My theme for this year is renewal and rebuilding. Last year, I spent a lot of time saying yes to new opportunities. Like Amy Poehler, I love to say yes, but sometimes we have got to say no. This year, I’ve taken a step back and am using what extra time I have to study and practice mindfulness. Here are some new concepts I’ve run across. I hope they also benefit you!
Rhythm vs. balance. In Overworked and Overwhelmed, Scott Eblin details how we can incorporate mindfulness into our daily lives – he focuses mostly on work, interviewing CEOs and other top leaders, but there is a lot of relevance to daily life as well. He talks about finding a rhythm vs. finding a balance. This resonated with me. There are many times I don’t feel overwhelmed, because I’m focusing on the present moment. When I am able to sit with my thoughts and emotions rather than let them take over, I am able to feel gratitude for the full, rich life I live. (This thought is also echoed in The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal: a stressed life is a rewarding one.) Yet there are also times when I feel consumed by my work or by my children’s needs. There is an ebb and flow to life, and we must learn to go with it, surviving the tough times and relishing the good times.
Repetition of positive loops. This concept is from Mind Hacking by Sir John Hargrave. I will be doing this 21-day program with my staff at the library in March – it’s very cool and available for free online. One of the exercises talks about the negative thought loops we all deal with. They are pervasive and frustrating, and they seem to exist no matter what we try to get rid of them. Hargrave suggests using positive loops to replace them: coming up with mantras that you repeat, over and over, until you start to believe them. For example: I am calm. I am at peace. I am a good worker.
Coming to terms with the gravel. As my life becomes busier, my tendency to want to complete everything to a high standard becomes harder. I want to have all the laundry done now! The house should be perfectly clean at all times! I should answer all e-mails the moment they appear in my inbox! When you think about it, this is clearly not possible. And there are so many interruptions in our day, it’s difficult to focus even when things are going right. Make peace with the “gravel” – all those little things we have to do in life. Stay in the present moment while you’re doing them, even if your brain wishes you were somewhere else. Let email pile up and address it all one or two times a day. Do laundry once a week, and you don’t have to do it all, as long as you have enough clean clothes to get you through. This is also from the Eblin book.
Guided meditation. Even after studying mindfulness, I thought guided meditation was kind of lame. I didn’t think I could focus on it. But then I tried the Headspace and Calm apps. While they both have premium content, so far I have done the free stuff, and it is great. The library has guided meditation CDs you can borrow or download too. The guidance helps my brain think in different ways, getting me out of any ruts or loops I might be in.
A new definition of leadership. This is also from Eblin. At one point, he refers to leadership as a dual responsibility: defining reality and inspiring hope. In a world where some people seem to be confused on what a great leader is, this is a standard I aspire to.
How do you find your rhythm? What are your favorite ways to stay mindful?