This past week was a good and difficult one.
One of the hard bits was working to get five + days of work done in three, as I had scheduled Thursday and Friday off to celebrate my anniversary and birthday. I work to do this every year and have been pretty successful to date, although banishing work from my mind is always a challenge as an entrepreneur. Still, it was good to get away from the screens and focus on each day and the moments each held, along with the commemoration activities.
I focus on this set of events for a couple of reasons.
First, I wish to celebrate life and relationships, and this is another way to mark them as memorable and life-giving.
Second, this particular birthday gives me pause. I am now the age my father was when he was consumed by cancer and died. That, along with the near approaching anniversary of the death of my younger brother in two weeks, I am particularly aware of being present in each moment and how this manifests itself in my “normal activities”…..”normal activities” being the usual, rather mundane things of every day.
You may be thinking (if you’ve read this far..), “Why is he writing about this on a business blog?” A fair question…
We all may own, run, or work for companies, but we ARE human beings. We are stuck in time….that is, each moment we are in is the only one we really have any action within. The past is unmovable and the future is a fog of unknowns. I am NOT my company, and neither are you. It may FEEL that way sometimes, especially when you’re having one of THOSE DAYS (or WEEKS, or MONTHS, or…..), but unless you a carrying the awareness of the the importance of each moment you inhabit AND how that moment does or does not carry who you truly are forward, you’re in danger of wandering aimlessly and losing the most precious resource you have: time as it works through you in your life.
Mindfulness is so easy to lose track of, especially in this time of our society where we have untold numbers of distractions that keep us from being present. The study that found that the average number of times a smart phone users touches her or his phone in the course of a day is 2,600 tells me that single source delivers more distraction than I was aware of in my life, for sure…..and that’s the AVERAGE! “Power Users” numbers are much higher, and there are a number of folks I know who pride themselves on being super connected in this way.
The whole fallacy of “multi-tasking” is another cognitive “derailer”. In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman goes over the cognitive processes and studies that prove that this is really serial-tasking, and we pay for it in very unpleasant ways. There is a task-switching cost that your brain incurs and so the ability to accomplish truly remarkable and innovative deep work fades as your brain tries to just stay on top of the numerous items you try to juggle with it, making only micro-headway on any one thing at a time, but losing more ground the more items you try to figuratively keep in the air.
Again, why am I writing about this?
Well, I value authenticity with you. I could write about another marketing topic, or leadership, or create a social media “listicle“ for you, but right now I see each of you much more personally and as co-inhabitants of this world. I feel we have more in common as we struggle to accomplish the things we have set as goals, and live a meaningful life. This means much more than having a successful business. Working to create an environment where you and your family inhabit the core of your life, your work and other endeavors supporting it, is the stance you desire and execute upon.
Mindfulness is a bit different than taking stock, I believe. Mindfulness is about growing the awareness of all about me, inwardly and outwardly, in the present moment, following that moment to the next moment. Taking stock is more about judgment of the assessed status of different parts of my life and work (usually arbitrarily sectioned off…) and then figuring what, if anything, I can or should DO about it, with an eye to goals and objectives. There is a time for assessment, especially in business, but even that evaluation and potential adjustment can take place in the context of mindfulness. This is very helpful, since the result, while perhaps taking a bit longer to accomplish, can have all the advantages of this awareness as part of it.
True, the idea of being fully in the present while assessing the past, for example, might make your brain hurt. Done thoughtfully, though, it allows you to be open with yourself about your goals, their impact on others, the realities of your business and industry, and the importance of trust and relationships.
Consider this a call to not wait for a significant birthday or other event or anniversary to expand your thoughtfulness in yourself. This is much too valuable to be a “once every so often” state. It’s good for your business, and, more importantly, it’s crucial for you.
So, what is the role of mindfulness in your business?