In 2007 I went on vacation with my parents and brother to the island of Kauai.
During the trip, we hiked to this place called Queen's Bath. It is a "pool" naturally made by the rocky shore with water flowing in from the ocean. It was pretty cool just to look at. And we could have just hiked back after seeing it and left it at that. But my brother and I put on our snorkeling gear, hopped in the water, and took a look under the surface. What we saw was pretty spectacular. It was a completely different world. In this fairly small space, there were hundreds, if not thousands of colorful fish of all sizes swimming all around us. I had never experienced anything like that, and it's something I'll remember for the rest of my life.
Had we simply hiked to Queen's Bath, looked at it, maybe taken a few pictures and left, we would have missed the most wonderful thing about that place. Just like Queen's Bath, you have a whole other world going on beneath your surface. A world of constant thoughts, feelings and emotions, which ultimately drives your behavior and the direction of your life. And the thing is, for the most part we are completely oblivious to all that is going on inside of us.
Why does this matter? Why should you want to be aware or notice the thoughts and the feelings that are going on underneath your surface? Here's why: the next time the urge to watch porn floods you, you can either be swept away and driven by it, or, you can harness that urge to become the catalyst for you to initiate the P.A.T.H. Plan. The urge can become an on-ramp to the P.A.T.H. Plan and a stepping stone towards freedom. But here's the thing, how can you and I initiate the P.A.T.H. Plan if we are not even aware that the urge has hit us?! How can you be sure you be able to really stop when the urge hits you? After all, how many times have you ended up watching porn and afterwards looked back and asked, "How did that even happen?!" The difference between those two outcomes above is not self-control. The difference is self-awareness. What is self-awareness? It is simply being aware of what is going on under the surface. It is noticing and being conscious of our internal world. It sounds simple enough, but so many of us run the entire day on autopilot, barely paying attention to what's going on inside. To say we are busy is the understatement of the year. We are in go mode from sunup to sundown. And then we may "decompress" by turning on our favorite show until we go to bed. Then we rinse and repeat the next day. We rarely stop to notice what's going on in our internal world. But self-awareness puts you back in the driver's seat. Self-awareness is really like a superpower. It is an essential foundation for getting intentional direction in your life.
Alright, hopefully I've sold you on the amazingness of self-awareness. So how do we get more of it? I'm glad you asked. I'm going to give you three things that I have personally done that have increased this skill in my life. Let's dive in! 1. Mindfulness About five years ago I had serious anxiety pretty much every morning. I would think about the day ahead and work myself into an anxious frenzy.
I started to dread the mornings because I hated feeling that intense anxiety. I had tried many things to help with this, but for years it was a daily struggle. Eventually I heard about a book on mindfulness (for those of you interested, the book was Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams). I tore into this book.
It is not an overstatement to say that this book is probably one of the top three books that has had the biggest impact on my life. I resonated with the book from the first few pages. I did the short meditation exercises. I started trying to meditate on a regular basis, and this opened the door for me to self-awareness. So my first recommendation is to check this book out or at least try some simple mindfulness meditations which you can find pretty much anywhere. Another great tool to start exploring mindfulness and meditation is the Headspace app, which I have used and recommend. 2. Practice in advance This second strategy that I've used has probably been the biggest game changer for me and it's something I do on a regular basis. It involves harnessing the power of your imagination. At the beginning of the day, I sit down, close my eyes, and imagine when I might feel the urge to watch porn during that day. It's usually not very hard to predict when that urge might arise. I picture myself in that scenario, thinking those thoughts, and feeling that intense desire. Then I visualize myself noticing what is happening, and initiating the P.A.T.H. Plan. I picture myself going through all four steps of the plan. I then imagine the satisfaction of knowing that I didn't give in to the urge, but I noticed it, and used it as a stepping stone towards freedom.
I found that when I practice in advance, not only does it supercharge my self-awareness throughout the day, but it also significantly increases the chance that I will actually initiate the P.A.T.H Plan when that urge arises. If you take nothing else from this email, I want to strongly encourage you to try this practice in advance strategy. It takes one to two minutes and has been one of the most powerful and effective tools that I have used.
3. Recurring reminder I want to give you a third strategy that I am still experimenting with, but I've found it helpful. The third strategy is a recurring awareness reminder throughout the day. I set a repeat alarm on my phone which goes off every hour (I use the app simply named Repeat Alarm). When it buzzes, I take a few seconds to stop, take a deep belly breath, and notice what's going on inside. How am I feeling in that moment? Then I move on. Taking those brief, but frequent internal observations helps me stay tuned in to what's going on inside. I am still experimenting with different variations of this strategy, and I invite you to try it out and experiment with it for yourself. For example, every time the alarm sounds you could do a mini, 10-second version of practicing in advance. You can try different things with this recurring timer and stick to the variation that you find most helpful.
Are you ready to build more of this foundational skill into your life? I invite you to choose two of the above strategies that resonate with you the most, and start implementing them this week. Next week we're going to dive deep into the second step of the P.A.T.H. Plan, which is to "acknowledge" the urge. We'll discover how, when it comes to the urge, if you want to tame it, you gotta name it! Journeying with you, Dan