Inevitably though, my habit of rising early wins and I climb out of bed. In the end, I never regret this. The other morning as I was wrestling with my early morning thoughts, I realized that all of my reasons to stay in bed seemed to be centred on avoiding something: avoiding exercise, avoiding getting going, avoiding answering emails, avoiding making contact with a potential client. Staying asleep is the perfect solution. While I am asleep I do not have to think about anything.
And this of course got me to thinking. I began to think that just as real sleep, which is good for me and gives me time to recharge and gain some new perspective, it can also if I let it, allow me to avoid doing certain things. I’m not sure that this is all bad, but a steady diet of avoidance definitely has its pitfalls. A potentially more serious problem occurs when we are fully awake but we choose to be asleep to things in our lives. It is hard to make the argument that we are using these times for recharging and for new perspective. Mostly, we are simply choosing to ignore what is happening right in front of us. We are pulling the proverbial blankets right up over our heads.
We might, for instance, be asleep to the effect that our words are having on someone else. We might have simply become so used to stating our opinion that we do not notice, or we choose not to notice, the impact that our off the cuff remarks have. We might be asleep to the reaction that others have to our contributions to a conversation. We might be asleep to the look of disappointment on our friend’s face when we cancel a date. We might be asleep to the signals that our body is giving us when we are working too hard. We might be asleep to worrisome behaviors that we see in our loved ones. We might also be asleep to positive feedback that we are being given. Sometimes we are so convinced that we are being taken for granted that we choose to sleep right through evidence to the contrary. We might be asleep to a new opportunity that is presented, especially if arrives as a soft pitch; this could be a casual mention of something like “I’d love to get together to talk about that”, or “Oh, I love the theatre too”. Often in these cases, we choose to stay asleep to what might really be being asked. So often are we caught up in our own sleepy minds that we choose not to notice what is happening in our lives. I have had many clients mention that they simply did not, “See that coming”. I often wonder if they happened to have been asleep when the signs were given.
I think I have always preferred being awake to being asleep. I suspect that it comes from my dad, a hard working farmer, who couldn’t bear to have any of us miss any good daylight hours ‘wasting time sleeping’. I no longer think of sleep as wasting time, but I certainly would hate to ‘wake up’ some day and discover that I have slept through some important relationships, jobs and events.
For me, I do the most of my daytime sleeping when I am with people I am most comfortable with. It is easy to assume that I already know what their reaction or response will be and I give myself permission to sleep right through it. This week, as Jim and I head out on our road trip, I am choosing to stay awake. I am going to practice hearing both what is said and what is not said. I am going to be awake to soft pitches. I am going to be a thoughtful responder.
What is it that you need to wake up to in your life? I challenge you to identify it and to choose an interaction to be fully awake for. You’ll be amazed.
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