I have been taking on a course on ‘Mindfulness’. I was introduced to this course and the teacher at a conference I attended in the spring. I have for years been a ‘meditate-er’, a ‘pray-er’, and a ‘thinker.’ The course was billed as a ‘leadership’ course. I thought that it would hold gems that would help me in my business. If you are interested in more information on this topic: http://www.breakfreeconsulting.com/
Mindfulness is thinking about things, in the moment that they are occurring. Worrying is thinking in anticipation of, or after the fact. Many times, we are not fully ‘present’ in our day, and this inattention can have far reaching effects. So… Mindfulness, (being in the moment) is essential for success.
However, we can sabotage our thinking. Many of us, and I include myself in this, have what we call ‘gut reactions’ when certain thoughts or people come to mind. As I have tried to analyze these visceral thoughts, I have put them on a shelf that is the ‘oh, no, here comes trouble’ storage place in my mind. I tend to avoid this shelf, as it usually contains the drama of dilemmas I cannot solve or people I cannot please.
I have come to find out that this type of thinking is called a ‘fixed mindset.’ A fixed mindset is a limiting mindset, and it usually comes with negative emotions and actions. What I have learned is that fixed mindsets keep me in bondage to the negatives that I would like to avoid.
For example, the word ‘should’ is one of those limiting concepts. We all know that we ‘should’ do certain things. When we don’t, or can’t, we may feel blame, shame, and failure. What would happen if we, on purpose, through mindfulness removed limiting concepts from our mental landscapes? If I don’t have any ‘shoulds’ in my life, I may have limitless opportunity.
As an adult, I have learned that I am not under the control of another human being or a set of rules other than the ones that I make for myself. The rules of ‘should’ may have been good training in my younger irresponsible days, but they hold little value for me now. Now, I know that actions have consequences, and I am able to choose the path that will bring the most reward.
So back to fixed mindsets, negative emotions, and mental defeat. What can we do? Mindfulness comes into play here. Stay in the moment. Stay in the present. The first thing is to acknowledge that I am having a negative thought. I recognize this, and ask myself if this thought serves me as an adult and helps me pursue the path I want to take. Many times, the answer is no.
When we do what we have always done, because it’s just what we do, or just how we are, we are doomed to an outcome that may not further our highest goals. I am reminded of a story, and I am sure you have heard it too. A wife cuts off the end of her roast before she puts it in the pan to go into the oven. Her spouse asks her why she cuts off the end of the roast. She says she doesn’t know, but that’s how her mom did it, so it must be the way to go. She, out of curiosity asks her mom why she cuts the end off the roast. Her mom does not know why, but states that was what her mother taught her. Fortunately, great-granny is alive, and she is asked why she cuts the end of the roast off before putting it in the pan. Great-granny says that they were so poor that they only had one pan, and most of the times, the roast was too large to fit in the pan. In great-granny’s time, this action was beneficial, in fact, necessary due to resources. However, in succeeding generations, this practice may not have been useful at all. The ‘should’ ceased to matter.
In many cases of our adult lives, the ‘shoulds’ that we learned just don’t work for us anymore. But because we are not mindful, we continue old habits, thought patterns, and emotional cycles that cease to make sense or serve us well. With mindfulness, we can tear these old thought patterns up.
Using the word ‘tear’ we can pay attention to what we are doing, and we can make positive change. In this acronym, TEAR stands for: Thought, Emotion, Action, Result. When I am in the moment, I am able to look at the thought and examine it. Is it appropriate? Does it matter? What emotion is attached to that thought? Is it positive or negative? Do I still need it? What action is required? The truth is, there may be no action required because the thought is unnecessary. And the finally, the result. Does it even matter? In my childhood, it was important that I should develop the habit of making my bed, cleaning my room, etc. While I still think this is a good idea, and I do accomplish these tasks regularly, the consequence attached to not doing those jobs is non-existent. There is no negative emotion attached.
When we are not mindful, then we just go with the flow, and are led around by whatever thought/emotion/action happens to shout the loudest. I remember being told that I would be grounded and lose privileges if I was not home by curfew. My parents told me that even if I were one minute late, I would be punished. I internalized timeliness to that extent that as a grown woman, I noticed that I would run stoplights so as not to be late to a meeting. Fortunately, I was mindful enough to sit myself down, and explain to my inner child that while this meeting was important, no one was going to ground me if I were late, and if I were permanently late, the rush was useless.
Examine your thoughts, especially when they carry negative emotions. You might find out you don’t need them anymore, and you could open new areas of freedom.
Until next time,