Choosing to Stay Awake©

When you have an awakening or wake up moment, it may slip away from you. Your old stories may be so engrained or your wounds so deep and painful that you consciously go back to sleep. We are all masters at rationalizations, so we may just rationalize the moment away and chalk it up to an aberrational event or experience. We crave rationalizations so much that they become almost a daily part of our self-communication. Think about it … you live with and hide behind rationalizations (sometimes called excuses) virtually every day of your life.

Consider some of these all too common rationalizations or “stories” that we use (or hear) every day:

  • “I hate my job but I can’t make a change because of the economy.”
  • “I wish I could change the situation, but it’s not a good time in my life.”
  • “I’ll do it [whatever change we talk about] someday.”
  • “I would like to move / change jobs, but it is not that bad.”
  • “I need to be realistic about things.”
  • “I wish I could [insert the change], but I have to be realistic.”

People tell me that they are just being realistic, but where is the line between a rationalization and being realistic? The only difference is your perspective and your perspective is necessarily the result of your stories and the degree to which you tell yourself the truth (and are capable of telling yourself the truth). If you are unconscious and asleep, then you may not be able to tell the truth or distinguish between rationalizations and “being realistic.”

When you have an awakening moment, it is decision time … will you choose to actively work to stay awake (and it will take work and it is a choice) or will you choose to go back to sleep and settle for the old life, the old stories and the old outcomes? Waking up is a choice and similarly staying awake is a choice.

Whether or not to stay awake is question that each of you must face and, likewise, the people in your life will also face this important decision. You may believe that someone else is not telling themselves the truth or someone else may conclude that you are not telling yourself the truth. There is no right or wrong to what is the truth … it is necessarily personal … but sometimes friends need to be willing to tell someone that we care about that we see a blind spot that they do not see. Often the biggest requirement to do so is courage … the courage it takes to share your perspective with someone else knowing that you are facing the risk of rejection (of your perspective and even of yourself).

While you may rationalize your hesitancy to share your perspective by “saying” that it is not your place and that other people are making their own choices, taking the position that it’s not your business ignores the reality that we all have blind spots – that is why they are called blind spots. Likewise, other people may have hesitancy to share what they are seeing in your life for the same reasons. Do you want other people to tell you when they see a blind spot? It may not be an easy answer. However, if you want others to share with you, then I would suggest that we necessarily need to be willing to share what we see in and of others.

If your deepest fear (other than possible rejection) is that you do not want to take the responsibility for waking someone up, be assured that each person will be able to choose whether they stay awake, especially when we are talking an initial wake-up call or conversation. Human beings have proven themselves to be masterful at burying stories, history and things that are uncomfortable. Thus you can rest assured that if you ask someone a difficult question or share your perspective with them (and it causes them to begin to wake up), they will have ample opportunities to go back to sleep. At best, your questions or observations are giving them a glimpse of a different perspective on themselves and their life.

As much as you would sometimes like to have this power, you do not have the ability to change how other people think or see the world. You can only create moments of possible clarity or brief disruptions of their thinking. The question you have to ask yourself (and which others will ask in deciding whether to share with or challenge you) is, are you willing to take the risk of sharing a different perspective with them (and others must decide the same thing about disrupting your thinking). Rather than perceiving these disruptions as ultimately waking them up, instead know that your only opportunity is to give someone else a glimpse of a different perspective. What others do with that glimpse you give them (and what you do with the glimpses that others give you), is up to the receivers of those new perceptions.

One of the reasons that it takes work to stay awake is that we live in a culture that is designed for settling, for staying the same and for staying asleep. Many of the people that I meet are in some state of being asleep and they have a long litany of reasons to avoid risks, to stay the same and to not change … to stay asleep. Think about the day-to-day conversations that you have with people. When people talk about their lives and businesses (especially their lives), their answers usually sound like this: “I’m okay.” “I’m getting by.” “I’m surviving.” “I’m pretty good.” In today’s American culture, getting by seems to have become the top rung of the ladder. We have so lowered the standard that mediocrity is often viewed as a success. With so many people ready to tell you to stay the same and to avoid risks – to tell you what is not working versus what can work – it takes effort to resist this old message and dare to step into a new message and life about opportunities, expectations and even dreams.

Yet once you decide to live awake – to make the wake up permanent – it is almost impossible to go back to sleep. For each of you, the good news is that once you are awake (and have moved past the brief moment of awareness) you are likely to continue and grow even deeper into our personal awakening and awareness. My experience has been that once I woke up and began to be aware, I could not go back, even if I sometimes wanted to do so.

Why would I ever want to go back to sleep after waking up? In addition to the obvious reasons (whatever caused you to go to sleep in the first place), there is a “cost” associated with living your life awake and aware. The “cost” is that you have to give up certain ways of being and thinking when you are awake. At a minimum, you cannot stay in those places or ways of being very long. One of the first “things” you have to throw away is blaming and making excuses. When you wake up and are aware, you receive the gift of having full control, ownership, and responsibility for your life and every part thereof – your career, your relationships, your happiness, your fulfillment, etc..

Personally, I am blessed by and love having this real control over my path and my life – not control over the outcomes, but how I experience every part of life. But this accountability for my life cannot co-exist with blame and excuses. No longer can I blame others, situations, or things outside of my control for my experience of life. When I am awake, I have the unique ability to create change in my life and I must make those changes. I cannot rely on others or hope that things will change for the better; I must create better in my life.

I have to admit that taking personal responsibility for my choices, changes and outcomes is sometimes painful or frustrating. There are times where it would be easier to make excuses or to start pointing the finger of blame, but as a person that is awake I am aware of this behavior (most of the time) and I choose to walk my journey aware. This choice virtually requires me to quickly step back into a state of life accountability, rather than blame and excuse making. In a culture where excuses and blame are often the norm, you have to fight against that flow, but you can do so because your new awareness allows you to see and tell the truth like you never have before.

I often say that once you become aware you must “put down the “they” (of blame and excuses) and pick up the “I” to be fully accountable for your own life.” In doing so you will create your own positive momentum toward deeper self-awareness, new levels of awakening and the peace of mind that comes from living your life awake, aware and on purpose. As Mel Gibson offers in Braveheart (1995), “Every man dies, not every man really lives.” Waking up and living life aware is the essence of really living.

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