Mindfulness is key to success – busyness is not
Today I talked with a small group of women entrepreneurs about the importance of mindfulness in their day. One of the women described her day. It includes running from phone call to a meeting to picking up kids. Followed by making dinner, answering emails to creating a presentation. Her day consists of checking off tasks and activities as she went as she juggles a burgeoning business and a young family. She shared that emotionally she feels drained and overwhelmed. And yet, every day she thinks she was being successful: “I am accomplishing a great deal and something useful seems to be getting done, and I am getting lots of positive press for my business.”
Is this how you measure success?
We spent some time in practicing some mindfulness pauses. She revealed that she was equating a busy schedule and positive reviews with a happy life. She began to notice that she was never fully present in any moment or activity, already skipping ahead mentally to the next thing. “I’m simply going from meeting to activity on my daily schedule,” she said, “but I’m not really there.” I’m driving my kids while thinking about my last meeting, and looking at a paper for my next conversation. I never have enough time to focus on the next innovation needed in my business. Then it’s time to put the kids to bed, and stay up till midnight responding to emails and preparing my presentation that’s in two days. I fall into bed at night just to wake up the next morning and start all over. I’m exhausted.”
By recognizing how much time we spend in a mental state known as continuous partial attention, we deprive ourselves of fully living. We feel anxious about more complex situations as we don’t take the time to give it our full attention. We seem to expect ourselves to multitask, efficiently answering emails while on a conference call. Sound familiar?
Ghosting, the opposite of mindfulness
I call this ‘ghosting,’ where one’s form appears to be solidly present but the life force inside is vapory and permeable, hovering around the edges of your life. And when you’re in this state of being, you lose touch. You no longer know what motivated you in the first place. You don’t recognize the person you envisioned yourself to be as the lead in your own life. But now, there are others who depend on you.
So how can you choose differently?
This requires a change in your beliefs about success norms. As a culture, everyone tries to copy and reengineer what we observe as success with others we admire. But that is often a focus on the past which had its own circumstances, rules, norms, and relationships. Comparing our lives, choices, relationships, successes to another can be a learning experience. But it can also be a slippery slope to devaluing the uniqueness of your own market, relationships, expertise and intuition. In being focused, you allow your own creativity and relationships develop new choices that enrich your life and fit your goals.
So where does mindfulness fit in this?
When you bring your full attention into the present moment, you become alert. You hold an inner focus – a fuller consciousness of what responses you can choose to challenges that are being presented in this moment. Or, you may begin to hear the sounds around you, take note of the day and weather, or the aches in your body. As you pay attention to your breath, bringing your awareness more into your body, you release a bit of what has been so important just the moment before. In that moment, a more fully conscious recognition of what is real and what is “drama” becomes possible. You begin to register what your arguments for and against the situation are as your values and beliefs arise. It may include an arising of your instincts or intuition, your “knowing” of what should happen next. You are able to listen more fully to your business partner. Or you find yourself enjoying your child’s recitation about the field trip experience today. In that moment, you can respond fully rather than react or push away these moments as distractions not on your checklist.
Mindfulness is a moment by moment practice
Creating a better future is dependent on the seeds you plant in the present moment. Planting seeds requires a full and complete acceptance of the present moment, one without judgement. Being present in this way helps you to have clarity about where to focus. And being nonjudgmental allows you to have compassion for yourself, and be more fully you in any moment. No more ghost, but rather a full present human. So here you are. Can you pause in your hurried, complicated, and entangled life to be present in this moment? You can begin by stopping and focusing on your breath. Where do you feel it in your body? In your nostrils? Can you just focus there for this moment now?
Mindfulness is the key to an enriching life and successful leadership.
If you need help learning how to use mindfulness to be more fully you, you can visit: http://www.freemindfulness.org/download for free audio recordings. Sometimes it’s helpful to work with a mindfulness coach – if that’s you, please reach out for a session at http://www.sarajanelowry.com/contact.html. I work with individuals and leaders to bring mindfulness into their lives and work.