Many people just go with the flow, afraid to rock the boat. Their days all look the same and if you ask them why they do the things they do, they couldn’t give you a compelling answer. Why did you eat that turkey sandwich? Why take that job? The answer to both will be the equivalent of an “I dunno.”
I perfectly understand how we fall into these patterns because it wasn’t long ago that I was living in that particular Matrix myself. I used to do just about everything without thinking. I would shop at Zara, for example, without giving a thought to their business practices. I didn’t think about how they manufactured the clothes I was buying because I wasn’t thinking of the environmental impact of fast fashion.
That’s just one example. I had so many other money and spending habits whose impact I never thought about. When I decided to live more consciously, I had to make many changes, and a few of them were difficult. It’s not always convenient or easy to live consciously, that’s for sure, but something shifts in you when you start walking the talk, caring about the world, and understanding that your decisions make a difference in the lives of others.
1. Care about something.
How often do you NOT take a stand? I will say, sometimes the problems of the world feel overwhelming. There are so many issues and causes that it may seem simpler not to get involved. But once you do commit to something, no matter how small, you feel more connected to your community.
2. Live from a place of love, not fear.
Much of what we do, we do out of obligation and with expectations. We go to college because that’s what everyone does and because we want a better paying job. We go to church because hell sounds like a scary place and going to church may save us from going there. Instead of living from a place of fear, as cliche as it sounds, we can live from a place of love. How? By doing more of what we really enjoy and thinking about what will truly benefit our lives when we make decisions.
3. Accept yourself for who you are.
You may have shortcomings and inadequacies., but don’t we all? And isn’t that what makes us interesting; okay, part of what makes us interesting? From a lifetime of being told you’re inadequate or incomplete, it’s understandable if you’ve developed the “I’m not enough” syndrome. But if you want the respect of others, you have to respect and accept yourself first. Others don’t see us with their eyes. They see us through ours. To put that another way, what we believe about ourselves is telepathed to others in our behavior and in all the ways we show up.
4. Do work that suits you.
If you are doing unfulfilling soul-sucking work, try to find a way out of it. Look, I spent years and years doing soul-sucking work so I’m not here to tell you to quit your job tomorrow. What I’m here to say is this: If your work doesn’t reflect who you are, you are not making your greatest contribution to the world. Unfulfilling work, especially when you want to do more and is capable of doing more, will leave you feeling drained and shutdown; so start working on your next career or business now.
5. Be money-wise.
How we spend our money says a lot about us. It can point to unresolved childhood insecurities, even. It can indicate uncertainties and fears about the future or an image we’re trying to project because we feel “less than.” I’m all for spending $900 on a coat because it will last you a lifetime and because you look damn good in it, but not because it will make other people think you’re worth their time. When you’re living in financial integrity and are being money-wise, you may save for a condo because you want the pride of homeownership, brown bag it at lunch during the workweek so you can splurge on weekend brunches, book a 5-star hotel on an anniversary but Airbnb it at other times. There is a balance to your spending and your choices are informed.
6. Do consignment shopping.
It’s crazy to me how much fast-fashion has invaded our lives. If it seems like the major corporations behind some of today’s beloved labels are taking advantage, you would be right. This is not the place to get on my soapbox but I will say, you and I are complicit in a very ugly (and toxic) social experiment when it comes to fast fashion. It pollutes the environment, exploits workers, sucks up the world’s water supply, and worse. And we do this all so that we can buy a $20 skirt we don’t need that will fall apart after the second wash.
7. Say “no” more often.
Living more consciously you will begin to value how you spend your time. That means saying “no” more. A tip I got from Christine (the founder of Vurb) is to say “Let me get back to you” to give myself time to weigh the value of an invitation. By saying “no” to more things, you free up more time for the things you want to focus on.
8. Have standards.
Yo-yoing is common when you’re trying to change. You take two steps forward, feel great about that, but life happens and you take a few steps back. By setting a minimum standard, you stick to a level that you never fall under. A friend of mine has a 10-pound weight cushion that she hasn’t gone over for years. This is a standard. You may want to set a limit on how many drinks you will have when you go out. That is a standard too. Having standards will guide your actions and help you to maintain the progress you’ve made.
9. Enjoy nature.
Life can get so busy that you spend most of your time either indoors or in your car. Join a hiking club, a nature group, or a community that plans outdoor events but take advantage of nature. When it’s summer or the weather is nice, dine al fresco and do more outdoor sports.
Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others’? The nice thing about volunteering is that it’s great for you too. It’s not just an act of charity because when we give to others, we feel more connected to the wider world. We have less anxiety and a greater sense of wellbeing.
11. Practice daily acts of forgiveness.
We hold onto grudges and wrongdoings, grasping tightly onto the coal of justice in our palms. When we hold onto resentment that tightly and refuse to let go of trespasses against us, we’re the ones who get hurt. You will be operating from a higher place cognitively and leaving petty grievances to those that don’t know better.
12. Focus on what you have.
Wouldn’t it be more fun if we thought about the achievements and experiences we had in life as opposed to the ones we were seeking and searching for? The more we focus on what we have and show appreciation for it, the less we will be operating from a place of lack or want. Focusing on what we have, leads to contentment.
13. Care for the things you have.
In tip #6, I mentioned my soapbox. Part of the issue I have with fast-fashion is that the clothes are usually not made well. That consumerist mentality can seep into other areas of our lives. We don’t take the time to care for our things. To clean out our car and handbag. To put heel-savers on our shoes so they will last longer. To pre-treat our laundry and get our pots and pans spotless every so often. The act of caring for our things is to care about how we live.
14. Play with children.
Children remind us how to live in the moment. They remind us of our true inner nature and how to have fun. To be a conscious person, we need to leave adulthood behind sometimes.
15. Be mindful of your words.
Be sparse and intentional with your words. Know that words can hurt. If there’s an alternative way to say it that will be softer on someone’s eyes and heart, say it in a nicer way. If there’s a way to speak that hurts less and inspires more, do that. If the words are not necessary for the situation, opt for silence instead. Words have meaning and consequences. Acknowledge the words that you use.
To live more consciously, choose a couple of these tips and start doing them. Start with one and add another habit once you’ve become comfortable with the first and have integrated it into your everyday.
To choose to live more consciously is to gift yourself more joy and happiness in your life.
Moka is an aspiring Psychologist and yoga teacher living in New York where having a big exuberant personality like hers comes in handy.