In today’s world, we are endlessly bombarded by email, app notifications, a 24-hour news cycle, and the pull of entertaining (and of debatable value) social news feeds and YouTube videos. We have become victims, thoughtlessly reacting to the latest shiny thing and leaving each of us exhausted, craving deeper connection and meaning. I am here to tell you, you can take back control and create the purposeful, connected life you want. In my own life, I have found mindfulness to be one of the most effective ways to do so.

It is true that mindfulness has become the new buzzword, the self-improvement tool of the day. There are articles describing how mindfulness can help with just about anything, how it will increase your IQ, make your organization more effective, and even reduce labor pain during childbirth. But, if you can look past the hype for a minute or two, you will find real, practical value.

I have been practicing mindfulness in one form or another since I first learned about in my martial arts classes as a child. Mindfulness is a big topic, but for me, the most valuable lesson has been how it has helped me to shift from impulsive reactivity to thoughtful creativity. In other words, mindfulness has made me more aware of how and when I am mindlessly reacting to the world around me, and helped me to choose how I wish to live, instead.

Our lives are filled with wasteful behaviors that, if brought to our attention, most of us would choose to do differently. Here are a few that might ring a bell:

  • Do you open your email first thing in the morning, immediately start responding and reacting, and next thing you know the day is over and you never got to the things you wanted to do?
  • Is checking your phone the first thing you do when you wake up, causing you to start your day in a bad mood because of something you read?
  • Do you procrastinate?
  • Do you miss lunch at work without realizing it?
  • Do you ever spend your day at work reacting to email, calls, instant messages, and interruptions from co-workers, only to find yourself exhausted at the end of the day and not exactly sure what you accomplished?
  • Do you open your phone to quickly check something and only a second later not remember what you were checking?*
  • Do you ever turn on your phone, swipe through the pages of apps, and then shut it off…without doing anything?*

*If you are interested in reading more about how our devices and apps are designed to create addiction and draw us in, then check out this excellent article on ethical app design by Tristan Harris, an ex-Google Design Ethicist.

Without a doubt, all of us could expand this list ad infinitum. I am not here to judge or to decide for anyone what is considered “wasteful” and what is not. What I do offer is awareness and choice. The practice of mindfulness will help you become aware of your habits, make choices about how you wish to live, and then wrest control back from the apps, devices, media, co-workers, family, friends, and mindless habits that are getting in the way of creating that life. The freedom to choose where to put our attention, and therefore the life we want to create for ourselves, is in our control!

In my next post, I will share the three simple steps I have used to bring mindfulness into all aspects of my life. (And, it doesn’t require you to sit cross legged for hours every day!) In the meantime, I encourage you to learn more by seeking out a local teacher or downloading one of the many great mindfulness apps you can find for your device of choice.

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