as being truly conscious.
After all, how many times have you “awoken” from a period of being utterly zoned out to the world around you?
Perhaps you’ve walked, or worse, driven somewhere, but you can’t remember any of the journey.
Maybe you’ve read a page of a book, only to reach the end and realize that you didn’t actually absorb anything that was written.
Truth is, you live this way far more often than you think.
You sleepwalk through life thinking and acting on autopilot.
Conscious living can change all that.
But what is conscious living and how can you adopt it in your life?
Let’s take this one step at a time.
Step 1: Understand the meaning of conscious living.
Before you can live consciously, you have to know what it really means.
Conscious living is the act of thinking about things and acting upon things from a position of full awareness.
It is the choice to be an active participant in life, rather than being a passenger.
When you live consciously, you are able to see the various paths available to you at any given time and choose which one to take, rather than walking blindly down one of them.
Being conscious to life allows you to see things more clearly, understand how one thing leads to or impacts another, and move in a direction that most benefits you.
Step 2: Identify the blocks to conscious living.
As simple as it sounds to live consciously, there are many things that might prevent us from doing so.
It is vital that you are aware of these things so that you might find ways to reduce their impact on the way you live.
Some of the most important ones are:
Your past – the things that have happened in your life up until this point still influence you, even though they have passed.
Your experiences have shaped who you are, but this does not mean you have to continue being that person today, tomorrow, or into the future.
If you are willing to cut ties to those past events that keep you moving through life on autopilot, feeling powerless to change, then you can lead a more conscious existence.
Related article: How To Let Go Of The Past: 16 No Bullsh*t Tips!
Your habits and routines – these can be positive or they can be negative.
You don’t need to abandon all of them to live consciously. You just need to examine each of them and ask how beneficial they are to you.
Then, slowly and steadily, you can challenge those habits and routines that keep you locked in a life of unconsciousness.
Just because you do something the same way and at the same time each day or week or month, it doesn’t mean you should continue to do so.
People’s expectations of you – how you wish to live your life can often and easily be clouded by the desires and expectations of other people or society.
You might end up thinking or behaving in a particular way because this is what is deemed preferable or even acceptable.
When other people are making decisions about how you should live your life, it creates a real barrier to conscious living.
Your urges and desires – sometimes you may feel almost compelled by an inner force to do something.
Some people believe that these urges are natural and not to be questioned, but if you think and act based on pure impulse, you may end up regretting it. No doubt you have experienced this on several occasions.
You may believe that you should do a thing because you struggle to control your urges toward it, but those urges blind you to the wider implications of your actions.
Your emotions – emotions are a wonderful thing, but they can also corrupt your mind and make you act in ways that you wouldn’t otherwise act.
When you are driven by feelings of anger, fear, or envy, for instance, you may choose a path that leads somewhere other than where you would like to go.
This is the opposite of conscious living where you are equipped to make the best choice given your current knowledge about a situation.
Distractions – when your mind gets pulled away from one thought onto another without you realizing it, you have been distracted.
Unfortunately, this world is teeming with relentless things that can sidetrack your attention and take you away from a life of consciousness.
From nearby events that have no bearing on your life to the marketing campaigns of companies trying to sell you something, it is easy for your train of thought to be derailed.
Step 3: Practice conscious thinking.
Conscious living starts in the mind. Whilst your actions can influence your thoughts, that influence more often goes in the opposite direction.
Thinking, or rather the control of your thoughts, is crucial in determining how you live your life.
This boils down to a number of things:
Attention – what your mind is focused on at any given time.
When your thoughts have a clear purpose and they are aligned with whatever action you are performing, you can be said to be living consciously.
When you ruminate on the same thoughts over and over, you are not living consciously.
Ruminating is most likely caused by negative feelings about an issue you are facing. It’s up to you to move your attention to something else.
Beliefs – the principles that guide the way you think and act.
Conscious thinking requires that you continually evaluate your beliefs to see if they still align with the type of person you wish to be.
It also means not blindly believing something that someone else has said without fact-checking it through a trustworthy and reliable source first.
Choices – when presented with a variety of options, this is the way you decide which one to take.
Choices can be complicated, or they can be as simple as saying “yes” or “no” to something.
Your everyday life is made up of a series of hundreds of little choices, punctuated every so often with something more important.
Conscious decision-making involves trying your best to fully understand the consequences of each option before choosing the one that best fits your short, medium, or long term preferences.
Clarity – knowing what you think and why you think it.
Most thoughts seem to spontaneously appear in your mind, but many come about directly or indirectly because of something else. Something you see or hear, for instance.
It’s important that the thoughts that may potentially impact your life are examined to determine where they have come from.
Are these thoughts your own or have you been influenced by someone or something else. If you have been influenced, have you given them due consideration and engaged in some critical thinking about what they really mean?
Gaining clarity on your thoughts prevents you falling into the trap of being an unwitting sheep following the flock.
Mindfulness – maintaining your awareness of the present moment.
This is what you might think of when you consider conscious living, but your interpretation of it might not always match reality.
Being mindful could mean using your five senses to help ground yourself in the now.
It can also mean being absorbed in a worthwhile train of thought. This could be related to work, planning something, or a period of self-reflection.
You may believe that this takes you away from the present moment, but if your focus is unbroken, you are in the present moment, free from distractions.
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Step 4: Practice conscious consumption.
You live consciously when you are aware of what you consume and the effects this has on you.
What you put or allow into your life inevitably affects what you get out of it. And this all comes down to the choices you make, which is why it’s tied together with conscious thinking.
Conscious consumption covers a number of different areas.
Food and drink – the most basic form of consumption is what you put in your mouth to sustain your body and mind.
There is ample advice on healthy eating available. This doesn’t mean it is always easy to follow.
But by being aware of how what you eat and drink impacts the way you think, act, and live, you can shift closer and closer to something that resembles the most appropriate diet for you.
Material possessions – what you buy has a bigger impact on you than you might imagine.
Do you feel the need to buy new clothes or gadgets regularly to satisfy a craving?
Is your happiness dependent on owning/buying certain things – totems of success such as flashy clothes, cars, or even nice vacations?
Shopping consciously means stopping to consider whether or not you really need to make a purchase, or whether you’d be better off saving that money or doing something else with it.
Entertainment – how you choose to be entertained is up to you, but living consciously involves understanding the long-term effects of your choices.
There are pros and cons to most forms of entertainment, from rock concerts and partying to reading and online gaming.
Conscious consumption asks that you weigh up these pros and cons to find a balance that at best stimulates and at worst doesn’t hold back your personal growth.
News and information – you have an immense database of information at your fingertips, with more being added each day via the news cycle.
But much of this is surplus to requirements and simply clutters up your mind.
If you want to live consciously, you must be picky about the information you feed your mind.
Not least because it can have a huge impact on your mental and emotional well-being.
People – the people you choose to spend time with is a form of consumption that you have some control over.
If there is someone in your life who is bringing you down or causing a great deal of stress and anxiety, you can choose to stop consuming their company.
You can distance yourself from them to lessen the negative influence they have on you.
This may not always be easy, but it is a potential option you might wish to consider.
Step 5: Practice conscious action.
Your actions are what connect you to the wider world. How you choose to act has ramifications for the people and things around you.
Remaining conscious as you act is, again, closely linked to conscious thinking.
There are a few circumstances to consider.
Acting based on outcomes – have you thought about the potential consequences of your actions before you take them?
It’s good to be spontaneous at times, but there are plenty of other times when due thought and consideration have to be given before you make your move.
Do you know roughly what is going to happen if you act in a certain way? Is that outcome truly desirable?
Knowing this can help you act or not act in a given way.
Acting based on the impact to others – have you considered how your actions may affect the lives of other people?
If so, are those effects something you are okay with?
For instance, if you decide to spend a great deal of money on a fancy new phone, will your partner be upset because you keep claiming you are broke? Will their trust in you be diminished?
Acting based on growth – are you taking the action required to live a healthier, happier life?
Being conscious about your actions means choosing to act in a way that promotes positive change in your life.
Does what you are doing – or thinking of doing – contribute to your physical or emotional well-being in some way?
Acting in line with your morals – are you behaving in a way that goes with or against your deeply-held beliefs?
It’s easy to get swept up in emotions or the actions of others and do something that goes against the sort of person you wish to be.
But acting consciously means checking in with your gut for any alarm bells that may suggest you shouldn’t be doing something.
Acting to the best of your best abilities – are you putting in the effort and dedication to the task at hand?
This is where conscious living becomes conscientious living.
It’s about following through on promises, committing to something, being willing to put in some hard graft where necessary.
It’s not about looking for ways to cut corners, doing a substandard job, or finding excuses for not doing something at all.
Acting with courage – are you willing to face challenges and uncertainty to do the right thing?
Sometimes, the right path is the most difficult path. It can be tempting to take an easier path instead.
Living consciously means not bowing to the difficulties of a particular choice if it is the choice that is best for you in the long term.
Step 6: Practice conscious direction.
Your life is going a certain way, but is it the way you want?
You have a certain degree of control and influence over where your life heads, and conscious direction is what is needed.
This involves things such as working out what type of life you wish to have in the future and setting goals that will help you reach that point.
It also involves spotting opportunities when they arise and taking conscious action to make the most of them.
It is the opposite to what many people do which is to allow external circumstances to dictate their life’s course.
To keep you on your chosen path, it can be helpful to come up with a life motto by which you are guided. You’d be amazed at how a short phrase or just a few words can bring you back to what you really want in life when you feel yourself and your mind wandering.
Step 7: Practice conscious authenticity.
It can be quite tempting to act and live in a way that pleases others in an attempt to win friends or influence people.
But that is not conscious living.
When you live consciously, you act from a place of authenticity. You don’t try to be anyone other than yourself.
You are willing to stand up for yourself, make your views heard, and ruffle a few feathers if you have to.
Whilst you should remain respectful of other people and their boundaries, you must be ready to challenge anybody who tries to push up against your own boundaries.
“Be yourself” is a common message, but one that is vital for living a conscious life.
Related article: How To Be Yourself: 5 Tips For Being Real, Authentic, And Not Fake
Step 8: Practice conscious acceptance.
Some things are outside of your control.
It’s important that you accept those things that happen that you could not have stopped from happening.
You might think that this step contradicts conscious direction from step 6, but it doesn’t.
Whilst you have to accept some things as they are, this doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to address the situation and make it better after the event.
People are outside of your control too.
It’s just as important to accept that as much as you may wish a person was a certain way, it is not within your control to make them that way.
You have to accept others for who they are in the moment.
But, again, you are not powerless. Your influence could be the seed of change that sprouts and grows in another person.
This doesn’t mean manipulating people or trying to mold someone in an image you wish them to be. It means being a positive influence on others so that they can grow as individuals.
You just have to accept that your influence alone will never be enough – they have to want to change or grow too.
So there you have it, the 8 steps to conscious living. Make a mental note of these and return to them often to ensure that you remain on the right path.
And remember, whilst each step is simple, it is not always easy. You have to keep checking in with yourself and putting the effort in if you wish to succeed.