As an architecture student, I chose to do my thesis on creating a mobile health care facility that could reach the indigenous people of Copan, Honduras -- descendants of the ancient Maya. I've always found Mesoamerican cultures -- the Inca, Aztecs and Maya -- to be intriguing and mystical, and the ever-looming "end of the world" proposed by the Mayan calendar is no different. I imagine the ancient Maya would be busy right now with celebrations and ceremonies, waiting for their impending world to end.
As we wait for midnight to pass in our applicable time zone on Dec. 21, some of us might be contemplating what the end of the world might look like. What will it bring? What will happen? Will we all vanish with some odd flash of light, or will we just see a major change in how our world works? Time will tell, but this ceremonious event does beg the question, "If the world were to end today, would I be content with my life as it stands?"
We never really know what our future holds, and we don't know when and how we will spend our last days. We do know, however, how we are living in the here and now. Right this very minute, you know if you're happy or if you're sad. You know if you feel satisfied with how your life has turned out thus far. You know if you've stayed true to your dreams.
If this question makes you squeamish or worse, feel as though life has passed you by, it may be time to start participating in your life. One can live life in one of two ways: consciously or unconsciously. Conscious living, or "mindfulness," means being an active participant in your life, choosing the experiences you get involved with, and taking responsibility for the decisions you make. Living unconsciously, however, means allowing circumstances to dictate your life, remaining passive, and taking little to no ownership over what life brings. Which sounds more appealing? Hopefully, you think the former.
Living consciously means having intention in the things you do. You put yourself in the driver seat, and instead of waiting for things to happen, you make things happen. You accomplish the things you set out to do and are more successful in life. Individuals who live consciously tend to be happier and have a more positive outlook than those who don't. They tend to take themselves less seriously, are less impulsive or reactive, and accept their own weaknesses without self-inflicted judgment. Further, they're able to take criticism more easily, and suffer less from depression and other emotional and behavioral issues.
Living consciously means focusing on the present and not dwelling on the past or obsessing about the future. In other words, you live life in the moment. This translates into experiencing more positive thoughts and feelings, since most of our negative thoughts are rooted in past disappointments or regrets, and the worry we feel about the future.
Start participating in your life with these simple changes:
- Stop and Smell the Roses: Throughout the day, pay attention to what is happening around you. Be mindful of your environment and how you fit into it. Observe colors, sounds, light, smells, and textures. Savor moments by allowing all of your senses to fully experience them. Make a habit of noticing new things in every situation, even for those repetitive behaviors, such as walking to work.
- Experiment: Every day, find something new to try. Take a class. Attend a seminar. Read a new book. Play a new game. When new opportunities present themselves, embrace them openly and look for the potential that they may bring.
- Switch From Autopilot to Manual: You know your inner autopilot is at work when you feel like time has passed by, yet you have no idea what you did or what happened during that time. Maybe autopilot kicks in during a commute, or while running errands. Or maybe, it's at work for longer periods of time. To get the most out of life, shut off autopilot by increasing your awareness of your thoughts, actions, decisions and experiences. Don't defer to others to make decisions for you or allow circumstances to dictate your life. Constantly look for ways to engage in what life has to offer... you never know what may come your way.
Are you participating in your life?
If you feel like life is passing you by and you are ready to make real change towards personal transformation, now is the time with A Whole New You: Six Steps to Ignite Change for Your Best Life.