Last month, I wrote about how sometimes we get derailed from our very good intentions or we plan more for ourselves than we can handle. For me, April was one of those times. I had a list of intended goals for myself and instead of blasting on through them like a boss, I stumbled around them like a geriatric flat-coated retriever doped up on pain meds.
In my post, Tactics for the Over-committed: Four Ways to Stay on Track and Stay Productive, I offered four basic tacks I planned to use in May to keep on top of my goals, which include:
1. Accountability – having someone that helps me hold myself accountable.
2. Planning – writing down or declaring specifics for how I will succeed.
3. Letting Go – shelving tasks that fall into the “bit off more than I could chew” category.
4. Rewards – giving myself a little “yay, you” after my task is completed (not before!).
I’d like to add one more thing to this list: mindfulness.
For me, making a goal list is easier than falling off a log. However, sometimes it’s not enough just to “get it done.” Maybe I want to change a habit or learn a skill that sticks. In this case, mindfulness is key.
Mindfulness, often defined as non-judgmental awareness of your thoughts, feelings and sensations, is about being present in the moment. For me, it’s about showing up and paying attention. I’m a daydreamer by nature and a multi-tasker by habit and, while there are benefits to both, they often rob me of truly experiencing and getting the most from things as they happen. A good example is my habit of reading while I eat. From my Kindle and computer to junk mail and cereal boxes, I love digesting printed words along with my meals. Sadly, though, I might not even register what I eat if I’m too busy reading while I dine, and my brain won’t register fullness as clearly as it would have had I been paying attention. For May, I’ve decided to add mindfulness back to the menu in an attempt to break that habit and truly get the most out of every experience – or at least out of every dining experience.
Ask, “What am I doing right now?”
In his excellent book, Rise & Shine, Pedram Shojai mentions this tactic as a way of pulling our awareness into that moment, away from all the things we are thinking about but not doing. In this way, we can appreciate the moment, whatever emotion it draws out. “You’ll find that you tend to get pretty busy doing something all of the time. We get caught in past memories, future concerns, emotional pitfalls, and, oftentimes, nonsensical random thoughts. Don’t get upset and think of yourself as a failure – welcome to the nature of the monkey mind… Asking ourselves the question…is a conscious act of injecting Self Awareness into the dreamy sleep of our unconscious days.”
Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and author of two great books, Nourishing Wisdom and The Slow-Down Diet, advocates taking more time – not less – to eat. Sit down, pay attention, and enjoy. Doing so helps your body incorporate more oxygen into the digestion process and aids absorption of the nutrients into our bodies. “What I mean by ‘slowing down,’” he writes, “is becoming more aware: Open. Centered. Present. Balanced. Create this experience for yourself and your mind, body, and breath will naturally align in a synergistic state.”
A synergistic state injected with self-awareness sounds pretty good to me. It will help to dig deeper pathways to the new habits I’m working on and get those new skills I’m practicing to stick. And, perhaps just as good, I’ll be able to remember what I had for breakfast! Hooray!