The following piece is a reflection on the prolific writer, David Foster Wallace’s YouTube video, “This is Water!”
As David begins his narration of the video, he describes an encounter between three fish, two of whom were swimming along lazily when they see another fish, who asks, “how’s the water boys?” As the third fish keeps swimming by the two fish look at one another and ask at the same time, “What the heck is water”?
This anecdote speaks to awareness. The two fish being surrounded by water all their life do not recognize water as anything separate from themselves, only something that has always been there and a part of their lives. This ancient story of a fish in water is often told to bring awareness to people about living more conscious lives often resulting in a more fulfilling, joyful and impactful existence.
Much like the water, seeing that our thoughts are separate from us, we have a choice that if exercised can contribute to the raising of consciousness for not only us as individuals but for all of humanity!
The video goes on to illustrate unconscious thought patterns that lead to frustration, feelings of being trapped and events that appear to be happening “to you”. These all too familiar scenarios of commuting through traffic and navigating busy, grocery stores, illustrate a few ugly aspects of unconsciousness.
When we are not aware of our thoughts and thus react to whatever “comes up” in our minds that is said to be our “default mode”. The default mode is an unconsciousness that leads to a belief that it’s, “all about me”, “all these people are in my way and interfering with my interest in getting home to make my dinner.” (Notice all the me’s and my’s)
However, as David Foster Wallace states, if we are fortunate to be awake enough to realize that we have a choice of thought, then we have options and we have freedom in how we see situations. But remember, this is not our default setting; it does take effort and practice.
Mental default settings are like a blinking 12:00 on a watch, clock or DVD player. The blinking 12:00 is the default setting we see anytime power was lost and then returned to the device. Just like the clock, the mind can easily be changed from the default setting. All one has to do is change it. Yes! It really is as simple as that, once you have awareness and willingness.
So, by now you may be thinking, “But Ryan what does this have to do with employment and human resources”? Our level of consciousness impacts everything we do! It is a gauge for how we interact with the world around us, from interactions with co-workers to considering all the realms of possibility when it comes to solving an operational challenge. I believe education and more specifically, workforce education will soon include a focus on conscious leadership.
Here, we boil it down to the basics: Am I aware of my thoughts? Are these thoughts helping me or someone else? Yes? Great, continue! No? Can I learn something from these thoughts? Yes? Then create action around that learning to reinforce new habits. No? Then change your mind.
Yes, it is just that simple. However, it has been discovered that we have a major influence working against us, biology. Biologically we as humans tend to resist thoughts and actions that are outside of our prior experiences, because of the potential for or actual discomfort this may create. Yes, most people are naturally conflict avoidant. But, biologically we are also highly adaptive, if we choose to be.
So, here are a few tips to keep you moving in the practice of conscious living, when you encounter thoughts (which lead to feelings) that don’t serve you or anyone else, examine those thoughts. Discuss them with others to see these thoughts from a different perspective. Suspend judgment and consider all angles and perspectives on a particular thought or situation before taking action. By doing so, one will have a fair and balanced context, often leading one to find the least objectionable ranging to the most efficient solution.
Perspective shapes our world view. An unconscious perspective (default mode) of being in the center of the world and everything around us is either working in our favor or against us, leads us to being in a constant state of self-seeking, judgment and clash with opposition. But, what if we adopted a conscious perspective, leading us to choose our thoughts for a greater good?
By: Ryan McShane, President, HR Evolution LLC, RyanM@marc3solutions.com
HR Evolution provides small to medium sized businesses Fortune 500 Level Resources, creating “High Performance Organizations” with Greater Profit, Top Talent, and Outstanding Culture.
Contact Ryan to get the results that, elevate individuals and organizations to their highest potential.