Being conscious comes down to awareness, which must be as clear as possible. If your awareness is dulled by routine work, it isn’t clear. We covered this in the last two posts. The second thing in everyone’s life that makes them unconscious is limited coping skills. Crises don’t usually dominate everyday life. It’s an endless stream of minor challenges, demands, and duties that eats up our time – and our awareness.
Better coping skills will leave you more time to think and the mental space to think better.
When someone is overwhelmed by daily pressures, here are the common reasons for it:
Taking on too much responsibility.
- Trying to exert too much control.
- Performance anxiety – worrying about what can go wrong.
- Treating the small stuff as if it’s big stuff.
- Demanding too much of yourself.
- Allocating time in inefficient ways.
You may not have looked at these are coping mechanisms, but they are. Each one is a response to stress and pressure. To prove that to yourself, look at how you approach a hobby that you love. The pressure is off, and that means no micromanaging, exerting too much control, or making extreme demands. (For the moment, we’ll set aside the kind of people who bring stress home and behave as if everything is work.) If you can divide how you approach a hobby from how you approach work, you have made a step toward living consciously. You can see that you are capable of two modes of getting things done.
In hobby mode, you handle things in the following way:
- Being relaxed.
- Having fun.
- Enjoying yourself.
- Feeling no pressure.
- Appreciating the steps that get you to your goal.
- Immersing yourself in the process.
- Being focused and centered at the same time.
The trick is to bring this set of attitudes to work and adapt them to stressful situations and the demands that pile up around everyone. I realize that some hobbies, like playing softball on the weekend or competitive sailing – can be just as pressured and stressful as work. But the point is to recognize your ability to be in two different states of awareness. Once you recognize them, you can choose which one to be in. the job doesn’t force you to be stressed. Staying unconscious does.
There are steps you can take to be conscious by adopting a different style of coping. We’ll investigate them in the next post, which should benefit anyone who has paid the price for reacting to stress in ways that are harmful to personal happiness as well as success at work.