Acting With Awareness

Cory Mazure | 8 Feb, 2023

No one intends to be overweight or obese, yet 69% of the US adult population is. 

No one gets married with the intention of a divorce, but 50% of marriages end in divorce. 

No one intends to be miserable for 8 hours of the day, and yet 85% of full time workers report being unhappy at their job.

Despite our best intentions, our lives can unravel into an undesirable outcome. Before we know it, we can be living out a life full of unfulfillment and unintended outcomes. 

But it does not have to be this way. 

Some people are living fulfilled lives with clear goals. 

What is the secret? 

They have formed an intention, and know how to act upon it. 

Everyone has a dream of how their life could be better, but very few actually achieve what they intend to. As you will come to realize, whether through this article or as your life unfolds, the extent to which you suffer or thrive will be dictated by your level of self awareness.  

This article is intended to challenge your current way of thinking. You should leave with the realization that you need to exercise more self awareness if you want any hope of living up to your unrealized potential. As you will come to realize, self awareness is necessary to determine if you are acting like the person you want to become, in the present moment. Even more crucially, it is required for analyzing the unintended consequences of your actions. The ripple effect of your daily actions will compound you into greatness or decay your future into disappointment. By raising your self awareness, you will reduce the amount of unconscious actions you perform each day that lie in direct contrast to who you intend to become. 

As you may have already guessed, this article is only intended for a certain kind of person. A person who intends to not only improve the conditions of their life, but also the lives of those around them.

If you intend to live your life as anything less than you know you could be, then please stop reading and go back to squandering your potential with whatever short term distraction appears the most appealing.

This is a piece for someone who has recently looked in the mirror and through an act of self awareness, realized they are suffering from unintended consequences from their prior selves. 

This is a piece for the people who have the intention to live a purposeful life, but are struggling with aligning their actions with that intention.

This is a piece for anyone who desires to break free from automatic responses to the world around them, and end each day with the satisfaction that they accomplished what they set out to do. 

If none of these statements relate to you, then you will find the rest of this article to be deeply unhelpful to you, so I suggest you stop now. 

For those who are serious, let’s cover 3 big ideas surrounding acting with awareness. 

  • Success is limited by your capacity to execute upon your intentions.
  • You do not possess enough self awareness to consistently overcome the motivators of your actions. 
  • We must think more critically about the positive and negative ripple effect of our decisions prior to action.

The Success BottleNeck 

If you are still reading this article, you most likely are someone who knows they could be better, and intends to be better. Having this intention for change is the first step. It gives you direction and acts as a north star, guiding your actions. The next step is where most people fail, and that is to actually execute on that intention by making the right actions. 

Ideating potential outcomes for your life and choosing what you truly want to accomplish is a difficult task. Some people never even start because through the specification of success, you also clearly define what constitutes a failure. Take a moment to analyze if you have put enough thought into your intention. If you feel like you do not know what you intend to get out of life, I recommend you read this article where I dive deep into the concept of ideating intentions. In my opinion, designing a plan for your life is very noble and a large milestone, but it truly means nothing if you never act upon it. 

Through self reflection, you may recognize that you intend to have a successful marriage. If you do not spend the time to understand what actions lead to a successful marriage, and find yourself struggling to execute on those actions, then you will suffer just like the other 50% of couples in the United States, and get divorced. Even with the intention for a happy, healthy partnership, you will fail if you never motivate yourself into acting in alignment with that intention. Your partner will quickly become frustrated with you if you keep telling him/her what you are going to do to make this relationship work, and never execute upon it. Your reputation will suffer and disdain for your inability to do what you say will grow. This does not only apply to a marriage. The same principle holds true in every pillar of life. Intending to lose weight is the first step, and you must congratulate yourself for wanting to become better, but you must also be honest with yourself if your actions align with the person you want to become. If you find yourself struggling with this, it is simply because you are not self aware enough of the forces which are influencing your decision making abilities.

Self Awareness Is the Solution

There are many things that could get in the way of you acting on your intentions, but they all have one thing in common. Anything that is preventing you from success in life can be mitigated with more self awareness. 

At any given moment, there are numerous external and internal influences which are competing for your attention. Whether it be a feeling of hunger, the sound of a TV on in the background, or your phone on your desk, all of these things distract you from what you intend to do. You may not even recognize when these stimuli are influencing your behavior, and that is the problem. The intention of this section of the article is to educate you on the importance of raising your self awareness so you can recognize what is pulling you down the path of a suboptimal future. 

Let's say one of your goals is to start applying to new jobs because you are currently struggling from unfulfillment and a bad boss. You know you have to sit down and update your resume, but find yourself struggling to act upon this intention. With low self awareness, you may give up and succumb to another stimulus which is going to provide you gratification in the moment. After all, there is no guarantee that by updating your resume, you would get this new job. Whether you recognize it or not, your biology knows that scrolling instagram or going to grab a snack is guaranteed to provide you gratification in the moment. Consciously, you may not even recognize this desire to pivot your attention into something more comfortable. 

Take a moment to stop reading and analyze the last time this may have happened to you. 

  • Did you have to take the trash out? 
  • Were you supposed to send an important email to a coworker? 
  • Have you been meaning to have a difficult conversation with your partner?

Now that you have an event in your mind, try to recall what diverted your focus. 

The recognition over what is pulling your attention elsewhere is an area of infinite improvement. Constantly thoughts arise which can pull us into internal dialogue that distracts us from our intentions. There are always forces at play which are pulling you into unintentional actions. They will never go away. You will never be in a position where you eliminate them entirely. The only goal you should concern yourself with is to recognize what these forces are, and strive to be more intentional with what you allow yourself to engage in.

One of the most humbling realizations I have made was that many of my daily actions were automatic and unconscious. Simply conforming to the world around me, I would act unintentionally through strong emotional responses in arguments with others and caving to my unhealthy desires for scrolling social media. The journey to acting with intention is not an easy one due to the immense amount of self awareness required, but it all starts by asking yourself one simple question, “Through this action, am I getting closer to, or farther away from, the person I intend to become?” If you are watching TV, ask yourself why you are doing it, and how it is going to add value to your life. If you keep asking yourself this question with everything you do, you will recognize that most of your day is filled with things that are pulling you away from the person you want to become. It is a hard pill to swallow, but one that is necessary if you want to experience a meaningful life. 

If there is only one thing you absorb from this section of the article, it should be this: The goal of self awareness is to recognize a force that is pulling on you, and then analyze if this action is in alignment with who you intend to become. 

Recognize the Ripples

Once you begin recognizing the motivators of your actions, you will have to put more critical thought into the positive and negative ripple effects of each action. 

To help you visualize this more easily, let's continue with the resume example. It is 6 pm and you are sitting down at your computer to begin working on the resume. You experience this friction, a force that is opposed to you completing the work. You are struggling from a lack of motivation, and feel your phone in your pocket. Instead of pushing yourself through the adversity, you succumb to grabbing your phone and looking at instagram. You now have given yourself a dopamine spike from the exciting stimulus, and it has become even more difficult to lock in on the challenging task of updating your resume. If you spent the time to become self reflective and performed research on the influence of a software like instagram on your neurobiology, you would identify it as something in conflict with your intention to complete the resume and achieve a higher goal of a fulfilling career. You would recognize the negative ripple effect of this behavior on your being. Although you may intend to scroll social media to relax or deliver comfort, you must recognize what the unintended consequence of that behavior is. But remember, the knowledge of the detrimental nature of social media on cognitive performance is only helpful to you if you are aware of it at the moment when you are pulled to execute the bad behavior. 

If you know something is bad for you, and yet you continue to do it, that simply means you are not self aware enough. You have taken the step to understand what is good or bad, but you have not performed the root cause analysis of what keeps you performing the bad behavior. I will save you the trouble of years of dead end analysis and say it all relates back to the quality of your environment. Where you should be directing your focus is upon redesigning your physical environment to make your bad behaviors harder to execute. What I recommend is to accept that you struggle with these stimuli, and design your environment to make it harder to execute on. 

In order to analyze these positive and negative ripple effects, you can perform research, or refer back to your prior life experience. For me, I have found it the most useful to research something, and see if the research correlates with my experience. A recent example of me putting this into practice was researching the importance of gut bacteria and how certain foods influence their health. Through my research I learned that carbohydrates like grains and rice are pretty bad for your gut. I am not claiming to be a professional in gut health, but through my initial research, I was armed with a new perspective. I started to become more self reflective and analyzed situations where I felt lethargic and realized a lot of them correlated with the consumption of a high carbohydrate meal. I recognized that my cognitive performance would decrease after one of these meals, and have been more intentional with when I eat these types of foods. I now know I should not consume a large carbohydrate meal prior to an important event because it will slow me down. In the past I would over consume rice and grains, but never correlated it with poor performance. Through relevant research and personal experience, you can use your self awareness to redesign how you choose to behave. 

Parting Thoughts

Hopefully, this article served you with a few actionable steps. It was intended to challenge your current way of thinking, and encourage you to think critically about how aware you are when you are acting. I do not claim to hold all the secrets to living a meaningful life, but simply want to share some of my recent discoveries which have helped me act more intentionally. I trust that if you take this information to heart, your life will improve. I firmly believe that self awareness is the vehicle for change. Without it, you will continue down an unintentional path, conforming to forces you are unconscious of. Then one day, you may wake up and look over your past life in a state of disappointment as none of your goals materialized and many unintentional consequences arose. Hopefully, this will not be you. But I guarantee it will be if you do not take self awareness seriously. 

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