I have booked myself into a lovely apartment with a view for three days. This is my attempt to take myself off of autopilot and see what happens.
Going in, I am aware that it is not going to be easy to stay clear of the “should“, the “need to“, the “must” and instead, focus on the “want.” I will be conscious of the way I think and react. Otherwise, the days would pass in a breeze, and I would leave the apartment none the wiser.
I intend to be present, observe simple behaviors, and see the balance of automatic motion against the selective action.
The reason behind it all is to evoke curiosity in fellow humans to explore how free we actually are in designing our own lives.
If we can’t even undertake a mundane task on free will, how are we expected to be the architects of our destinies?
Here we go…
Arrive at 3 pm. I absolutely adore the place. It is exactly what I needed.
There is an amazing balcony with the view of the lake, and the weather is nice. Seattle is kind to me today. I MUST be thankful and sit outside.
Oh, I didn’t have coffee yet. It would be lovely to start this experience with a good cup of coffee. Is it too late in the afternoon? Maybe I SHOULD NOT have it. But I WANT to. Where SHOULD I drink it though? The weather is too nice; I SHOULD just drink it outside. I CAN’T waste this opportunity.
It is a wonderful balcony. The view is fantastic. I WANT to live in a place like this. Oh, but it would be too small for the family. We won’t be able to find anything here anyway. The house is from 1916; it will be too much work. I guess we NEED TO stay where we are. When do I get to live in a place like this then? Oh, never mind. Just enjoy yourself now.
Ok, do I sit down or do I stand up? I didn’t move much today. I MUST stand up, right?
I also like the chair inside. I want to drink coffee there too. CAN I leave this gorgeous weather now?
I finally go inside. So far I had obligations around coffee drinking time, good weather, stand or sit… as well as factless beliefs around living at a place that I would want.
I reminded myself that I was totally free to explore what I wanted to do next. Then all the thoughts rushed in.
“You came here for three days. You paid for it. You took time away from your family, your obligations. You need to go back with something substantial. You can’t just waste this whole thing by hanging around. You need to be disciplined and productive. Make a schedule and go with it. You should wake up at 7 am, go outside and walk. Come back and write, make plans, etc.”
It’s all about efficiency is it not? As long as we are efficient, who cares if we actually live or not?
Without the awareness, I would have just followed this very rational argument. Instead, I tried meditation to stop the rush and reconnect with my original goal. 10 minutes. It helped. I was relaxed, centered, calm. You don’t need to meditate when you need to reconnect with yourself. You can start jumping around instead. Once you are too out of breath to be rational, you can restart the process.
Without conversing with myself (hallelujah), I wrote a little, read a little, listened to a podcast and decided to have dinner. I ate what I WANTED to eat rather than what was considered appropriate and got into another conundrum. Do I watch something? Do I sit in the living room? Do I go to bed? Do I contact my friends? Do I stick to a solitary experience?
At this point, I am almost grateful that we live on autopilot. This whole awareness business is proving to be exhausting.
Now, alarm or no alarm? That is the question.
Day 2 –
No alarm won. I slept for 9 hours!!! For all you judgers out there, it turns out my body WANTED some uninterrupted, free sleeping time.
Automatically went to the kitchen to brew some coffee. Stopped. Waited. Waited some more to discover that I WANTED to write instead.
Thinking I NEEDED to get going on the work stuff, I went in to get my books. Stopped. Waited. Waited some more to find out I WANTED to work on the creative stuff first. It led to a humorous write-up, which then led to a dance party which then led to an exercise routine.
If I told myself that I HAD TO exercise, HAD TO write; none of this would have happened. I don’t do well with commands. I would have found an excuse. Best case, it would have happened but not authentically. So left to my own devices I worked, exercised and had a lot of fun. Note that!
Went out for lunch. Got into a highly recommended Café. Left without ordering because I did not fancy the selection. If I hadn’t stopped before automatically selecting something from the menu, I would have just ordered. Instead, I went to another place, picked something that I WANTED and dealt with the disappointment of crappy taste 🙂 Some of the things we want will lead to disappointments, and that’s ok 🙂
Uneventful evening with desirable dinner, less chaotic entertainment options and a smooth landing on time for bed.
I am getting better at this.
Day 3 –
This time, I had the alarm clock though I woke up earlier. Watched the lake from my bed. Dark slowly eased into the light. Seattle light. I stayed in bed for 1 hour. No guilt.
Didn’t have automatic coffee or breakfast. Spent time doing some work. Quite calming. No more rushing thoughts of should, needs, musts. I am floating through the day, exploring.
I have nothing else to report. Liberating!
This experiment showed me the extent of conditioning in my life. Little voices are telling me what to do for every single matter. There is a right and wrong for everything. More than that, there seems to be a way to fail even at the simplest of things. I don’t owe anything to the whispers of the masses and yet here I am feeling guilty that I am not following them.
With all this noise generated by the system, no wonder we don’t stop and think what we really want!
When did life become a never-ending test?
This little experiment helped me in a significant way:
• Reduced stress – some stress comes from feeling we have no choice. The sense of : “this is what I want to do” rather than “I need to do” helped me feel more alive
• Better time management – ironically, saying “no” becomes easier when you feel empowered to do so rather than following a rule around efficiency
• Fulfillment – being at choice helped me notice the wonders of life more. My gratitude definitely increased
• Understanding – increased empathy for everyone in my life.
For ultimate enlightenment going forward, I’ll leave you with some deep wisdom by the Spice Girls:
“So tell me what you want, what you really, really want
I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha)
I wanna really, really, really wanna zigazig ah”
Asli Aker is a Global Leadership and Organizational Development Expert based in Seattle, WA. She has living and working experience in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East with a client profile from all around the world.
As a coach, Asli has worked with leaders to help them take on mission critical challenges, manage complex demands and remain authentic along the way. She has 15 years of coaching experience with executives, high potentials and senior leaders.
For more information about Asli, do visit her website.
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