Mindfulness Is Good, Right? That Depends!
There have been a lot of great blogs, podcasts, and discussions recently about mindfulness. Although there are many definitions of “mindfulness,” I am fond of this one from Webster:
The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.
I’ve given much thought to this subject, especially while watching my rescue dog, Louie, settle in and enjoy life with us. I tried to figure out what mindfulness means to Louie. I decided not much because he seems so easily distracted.
Mindful Like Louie
And then one day, in a flash, I watched him make three quick hops and pounce on a molehill. His nose was buried up to his eyeballs as he snorted and pulled on lumps of grass to reveal what he thought was a live mole. He was focused and intently going after what seemed to be his only goal in life—catching a mole!
I could see the ground moving, and I knew that little mole was running for its life. Too late! Louie caught it, pulled it out of the ground, and threw it up in the air. I was shocked! I tried to yank him away, but he was not having it. He had one focus, and there was no deterring him. I commanded him to leave it and to heel. With much hesitancy, he obeyed. He proudly walked away as if he had just achieved great success. He did what he was created to do through his single-minded focus. Who could argue with his success?
Well, the mole for one. But it doesn’t count. As Louie pranced all the way home, I could not help but think about the leaders in our world who have become so focused on winning that they have lost sight of everything else around them. Mindfulness is “achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment” while acknowledging one’s feelings and thoughts and, hopefully, those of others as well. That is a tough balance. I don’t expect my dog to do it, but what about me?
Am I Mindful?
I’ll admit, being focused is tough for me. I am the kid whose teachers consistently commented, “Does not concentrate on the task at hand.” I had to learn early on to train my brain to focus. I did it by becoming an avid reader and a lover of words and stories. However, as I grew professionally, I found focus to be even more critical. Many times, I became so focused on my goals that I lost track of the people around me and even in the world. I have not yet perfected the balance between being focused and being aware of others’ feelings, but I keep moving further along that path.
As for Louie, he chooses his times of focus, and they are usually when he has picked up a scent. Sometimes I fear that if he got loose, he would pick up a scent and never look back until he was far from home. I believe leaders can find themselves “on a scent,” whether it is achieving a goal, proving they are right, giving their opinion, or sharing advice. And before they know it, they may find themselves so far off track they are unable to achieve the balance of mindfulness.
Being self-aware before we jump on a goal will help us stay on track.
As for the mole, it regained its heartbeat and breath and scampered back into its hole as Louie headed in the opposite direction, convinced he had just saved the world.