I was recently sitting in the waiting room for my chiropractic when I picked up a book called Mindful 2.0 by Vikki Kelly - The first line ‘Can you remember the last time you truly paid attention, total focus with this very moment?' had me hooked and as I nonchalantly flipped through the pages it did actually make me really think about how aware and present I really am of what is going on around me on a day to day basis.
Often I drive to work and on arrival can't really remember the drive as I was thinking of the million and one things still to do in the day. I know as parents we should listen to our kids, but I often I ask them a question, and without a thought have already moved on starting to make mental notes of all the tasks I need to do in the next hour whilst half-heartedly nodding and saying yes to the children's response! The kids pick up on it as do my work colleagues and as it makes them feel irrelevant and undervalued, stifling discussion and any proactive and positive outcomes. They say your mind wanders up to 50% of your waking hours and although there are some perceived benefits of mind-wandering, including creative thinking there is also a darker cost to this mental habit - it can be damaging to your overall health, increase stress levels, reduce value of relationships and lower productivity.
I particularly loved the chapter called ‘Monkey Mind’ – bringing awareness to what is actually grabbing and hijacking your attention – the thoughts that grab at us are like a group of drunken monkeys, many of which are drunk with worry, fear or negativity and they randomly jumble up on top of each other, each adding to the confusion and fear. I could really relate to this as often your mind is so full of thoughts of what might be, that you are not able to focus on what actually is happening - what is really going on around you. If you are not able to be present in the moment then you probably stand very little chance to help resolve any of the perceived issues in the future.
Throughout the book there are little exercises to keep you engaged, one is about mixing it up – Vikki says that mixing up your daily routine can strengthen your mindfulness muscle and can have multiple benefits for your attention, focus and productivity. This made me look at my daily routines and habits, many which I have had for....decades! Changing my drive to work, going to a different café for that morning coffee, having my meetings in a different room, while all little things, because they have become ingrained, they are actually quite challenging to change, believe it or not. These little changes could help me from becoming ‘stuck in my ways’ and let me take a new look at what is in front of me from a business and staff perspective!
Another exercise was called the ‘Digital Twitch’ and basically is a love /hate task that involves leaving your phone and any communication devices at home for a day! - this would lead in your mind to world chaos and collapse! This idea like most of us did not induce calm thoughts, but instead sparked a degree of panic in me! Vikki suggested that with all the distraction and multiple social network platforms grabbing our attention perhaps we are losing touch with our basic human essence, the core of us as humans - the pleasure of solitude, reading (a real book), downtime, connecting with others and actually listening! I wonder if we should look at the idea that the dedicated personal days we give staff off should include leaving your work phone and laptop in the office! As scary as it sounds it may be the scary freedom staff need to rebuild and recharge.
Mindful 2.0 is a quick guide that can picked up, scribbled on and put back down. It’s definitely worth a read and maybe for me, I might start by leaving my phone alone for a couple of hours and changing from a Long black to a trim Mocha!