January 8, 2019
New year, new you, right? Admittedly, I love the renewed focus on self improvement this season brings. However, after years of trying (and failing) to implement wholesale changes to my habits and routine, I realized that there isn’t one hack or trick that’s going to change everything.
For me, it’s the simple, small actions you can do consistently and that you actually enjoy that end up making a huge difference.
I believe two of the most important areas to focus on are your energy and your mind.
In my last post, I wrote how balancing your energy can help you do more of the work that matters. Here, I want to share some ideas on managing your mind, which I believe can lead to a more focused, calm, and intentional way of living and working.
Our minds are incredible. They help us navigate a complex world through solving problems, recording information, directing our body, and so much more.
Yet, our minds are also a source of anxiety, worry, and distraction. We obsess over small things that don’t really matter, worry about future events we can’t control, and let our mind lead us away from the task at hand.
“The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master”~ Robin Sharma
If left unchecked, we succumb to the whims of our mind.
However, if we get to know our mind better, we can move away from distraction and impulse into a world filled with focus and control.
Simply, we can make our minds work for us, rather than working for our minds.
The mind is a complex beast. There’s a lot to learn on how it works, and better teachers out there than me.
With that said, I think there are a few basic points I’ve found helpful and hope you will too.
First off, our minds are naturally a little chaotic (understatement alert!). Try sitting with your eyes closed for 5 minutes, and watch where your thoughts go.
Second, just learning to recognize the chaos of our mind is a big step towards greater self-awareness. You start to notice how easily your mind gets distracted, and how random the thoughts can be.
Third, I don’t think our mind’s tendency to wander is bad. In fact, lots has been written about the importance of ‘daydreaming’ to foster creative thinking. The issue is that our mind often wanders when we need to focus.
Fourth, we can train our mind to become more focused. In much the same way we can train our bodies through exercise, we can train our minds. And as with exercise, training your mind has additional benefits, like reducing stress.
My advice is to give yourself the gift of quiet. Build time into your life to just be with you.
Whether that is through meditation, going for a walk, or just sitting in quiet contemplation, all these practices can help you manage your mind, and become more self-aware.
What has made a huge difference to me is using these moments of quiet to practice mindfulness.
What is this ‘mindfulness’ you’ve read so much about? Simply put, it’s being aware.
I love this definition by Jon Kabat-Zinn:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
There’s plenty of research and science backing up the benefits of mindfulness out there, but I can only share from my own experience that this stuff works. The only way you’ll truly know is if you try.
Anyway, what do you have to lose? Best case you become less stressed, more focused, and potentially happier. Worst case you’ve spent a few minutes a day trying something new.
I think most people will find value getting into mindfulness through meditation. I recommend Headspace for starters, but there are others like Insight Timer or Calm that are great too.
If meditation isn’t your bag, here are a few ways you can practice mindfulness on a daily basis:
The key with any of these habits is to use them intentionally to work on bringing your mind to the present moment. You can do some great thinking over a long walk, for example, but it’s not the same as walking mindfully.
Of course, what I’m suggesting here does require dedication and practice. Creating new habits is hard, but here are a few things I’ve found that make it easier:
Wishing you more energy, focus, and time to work on what matters most to you!
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