“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates

Why Self-Awareness Matters in a Crisis

When you feel scattered, it’s easy to want to just escape or to skim along the surface of your life. If you already had a fragile relationship with your feelings and now everything seems up for grabs, a good long series on Netflix seems like a great idea.

But you know that’s not smart. You know you’re setting yourself up for a brain hijack by dodging reality. You can avoid paying your emotional bills for a while, but eventually they come due. Probably in the middle of that tough meeting when you’re making the bet-the-company decision while your kid is hogging bandwidth in the next room. That’s the exact moment we need you to be your best self and the moment when superficiality is not your friend.

How to Practice Self-Awareness

That’s why – in crisis or not – one of the first practices I assign to most of my coaching clients is something I call the Action Replay. It’s a simple 10-minute practice of reflection designed to help you notice what’s actually happening in you and around you every day.

It goes like this:

  • Find a time of day when you are alert. For many, this is first thing in the morning. (Pro tip: Do not read the latest news or your email before doing this practice. I promise, they will still be there when you’re done.)
  • Find a place where you can be relatively undisturbed. Yes, this may be your closet at this point of the crisis.
  • If possible, start the practice with a pleasant ritual. This may be a fresh cup of your favorite hot drink or even a song you love. The point is to remember that there is goodness in your life every day. Take a moment to soak in that truth.
  • Look back at the past day. I often have to look at my calendar to remember what happened. Play it back in your mind like a movie on fast forward.
  • Pay particular attention to at least one moment that you enjoyed in the past day. At that point of the movie, slow it down. Watch it in real time. Relive the good parts. Be grateful.
  • Pay attention to at least one moment when you felt unhappy or uncomfortable. Again, slow down that part of the movie. Notice the underlying feelings. Name them. Do not try to fix anything.
  • Look to the day ahead. In which moments do you anticipate joy or challenge? Prepare internally for the external challenges ahead.

The Action Replay reinforces the narrative that your life is worth paying attention to. That what you do and what you experience really does matter. It inoculates you against superficiality and hopelessness. It fends off the brain hijackers. It helps you be your best self even in – especially in – a crisis.

Be Bright