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When you operate out of embedded consciousness, most of your values and priorities are coming from outside of your self—from society, peers, the media, etc. Examples include: losing weight because it’s fashionable to be thin, or because it will make you more attractive to others; working too many hours because it’s considered a sign of adult responsibility, or because having things that money can buy indicates your importance, competence, or social status. Under embedded consciousness, you are guided mostly by concerns over what others think of you.
When you operate out of self-reflective consciousness, you are guided by what you think of yourself, based on your own conscience and values. This is not a matter of automatically rejecting cultural values just because they come from outside of you, or insisting on being completely unique and different. It’s about seeing how you are influenced by cultural values—how they shape our thoughts, perceptions, and feelings—and giving yourself the option of accepting those that you find helpful, and changing those that cause problems. This can give you the rewarding sense of living your own life, making it possible for you to really contribute to the health of society.
The practice of voluntary simplicity helps you reduce the influence and power of unhelpful cultural biases and habits, and gives you room to develop better alternatives for yourself and others. The better you become at simplifying your life and letting go of what’s not important and what you can’t control, the better you'll be able to fully experience what you are doing in the moment, and take what it offers you without being distracted by worries about what happened earlier or what might happen next. Almost always, it’s the worry and the desire to be elsewhere that makes people unhappy—not what they are actually doing.
When you think about it, making the most out of what you are doing right in this moment is the only way you ever can be happy and satisfied, because this moment is the only one you ever really have. By clearing out all the clutter and distractions, it's much easier to create (and enjoy) the life you truly want.