Empowerment Part 4: Awareness

My son, Reed, crossing the finish line of his first triathlon at age 7. Athletes use awareness to stay present in the game, keep their focus and reach their goals. Photo by Jeff Wooten.

My son, Reed, crossing the finish line of his first triathlon at age 7. Athletes use awareness to stay present in the game, keep their focus and reach their goals. Photo by Jeff Wooten.

Have you ever had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day? The kind where everything went wrong and you were mired in misery and all you could do was feel bad? I used to have days like this, until I learned how to be aware.

Probably the most important tool I’ve learned on my path to empowerment is AWARENESS. It started during a rough time in my life, when I was experiencing frequent flashbacks, headaches and an overall sense of stress from a negative altercation. When I read this wonderful book Emotional Chaos to Clarity by Phillip Moffitt, I learned how to be aware; I learned that I was NOT my feelings and I learned what all the hubub about being present meant. Being present brings peace because you aren’t thinking about the past or the future, just the moment you are in.

Get Out of Drama

Becoming aware of my thoughts and feelings helped me step out of the drama of the moment so that I could determine how to proceed. By becoming aware of these feelings, I could remind myself I was having an emotional response due the situation I was in and that I could adjust.

Before I read the book, I didn’t understand the value of being present, I didn’t realize my thoughts could change or that they weren’t always true.

Linked to mindfulness, awareness has enabled me to really hear the negative whispers that I get on occasion. The “you can’t do that,” or the “he doesn’t like you,” messages that can hinder my progress. Before I learned this technique, I just believed these thoughts…they were background noise to my already noisy mind and I didn’t realize I had the power to notice, question and eliminate these ideas.

When I notice I’m having negative thoughts, I can acknowledge them and let them go without judgement. “Oh, you’re feeling afraid that you can’t speak in front of that audience. Good to know,” or “Wow, that statement really hurt your feelings. Interesting.” By noticing and acknowledging the feelings, they go away quicker and allow me to move forward.

The Moment Matters

Awareness also keeps me in the moment. When I notice my thoughts running amok, I can bring them back to the moment, whether I be speaking to someone, cooking dinner or taking a walk.

Sports psychologists teach athletes to do this—to stay focused on the moment, not the mistake they just made or the words of a coach or an opponent. Surgeons must do this when cutting into a patient—staying focused on the moment rather than the morning’s argument with their child or the grocery list.

That Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Day

So, when you’re in the midst of the very bad moment, what do you do? You breathe. You take a minute and notice your feelings. You then acknowledge the feeling and try to gain a bit of perspective on what it’s about. Then, you come back to the present—whether you’re stirring the soup or writing an article. You laugh, if you can, and you repeat the process if you need to.

When I was in the throws of learning this, I truly had to repeat it frequently. I would get get lost in my own thoughts, in pretend conversations and not even notice I wasn’t present in my body. It took time.

Reaching Our Goals

As I said in my last post, the point of my blog is to help you get out of your own way so that you can reach your goals. To reach your goals you need awareness—awareness of your goals and why they are important to you. You’ll also need awareness when things pop in the way of your achieving them, whether they be your thoughts, fears, an email or text, social media.

We all must practice awareness—to stay focused on our goals, on the life we want to live, the people who are important to us, each and every day.