Here are my musings on how we can become mindful, find peace, enjoy the present and breakthrough our limits. With extracts from ‘Mindfulness’.
“Meditation is a tool to achieve post-meditative
mindfulness. Regardless of how we get there, either through meditation or more directly by
paying attention to novelty and questioning assumptions, to be mindful is to be in the present,
noticing all the wonders that we didn’t realize were right in front of us.”
DON’T BE DETERRED BY FALSE LIMITS – BECOME MINDFUL
“When we think of resources being limited, we often think of our own abilities. Here, too, our
notion of limits may inhibit us. We may push ourselves to what we believe are our limits, in
swimming, public speaking, or mathematics. However, whether they are true limits is not
It may be in our best interest to proceed as though these and other abilities might be improved
upon so that at least we will not be deterred by false limits. It was once assumed that humans
could not run the mile in fewer than five minutes. In 1922 it was said to be ‘humanly impossible’
to run the mile in less than four minutes. In 1952 that limit was broken by Roger Bannister. Each
time a record is broken, the supposed limit is extended. Yet the notion of limits persists.”
We want to become mindful of how quickly and easily we set false limits for ourselves. This is
the essence of Ellen Langers “Psychology of Possibility.”
Here’s another brilliant blurb capturing the point:
“Research like these vision studies highlights the dangers of setting limits for ourselves. For
instance, I’ve asked my students: What is the greatest distance it is humanly possible to run in
one spurt? Because they know the marathon is twenty-six miles, they use that number to start
and then guess that we probably haven’t reached the limit, so they answer around thirty-two
miles. The Tarahumura, of Copper Canyon in Mexico, can run up to two hundred miles. If we are
mindful, we don’t assume limits from past experience have to determine present experience.”
Running two hundred miles in one spurt. Running a mile in less than four minutes when doctors
tell you it’s physically impossible. Running 250 (!) marathons in one year.
These are all difficult but not impossible.
Much like the story Joe De Sena shares in his great book Spartan Up of the guy
(Göran Kropp) who rides his bike from Sweden to the Himalayas, summits Everest without a
guide or extra oxygen then rides his bike back to Sweden.
Crazy difficult but not impossible.
Back to you.
What limits do you set for yourself?
Now a good time to stretch those a bit?
Here’s one way to help with that:
“HOW DO I DO IT?” VS. “CAN I DO IT?”
“In contrast, a process orientation . . . asks ‘How do I do it?’ instead of ‘Can I do it?’ and this
directs attention toward defining the steps that are necessary on the way. This orientation can
be characterized in terms of the guiding principle that there are no failures, only ineffective
Two Big Ideas I want to dive into here.
First, notice the difference between these two questions:
“How do I do it?”
“Can I do it?”
One is focused on the process, the other on the outcome. Which do you think is more mindful/
more helpful? 🙂
Let’s try it right now. Think about a challenge in your life.
Ask yourself, “Can I do it?!”
Note your thought process.
Now ask yourself, “How do I do it?”
Note your thought process.
Which is more empowering? (Huge difference, eh?!)
Second, when we become mindful and embrace the process orientation, we remember this guiding
principle: “there are no failures, only ineffective solutions.”
Here’s what Tal Ben Shahar has to say on the subject: “When we hear about extremely successful people, we mostly hear about their great accomplishments—not about the many mistakes they made and the failures
they experienced along the way. In fact, most successful people throughout history are also
those who have had the most failures. That is no coincidence. People who achieve great feats,
no matter what field, understand that failure is not a stumbling block but a stepping-stone on
the road to success. There is no success without risk and failure. We often fail to see this truth
because the outcome is more visible than the process—we see the final success and not the
many failures that led to it.
When I acknowledge that fulfilling my potential must involve some failure, I no longer run
away from risks and challenges. The choice is a simple one: Learn to fail, or fail to learn.”
How’s your mindset?
Can you see that there are no failures, just ineffective solutions?
Here’s to approaching our challenges with a process-orientation and seeing results as simply
data that guide us on our quest!
And, here’s another insight to help us become mindful and embrace that! 🙂
EVERY OUTCOME IS PRECEDED BY A PROCESS
“A true process orientation also means being aware that every outcome is preceded by a process.
Graduate students forget this all the time. They begin their dissertations with inordinate anxiety
because they have seen other people’s completed and polished work and mistakenly compare it
to their own first tentative steps. With their noses deep in file cards and half-baked hypotheses,
they look in awe at Dr. So-and-so’s published book as if it had been born without effort or false
starts, directly from brain to printed page. By investigating how someone got somewhere, we are
more likely to see the achievement as hard-won and our own chances as more plausible.”
Want to stress yourself out?
Here’s a simple recipe: Negatively compare yourself to someone you admire by focusing on
where they’re at today while imagining they got there effortlessly then conclude that something
must be wrong with you because you’re feeling a bit incompetent and nowhere near their level.
Welcome to the limited, outcome-focused, fixed mindset.
To relieve that stress, focus on the PROCESS that everyone goes through to attain mastery.
Focus on getting a little better each step of the way rather than trying to prove you’ve got it from
That’s the growth mindset. That’s where the magic is.
As Carol Dweck tells us in her classic book Mindset: “People with the growth
mindset know that it takes time for potential to flower.”
Here’s to celebrating the time and effort involved in cultivating the flowering of our potential!
BECOME MINDFUL OF DEPRESSION
“A mindful approach to our health is particularly effective for ‘chronic’ conditions. For example,
consider depression. When people are depressed they tend to believe they are depressed all the
time. Mindful attention to variability shows this is not the case, which itself is reassuring. By
noticing specific moments or situations in which we feel worse or better, we can make changes in
our lives. If every time I speak on the telephone to Bob I feel worthless, for example, the solution
may be obvious.”
This is a big one.
A key part of Langer’s work on mindfulness is bringing attention to variability.
We’re mindful when we see the variability in our lives. We’re mindless when we don’t.
With depression, we often mindlessly think we’re *always* depressed. But that’s never the case.
There are times when we feel pretty good and times when we feel much worse. We want to notice
this variability. By bringing mindfulness to our experience of depression, we can do more of the
things that are associated with feeling good and less of the things that tend to go with feeling
The Dalai Lama captures this wisdom nicely: “One begins identifying those factors which lead
to happiness and those factors which lead to suffering. Having done this, one then sets about
gradually eliminating those factors which lead to suffering and cultivating those which lead to
happiness. That is the way.”
Not complicated. And, whether we’re depressed or not, the same rules apply to our lives.
There are times when we’re more on than others. By bringing mindfulness to days when we’re
ON FIRE, we can replicate those behaviours to make that a more consistent experience. And,
of course, by being mindful of moments and days when we’re just not quite on, we can bring
mindfulness to those experiences and thereby reduce the blips.
Put that together, have fun doing it day in and day out for decades and who knows what you’re
Hint: It’s indeterminable. But a LOT of fun to explore, eh?
Here’s to optimizing and actualizing while becoming mindful!
WORK VS. PLAY
“Trying to remain mindful in all that we do may seem exhausting. In many talks I’ve given over
the years, people shudder when I say we should be mindful virtually all the time. They think it’s
hard work. I believe that being mindful is not hard, but rather it may seem hard because of the
anxious self-evaluation we add. ‘What if I can’t figure it out?’ Anxiety causes stress, and stress
is exhausting. Mindfulness is not. Being mindful allows us to be joyfully engaged in what we are
doing. Time races by, and we feel fully alive. It can be physically strenuous, but also great fun.
We did a study in which we had two groups of people do the same task: rate cartoons. One group
was introduced to the task as work and another as play. The first group found that their minds
wandered, and they clearly were not having fun. The group who approached the very same task
as if it were a game enjoyed the entire experience.”
Hah! We’ll start with the end.
Same task. Two scenarios. One group is told they are doing “work” and the other is told they will
be engaged in “play.” And… The play group has a heck of a lot more fun.
1. That’s nuts.
2. How do you approach what you do on a day-to-day basis?
Way before scientists were studying this stuff, Walter Russell had this to say: “There should be
no distasteful tasks in one’s life. If you just hate to do a thing, that hatred for it develops body destructive
toxins, and you become fatigued very soon. You must love anything you must do.
Do it not only cheerfully, but also lovingly and the very best way you know-how. That love of
the work which you must do anyhow will vitalize your body and keep you from fatigue.”
He also tells us: “A menial task which must be mine, that shall I glorify and make an art of it.”
Imagine THAT approach next time you’re doing the mundane.
That’s How to Become Mindful 101.
So is this gem from Thomas Sterner in The Practicing Mind: “Try this the next
time you are faced with doing something you define as not enjoyable or as work. It doesn’t
matter if it is mowing the lawn or cleaning up the dinner dishes. If the activity takes a long
time, tell yourself you are going to just work on staying present and process-oriented for the
first half-hour. After that, you can hate it as much as usual, but in that first half-hour you are
absolutely not going to think of anything but what you are doing. You are not going to go
into the past and think of all the judgments you have made that define this activity as work.
You are not going to go into the future anticipating when it will be completed, allowing you
to go participate in an activity that you have defined as “not work.” You are just going to do
whatever it is you are doing right now for half an hour. Don’t try to enjoy it, either, because in
that effort you are bringing emotions and struggle into your effort. If you are going to mow the
lawn, then accept that all you need to do is cut the grass. You are going to notice the feel of the
mower as you push it, how it changes resistance with the undulations of your front yard. You
will pay attention to cut as wide a path as possible, not sloppily overlap the last pass you made
as you gawk at the neighbour across the street washing their car. You will smell the cut grass
and notice how the grass glows with green in the sunlight. Just do this for one-half hour of the
activity. You will be amazed. Once you experience how the activity as mundane as mowing the
grass is transformed, you will have the motivation to press on, because the potential effect this
could have on your life and how you perceive it will become apparent to you.”
Here’s one more thought from Dr. Stuart Brown—one of the world’s leading thinkers on
the science of play. He tells us: “Finally, and perhaps most important,
work that is devoid of play is either boring or a grind. We can get pretty far through sheer
willpower, and some people have prodigious powers of perfectionism, self-denial, and
suffering. Ultimately, though, people cannot succeed in rising to the highest levels of their
field if they don’t enjoy what they are doing if they don’t make time for play. Having a fierce
dedication to grinding out the work is often not enough. Without some sense of fun or play,
people usually can’t make themselves stick to any discipline long enough to master it.
People always say that you can reach the top by ‘keeping your nose to the grindstone,’ but as
sports performance specialist Chuck Hogan observes, this is not true. People reach the highest
levels of a discipline because they are driven by love, by fun, by play. ‘The great performers
perform as they do, and do so with such grace because they love what they are doing,’ Hogan
observes. ‘It’s not work. It’s play.”
Back to you.
What can you do to reframe your work as play a little more today?
TIME TO BE MORE MINDFUL
“The more we realize that most of our views of ourselves, of others, and of presumed limits
regarding our talents, our health, and our happiness were mindlessly accepted by us at an earlier
time in our lives, the more we open up to the realization that these too can change. And all we
need do to begin the process is to become mindful.”
Mindlessness vs. mindfulness.
The choice of how we navigate our lives is up to us.
Let’s be mindful of that and choose wisely as we playfully embrace the process of pushing the
limits of what’s possible!
Feeling enlightened? Download my ebook for free, for a limited time only at: 80 Ways To Find Your Purpose