I love that mindfulness has become a bigger thing.
I’m basing this on my very unscientific observation that when my mediation practice comes up in conversation, people don’t look at me funny. When I suggest that my coaching clients should use mindfulness techniques to improve sales and business performance, they don’t think it’s an “out there” idea. And many people are excited to share their favorite meditation apps with you.
I’m still not sure if it’s totally mainstream. But the tools of mindfulness, things like meditation, journaling, or gratitude lists, are becoming much more common in conversation.
This is important because the self-awareness that mindfulness creates is a powerful and necessary tool when going through stressful times (like a 10+ month pandemic). I’m not sure how I’d be doing mentally and emotionally if I didn’t have self-awareness habits already ingrained in my daily life.
But as 2020 has continued to grind along, I’ve realized that mindfulness tools are only half of the equation. What matters just as much: what you do with that self-awareness.
Growth Comes in Two Steps
A lot of my work as a coach and speaker focuses on motivation. I’m not talking about the “rah rah” inspirational speaker kind of motivation. I’m talking about the long-term motivation to do one of the hardest human activities: change.
At its foundation, I’ve found that change comes in two steps:
- Awareness – you understand there is a problem and what is causing it at its roots.
- Action – you move forward doing something differently to get a different outcome.
In our culture, it’s seems to be easier to focus on the action part of this process. Which is why there is so much unused exercise equipment in basements, garages, and spare bedrooms. Because if you take action without any true awareness of the real problems, you cast around blindly for something to do. (And commercials in the fitness space prey on the flailing for a quick and easy answer).
That’s why a burgeoning focus on mindfulness is so valuable. It starts to open up the possibilities of greater self-awareness.
Self-Awareness Shows You the Door
Self-awareness creates space. It allows you to step away and see that little bit of distance between what you are thinking and feeling in the moment and the larger scope of your life.
It helps pull back the curtain so you can see the motivations, triggers, and causes of what’s going on for you.
Just like it’s easier to see what’s causing challenges for someone else, that space can give you a much clearer picture about what’s going on in your mental and emotional life.
Awareness won’t do the work for you automatically. When you point out an observation or connection to someone else, they must be the one to act. In the same way, self-awareness creates clarity but you still have to decide what to do with that information.
You can see a different way forward, but it’s still on you to walk that different path.
Or as Morpheus said in The Matrix, “But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”
But You Still Have to Walk Through It
That might sound like stuffy philosophy, but it’s really about finding practical ways to work with yourself and others more gracefully.
Paying attention to the inner workings and connections in our minds right now is important. This year has brought very real challenges outside the norms of normal times (extended social distancing, social unrest, politics on social media, etc). Almost all of us are working at less than 100% capacity.
Mindfulness tools will help you gauge how you are doing and where you are at in relation to yourself, others, and your work.
The next step, though, is to act on that. It doesn’t have to be drastic action. In fact, that’s rarely necessary. It can be as simple as being more patient with a co-worker or family member, putting in a little extra effort on a project because you know there’s more you can do, or turning off your email when your brain is fried.
The information and the insights only matter if you then do something different. Because, as a mentor told me once, “To the outside observer, unused knowledge looks the same as ignorance.”
So be sure to spend the time to develop your self-awareness. And then, based on what you learn,