Set Aside These 4 Things to Improve Your Mindfulness
Ruby Vesely, September 24, 2018
Mindfulness is one of the hot topics right now and has several different interpretations – most of them associated with being fully present and aware of the world around you. Adding on to this, I define it as having an intense focus on the present moment, which can only be developed when you set aside these four things:
1. Set aside your preconceived notions and fears.
Have you ever played out an entire conversation or situation in your head before it occurred? Although it can be good to prepare (especially for difficult conversations), this can also limit our ability to be in the present moment. If we already think we know the outcome, we neither will be open to possibility nor others’ ideas. Setting aside our preconceived thoughts and fears, allows us to be truly curious and ask the questions that will increase understanding, develop a common interest, and create a path forward that never seemed possible.
Being mindful is about exploring what is possible and leading with curiosity.
2. Set aside your judgments.
I volunteer for a monthly homeless outreach shift in which we serve food and provide resources to help our clients survive another night. Once in a while, I encounter people who were doing well the last time I saw them but have since had setbacks. Their lives are complex, and I have no idea what they have lived through since I saw them last. This work requires me to leave all of my judgments at home regarding who I think they should be or how they should live their lives. We must always remember that we never truly know what is going on in the lives of others, only what we “think” we know. Our assumptions and judgments certainly cloud our vision and impact the nature of all of our interactions.
Being mindful is about keeping your judgments at bay. Sometimes a situation or conversation requires just showing up and being open.
3. Set aside your electronic devices.
This cannot be said enough. If you are in the presence of others, put away all of your electronic devices and give the gift of your total attention. Even if you think you can multitask well, it’s way more important if the other person perceives that you are paying attention to them. The other person can always tell if you are not all there. Play it safe. Be overt and turn off your devices when at all possible.
In a recent post, Marshall Goldsmith talks about the importance of measuring “soft-side” values. He gives the example of when he started tracking how many times he spent 4 hours a day with his family without any distractions. It was very difficult at first, given how connected we all are. Just by simply tracking this metric, he improved as the months went by. This is a model for how you could start to measure your own mindfulness. It could be as simple as going1 hour without looking at your phone.
Mindfulness is being completely focused on the people around you. No distractions.
4. Set aside time in your calendar.
What is your typical day like? Many of us are fully scheduled from the moment we wake up until the end of the day. My dad used to always tell me to “Take 5” (i.e. take a five-minute break) – which was a way of telling me to “chill out!” It was the WORST possible punishment to sit down for five minutes. It is still a challenge, but I now understand the wisdom behind it. Don’t overschedule! Allow yourself time in between your appointments to send follow up emails, make a quick call, collect your thoughts, grab a snack, go to the bathroom (!), and “Take 5.”
Mindfulness is about not overcrowding your life.
It is challenging to be super-focused and mindful all of the time – this takes a lot of energy and hard work. There has to be a balance, and you must be intentional about when you need to truly channel all your energy into pure mindfulness and presence. What is one thing you can do to be more mindful today?