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Are You Conscious Or Clueless?

Through the pain of a mental illness, I learned some valuable lessons:

  • Writing is the best way to structure your thinking.
  • Improvement happens when you apply what you read.
  • You can learn a lot by observing yourself.
  • To live consciously is to be responsible for how your life turns out.

Prior to this experience, I was clueless of where I was going in life. In dealing with the pain, however, I acquired these tools — and they helped me get more conscious.

The sad truth is that many people go through life without ever paying much attention to their thoughts. They’re living in the same patters — over and over — almost unconscious of their own approach to life.

In the psychological literature, growing conscious with age is seen as a normal developmental pattern. But the literature also points out that some people will never achieve the highest levels of consciousness.

Some, although few, are simply not capable. Others just won’t, because growing into consciousness can be painful. You’re forced to leave the unconscious sphere of childhood, and take some responsibility for your life. To be conscious, is to be aware — and that means being aware of your own faults. And it means being aware of the dark side of human nature.

However, if you’re not living consciously, you might end up in places you might not want to visit. If you’re not consciously controlling your life, something else, or someone else will.

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist, said that, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

The rest of this article will help you with that.

Structure Your Thinking

“I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I write and I understand.” — Chinese Proverb

If you’re not paying attention, you’ll just act out whatever habits you have accustomed to. You’re on autopilot — operating unconsciously.

While we’re all doing it sometimes, it can be useful to be able to break the habitual patterns. If things aren’t going very well, for example, chances are you need to get more conscious of your situation.

Writing can help you. You can gain important insights about yourself and your situation— things that might be difficult to point out without writing.

Through writing, you become conscious of who you are and where you’re going in life.

Writing is even useful, if you do have a great awareness; you’re likely to know that thinking can be a real mess sometimes — and especially in difficult situations. When there’s a problem, like mental illness, stress or heartache, getting a hold on your thoughts can be extremely difficult.

Luckily, writing can help you gain control. A disorganized mind can quickly become organized, through the simple exercise of writing. It changes the mental representations of your thoughts, making them more objective, and thus easier to observe and detach from.

Writing enables you to structure your thinking, articulate yourself, and gain clarity of your situation. Problems become more apparent, faulty thinking shines through, and you make yourself understood.

Writing is therapy.

Apply What You Read

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply.”— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Another habit that goes hand-in-hand with writing is of course, reading.

Reading can make you aware of new ideas, concepts, and things you never knew existed. This way, you get a more well-rounded idea of the world, and even yourself. You grow conscious, as you’re exposed to new things and are forced to do some reflections.

Just as writing is a form of therapy, reading can also provide that function. In effective psychological interventions, psychoeducation is usually the very first step. Here, people learn about the issue at hand, making them better able to understand the problem and cope with the situation. Reading can normalize a difficult situation, by clearly explaining the phenomenon.

While reading has always been an easy way to acquire information, now, with the Internet there are no limits to what you can learn. All the world’s information is available. The question is, what are you going to do about it?

The truth is, there’s often a big discrepancy between what people read and what people apply. Derek Sivers, an entrepreneur and writer put it this way: “If information were the answer, we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs”

Reading is not enough; we must apply.

Reading is indeed powerful. It can illuminate ideas, inspire through stories, and bring you the greatest lessons from the greatest people in the world. But applying is how you actually make that information valuable.

Reading just for reading’s sake, is arguably just a waste of time — keeping you from ever doing something.

Learn Through Observation

“You can only find out what you actually believe (rather than what you think you believe) by watching how you act. You simply don’t know what you believe, before that. You are too complex to understand yourself.” — Jordan Peterson

If you’re not conscious of your actions, it can feel frustrating when things aren’t working out. “Why is the world so unfair?” you might ask.

Well, it’s true that it’s unfair. However, by increasing your awareness — and being completely honest with yourself — you can eliminate any unnecessary suffering. The world might not be the problem; you might.

When you take a step back to consciously observe yourself, you’re guaranteed to learn a lot. You can watch your habits, choices and reactions. You can learn your patters, beliefs, and your way of being — including both your strengths and weaknesses.

Based on any new information, you can change your life for the better; through observation, you can learn what works and what doesn’t.

Live Consciously

“No one saves us but ourselves. […] We ourselves must walk the path.” — Buddha

To live consciously is to be responsible for how your life turns out. In theory, it’s not that difficult. It really only comes down to three things:

  • Aiming. You must set a conscious goal to aim for. This is your destination, and what you’re responsible for achieving. You can use the skills of writing and reading to help you determine what to aim for.
  • Aligning. To have a goal is not enough, you must engage in the behaviors that allow you to achieve your goal. You need to apply what you read, and align it with your dreams.
  • Adjusting. If you aim and align, you’ll get very far in life. But what happens if you‘re initial aim is wrong? Well, you must be so conscious that you‘re able to adjust if things aren’t working out. What works today, might not work tomorrow. You need to keep your eyes open; observe yourself.

In Conclusion

You don’t have to be clueless. You can grow conscious and live your best life possible.

Here’s a couple of finishing exercises to pair with this article:

Writing is the best way to structure your thinking.

  • Pull out a piece of paper, and write a minimum of ONE sentence about the impressions you‘re left with. What are your reflections?

Improvement happens when you apply what you read.

  • You’ve already read something. Now, put it into practice (if you did the exercise above, you already have. If you do the next ones, you’re going to ;))

You can learn a lot by observing yourself.

  • Observe one thing you’re doing right now. Are you at the edge of your chair, biting your nails, or picking your calluses from your last workout? Take the chance to reveal something about yourself.

To live consciously is to be responsible for how your life turns out.

  • Make a conscious aim, and do one behavior that aligns with it… And remember to adjust when needed.

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Jonas Ressem

Jonas Ressem

From Norway. Building Exploring life through psychology, philosophy and entrepreneurship. Come explore with me: