Conscious Living: Better Habits, Better Life

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There are some habits we know are good for us — exercising, healthy eating, spending quality time with loved ones — but we never seem to be able to stick to them. Why is that? Sometimes it’s because we either feel that something else is getting in our way, or we just don’t know how to go about it. There’s a simple solution to both: conscious living.

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Not starting something — a big task, a new habit, etc. — is often down to indecision due to lack of clarity. We’re not sure if it’s a true priority for us (as opposed to a “should”), where it will fit into our lives, or how exactly we’re going to go about it, and that’s why it ends up on the long finger.

A classic example of this is wanting to exercise but not being able to find the time. Between work, family, friends, and other commitments, we’re just not sure we can squeeze it into our already-packed schedules.

What’s the solution? Conscious living. We need to get clear on whether it’s really a priority for us right now. If it is, we should know when, where, and how we’re going to do it. It’s too easy to say, “I don’t have the time” and then just leave it at that.

Conscious living forces us to ask the tough questions and get clear answers. That’s how we find solutions.

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Often you’ll discover that something isn’t as big a priority for you as you thought. The trick is to accept that fact. Make your decision and be happy with it. Stop worrying about what you “should” be doing — it’s sucking all the joy out of other areas of your life.

Every time you go out for dinner, spend time with the kids, snuggle up with your partner for a movie marathon, lie-in for an extra hour… None of those things can be fully enjoyed and appreciated if you’re worrying about something that, at the back of it all, isn’t really important to you.

I’m not saying it will never be important to you, or that it isn’t a worthy goal, and I’m certainly not giving you an excuse to slack off. I’m simply stating that it should be a conscious decision. If you’ve given it some serious thought, you’ve asked yourself a few hard questions, and discovered it’s genuinely not as much of a priority for you as everything else you’ve got going on right now, it’s fine to set it aside for the time being.

In that way, conscious living isn’t only about what needs to be done, but also what doesn’t, so you can go about your days guilt-free. (Vegetarianism, for example, is something I’ve discovered isn’t a priority for me right now. Yes, I’ve gone through phases of it and yes, I think it’s worthwhile and would like it to become a lifestyle for me in the near future. In truth, I eat very little meat anyway. But right now I have a pretty unhealthy relationship with food so I want to sort that out first and get back to eating home-cooked meals before I start focusing on the content of those meals. Make sense? I’ve made a conscious decision about what my priority is RIGHT NOW and I know the rest will slot into my life soon enough.)

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                                                 Get clear on your goals & priorities

Another common goal I see so many people striving for is less stress. A worthy endeavour, I think you’ll agree but, sadly, intolerably vague.

What we need is to get to the root of the problem, because if we never examine the source, we’re unlikely to find the solutions.

What’s causing the stress? When do we feel it most? How might we go about minimising it? Is there something we do that never causes us stress? Is there something that seems to reduce it? How can we incorporate more of those activities into our daily lives? How much stress is OK and how much is not? (After all, a certain small amount of temporary stress can challenge us and force us to push farther than we otherwise might.)

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Anytime you feel a resistance towards a goal or uncertainty about how best to proceed, or anytime you wonder why something isn’t working out like you’d hoped, it’s time to become a bit more conscious of what’s really going on.

Sit yourself down and list all the reasons you’re just not where you want to be. What’s stopping you? They could be internal or external factors. Internal might be a lack of motivation, lack of energy, fear of failure, etc. External might be a low bank balance, an uncooperative colleague, distance, etc.

If you don’t know what’s wrong, you can’t fix it.

Going back to our first example, if you’re still resisting exercise but you’ve determined that it truly is important to you, think about why you’re not keen on it. Maybe it’s because you can’t afford a gym membership, maybe you find it boring, maybe you’re just not sure you’re doing the right thing…

Be clear on the reasons and you’ll start to find solutions.

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Can’t afford the gym membership or worried everyone will be laughing at you? Don’t go to the gym. There are plenty more ways to exercise.

Bored off your snot running on a treadmill or lifting weights? Turn on your favourite TV show or listen to your favourite music. Or bring along a buddy and get your cardio on over a catch-up. Or how about allowing yourself a treat from a nearby shop, but only if you jog there and back? Sign yourself up for a sport or a dance class. Work-outs aren’t limited to running and weight-lifting, so start thinking outside the box and look for something more suitable.

Not sure you’re doing the right thing? Have a consultation with a personal trainer to get you on the right track. (A lot of gyms offer a free consultation with one of their trainers, though obviously in the hope that you’ll sign up. But hey, no harm. I did it and it worked out well for me.) Or find yourself some great how-to videos on YouTube and strengthen your core from the comfort of your living room.

Lacking time? Just work some extra movement into your current schedule. Get yourself a treadmill desk. Take the stairs. Bring the kids to the park and actually run around after them rather than sitting on a bench. (Added bonus of that other worthy goal — spending quality time with the kids.) Walk and talk. Pace while on the phone.

So no more wishy-washy statements about how you don’t like something, or you don’t think you have time for it, or you don’t feel you can do it. Get into the habit of asking yourself WHY. Conscious living means seeking clarity in everything you do.

“Because I don’t want to” is only a valid excuse if you’re 5 years or younger. You’re a grown-ass adult now. Use some of that self-awareness and rational thinking you’ve got going on, and delve a little deeper. Remember that there's no such thing as a silly question, particularly when you're only asking yourself.

Conscious living means finding out where our priorities and opportunities lie. We do it by constantly asking questions, because if we’re not seeking answers, we’re unlikely to find solutions.

Life’s too short for “I’m just not sure.”

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What's one area of your life you feel could do with some clarity?

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