I just finished teaching an online course “Mindfulness in Leadership.” One of the major points is that most of us spend more time dwelling on the past or worrying about the future than we do in the moment. I definitely fall into the “worrying about the future” category. I recently had a family member undergo surgery and some complications. My mind has the ability to spin out four or five worse case scenarios in under a minute. My mind follows each to its illogical and unlikely conclusion so that by the time I’ve found out the reality of the situation (always less catastrophic) I am exhausted. What wasted energy!
According to mindfulness training, the antidote to focusing on the future or the past, is to develop an anchor that will bring you back to the present. The most common anchor is our breath. We need to mentally bring our awareness to our breath and mentally pay attention to it as we breathe in and out. This is incredibly effective and often difficult to do, which is why we must practice when we’re not stressed.
How often have you fretted about a discussion you have to have with an employee, a difficult meeting that’s coming up, the likelihood of your getting an interview for that job you want. Next time that happens, return to your breath. You’ll save yourself a lot of energy and heartache.
As many of you know, I started my career as a high school English teacher so here are a couple of quotations that say it so much better than I can:
“There is nothing else than now. There is neither yesterday, certainly, nor is there any tomorrow. How old must you be before you know that?”
–Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls