In this time of continuing volatility and uncertainty, it remains important for us to find ways to stay mindful, grounded, and centered. With the approach of the holiday season, which can bring its own set of stressors, many of us may be facing additional challenges that threaten to throw us off balance. Being unable to gather with friends and family and perhaps having to forfeit treasured holiday traditions may be especially difficult. How can we stay mindful and centered in the face of all of this?
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. It’s a place of acceptance and non-judgment of our current reality.
This is a significant challenge when our natural human tendency is to focus on the problems around us, become anxious, and react from a place of fear. Concerns about our happiness or security can easily dominate our thinking and we may find ourselves ruminating about how to stay in control or how to “fix” the situation.
The problem, of course, is that when we’re in a reactive state, we’re much less likely to be creative, adaptable, and resourceful. We typically see fewer options for positive action and are less capable of seeing possible solutions to problems. We only see the clouds but not their potential silver linings.
The trick, according to fellow coach, Bebe Hansen, is to remember that “It’s not about the cards you are dealt, it’s how you play them.” Starting with this simple shift in perspective we can slow down and take a breath, see things more objectively, and make choices from a foundation of strength, courage, compassion, and neutrality.
We can learn to respond versus react. How do we get there? It involves becoming more present.
According to Hansen, we can learn to use what seems to be coming at us from the outside as a catalyst for our own development. This means a practice of noticing where we are putting our attention and to remember we have a choice. Being mindful and fully present offers us the opportunity to inhabit an internal state that is more open, flexible, resilient, creative. We can cultivate silence, spaciousness, stillness and possibility inside of us, too. Actions that flow from this internal state have a different, more generative impact in our world than those that flow from contraction, judgement, rejection, or numbing.
Here are some questions Hansen offers to support being present:
- What am I choosing in this moment?
- How am I being asked to grow here?
- How might I shift my inner state to be a resource for myself, my loved ones, my colleagues and communities right now?
- How will I play the cards I’ve been dealt?
I think this is great advice to start implementing now so that when we are in practice we can be better leaders in times of adversity. Thanks @jeff_thoren
I love “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. It’s a place of acceptance and non-judgment of our current reality.” This is something I need to become more aware of and improve on!
It’s a worthy (and critically important) aspiration, Samantha! You can find lots of good resources on the topic of mindfulness at https://www.mindful.org/
Thank you for addressing this! I like to combine mindfulness with the idea that a good friend once told me – “you can’t live in the past because that brings depression and you can’t live in the future because that brings anxiety. It’s important to live in the present and work with what you have.” It’s absolutely important to think about the future and how you want to shape your life and use your past experiences to learn, however, that doesn’t mean to dwell on the past or worry about the future. Play your cards now and see how you can grow.
Thanks for your comments, Rachel, I totally agree! I read or heard somewhere awhile back that we humans spend up to 70% of our days in “time travel” i.e. thinking about the past or future and not being fully present in the moment. Reminds me of the saying, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why we call it THE PRESENT.”
Thank you for your insight on mindfulness! I have recently been struggling with anxiety about what the future holds and this reminded me that you can not stress over something that you don’t know will or won’t happen. It reminded me that I need to cherish this last year of vet school and truly be present in the moment to achieve my goals.
Glad this post served as a reminder to be “present in the moment,” Lauren!