Being mindful and focused is hard! Often times I sit down at my laptop intending to send some follow-up emails to clients or update my calendar for the week. It’s almost inevitable, I will also think of something else to look up while I am on the Google-machine, or remember I need to order ink for the printer, or get a message from my mom. An hour goes by and I haven’t sent any emails, I haven’t even looked at next week’s events. Now I am tired and want to get ready for bed. But I can’t because I still have to do the work I sat down to do. My mind gets so full off all the “things” and I get frustrated and stressed.
We live in a world of constant stimuli and chaos. Our minds rush from one thought to the next. We rarely get thru one task before we are already worrying about what’s next on the never-ending “to do” list. America is riddled with stress disorders, depression, anxiety, addiction, and worry.
Where is the quiet refuge to let yourself just be silent, be still, and be mindful of your own breath? How do we navigate the endless notifications, texts, and racing thoughts and create a mindset capable of achieving more but also staying calm?
Technology; The Beginning of the End
In the 1950’s life was simple. The average American family had 2 parents, and 2 kids living comfortably on one income. If they were middle class, they might have a television. When Dad came home, he left the office behind him. Mom spent the day making a safe and comfortable home. Neighbors interacted with each other, and looked out for each others kids. The “bubble” around the family was small, few outside factors effected daily life. We were present in our lives. Families ate dinner together. Such a different picture from the world today.
Technology was created to make life easier and more enjoyable and in many ways it has. Manufacturing is less labor intensive. Medical treatments are more precise. We can talk with loved ones across the globe in real-time. However, our day to day life has also become a 24/7 onslaught of endless information. Checking feeds and competing with the Jones’ highlight reel. We become less intentional, feel worse about our lack of accomplishments, and worry constantly about all the “things”.
The miracle of email and smartphones were predicted to lower stress, save time, make us more efficient at work. However, 50 years later, we spend MORE time at our offices, having less work-life balance than before. Our grandparents focused on what was in front of them, cherishing their time. While we barely pay attention to one task while our mind is distracted by 100 others. We leave the office, but still check email and stress about things that could wait till the next day.
We eat dinner with one hand on a fork and the other scrolling on our phone.
Who Controls Your Day?
There are seemingly endless options for allowing more demands upon our attention and time. We bow to the obligation to check our email, respond to texts, and check our calendar. Filling up our time with everything possible to not “miss” anything. We lose control when our agenda is decided by outside factors.
The constant barrage of other “things” pushes our own priorities to the side. Making lunch for the kids, practicing a speech or presentation, going to the gym, or finishing a project at work. Whatever those tasks are, they are important to YOUR life and they will need to get done. Not doing those things causes more stress to build. We rarely allow ourselves a moment to pause and prepare for the day, or pause to change gears and focus on the next task, or pause to disconnect from the drama on the news feed and revert your attention somewhere positive.
– CARA BRADLEY
Pauses may happen during natural transitions like getting in and out of your car, in between meetings or calls, upon rising or just before bed.
If our thoughts are being bombarded with all the “things”, we can’t focus, we get overwhelmed, and we become less and less effective in our own lives. Instead of being able to have a focused strategy and timeline for the priorities for the day, we get distracted and stop our own progress to check email, or read a notification, or respond to a text from a friend. Thus turning our priorities and agenda over to someone else, putting our own intentions and priorities to the side, until later.
Harness Your Locus of Control
We let the noise around us demand our attention and time, taking us away from the important things. We feel stressed to get everything done, to meet everyone else’s demands, to finish by the deadlines. Constantly doing, but never getting done. Constant stress, but little relief. Allowing factors outside of ourselves to determine our agenda, and ultimately our satisfaction with our daily goals and accomplishments.
The term “Locus of Control” relates to ones belief system about the causes for our experiences and the factors attributed to success and failure. An internal locus of control gives us strength and motivation in ourselves, and the belief we determine our success based on our own actions. If the locus is external, then we look to others to determine what is important, and feel that we have little control over the outcome. A good indicator that your locus is off: are you are feeling anxious or stressed?
Wondering how someone will react, or waiting on outside direction reduces our confidence in taking actions and making our own decisions. Directing you locus back inward gives you control of the situation and allows you to set the standards of success. Ultimately YOU can control your actions and outcomes, but whether you actually believe that becomes the determining factor.
Be Mindful and Embrace the Pause
Being mindful of where we are placing our control takes practice. We must pause daily to take a quick reading of what is setting our agenda, and if it is aligned with our intentions. What are we doing right now, why are we doing it?
We surround ourselves in a constant storm of all the thoughts and tasks and things – we get lost in the chaos. Losing focus of the task at hand. Fretting about the “what ifs” or getting angry with ourselves. Draining our energy in a futile effort to sift thru all the noise.
- Feeling overwhelmed and unable to concentrate? It may be as simple as taking a breath and siting in silence for just a moment to redirect and narrow in on your focus.
- Negative self talk derailing your motivation? Silence your inner voice for a moment and bring yourself back to a positive mindset, ready to conquer the challenge.
- Exhausted but still have to go to your kid’s game? Close your eyes and rest in your own stillness for 30 seconds to recharge before getting out of the car.
If you like practical simple direction for achieving mindfulness in a stressful situation, try the STOP method from Mindfulness Exercises. The acronym guides your thru the steps and is easy to remember!
- “S” – Stand. Stand still, focus on your breath and the movement of your chest as you deeply inhale and exhale. This forces your body and mind to slow down.
- “T” – Tune In. Imagine scanning your body from head to toe. Release the tension as you notice it, and move on the the next area. Take as long as you need to release anxiety and relax.
- “O” – Observe – Zero in on 3 factors of your environment to pinpoint and control your focus. Silence all but the sound of that single noise, or intently study the colors or a painting. Immerse yourself in that one thing, pulling out all the details you can notice.
- “P” – Possibility. This is my favorite part! In this calm and focused mindset, allow your creativity and passion to flow and imaging all the possibilities before you. Choose a direction with this new fresh perspective and go forward energized and ready to conquer!
Psalm 46:10 Meditation
It may seems strange to pair a Bible verse with the idea of “meditation”, but give it a try.
Instead of saying the verse as one long sentence, break it up as noted below. Say each phrase, stop and listen to your heart and mind for a moment. When broken up this way, it evokes different feelings about yourself and the world around you.
Each line is it’s own statement, separate from the whole, talking to different parts of your soul.
BE. (Just BE – be in the moment, be in your life, be silent. You are here.)
BE STILL. (Quiet your thoughts, sit in stillness and silence and listen.)
BE STILL AND KNOW. (Know truth, know the reality of your fears and worries, know there is a way thru the storm.)
(BE STILL AND KNOW) I AM. (Know you are not alone, Know you are capable, know you are strong.)
Find Your Pause Power!
The idea of stopping, doing nothing, and being still seems foreign in our turbulent ever-changing and evolving world. But there is power in the pause. The pause allows us to harness our thoughts and redirect our mindset.
The methods are varied. Some are grounded in research and science. Others may be silly, but accomplish the same goal. The important thing is that you find what method works for you.
Remember to pause daily, even for 30 seconds if that is all the time you have. Focus on your actions, your intentions, and your outcomes. It is possible to find calm in this chaos around us.