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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 3rd of an eight-part series, where we delve deeper into the Whole Developer concept and each of its elements. This week, we’re talking about Mindfulness, why it’s important, and how you can practice it. If you missed the rest of the series, click here to check them out]
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the art and skill of being aware of the current moment. Practiced in Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, at it’s most simple, mindfulness is engagement with every thought, feeling, and action. Sounds easy, right? Think about the last time you ate lunch while catching up on email, or checked your blog while on the treadmill. Were you really being mindful then?
Being mindful means being immersed in the moment. It might be easy to say you were being mindful the last time you posted a tweet or poured yourself some coffee. After all, those were actions undertaken as a means to satisfy some end. But mindfulness doesn’t finish with focusing on the now–it’s about awareness of long-term success as well.
We can all be mindful – it’s in us. But it’s a skill, like coding, which needs to be practiced and developed. The good news is that anyone can hone their mindfulness at almost any time. Awareness of current feelings and actions leads to clearer thinking, more thoughtful decisions, and sharper intuitions. This improved sense of consciousness leads to better products and more impactful companies.
Who practices mindfulness?
One of the biggest modern spiritual advocates for mindfulness is Vietnamese Nobel Peace Prize winner Thich Nhat Hanh.
In the technology and entrepreneurship world, Steve Jobs was most famous for his belief in Eastern religion, Zen, and mindfulness as inspiration for his work from his early 20’s. Fast forward to his time at Apple – all the iPhones, iPads and iClouds you use daily – and his mindfulness’ impact becomes crystal clear.
Other known practitioners include Tim Ferriss (author of The 4 Hour Work Week), Kevin Rose (Partner at Google Ventures, founder of Digg), Jack Dorsey (co-founder of Twitter, founder of Square).
Because mindfulness is a powerful psychological tool that can be applied to honing and perfecting craftsmanship, athletes like Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and others are also huge practitioners of mindfulness and meditation.
Image Source: Mindfulness for Schools
The pressure we feel to multitask can make it more complicated to maintain mindfulness. But if we are conscious of our thoughts and actions at each moment, we can devote all of our physical and mental energy to making the task at hand as great as it can be. At the same time, the Whole Developer must maintain mindfulness of the bigger picture and how those in-the-moment efforts influence that.
Mindfulness of the interaction of short-term actions and long-term goals drives success. Being mindful helps develop thoughts, improve self-knowledge, and approach strategies from all angles. While these are important considerations in the immediate, they might be even more important for the future.
For the Whole Developer, sometimes it means forgoing perceptions of efficiency to bring sharper focus to the task at hand. That person at the gym posting to Instagram while on the StairMaster might be getting more done, so to speak, but it’s impossible for them to concentrate their energy on accomplishing one goal. Limiting their effort to one or the other will allow them to achieve their goals without compromise.
Choosing mindfulness lets us rely on our own knowledge and experience to choose the path we know is right. It’s too easy to let outside influence guide our actions or find a safety net. Mindfulness improves self-awareness and self-sufficiency, which only leads to the achievement of the goals of the Whole Developer – on their own terms.
A Simple Mindfulness Exercise
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So how can you be mindful? There are many ways to practice mindfulness, but for the beginner, it’s as simple as being aware of every breath:
1) Consciously sit down, free from all distractions. Close your computer, disable notifications, and set a timer for 10 minutes.
2) Make yourself comfortable. Loosen your legs, arms, shoulders, hands and feet. Give yourself a moment to take in your surroundings.
3) Take a deep breath. Hold it in for three seconds. Breathe out for another three seconds. Repeat.
4) Use a mantra, if helpful – repeat a saying, in your thoughts, or under your breath, every time you breath. You can also count upwards to 10 with each breath – and then back to zero after that. Repeat.
5) Once the timer hits, exhale, calmly set the timer off, then take a moment to soak in your surroundings.
6) Resume your daily duties, devoting as much attention as you can to the task at hand.
Repeat this several times throughout the day, as often as you need to. It’s also helpful to do this first thing in the morning, so you start your day in a mindful mindset. As you get more practice, you can increase your time from 10 minutes to 20 minutes, all the way up to an hour. In fact, Buddhist monks dedicate every waking minute towards practicing mindfulness.
You don’t have to be a monk to cultivate mindfulness. But they’re a great example for all of us to follow.
Join us for our next Whole Developer post in two weeks, where we explore communication skills – essential for every entrepreneur’s success. And be sure to sign up for our Whole Developer program this fall. In the meantime, learn more about the Whole Developer:
And finally, we leave you with this quote:
“Human beings have a habit of compulsive thinking that is so pervasive that we lose sight of the fact that we are nearly always thinking. Most of what we interact with is not the world itself, but our beliefs about it, our expectations of it, and our personal interests in it. We have a very difficult time observing something without confusing it with the thoughts we have about it, and so the bulk of what we experience in life is imaginary things. As Mark Twain said: “I’ve been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” The best treatment I’ve found? Cultivating mindfulness.” – David Cain