This post is the first in a 3-part series that explores how we can stop reacting to everything in our lives and instead, build a life of intention guided by our values and thoughtful choices.
Today’s world is one of constant stimulus, distraction, and devices sucking at our attention. We are endlessly bombarded by email and app notifications, a 24-hour news cycle, and the pull of social media designed to prey on our instincts and biology. It is exhausting. We have become victims, thoughtlessly reacting to the latest shiny thing and craving something more. I am here to tell you; you can take back control and create a life that you feel proud of. In my own life, I have found mindfulness* to be one of the most effective ways to do so.
I have been practicing mindfulness in one form or another since I first learned about it in my martial arts classes as a child. Mindfulness is a concept that covers a wide range of practices, but for me, the most valuable lesson has been how it has helped me to shift from impulsive reactivity to thoughtful creativity. In other words, mindfulness has made me more aware of how and when I am mindlessly reacting to the world around me and helped me to choose how I wish to live, instead. For the purposes of this reflection, I am applying the aspect of mindfulness equated with awareness.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” –Viktor E. Frankl
Our lives are filled with wasteful behaviors that, if brought to our attention, most of us would choose to do differently. Here are a few that might ring a bell:
If you are interested in reading more about how our devices and apps are designed to create addiction and draw us in, then check out this excellent article on ethical app design by Tristan Harris, an ex-Google Design Ethicist.
Without a doubt, all of us could expand this list ad infinitum and I am not here to judge or to decide for anyone what is considered “wasteful” and what is not. What I can share is how I have personally made tremendous positive changes in my life through awareness and choice, and how you can too! The practices I have adopted from mindfulness teachings will help you become aware of your habits, make choices about how you wish to live, and then wrest control back from the apps, devices, media, co-workers, family, friends, and mindless habits that are getting in the way of creating that life. The freedom to choose where to put our attention, and therefore the life we want to create for ourselves, is in our control!
In my next post, I will share the three basic steps I have used to bring mindfulness into all aspects of my life and use that awareness to intentionally change my life for the better.
*Mindfulness is an over-used word. It has become the new buzzword, the self-improvement tool of the day. There are articles describing how mindfulness can help with just about anything, how it will increase your IQ, make your organization more effective, and even reduce labor pain during childbirth. As it will, once a concept goes mainstream it inevitably becomes diluted, misinterpreted, and even abused. The concept of mindfulness is grounded in traditions and teachings that have been around for millennia and that take years of dedicated practice to truly do them justice.
This little blog post is NOT meant to teach mindfulness in that way. I could never do it justice, nor am I qualified. As such, I strongly encourage anyone who IS interested or even curious, to seek out a qualified meditation instructor and/or tradition that can guide you through the teachings and traditions that have been built over millennia. I promise, if you pursue mindfulness this seriously and with openness and receptivity, it will transform the way you see the world, and along with that, the way you act.