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Self Awareness Is Underrated: Why the Conscious Mind Leads to Happiness

Self Awareness Is Underrated: Why the Conscious Mind Leads to Happiness

Whether your life is motoring along beautifully or you feel like you’re hitting one pot hole after another with constant grief and hardship, there are things you can do to have a better life. One of the things I think we’re seeing more and more is moving away from a desire for material riches, and a desire for freedom (emotional and physical.) And instead of seeking things, we are seeking feelings. We want to get away from pain and hurt, guilt and sadness, and want to experience more fulfilment, love and happiness.

Even I read that paragraph and thought “Mandie when did you become a flowers in the hair kind of girl?” However, the fact is we do seem to be craving different things to what I’ve seen people come to me for coaching for in the past. And one of the most important things we are learning from this shift is that, no matter how fun or fear packed your life, no matter how much you hate and loathe or enjoy and love your life right now, there are things you can do to make it better. Right now, at this very moment. Not with more money, a bigger house, a newer car, or a smaller or larger body, not with your boss’s job or a house on a beach; today, at this very minute you could create a better life.

Really?

I speak from experience here. In the first half of 2017, I attended three funerals of people far too young. Three members of my family had serious health scares. My hard drive blew up, so did our boiler. (On the coldest week of the year!) It felt like the electric goods around the house were conspiring against us, both of our cars were hit while we weren’t even in them within in two weeks. And my beautiful Springer Spaniel fell ill suddenly and I had to have him put down when my Husband was on the other side of the world. And that is just some of the stuff that happened in the first half of this year. It was hard to not feel victimized, and like there was some evil deity reigning down a torrent of hell on the Holgate family. And having suffered from severe depression that nearly killed me 13 years ago, I will be honest and say I feared for my mental health.

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Despite the feeling of “is this really all happening to us?” that aimed to raise it’s ugly head, I managed to stay happy. It become the Holgate mantra that the harder times got, the happier we felt. How is that possible and why does it matter?

You see no matter what happens on the outside, we can choose what we think and feel on the inside and when we appreciate the power of this self awareness we can dramatically change not just our day, but our futures too.

Now it gets interesting, right?

Have you ever heard the saying “Who got out of bed on the wrong side?” That person moves through their day feeling miserable, frustrated and struggles to hold compelling conversations or get the results they want to. Did it start with these bad results? No of course not, it started with the thought that created the actions that delivered the results.

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Being able to be self aware is a powerful way to power up your happiness, actions and success. It enables you to be in touch with who you truly are.

My own experience taught me that I have a very blessed life (despite the three auto immune diseases and losing my dear pet.) It reinforced for me that I’m on the right path, going for the right goals for the right reasons. Many people find that despite achieving success in the traditional ways, they still lack happiness and it is highly likely it could come down to not being self aware of what matters to you.

5 Powerful Steps to Build Self Awareness

Here I share my 5 top tips to self awareness and how this power could help you achieve more personally, professionally and emotionally.

1. Drop the Victim Act

This has been so powerful for so many that I’ve worked with (including myself). Have you noticed how around some people, you are confident and capable; and around others you feel like a child? Or maybe you lose your power? Be aware of how you feel around different people. It is not your job to change people, it is your responsibility to change the way you perceive people and handle them. This is an internal exercise. Maybe you were bullied at school and you still question if people are your friends, and this impacts on your choice of activities and level of trust. Maybe you had an over critical parent or teacher and still find yourself berating things that you do. Become aware of these beliefs that you may have stored for decades. You don’t have to challenge them if that feels too big a step. Just notice them at this stage.

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2. Respect, Accept and Appreciate Who You Are

I remember up until only about seven years ago that someone I love dearly would say “You are so over sensitive Mandie!” and for years I saw that as a negative. I actually learned that I was not respecting who Mandie was. How can you achieve the things in life that make you happy, including just pure love for you that leads to internal genuine happiness if you don’t respect who you are? It may sound like a girlie fluffy subject, however by not respecting yourself and understanding your own emotional intelligence, you can seriously damage your chances of achieving. I learned for instance that what I’d seen as oversensitivity was in fact one of the reasons that I find coaching so easy and powerful—I can truly connect on a level that most people miss.

3. Learn What You Truly Value

If you learn to respect, accept and appreciate who you are, you can still find that you have emotional negative attachment to elements of who you are. By learning to hear and listen to your values, you can become more self aware and go for things that really matter to you.

In my book Fight the fear – how to beat your negative mindset and win in life, I recommend the values exercise. It enables you to explore on a subconscious level to learn what really matters to you. This is great for when you fear that you are concentrating on the wrong things in life—often being impacted on by the outside world, rather than hearing and knowing your own values.

4. Reframe Your Negative Thoughts

So after you’ve learned to accept who you are, you can still find that negativity is impacting on your ability to become self aware. If you have feelings of low value and self worth, it’s hard to want to listen to more of your thoughts. Re-framing your thoughts can help.

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Listen carefully to your negative thoughts, beliefs and feelings. Don’t try and change them, just acknowledge them. What comes next? Is it a physical thing, an emotion or a belief? By following the flow of this, you can create a negative spiral of what happens to you when you are not self aware. The awesome thing is I’ve used this process with so many clients to shift them fast into a positive spiral. Here is an example of how many of us struggle to accept compliments.

    5. Ditch the Shallow Self Development

    With a growing appreciation around the world that our minds impact on our success, alas there are some that are exploring this subject on a very superficial level. While any level is better than nothing, you need to do your homework if you really want to be self aware. Expecting results by osmosis or by reading motivational posters is not enough. Aristotle, Einstein and so many others have indeed said powerful things about our minds and our ability to achieve true happiness, creativity and success. However remember that at their core they were people of action too.

    By always assessing your self awareness, you can learn to not just respect who you are but to trust this true version of you. And that could be incredibly powerful on so many levels.

    Buy Mandie’s book Fight the Fear – How to beat your negative mindset and win in life on Amazon

    More by this author

    Mandie Holgate

    Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

    How to Fight Your Irrational Fears And Stay Strong Motion vs Action: Which One Is More Important for Success? 9 Most Essential Leadership Attributes of a Great Leader What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours How to Make a Positive Change for a Fulfilling Life

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    How to Live Your Best Life Starting Today

    How to Live Your Best Life Starting Today

    As human beings, one of our deepest-rooted desires is to have a meaningful and happy existence. You’ve probably heard of the saying, “Live your best life.” It’s good advice.

    We all want to feel connected to both ourselves and others. We want to feel that we’re part of something important and that we’re making a difference in the world.

    We want to look back at our lives and our achievements and be proud. In short, we want what the saying says: to live our best lives.

    But what does it really mean to live your best life?

    You are a unique individual, so living your best life is exclusive to you. Your best life will reflect your true values. It will be made up of what makes you happy and will be colored by what making a difference means to you.

    What Stops You From Living Your Best Life?

    While living your best life is all about you, what other people think can have an impact on your quest to live your best life.

    Social media, for example, puts us under a lot of pressure. There are specific expectations of what “happy” looks like, and we’re under pressure to conform to what society expects.

    For example, we are pressured to look a certain way, wear the “right” clothes, have exciting adventures with eye-catching friends, eat ethical and healthy food, and do charity work.

    These are only a few of society’s expectations. It’s a long list.

    Social media claims to connect us, but often it can do the opposite.

    We can spend so much time worrying about what other people are doing, trying to live the life that society expects of us, that it can be easy to lose track of what makes us happy and what our best life actually looks like.

    Start the Journey

    What does it look like to live your best life? The following are some practical tips and tools to move from living your current life to living your best life.

    1. Be the Best Version of Yourself

    To live your best life, you must be the best version of yourself. Don’t try to be something or someone else. Don’t try to be what other people want you to be.

    Focus on who you want to be. Play to your strengths and be proud of what makes you different. You are brilliant.

    Gretchen Rubin, in her book Happiness Project, created her own commandments. The first one was “Be Gretchen.” This gave her permission to follow her gut feeling and make up her own rules.

    For example, she stopped forcing herself to enjoy parties, cocktails, and fashion just because that’s what she thought society expected.

    So, inspired by Gretchen, create your own commandment: “Be more YOU,” and remind yourself of this every day, unapologetically.

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    2. Observe Yourself

    To work out what the best you looks like, you must get to know yourself better. It’s your best life after all – not anyone else’s.

    Start to notice how you respond to various situations. What are your habits? What makes you happy? What frustrates you? How do you behave under pressure? What gives you energy? What drains you?

    Spend a week simply noticing. Write your observations down so you remember.

    3. Identify Your Bad Habits

    As part of your observations, start to notice your bad habits. Consider the things that don’t ultimately make you feel good.

    Does scrolling mindlessly through Instagram make you happy? For 5 minutes, perhaps, but for longer?

    That last glass of wine was delicious, but do you pay the price later?

    That chocolate was enjoyable at the moment, but now that the sugar high is over, are you feeling regretful?

    Observe yourself first. Then, start to deliberately do more of the things that make you happy and give you energy.

    At the same time, work on reducing then eliminating the habits that squander your time, drain your energy, and ultimately don’t make you happy.

    Need help conquering your bad habits? Read How to Break Bad Habits Once and For All.

    4. Set Intentions

    After having thought about what makes you happy and what drains your energy, focus on what living the best life looks like for you.

    One of the keys to this is being intentional about it. When you deliberately set intentions, you are more likely to act with purpose and drive.

    Setting intentions is different from setting goals. Goals are your list of things you want to achieve. You can set them daily, monthly, yearly, or a combination.

    A common practice is to define goals and write them down. This makes them more tangible and makes you more accountable, therefore, making the goals more likely to happen.

    The subtle yet important difference between goals and intentions is that when setting intentions, you decide what kind of positive feelings and emotions you are seeking.

    For example, “This week, my intention is to approach my admin tasks with gusto in order to complete them more quickly.”

    Intentions can be more motivating than goals because if you don’t achieve your goal, it can feel like a failure and can ultimately hold you back.

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    If you don’t achieve your intention to approach something in a specific way, you can more easily regroup and have another try.

    Write down your intentions every month, week, or day, using whichever time frame works best for you.

    For example, “I intend to enjoy going swimming three times this week” or “I intend to assertively build my network in my local area this month.”

    Setting intentions gives you something to focus on, and it also helps to manage the feeling of being overwhelmed that often happens when we set ourselves goals.

    5. Visualize Living Your Best Life

    Visualization can help you to cement your intentions. It involves visualizing how it would feel to live your best life once you achieve it.

    It can help you to further establish what you want and allow you to settle into a positive mindset.

    To visualize, first choose your focus. Choose a specific intention and how you will feel once it is accomplished. Then, take the time to daydream and allow your imagination to wander.

    For example, if your intention is going swimming three times a week, imagine what you will look and feel like:

    • What will you wear?
    • How do you get there?
    • What time of day do you go?
    • How do you feel when you’re in the water?
    • How do you feel afterward?

    Ask yourself these little questions and allow yourself to feel the same feelings you would feel if you were currently fulfilling your intention.

    10 Ways to Live Your Best Life

    Now that you’ve decided and visualized what your best life looks like, let’s look at some more practical steps you can take to achieve it.

    1. Focus

    Whatever you do, focus. If you swim, swim. If you study, study. Multitasking is a myth. It’s not possible to do more than one thing at a time well. Focused work is the least tiresome and the most productive type of work.

    Michael LeBouf, the author of The Millionaire in You, said,

    “Winners focus, losers spray.”

    2. Take Responsibility for Taking Action

    Taking action can feel scary. We fear failure, but we can also fear success. It can be easy to feel too busy to achieve your intentions.

    However, you have the choice to take action and live your best life or stay the same. It’s up to you, so take responsibility to take action.

    3. Live in the Present

    Every day is a new opportunity to live your best life. We so often get stuck because we put things off.

    We can think, “When I’ve lost 10 lbs I’ll go swimming,” or “When I feel more confident I’ll look for a new job,” or “When I get my new running shoes I’ll start running.”

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    How about starting from where you are? How about using what you already have?

    We often put off taking action until we have the newest phone/camera/game/course/book/shoes as if they are the keys to happiness. In the process, we forget about what we already have.

    Grab the camera that you have, put on your old running shoes. Go and do something interesting today with what you’ve got. Fancier gadgets, better clothes, or a slimmer body won’t make you better.

    Action will.

    4. Declutter

    This applies to the environment you live in as well as the people you spend time with. Use Marie Kondo’s decluttering method of asking, “Does it bring you joy?”[1]

    If your answer is yes, you keep the item. If you hesitate or say no, you donate it or throw it out. Simple.

    This also applies to people. If there are people in your life that make you feel bad, drain your energy, and don’t bring you joy, let go of them.

    Instead, spend time with the people and activities that give you energy and make you feel good.

    5. Relish the Simple Things

    When we’re busy, we can forget to appreciate what we have. Take time to focus on the simple things. Even when you’re feeling low, there’s always something to be grateful for.

    In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.[2] Be deliberate in being grateful for what you do have, rather than resentful of what you don’t.

    6. Journaling

    Journaling

    is simply writing your thoughts down.

    According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, writing your thoughts and feelings down on paper not only helps you get your thoughts in order, but it can also help ease symptoms of depression and manage stress and anxiety.[3]

    In the chaos of life, it is easy to overthink, feel anxious, or not appreciate what you do have. Journaling can help you manage your thoughts and feelings and productively cope with life.

    Be curious and keep learning. Ask more questions and keep pushing yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and learn.

    What are you interested in or curious about? Perhaps it’s learning more about where you live, or reading up on a particular topic? Maybe it’s traveling to a new town or country?

    According to Dan Pink’s research, learning is a key motivator.[4] Whether you feel like you’ve gotten stuck in a boring routine or you’re stressed by the tasks of daily life, learning something new is a way to step outside yourself and your comfort zone.

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    Create a bucket list of all the things you’d like to do and learn and the places you’d like to go to, and start ticking them off.

    7. Make Someone’s Day

    Being kind to others makes them feel good, and it also releases chemicals in your body that make you feel good. Think about a time you gave someone a gift that they loved. How did you feel?

    You don’t have to start giving people gifts to make someone’s day. Think about small, thoughtful gestures: a genuine compliment, opening the door, offering to help someone.

    All these things can make a big difference in someone’s day.

    8. Look After Your Body

    Eat what nourishes you, including plenty of vegetables and fruit and food that’s natural and unprocessed. Drink plenty of water.

    Exercise because you like it, not because you’re supposed to go to the gym.

    Reject the idea that you have to push yourself really hard at exercise, and instead try out a variety of things – for example, walking the dog, gardening, yoga, swimming, or dancing.

    Find what you enjoy. When you enjoy something, you’ll be motivated to do it more.

    Get good rest! We’re all different in terms of the amount of sleep that we need. However, most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep.

    If you’re not getting that much, then check out healthy sleep tips from the Sleep Foundation.[5]

    More tips for staying healthy: Powerful Daily Routine Examples for a Healthy and High-Achieving You.

    9. Manage Your Inner Critic

    Most people have an inner critic that tells them they are not good enough, that they’re a fraud, and that they are going to be found out.

    This happens especially when we step out of our comfort zone and change things. If you are living your best life, your inner critic likes to jeopardize that.

    The next time it appears, acknowledge what’s happening and call it out. Whatever it is telling you, list all the reasons it’s wrong.

    10. Be Prepared to Change the Plan

    You may have set intentions to live your best life. However, life is not linear, nor does it work in lists. You must expect to be flexible and change the plan as life throws things at you.

    The end game remains the same: to live your best life. It’s just the route to get there that will inevitably change.

    Conclusion

    Live each day like it counts, and remember, it’s your choice. Your best life is unique to you. Don’t compare yourself to others – focus on living your best life, and enjoy the learning, exploration, and experiences along the way.

    More Tips on How You Can Live Your Best Life

    Featured photo credit: Juliana Malta via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Kon Mari: Tidy your space, transform your life
    [2] Harvard Health Publishing: In Praise of Gratitude
    [3] University of Rochester Medical Center: Journaling for Mental Health
    [4] Daniel H. Pink: Dan Pink on Motivation
    [5] Sleep Foundation: Healthy Sleep Tips

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