What does it mean to be mindful? Quick searches on the internet show that being mindful means:
- to be an objective observer
- to be fully present and focused at the moment
- to be able to say or do the right thing at the moment
- to be intentional and deliberate in your actions
That sounds good, but how can I be like that for most of my waking hours?
My full-time job at current work is mostly monotonous and unfulfilling. In the morning, I often find myself sitting at my work desk half-asleep and mindlessly typing things on auto-pilot just to get through whatever that needs to be done on that day. I am exhausted at the end of the day but with very little sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
I often feel like I’m being a mindless zombie, and it creeps into interpersonal relationships too.
For example, a boss or coworker might be presumptuous and say things that are not accurate about me. I could correct them diplomatically, but I don’t bother to, because I can’t string the right words together at the moment to make them realize their faulty assumptions.
Or in another instance, a friend is telling me about their day. I’m thinking about what advice to give without listening carefully and understanding where they’re coming from.
I don’t have all the answers, and I’m far from perfect, but here is the list of things that are working for me and might work for you.
Use a go-to phrase when you’re not sure
When someone asks me to do something, my reflex response is “Yes.” An automatic “Yes” will drain you down the road if you’re not absolutely thrilled about the request you’re being asked.
Do not say, “Yes” just because you know how to do something. Technically, a CEO could change the font on a document if he’s been asked to. But his time is better spent elsewhere! The same goes for you.
Whether your answer is “Yes” or “No,” be more intentional about it. Use a set of phrases to go through and determine your priorities before giving away your answer.
Try one of these phrases:
- “I feel honored that you asked, but let me check my schedule, and I’ll get back to you.”
- “Let me get back to you on that. If I can’t do it, I might be able to find someone else who can.”
Give yourself time to think through the implications of the commitment before agreeing to it.
Be aware of your surrounding
Have you ever inadvertently blurted out some jokes, comments, or unsolicited advice that made you look stupid and made everyone uncomfortable? I have.
That happens because you failed to notice the mood of your surrounding. If you have a hard time reading people and if you’re naturally low on empathy (as I am), try to describe what is happening around you in your head before you do or say anything. That’ll help filter your words or stop yourself from saying things that you might regret later.
Notice your own emotion
Sometimes we let our negative emotion simmer and do not deal with it if it does not get to the boiling point. This puts a psychological toll on us. The stress builds up, we become more antsy, and we do not know why.
Whenever you feel a slight emotional pain, notice it and try to verbalize in your head why you’re feeling that way. Objectifying your feelings with words helps you to have more clarity and be more mindful.
One day, I wasn’t sure why I was unhappy until I realized that it was because of something a coworker has said. I had a hard time admitting to myself that I am frail and easily affected — even by the coworker whom I don’t even care about! It was embarrassing to even admitting that to myself. But figuring out the source of my discomfort did help.
When reflecting on your own emotion, it might lead you to have other thoughts and feelings. Try not to cast judgment on yourself. Try to describe what’s happening first, each time a new feeling arises in you.
Narrate your actions
If I’m not mistaken, Arnold Schwarzenegger has once said he imagines himself lifting weights as he is lifting them.
That is to say, give 100% attention to your action and be deliberate.
The same can be said for eating. Instead of just eating only to fill the need of hunger, appreciate the food you’re having. Savor it and imagine and tell yourself that it’s nourishing your body.
When you narrate the actions to yourself or imagining the desired result as you’re doing it, you’ll be more intentional in your actions.
You’re not moving around just to get through the day. Your actions have a meaning and purpose. They’re meant to make you a better person and help you achieve your goal.
Notice your own self-criticism
We are our worst critic. When something goes wrong, we tell ourselves why we suck. I say horrible things to myself, and I judge myself all the time. If you do this, stop it.
Being overly judgmental to yourself will rob you off of productivity. Overthinking will paralyze you.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But also do unto yourself as you would have others do unto you too!
You wouldn’t want someone who criticizes you all the time around you. Then stop being that overly-critical person to yourself!
If judgmental thoughts or feelings seep in, take a moment to notice it. Notice your own self-criticism and why it is happening.
Again, try to describe to yourself what is going on, rather than letting the negative emotion run in your mind on auto-pilot.
Did I miss anything?
In this post, I shared 5 tips to live more mindfully without making meditation a part of your routine.
Which one did you resonate with the most? What should be included in this post?
Leave the comments below.
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