The importance of mindfulness
Mindfulness has, well, been on my mind lately. It is a pivotal ingredient to success in your personal life, relationships and business. Having emotional intelligence or being socially aware are the results of staying mindful.
It’s common to spend our days dwelling on the past or looking ahead to the future. While post mortem reflection can be a good thing—as is planning and goal setting—it’s easy to make past failures, victories and future goals our mind’s dominant focus. Unfortunately, in doing these things out of balance, we are removed from experiencing the present, and, to our detriment, miss out on life.
My mindfulness journey began while I was lying in bed earlier this year. I felt terrible. I was restless, overweight and feeling somewhat complacent. That weekend I downloaded the Noom app and began a journey to change my eating habits and establish a workout regimen that works for me in this time of life.
In addition to personal lifestyle changes, there has also been a change in my job. After 15 years as a designer at LexBlog, I’m transitioning into a new role as director of customer experience. While there will be some design-related tasks still on my plate, it’s allowing me to move into a position where I can grow some mindfulness muscles in a more significant way by having a deeper focus on the needs of our clients. I see this move as a critical aspect of my own development. Whether at work or in my personal life, being mindful is the theme for this year.
Here are three aspects of mindfulness that I’m learning:
Embrace the pain: The feeling of irritation or discomfort is an alarm system telling you that something needs correction. It could also mark that growth is happening. Being mindful requires us to recognize the pain and identify its source. In being mindful I’m focusing on three kinds of pain:
- Growing pains – This is the good kind. Think sore muscles from a workout: stretch, ice, rest and repeat.
- Injury pain – This is a pain that requires a change in course. Bad process, bad form, bad direction.
- Masking pain – This is a pain used to distract from the real issue. It’s used to avoid dealing with the actual problem. I think this is one of the more subtle types of pain. Being mindful is critical here in discovering the source. Often, stress is underfoot.
Track the Data: You do not know what you think unless you write it down. The success of apps like Noom, Strava or my favored Nike Run Club comes from tracking and analyzing data. Logging what you eat, calorie intake, weight, mileage, pace and how you felt on the run are critical to developing mindfulness. I was able to see from my calorie tracking that I’d eaten a lot of high sodium foods. This explained why there was a slight weight gain the next morning. Giving context to this weight increase kept away the thoughts of failure and doubt. I could see the correlation between my diet the night before and my gains the next day.
Share with others: Clarity comes as other perspectives can hear, read and see what you’re thinking, feeling and doing. This type of sharing is not narcissistic, but rather wisdom in action as you look to the community for encouragement, expertise and sympathy. For example, I started using Strava as a way to share my runs. It’s silly, but I love getting “kudos” from fellow runners. It means a lot as they know the struggle and joys that come from running and exercise. Another aspect of sharing with the community is accountability. We all need others to challenge us or call us out when we are at fault. Having a mentor as well as peers who can be honest, cheer you on and join in is essential in developing mindfulness.
Being mindful means actively looking for opportunities, as they often present themselves when you least expect it. I was recently on a video call with a client. We were to discuss their new blogs and design direction around them. In our opening discussion, she shared how overwhelmed she was with work—tasked with heading up numerous leadership groups inside the company to evaluate how and when the employees would be returning to their respective offices.
In speaking with local friends, these are the same issues a good majority of the workforce are facing across our country. It’s a stressful and divisive issue. While our conversation was meant to be focused on their two blogs and next steps, it was more about discussing the strenuous week experienced and offered an opportunity to vent and share about life. Being mindful in that moment allowed the conversation to move as needed and wound up being a far more rewarding experience.