At times I felt I carried the entire world of to do lists on my back. My world was a constant pull and tug. I was always overwhelmed by everything I had to do. This was very much a result of all the personal goals and milestones I had set for myself. However, I also had work and responsibilities based on the many positions I had committed to. All the meetings I had to attend, all the people I had to contact, all the emails I had to send, all to move the businesses and organizations of my life forward. They all increasingly felt like heavy weights that clouded my vision and saturated my purpose. I crouched and felt immobilized by it. Was I doing too much for a 25-year-old? This all prevented me from doing the very thing I was supposed to do: be a leader.
Leadership is a funny word that has been saturated by thousands of books and thousands of gurus telling their own stories and defining a word I believe should entirely be synonymous with humanity. Today it has lost its meaning in this vast ocean of knowledge, overconsumption of information, and living in automation. For me, leadership does represent just being human and expressing some our finest qualities as a species, like common sense, relating to others, understanding people, and to putting yourself in their shoes – especially those who express different opinions than you.
With leadership, I felt I needed to be open to the opportunities beyond what I could see now. For me, to do this I had to deeply listen to the people I worked with because they saw something I did not see; they were a piece of the puzzle to the changes I needed to implement. We needed to adapt together to move forward cohesively. All of this I could not do, as I cringed at my phone passing time on social media and, yes, ignoring emails. Mindfulness was an element that saved me because it seemed I was paralyzed and could no longer function as a human being.
Well, over the years, I have increasingly utilized mindfulness as a practice. Mindfulness is essential to my work with others and how I engage in everything I want to do in the pursuits of my passions and vocational aspirations. Mindfulness is defined as ‘the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment’. How does one become mindful of things? You must fill the space of your surrounding and what you are doing with a form of attention and noticing. It’s a process of taking your mind and its awareness through the full rivers of your willpower. It’s being aware of things around you or within you opposed to being totally submerged in automation. The example I always use is when you are driving a car and take a specific route everyday; there are times you completely enter processes of automation while daydreaming and thinking about something. Eventually, you realize you’ve arrived at your destination without your conscious control.
I think this is what a worried and stressed mind does to you more and more as you are flooded with a life of busyness. Most go through life never noticing what is truly around or within themselves. Try this as a challenge for yourself – try to become entirely aware of your breathing without ever taking control of it, focus on your breath as a passing observer. Most of the day, you are not aware of your breath but we breathe to be alive. If you can become aware of it outside the automation of breathing, you will see things start to change as you become more alive. Do this a couple times a day for five minutes and you can reach a different space that can clear your mind. It is a simple yet powerful exercise that I believe will allow you to be more human when you are bogged down by the anxiety and the busyness of life. There is so much more to mindfulness such as body-sensing, foods, smells, thoughts, etc. but I won’t go over it here. I will leave you with your curiosity to look them up if you feel this is something that resonates with your life.
Now and then, I do catch myself slipping back and intentionally getting ‘busy’. Tim Ferris says, “Being busy is a form of laziness and is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critical important but uncomfortable actions”. This is true, because I often feel the need to be busy for no reason as if this will create a sense I am accomplishing something. I have learned this need to be busy is not a good mechanism to cope with the stress and anxiety that I can experience of my long to do lists, responsibilities, and other things occurring in my life.
Mindfulness is one of those things you can easily implement in your life, but at the same time it is easily neglected. You have to keep up with it, day-by-day, and drop by drop the bucket will be filled up. The more and more you practice it, the more and more you can gain control in your life.
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”