Have you ever had a project presented to you that seemed like it was designed for you? That's how I felt when my friend Lisa Belanger asked me to edit her new book. I've worked with Lisa a number of times over the years. Imagine my delight when she asked if I would like to edit a book on mindfulness—a practice I'm always thrilled to know more about. Given Lisa's academic background, I knew that the ideas presented would be well researched. I also knew that, as a mom to two small kids and a business owner, Lisa would keep things straightforward and accessible.
One of my favourite ideas from A Cup of Mindfulness is that our attention is our currency, which is why I chose this excerpt.
Your Competitive Advantage
We are told to “pay attention” dating back to grade school, but most of us are not taught how to pay attention. Our attention (a.k.a. where our awareness goes) is our currency. We give our attention in exchange for a paycheque and it is what we have to give our relationships, our passion and to ourselves. As such, learning how to spend your attention is the first thing you will learn if you step into a psychologist’s office no matter your rationale for walking in the door.
We don’t need to wait for a crisis to start the practice. It is a coping skill, nay, the best coping skill to have in your arsenal before you need it. While you can start a mindfulness practice anytime, I suggest starting while things are in your control, so the routine is second nature for you when you need it the most. If I could give a gift to the people around me it would be this— the ability to slow down when needed, to experience the present and to relieve the worry, fear and dread that is only available when thinking about the future or the past.
There is the corny saying “now is a gift, that is why they call it the present.”
*commence eye rolling*
But it truly is.
When teaching a mindfulness session with business leaders in Banff, Canada, I had one young leader raise his hand and bring up what I think everyone was thinking, but almost no one said: “Why be present when everyone in the room got to the positions of leadership that they are in today by being able to strategize about the future and learn from the past?”
Well, I’m glad he asked.
The skills and advantages that comes with practice is to be able to focus your attention on the future, the past and the present when it serves you. We spend the majority of our day unconsciously slipping from future to present to past and often with no intent, and no benefit. A great example is lying in bed ruminating on perceived risk or spending time and energy on what your neighbours meant when they said something to you the other day. To be conscious of what your thoughts are, to be able to direct them to where you want them to go—that is the advantage! Even brief meditation improves attention.
There is value for both life and business to be able to look to the past and future. Learning and living mindfully is the ability to switch to the present and live there when it is beneficial—and then switch your awareness to the past or future when the situation calls for it. It is when we become trapped in either the future or the past that things can become problematic. A potential cause or amplifier of depression is said to be living in the past. Anxiety, on the other hand, can be worsened by living in the future.
When you are in a strategy meeting, yes of course your mind will be thinking of a year, five years, ten years in the future. When you are having your monthly meeting to review your business metrics you will be thinking about past days, months and years. But when you are lying in bed tryingto fall asleep there is no advantage to be thinking about any of it. When you are having a conversation with your child or spouse, there is no purpose to be anywhere else but present (put down your phone, you won’t regret it). There is no such thing as multi-tasking, there is just doing two things poorly.
Lisa's book, A Cup of Mindfulness, is available to order through Amazon.