Updated: Feb 10, 2021
Human beings have multiple super-powers that animals don't. One of the most overused one is the capacity to feel stressed and anxious about the data error made on Slide-6 in that obscure consulting presentation. This super-power comes from our ability to imagine whatever we want to. So how do we use this ability? By imagining the worst.
For instance: "That mistake on Slide-6 will anger the client, who might start questioning my credibility. Subsequently, he'll start questioning the credibility of my firm at which point my manager might report me to the senior associates who may fire me and then I will be left with no job and little reputation."
Why does this happen?
Every second, multiple stimuli are waiting to pull our mind away. Some from the environment: Phone beep, Construction noise, Dinner aroma. And some from within: “Why is she not responding?”, “Slide-6 changes are pending”, “Grandma is unwell”. Even if one could shut out everything in the environment, how does one shut themselves out? Sooner or later some stimuli will be powerful enough to hijack us from attention mode to rumination mode. Even in the time that you have read this post up until now, your mind would have wandered away to random thoughts. Even if you didn’t want it to.
In fact, a Harvard research with 15000+ respondents across 80 countries finds that our mind wanders on an average 47% of our waking lives (~50% while we’re working). They underscore 2 main things:
Most often, the mind wanders to ruminating on something related to the minutiae of our lives
Predominantly, we get hijacked by problems, worries and dissatisfactions
Our mind is habitual of wandering off, without our permission, and in turn becomes a leading cause of our unhappier self. Hence the popular phrase, “To be happy, be in the present moment”
So what is Mindfulness and how does it help us become happier?
Mindfulness is nothing but building the capacity to not get hijacked. It is the quality of being aware of what our mind is thinking. In other words, it is the quality of being present to the current moment happenings. By bringing intentional effort to building the Mindfulness muscles that prevent rumination, we are able to make our mind a less wandering one and in turn make ourselves happier. When that happens, instead of stressing about Slide-6 data changes which would yield no benefit, we are able to direct our mind to action, in a calm and composed way. For that presentation is so much more than a small aberration. And, as one soon realizes with Mindfulness, so are you :)
So how do we develop Mindfulness?
Fortunately, human beings have constructive super-powers too and that is the capacity to build whatever muscles they want to. All it needs is practice. While Mindfulness has many aspects that we discuss in detail in our workshops and academic courses, to initiate the practice of Mindfulness you could start by just giving 10 minutes of your life every day. Here’s a link to start it.
Hoping this initiates a new habit towards a happier self :)