Have you ever thought of doing something, something routine like hanging up the washing when you heard the machine end its cycle, and a few hours later you find yourself thinking "did I hang up the washing already or not?" You go to check and there it is, all neatly hung up, but you can't quite fully remember actually doing it, or you have a sudden recollection of doing it once you see it hanging there.
Have you ever driven somewhere and arrived at your destination and thought "how did I get here so fast?" or "I don't remember driving by X".
If this is you, then you're running your life on auto-pilot.
Our lives are so busy and, often, so stressful that we can't stay focused on everything that's happening at any one time. So we allow our minds to drift off in one direction while not seeing things in another direction.
I noticed myself doing this more and more some time ago. It had gotten to the stage that my whole day seemed to be running on auto-pilot. It seemed I would waste more time asking myself if I'd done something already or surprising myself that I'd already done something, than actually doing the thing I was thinking about.
And the more I became aware that my life was running on auto-pilot, the more disconnected and misaligned I felt with it.
Living on auto-pilot also seemed to have a close correlation with self-doubt which would lead onto lowered self-esteem and self-confidence. You see, someone might say to me "oh... thanks for doing that for me" or ask me "have you done that yet?" or even "you didn't tell me about that" and one part of me was "yep - that was me", another part of me was "was that me?" or "did I do that?" and yet another part of me was "I did do that, didn't I?" or "I did tell you, didn't I?"
Because I wasn't being consciously aware I could never be sure if I had done something or not. And that started to lead to a lot of self-doubt because I was so unsure of what I had or hadn't done. And when you experience self-doubt, you shortly begin to experience a drop in self-confidence and self-esteem.
When I woke up to the realisation that a lot of my life seemed to be drifting by without my awareness, I decided to make a change. I decided to do things with conscious awareness.
What that looked like was me talking to myself (quietly in my head) while I was doing something to acknowledge that I was doing it. Simple little comments like "good... that's the washing hung up" or "tick! I told X about...". My various little internal comments were, what I like to refer to as, "drift interruptors". They were a prompt which stopped my mind drifting off and brought it back to the present moment to recognise, consciously, what I was doing.
After practising this conscious awareness for a few weeks, I noticed my self-confidence and self-esteem had flourished. Because, when someone would ask me "did you do X?" or "I can't remember you telling me that" or "can you remember what you did with X?", I could confidently reply, without any shadow of doubt in my mind, what I had done or said. It was no longer a case of me doubting myself, but a case of me feeling assured and confident about myself.
Let me give you an example.
I was on holiday with my husband and bunnies, and my husband and I were removing the roof rack from the car. As he removed the screws, I lifted off the brackets and then handed them to him to pop inside the roof rack for safe-keeping. Each time I handed him a bracket I made a conscious mental note of what I was doing.
The following day as we were driving, there was a gentle 'bumping' noise on the roof of the car and, as my husband looked through his rear-view mirror, he thought he saw something small fall off. He couldn't think what it was and assumed it wasn't anything significant, so we continued on our drive.
A couple of days later, the memory of something possibly falling off the roof came back to him and he thought it might be one of the brackets from the roof rack. So we opened the roof rack up and inside we found 3 sets of brackets, not 4.
My husband turned and asked me "do you remember handing me all the brackets?"
Usually, I'd question myself and wonder if, indeed, I'd forgotten to hand him a bracket and had mistakenly left it sitting on the roof. Self-doubt would then kick in and I'd end up in a quandry - did I or didn't I? And, as a result, I'd beat myself up for, probably, being the one to make a silly mistake that, although it didn't cost much to fix, did take time out of our holiday as we went looking for a replacement bracket.
But this time was different. Because I hadn't let my mind drift off while performing the simple, and let's face it, uninteresting task of taking the brackets and handing them to my husband, because I chose to be consciously aware of what I was doing, because I chose to be in the moment and stay present without letting my mind drift into auto-pilot, I could confidently, without any doubt in my mind, assure my husband that I had passed every one of the four brackets to him.
Rather than doubting myself, beating myself up and letting the guilt of possibly making a mistake eat away at me, I could let the situation go, and walk away confident in what I had done.
With so many distractions fighting for our attention every second of every day, it can be challenging, and tiring, to stay consciously aware. However, I have found from experience that the rewards, such as actual remembrance, eradication of self-doubt, increased self-confidence and self-esteem, and simply being present, far outweigh the simple option of choosing to run on auto-pilot.
And speaking of being present. I wrote this blog, published it and then quickly jumped onto social media and the following quote appeared at the top of my feed: "Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life" ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Living in a state of conscious awareness enables us to live in the present moment and be present in the here and now.