At any given time there are multiple pulls on my attention and time; projects, colleagues, collaborators, friends, family, errands, community…my own stuff. There are times that I can get more done if I switch to auto pilot and get through the day in a distracted, but somewhat scripted, routine. Sound familiar?

I drive 15 minutes to work. In that short time, I see people driving while talking on the phone, eating breakfast, shaving, leaning over to find something on the floor mat, or attempting some combination of those things. I’ve even had a driver veer into my lane (coming at me head-on) before looking up to realize they were unwittingly playing chicken. We’re not paying attention. We’re not connecting to the world around us.

Now more than ever, Being Mindful matters – not in some weird New Age way, but in a “this could make you more effective” way. It’s not that scripts are bad, but an unchallenged, overreliance on them can be. Why? Because opportunities are missed and mistakes happen when we’re disengaged from our lives. Even though a lot about my drive to work is the same every day, it’s pretty dangerous to get too comfortable in that notion and stop paying attention. This is especially true in the high-pace and complex world we’re navigating. While you might not veer over a lane into head-on traffic, you might do the organizational or social equivalent.

It feels counterintuitive, but slowing down can help you speed up because it can help you see what’s really happening, rather than playing a script that is full of assumptions that may or may not be true any longer.

Below are three things I’m trying to help myself break script:

1) Meditate. There are lots of different approaches to meditation. I spend about ten minutes at the end of the day to focus on my breathing, but another approach might work for you.

2) Break routine. One night a week I try a new recipe so I have to think about what I’m making for dinner.  Things like driving a different route, trying out a new restaurant, or taking a class could work…anything that will prompt you to pay attention to your experience.

3) Focus on doing one thing at a time. In general, it is hard for me to focus on one thing for more than an hour, so I’m experimenting with breaking work into shorter (under an hour) tasks, but really trying to focus on the task and get it done before moving on.

These are, admittedly, small changes, but I have to start somewhere.

What changes have you made to tune into your life more?

2 thoughts on “The Importance of Being Mindful

  1. Mike Raper says:

    Timely article. I have lately been considering just this kind of thing, albeit in a more focused way…specifically, being mindful in personal interactions. I don’t know about anyone else, but I get used to being myself, so I have a huge blind spot about how others might see me. Then one day I caught myself exhibiting a particular behavior that, in others, annoys the hell out of me. It’d be a waste of time to try to describe how that realization made me feel; mortified is nowhere nearly strong enough a word. So I’ve taken to carrying a little slip of paper in my pocket, and leaving a little note on my desk that simply says “TBYS & LTWA”. Cryptic? Maybe to others, but not to me. So far, it does seem to help by doing just what you’re describing here; it’s helping me maintain awareness and be mindful of my behavior. The only question is how long will I keep it up, and can I make it enough of a part of my routine to BE routine without thinking?

  2. Mike Raper says:

    Timely article. I have lately been considering just this kind of thing, albeit in a more focused way…specifically, being mindful in personal interactions. I don’t know about anyone else, but I get used to being myself, so I have a huge blind spot about how others might see me. Then one day I caught myself exhibiting a particular behavior that, in others, annoys the hell out of me. It’d be a waste of time to try to describe how that realization made me feel; mortified is nowhere nearly strong enough a word. So I’ve taken to carrying a little slip of paper in my pocket, and leaving a little note on my desk that simply says “TBYS & LTWA”. Cryptic? Maybe to others, but not to me. So far, it does seem to help by doing just what you’re describing here; it’s helping me maintain awareness and be mindful of my behavior. The only question is how long will I keep it up, and can I make it enough of a part of my routine to BE routine without thinking?

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