Self-Awareness 101 Episode 43: Being A Humble Observer
In this episode Willard discusses how we often make judgments as to how something is "good" or "bad" without really looking at the bigger picture. What would happen if we were able to observe without judging? We choose the meaning something will have based on the way we perceive and judge the situation.
Today we're going to discuss being a humble observer.
One of the greatest gifts for me in doing this program is getting to connect with some of you who are watching the videos. I hear some of the greatest stories through your emails and now a lot of people are becoming friends on Facebook and Twitter. Along with great stories of your own accomplishments, some of you have also engaged me in very thought provoking conversations, which I truly enjoy and appreciate.
Recently a young lady named Stephanie from the United Kingdom who is studying to become a counselor has been chatting with me about the discoveries she is making on her own journey of self-awareness. The other day we were talking about how much time we spend making judgments about people and situations, and how those judgments affect our current reality. As an example, when you are not focused on being self-aware, it is so easy to blame everybody else for things that may be happening to you. Or you may judge and blame yourself harshly when you make a mistake labeling yourself as a “failure” or limiting your expectations of what you are capable of.
But when you begin to truly look at things from the perspective of becoming self-aware, rather than being a judge, you become an observer. I like to use the term ”Humble Observer". What I mean by this is having the ability to step back and become aware of what is going on with other people, and what is happening with yourself without making a judgment about it. Just observing the experience, without judging it.
So many of us have been taught that things are either right or wrong, good or bad and that everything is simply black or white. Without realizing it, we have been taught to place a value judgment on everything. And these judgments often have absolutely nothing to do with what is happening in the present moment. We create these value judgments about what is happening in the present moment based on our past experiences. When something happens we think to ourselves, “When X happened in the past Y was the result.” And we place a value judgment on that past experience that it was good, bad, exciting, frightening, orgasmic or traumatic. Then based on the result of that past experience we decide that we are going to judge this new experience as good or bad. Next time that situation comes up, or something similar, we attach that previous judgment directly to it. And other times we create judgments on future expectations without even knowing what is going to happen. With little to no information, we make presumptions or hallucinations about what we think the outcome is going to be.
Being a humble observer is about having the ability to step back and recognize that in reality, there is no good or bad. There is no right or wrong. That is simply a judgment that we have chosen to attach to an individual experience. As we become a humble observer we begin to realize that when something happens we have numerous options. We begin to see that it’s not what happens that matters, it’s what we do with it. What is important is how we apply that experience in our lives. What do we do in that moment as we move forward? Being a humble observer takes us out of “reactive” mode and allows us to respond in a healthy way.
As an example, let’s look at the loss of my leg. People usually judge that as being a “bad thing” that happened “to” me. I can't tell you how often people tell me that they are sorry I lost my leg and that I had all these things happen because of it. And although I appreciate their empathy, there is nothing for them to feel sorry about. I say that because what I used to perceive as a “traumatic experience”, was actually one of the greatest gifts of my life. But even when I say that, I am placing a value judgment on the experience. In reality, it was what it was. Plain and simple, it was an experience.
Life, in my belief, is about having and creating new experiences. When we label them or place a judgment on them we limit o8ur options and all possibilities. Judgment prevents us from fully embracing what those experiences are.
Here is a real world example. If you judge someone based on the way that they look, or the way that they speak, or something else about them, and you haven't even spoken to this person before, you are robbing yourself of a potentially amazing relationship that you could have. Have you ever met someone, and when you first met them you made judgments about them, and then later on found out that they were nothing like you imagined? Maybe even over time they became your best friend? How many other possible amazing relationships have you missed out on because of judgments?
Here’s another real world example. What about judgments that you make about other people when you're in your car? Have you ever had someone cut you off, and without knowing anything about this person, you make a judgment about what kind of person they are and you start yelling and screaming and calling them names? Let me ask you a question. Have you ever cut somebody else off in your car? And was it because you were a bad person or that you aren’t considerate? Maybe it was because you just didn't see them? Maybe it was because you were swerving to miss a child that was stepping out onto the street. Couldn’t it have been the same thing for them?
Why is it important to become a humble observer? We are so full of judgments about everything and we are not even aware of how it controls our life. We create whole scenarios about things we have no knowledge of based around these judgments.
When we learn to become a humble observer, we step back and simply observe allowing ourselves to be open to all possibilities. We acknowledge that we don't know what is happening in that other person's life. We don't know why they're yelling and screaming over something that seems so trivial. They could have just lost the most important person to them. A family member may have passed away and this is the way that they are reacting to what they are feeling. Is it more constructive for me to judge them or do I need to observe? What would happen if I removed judgment and stepped back taking myself out of the picture. What if I allowed myself to just be present with what's happening in that moment and observe it?
Becoming a humble observer allows you to open yourself to possibilities that judgment robs from you.
Another opportunity for being a humble observer is with the experiences you have yourself. When you feel angry, you have the option of going with that anger or you can choose to control the anger. Or you can just step back and become a humble observer of your own reactions. Imagine stepping outside of yourself and watching what is happening. As a humble observer you may say, ”Hmm, isn't that interesting? That was an interesting way I chose to react to that situation. What caused this? What can I do differently?” Being a humble observer keeps you at peace, it keeps you centered so you are able to respond rather than just react.
So the exercise that I'd like to offer you for this week, the first step in becoming a humble observer, is to first become aware of how often you are making judgments.
And for this exercise judgment means that you are choosing to label something as good or bad, right or wrong. Or you're choosing to create a story about this other person, about this other situation that you really have no facts for.
The second part of the exercise is as you become more aware that you are placing these judgments, experiment with detaching yourself. Practice stepping back and observing without an emotional attachment.
As an example, the next person that cuts you off on the highway, rather than judging them, say to yourself, “You know what, I've done that before. Rather than getting upset, let me just forgive them for doing it, because they probably didn't mean to do it, the same way that I didn't mean to do it.” Accept that you have no idea what is happening in their car, what they are seeing or hearing, and that the experience really has no meaning other than the one you give it.
Another benefit of doing this is when you forgive them for this “perceived” harm that has been done to you; you are not just forgiving them but also forgiving yourself. I want to refer you back to a couple of other videos we've done in the series, one how to forgive others and one on self-forgiveness, because these skills are useful for letting go of judgment and becoming a humble observer.
The next part of the exercise is when you notice that you are judging yourself, making yourself wrong, or wanting to punish yourself; again step back, become the humble observer and say, “What was the trigger that set me off? What wasn't I doing that allowed me to come out of the place of peace?”
Becoming a humble observer will teach you so much about yourself, so much about other people and it will lead to an amazing growth.
So I look forward to your feedback, I look forward to your comments. I look forward to hearing what you've learned about yourself. Take Care.
< EP 42: How To Feel Deserving EP 44: Progress Not Perfection >
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Self-Awareness 101 Series with Transcription Plus
Introduction To Self-Awareness 101: To Inspire, Educate and Empower
SA 101 Episode 1: The Importance of Developing Self-Awareness
SA 101 Episode 2: How to Truly Learn from Mistakes
SA 101 Episode 3: To Soar, I Needed To Let Go Of The Past
SA 101 Episode 4: The Meaning That We Give Things
SA 101 Episode 5: Kind Words And Good Deeds Are Eternal
SA 101 Episode 6: Life Begins At The End Of Your Comfort Zone
SA 101 Episode 7: Two Most Powerful Words You'll Ever Say
SA 101 Episode 8: Making Time For What's Truly Important
SA 101 Episode 9: Expectations and Desires About How It Ought To Be
SA 101 Episode 10: Tap Into The Sources Of The Universe
SA 101 Episode 11: The Four Agreements
SA 101 Episode 12: Courage-Being Scared But Saddling Up Anyways
SA 101 Episode 13: The Power Of Belief Systems
SA 101 Episode 14: Change Is Inevitable, Growth Is Optional
SA 101 Episode 15: You Always Have Choices, It's OK To Say No
SA 101 Episode 16: Encountering External Resistance To Change
SA 101 Episode 17: Creating A Supportive Environment
SA 101 Episode 18: Our Decisions Determine Who We Become
SA 101 Episode 19: Questions To Ask When You Overcome An Obstacle
SA 101 Episode 20: A List Of Excuses Vs. Results
SA 101 Episode 21: The Meaning Of Honesty
SA 101 Episode 22: Living In Gratitude
SA 101 Episode 23: Repetitive Patterns
SA 101 Episode 24: Non-Verbal Cues
SA 101 Episode 25: Be Brave Enough To Accept The Help Of Others
SA 101 Episode 26: Positive Thoughts And Positive Intentions
SA 101 Episode 27: Active Listening Skills
SA 101 Episode 28: How Self-Awareness Relates To Spirituality
SA 101 Episode 29: Positive Affirmations
SA 101 Episode 30: Basic Meditation Exercises
SA 101 Episode 31: Personal Development At Work
SA 101 Episode 32: Toxic Shame
SA 101 Episode 33: Eliminating Clutter
SA 101 Episode 34: How To Forgive Others
SA 101 Episode 35: Self-Forgiveness
SA 101 Episode 36: Deepening Self-Awareness
SA 101 Episode 37: What Is Fear?
SA 101 Episode 38: How To Overcome Fear
SA 101 Episode 39: Dealing With Your Anger
SA 101 Episode 40: How To Find Your Passion
SA 101 Episode 41: Increasing Your Self-Awareness
SA 101 Episode 42: How To Feel Deserving
SA 101 Episode 43: How To Be A Humble Observer
SA 101 Episode 44: Progress Not Perfection
SA 101 Episode 45: Expectations And Perfectionism
SA 101 Episode 46: Dealing With Anger
SA 101 Episode 47: Taking Responsibility For Yourself
SA 101 Episode 48: Achieving Higher Consciousness
SA 101 Episode 49: Trust Life
SA 101 Episode 50: Being Skeptical
SA 101 Episode 51: Benefits Of Closure
SA 101 Episode 52: The Final Episode