Lately, I’ve tried a few new activities: golf, pickleball, and strength training. Each of my respective coaches have told me the same thing: “Relax, you’re attacking the ball (or the band). You’ll be much more successful if you take a slow swing; you’re looking for flow not force.” I have received this advice in many aspects of my life over the years.

I walk fast; I think fast; I decide fast; I act fast. And that has not always been an asset, but it’s been my default. It’s an asset if a speeding train is coming straight for me, but in most other cases, pausing is a much better option.

I’ve spent the last eight years studying adult development and its impact on effective leadership. I’ve learned that before we can lead others, we must learn to lead ourselves. The most effective way to learn to lead ourselves is to improve our self-awareness (cognitively, emotionally and physically). Through study, mindfulness, and experience, I have discovered that I default to being hyper-vigilant about the future, worst-case scenario planning, taking charge and trying to control my environment – all with the hope of keeping bad things from happening. Sitting back and being in the moment are difficult concepts for me.

Last year, I experienced a process (and became certified in) that focuses on shifting our mindset. It starts with identifying some area of our lives that we’d like to be different (our one big thing). Then we identify what behaviors we’re exhibiting that get in the way of our one big thing. Through a process called The Mindshift Journey, we dig deep and identify our limiting beliefs, reactive patterns, and learn to shift our relationship to these beliefs into much healthier patterns. It’s truly life changing.

I identified my one big thing as “living an authentic, present, courageous life.” I became familiar with the concept that “awareness precedes choice which precedes change.” When I slow down and become aware of my thoughts, my emotions, and my physical sensations, I can then be intentional about relaxing and staying in the moment. But as my recent foray into new sports has demonstrated, taking control and attacking situations is still a strong default. It takes intention and self-awareness to live with flow not force.