Living Deliberately Versus by Default

"When you’re living by default, you’re automatically reacting to life in habitual ways, many of which may be limiting you. Living deliberately means making more conscious life choices. You’ve taken yourself off autopilot, so you’re better prepared to align your actions with the results you want." – Lauren Mackler from Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness and Transform Your Life

The law of cause and effect is one of life’s great truisms. When applied to human behavior, it means that through our actions, we generate outcomes. Yet, most people behave as if cause and effect didn’t exist. They live on autopilot, reacting to events without considering the results of their actions or the role they’ve played in creating their lives.

Living deliberately means being aware in each moment, and aligning your mind and actions with the outcomes you want. If you’re reacting to life on autopilot—what I call living by default—there’s a good chance that your thoughts and behaviors are out of sync with the results you desire.

To better understand the connection between your thoughts, actions, and circumstances, ask yourself three very basic questions:
How am I treating myself?
What kind of messages am I sending to myself?
What kind of relationships am I creating?
When you start answering these questions, you’re apt to find that your thoughts and behaviors are at cross-purposes with your desires. Below are a few examples.

How am I treating myself? Let’s say you want to have the motivation and energy to fully engage in your life. But if you’re tired, in a depleting job, or not taking good care of yourself, it’s going to diminish your ability to create and sustain an active life. So, where do you begin? You begin with yourself. Think about how you’re treating your body and what you need to do to have more energy and motivation. This means making better choices about what you eat and drink—and what you’re not going to eat and drink—as well as healthy choices about exercise and sleep.

What kinds of messages am I sending to myself? You may want more self-confidence, but if you constantly berate yourself, you’re eroding your self-esteem—not making it stronger. Rather than tear yourself down, send yourself messages of love and support. Instead of telling yourself, “You’re not good enough”, say, “You are intelligent and competent.” Replacing self-demeaning messages like, “Nothing ever works out for me” with, “I can create a joyful, fulfilling life” focuses the brain on what you want, and produces a more positive emotional response.

What kinds of relationships am I creating in my life? Imagine that you want uplifting friendships, but you engage in relationships in which you feel bad. Perhaps your “friends” are judgmental; maybe they don’t show up on time or always cancel plans at the last minute. You have to make a conscious decision to address these issues or discontinue the relationships. I once had a client who made a simple rule for herself when she began the process of living deliberately. That was: I’m not going to spend time with anyone who depletes me. That one decision changed the quality of her life and, of course, her relationships.

Living deliberately can become a new habit. But like any pattern you’re trying to change, it requires consistency and patience. The first step is to become aware of your thoughts and actions in each moment, invoking what I call the “observer”—the part that watches without judgment. Next, ask yourself, “What is the outcome—or possible outcome—of that thought or action?” If you find that it is at cross-purposes with what you want, replace the thought or action with one likely to produce your desired result.

Observing and re-directing your thoughts and actions takes effort and self-discipline. But if you stick with it long enough, over time, you’ll find that living deliberately—and the results that it produces—will become your new default.

copyright 2018 Lauren Mackler - all rights reserved