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Practicing Awareness Can Increase Effectiveness In Your Job

Jul 13, 2008
Practicing awareness is not commonly associated with the necessary set of skills for a safe and productive workplace. But a conscious decision to expand your awareness can increase your effectiveness in every area of your life, including your job.

Awareness is a state of mind where you are conscious of and alert to certain facts, circumstances or areas of knowledge that affect you or others in some way. Awareness implies a keen perception and consciousness of your environment and the various elements operating within that environment.

One problem with awareness is that our conscious minds are only capable of holding and processing a limited amount of information at any one time. The amount of stimuli and information available to us at any moment is literally overwhelming. It is necessary, therefore, for our conscious minds to "filter" the massive amounts of information that our senses and mental processes constantly encounter in order to avoid being overloaded.

A part of the brain called the "reticular activating system" is responsible for filtering out non-essential information in our environment while bringing relevant information to our attention. An example of this is hearing your name spoken over the announcement speakers at a crowded and extremely noisy airport. The majority of the "noise" is filtered out and dismissed as meaningless background chatter. When your name is announced, however, your reticular activating system allows you to become conscious and aware of this information because it is important to you.

Another example of this is when people purchase a new car. Oftentimes, in the days and weeks following their purchase, they begin noticing the same model "everywhere," whereas before their purchase they were unaware of these same cars on the road. This information (i.e., the make and model of their new car) is now "relevant" and subsequently their awareness of this information increased.

Increasing awareness, therefore, begins with making a conscious decision about what types of information are important to us. Once this is established, we are more apt to notice and become consciously aware of relevant information within our environment when it appears.

Awareness can be focused on any area or experience that we determine to be important to us. In safety, for example, an increased awareness of potential hazards and risk factors begins, first, with deciding that our safety and the safety of others is important to us in terms of our priorities and, second, by educating ourselves on the specific hazards and risk factors that exist.

If our goal is to become more aware of our emotional reactions to certain situations, the first step is to decide that these emotional reactions are important to us. From here, we can begin to notice what these reactions feel like in our bodies and how they affect our thought processes so that we can examine them from an objective point of view. The challenge with emotional awareness is that the emotions themselves often have a tendency to make us unconscious of everything else while we are experiencing the emotion. A conscious decision to notice and focus on these reactions is therefore essential to increase our awareness.

Awareness, of course, is only the first step toward positive change. Awareness must be followed by some form of action. Without awareness, however, it is impossible to be effective in the types of actions we take.

Levels of awareness can be compared to a series of concentric circles-the larger the circle, the larger your sphere of awareness. The goal is to expand your awareness to include elements that are important to you.

Let's do a quick exercise. Stop what you are doing and be as still as possible for one full minute. Listen carefully and try to identify as many sounds as possible. Write down your responses.

Were you aware of these sounds before you did the exercise? Probably not. Most of the time, we "filter out" these sounds because they are not important to us. When we expand our circle of awareness we begin to notice things that we were not aware of beforehand.

Now do the same exercise as above; only this time, instead of listening for sounds, look around and list as many colors as you can find. Again, write down your answers.

Once again, you probably began to "notice" aspects of your environment that were outside of your awareness before you did the exercise. Expanding your awareness is often a choice of what you decide is important to you at the time.

The next time you feel yourself getting angry or stressed out, take a moment to "notice" what is happening in your body. What physical manifestations are happening in your body? (The word "emotion" literally means "outward movement." - "e" = "outward;" "motion" = "movement.") For example, is there tension in your stomach? Chest? Neck? Eyebrows? Are there any changes in your breathing?

As you continue to expand your levels of awareness, you will be better equipped to make the positive changes that will increase your effectiveness in achieving the goals you set for yourself. Take some time to determine your priorities and consciously decide to become more aware of things that have an impact on the areas that are important to you. When you make this choice, your awareness will began to expand naturally. And when your awareness expands, your effectiveness on the job will increase as well.
About the Author
Tim Wright, Ph.D. is a freelance writer and busy internet entrepreneur living in Virginia.
Visit his website at: http://myinternetbusinessnet.com
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