Conscious thought is a way of thinking that allows you to see all of your options clearly so that you can make decisions based on what will benefit you the most overall – not what will satisfy you in the short term.
Imagine what it would feel like to never feel shame for not finishing, or guilt for not doing something. Imagine how freeing it would be to make a decision and have that be that. No second guessing. No what if-ing. Just the ability to make a decision and then move on with full confidence that you made the right choice.
You will use conscious thought to see yourself from outside of your situation. This allows you to make a decision in a clear and logical way and without regret. When you purposely choose a “side” you force yourself to take a stand. When you don’t do this you allow yourself to have split emotions whereby you don’t take responsibility for the outcome on either “side” – and this manifests itself as shame, guilt, or frustration.
I’ll go through some examples of that below, but first we have to talk about what conscious thought actually is.
The Free Dictionary defines ‘conscious’ as having an awareness of one’s environment and one’s own existence, sensations, and thoughts. It defines ‘thought’ as the act or process of thinking; deliberation, meditation, or reflection.
So you could say that ‘conscious thought’ is having an awareness of one’s own thinking, deliberation, meditation, and reflection.
Essentially this means that you have an awareness of yourself, not as yourself, but as an entity outside of your being. You think about yourself and your actions as someone on the outside looking in. Much like a puppet master – you know exactly what strings move all the different parts and you pull them seamlessly and at exactly the right moment to create the perfect show… and by ‘show’, I mean life.
So what does that have to do with making decisions?
If you use conscious thought to make decisions, you see yourself outside of the situation. Instead of looking at the problem from the inside (you) out (everybody else), try looking at the problem from the outside and above. Place yourself outside of the situation and see yourself going through the motions of whatever outcome your decision will have.
What does the outcome look like from that vantage point? You are the puppet master, so what strings do you pull? Use conscious thought to think through your decisions and choose the option that suits you best.
How to use conscious thought to avoid shame and guilt
When you decide to do something but proceed to feel shame about it, you let yourself off the hook for doing the aforementioned thing by beating yourself up about it. For example, maybe you pay a babysitter to watch your kids while you grocery shop because you just want to be away from them sometimes. But, you feel shame that you don’t have an undying desire to be with your children 24/7 so you tell yourself (and anyone who will listen) that the reason is because it’s too hard to shop with them, or because you can’t push them in a cart and push groceries, or because “it’s good for them to experience other people”….
But, the truth is that as much as you love your kids sometimes they drive you crazy and you just need a break and some time to be by yourself and not have tiny chatter running in your ear non-stop. And you need to be able to try on a pair of shoes without a small person crawling underneath the bench and shouting to the entire world that you’re wearing purple underwear. And sometimes you like to buy chocolate when you check out and you don’t want to share it with anyone and then clean up grubby little chocolate fingerprints from all over the interior of your car.
And that’s the real reason you hire a babysitter.
So, address it. Accept it. You don’t have to make excuses for why you do the things you do. Just make sure you actually think about why you do them. And then pick the option that best suits you and your situation. Don’t worry about feeling guilty – there is no right or wrong answer overall. There is just right or wrong for you – and it could be totally different for someone else.
To do or do not
Most decisions come down to ‘do’ or ‘do not’. If you decide in favor of ‘do’, then make sure you actually do.
Do not let ‘do’ become the new ‘should’. You have made a conscious choice to do this thing. Now do it. If you aren’t going to do it, then make a conscious decision to stop. Ask yourself the question out loud if you have to.
You might say “Am I going to go to the gym?” The answer is simple. Yes or no. It’s not maybe (that’s just a cop out way of saying no). It’s not yes, but after I’m not so busy (that’s still a no, it’s just ‘no for now’). And that is fine. But make sure you ask and answer the question.
If the answer is yes, then get to the gym. If the answer is no, stop feeling bad about it. You made the decision to stop. Now enjoy the decision. If the decision is ‘no for now’, pick a date in the future to address that thing and put it on your calendar. And then forget about it.
By pinning it for a later date you allow yourself the freedom to not feel bad about not dealing with it for now. You are consciously choosing not to do anything about it. The reason you always feel guilty about not following through is that you never give yourself permission not to do something. So, think about it. And if you feel strongly about quitting, then quit. And don’t feel bad about it. You have weighed the options and determined the best course of action for you. And that’s all that matters.
Evaluate and reassess until you get it right
As you make more and more conscious decisions, make sure you continue to “own the results” of your choices. You can only control you. And therefore, your results are yours alone. If you are unhappy with the results of your choices, make sure you check back and reconsider your conscious choices.
Ask yourself, “What am I doing now?” (It helps to write down the actual steps you’re taking now.) Then ask, “What will I do next time?” (Write that down too.) Evaluate your results and determine the conscious steps you will take next time. As you practice you will refine the art of deciding and you will abolish the feelings of guilt that are associated with making a “negative” choice right now.
The important thing is to look at the decision and determine if it was made consciously. If it was, then evaluate it by asking yourself the questions above. Remember, being wrong isn’t the tragedy. Being wrong after choosing without educating yourself is. If your decision wasn’t made consciously think about the circumstances that led to you losing conscious control. What can you change about the decisions that led up to your loss of control?
Once you have consciously decided on something, move on. You don’t need to feel guilty if you made a choice that someone else doesn’t like. You did, after all, weigh all of the options and pick the one that you thought was in your best interest. You don’t need to explain that to anyone else. But, if you make a decision without thinking about the consequences, you will create circumstances in your life that create stress, resentment, and frustration.
Life is meant to be lived consciously. So stop letting things happen to you, and start happening to things. Make a decision. Own it.