As a business leader, you live in quite extraordinary time. The access you have to information and the ability to connect with others is just astounding given the technology renaissance we are experiencing. In June of this year, it will be the 10th anniversary since Apple introduced the iPhone and we have lived in the internet era for just 25 years. Today, it is unimaginable to think of life without the connection to your wifi and smartphone. These are just among some of the technologies that changed the way we live and work. And clearly, the strategy and application of technology in a business is now considered one of the key factors measuring a businesses intangible value. And such intangible value is rising in importance by private equity firms as they measure the overall value of a business
While it is clear that technology enhances a company’s value as well as creates greater access to information, improves productivity and connects us – there is a darker side of this technological revolution, that few speak about or even recognize. As much as technology has been a God send – it also causes us to disconnect from ourselves and the present moment. While technology can help improve our ability to analyze, plan and improve processes – its engagement can also disable our capacity to connect with others, miss opportunities and, paradoxically, it can also hinder productivity. Ultimately, technology can cause us to be less present. You can see this lack of presence showing up in the rising pedestrian fatalities which are a result of people fusing to their smartphones as they walk across the street or when we find ourselves at a networking event responding to some notification on our phone. In both cases, we are disconnecting from the moment and getting lost in a kind of trance that pulls us away from current reality. When we lose contact with the present moment, we can miss opportunities, plain and simple. The question becomes are we controlling our technology or is it controlling us?
In a previous blog article, I point to ‘Descartes Error.‘ Descartes’ famous postulate ‘I think therefore I am’ cultivates a grave misunderstanding around who we truly are as human beings. Thinking is certainly a power tool that has great practical applications – just as technology does. That said, we are so much more than our thoughts! At the most fundamental level, the most consistent experience we have as human beings is that we are aware and the more we connect consciously to this greatest power, the more we open to the opportunities inherent in each moment. When we are present we:
In short, our consciousness or awareness is the foundation of our happiness and creativity. Through the overuse of thinking or by enslaving ourselves to technology – we cut ourselves off from the very source of our life. I ask my clients all the time, ‘If I could give you all the wealth you desire and fulfill every desire but the cost of fulfillinng this would to remove all of your consciousness – would you want that?’ After thinking about it, they always come back with the answer ‘no, because without my awareness I would not be able to enjoy any of it.’ In fact, after working with me for six months, a client of mine, who genuinely took the time to get the power of their awareness said “David, before working with you I felt like I was chasing after success and results. Now that I have become more aware of my awareness it seems as if the game is coming to me. I can seize opportunities and experience more and more serendipity when important conversations and opportunities seem just to appear.” Bottom line, reconnecting to the field of awareness is priceless and quite practical!
Now many who read this may say that’s woo-woo! But there is nothing strange about it at all! The human being’s capacity to think at a high level separates us in the animal kingdom, and we can see the result of this all around us, pointing to the expansion of technology as one example. However, unlike other animals, when we get lost in our capacity to think, we can also disconnect ourselves from life. When we do this, we cut ourselves off from the flow that nature fully embraces. And, most would agree, being connected to life works pretty well for nature. And all you have to do is take a look at your life and see you are life itself. For example, how much did you plan your life? When I ask my clients to honestly answer that question they will say something like ‘most of my best opportunities and greatest experiences were unplanned.’ Sure, you may have taken advantage of the possibilities that came but think about it – why are you doing what you are doing today?
The answer to every one of those questions is – NO. So what is the point of all of this? The point is, we must start paying more attention to building self-awareness. If we do not, technology will eat our lunch and continue to cut us off from our real source of power. I define self-awareness as ‘being aware of the one in you that is aware.’ This one who is aware is the one in you that knows what you are thinking and feeling. It is the one in you that, when present, can seize an opportunity that is right in front of you or engage in a deeper conversation with the other you are engaging. Or it is the one that instinctively knows what to do – that realizes the plan you had will not work and calls you to take a new direction that serves you and others better. It is the one that encourages you to take a break and feel the warmth of the sun on your face. And it is the one, in you, that is the very source of your very thinking.
To many, this understanding may seem a little foreign. And for sure, it does not align with your mind’s view of life. For most, the mind acts as if it is the CEO, but if that is so then awareness is the board of directors. The mind and thinking would serve no purpose without awareness. The reason for what can feel like initial confusion is the fact we are fish in water, we swim in awareness, and because our thoughts, feelings and outer activities seem ‘louder,’ we miss connecting with the very source of our energy, vitality, and focus. There is a transition to full recognition to realizing the central functioning of awareness, and it can drive our mind’s crazy because we fuse ourselves to our habits of analysis. But I have known no one who has made this transition and looked back with regret. Everyone who makes this transition lives with greater ease cultivates greater creativity and engages relationships in a far more caring, effective way. This is the primary path in leadership development and it is very good for business!
So how to you more consciously engage your awareness? Here are some pointers:
The primary key to regaining your appreciation for awareness is rediscovering silence. Create times in your day when you are away from the need to think or engage technology. Again, when you commit to this, you will find greater space to just be in your life and work. When you do this, I guarantee your productivity will increase not go down. In the end, we are human beings, not human doings. Again, I am all for technology. It creates great possibilities for increasing productivity and creativity. The key is to learning to use only the tech you require and when you do, you will realize technology can serve you by giving you more space to rest in your true nature – which is awareness itself.