Mindful Living: Ideas on enjoying every moment

In this time and age, it is ever more important to be wary of stressors and learn the ‘art’ of enjoying life to the fullest. Yes, you read that right. Staying happy and enjoying each moment is an art which requires practice. 

More often than not, we are so consumed by the circumstances of our past or the worries of our future that we forget that today is what we really have.

This idea of conscious living, or mindfulness, may seem contradictory to those who are habitual of going after their goals by sacrificing living right now. But cultivating mindfulness will not only help you achieve your goals faster but also allow you to enjoy life as you go for what you love.

There is new research on happiness – that suggests that happy people tend to be more productive, confident and successful. By being mindful, you will notice that you enjoy your meals more, you enjoy time with family and friends more, enjoy your work more.

You will be astonished to notice how a small change like this could bring lasting positive changes to your daily life. A study conducted at the University of Utah confirms that people with mindful traits have more emotional stability. They are also found to sleep better at night.

This attitude of mindfulness will not come naturally, because we are living in a culture where we are continuously bombarded with information, deadlines, work, stressors, and expectations to act, socialize, feel, and be a certain way.

Cultivating a sense of mindfulness will require some patience and practice, but the results will be worth it all.

You are more than your thoughts

Life is unfolding in the present moment. But most of the time, we let the present moments slip away. We are in a constant state of flux, always busy doing something and thus we forget what it feels like to be still and calm.

“We’re living in a world that contributes in a major way to mental fragmentation, disintegration, distraction, decoherence,” says Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace. The following will sound familiar to most of you; when we are working, we think about when we would take a vacation. When we are vacationing, we worry about the work piling up.

Intrusive memories of the past or apprehension about the future – things that may never even happen – keep us from focusing on what really matters right now.

Something that Mark Twain wrote always brings a smile to my face, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

We don’t enjoy living in the present because our minds are hard-wired to hop from thought to thought and create imaginary fears to paralyze us from functioning to the best of our abilities.

Most of the times, ordinary thoughts that cruise through our minds, control us. We become victims to our own negativity and can’t find a way to let go of unwanted feelings, even when we want to.

Living in the moment means being in a state of active, open, and intentional attention to the present. Instead of becoming immersed in your thoughts, you become an observer of your thoughts – rejecting what you don’t like, or what doesn’t benefit you.

Mindfulness has many other benefits – it reduces stress (obviously!), boosts your immune system, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure and even helps people cope with diseases like cancer! It also reduces the risk of heart disease.

Naturally, people who are mindful are happier, more confident, more secure, exuberant and emphatic.

Mindfulness has a powerful impact on interpersonal life

Whitney Heppner and Michael Kernis of the University of Georgia say that mindfulness actually inoculates people from aggressive impulses. “Mindfulness decreases ego involvement, so people are less likely to link their self-esteem to events and more likely to take things at face value,” says Kernis.

In general, being mindful will help you connect with other people better – you will become more emphatic, more ‘one with the universe.’ Mindfulness will increase your awareness about how you interpret and react to the thoughts in your mind. In fact, it increases the gap between impulse and reaction.

Unlike most people, you will get a chance to ask yourself, ‘This is what I’m feeling. How should I react to it?’

Next time, if you find yourself in a heated argument with your significant other, just take a step back and focus on your breathing. There’s no better way to calm down and bring all your senses to the present moment than breathing deeply.

A study was conducted to test the impact mindfulness has on people. Each subject was told that the other subjects were forming a group and taking a vote on whether he could join. After 5 minutes, the experimenter announced the results. Either a subject was accepted or rejected.

Before the start of this experiment and as a mindfulness exercise, half the subjects were given a raisin each and told to savor its taste and feel all the sensations that came with it.

Later on, in what they thought was a separate experiment, the subjects were asked to deliver a blast of painful noise to other people. Those who were rejected by the group and hadn’t gone through the mindfulness exercise let their frustration out on other people.

On the other hand, those who did go through the mindfulness exercise but were rejected by the group refused to inflict pain on others.

So do yourself a favor and let your mind rest for a bit, every day. A few months down the line, you will find that you’re a different person altogether and will thank me for this advice.

Change small habits today to achieve big tomorrow

“Men’s natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.” – Confucius

Bringing a lasting change seems like too much work. The word ‘change’ itself brings overwhelming emotions like depleted willpower, lack of motivation, or even feelings of guilt for failing to stick to your ‘change’ goals.

What if I told you that bringing lasting change wasn’t all that difficult – but just a bunch of mini decisions that you took every day? Take these mini decisions each day for long enough, and what do you get? Habits.

According to a study by Duke University, habits make 45% of your total behavior. The great thing about habits is that you don’t have to think about them. They become part of who you are. And soon enough, change becomes ‘normal’.

Most of the times, people get so stuck in worrying about not achieving their ‘change’ goals that they end up doing just that. For example, I want to grow my expertise in my chosen field and I know that I haven’t been reading enough. Now reading 8 books a month means I have to take out lots of time to read – this is the psychological impact of setting big goals.

The easy thing to do here is to break this goal down into small mini habits – like reading 5 pages a day. When I reach the 5th page, you think I’ll stop? No. I’ll continue on to maybe 10, 20 or more pages, especially if I’m enjoying the read. Done over a period of time and bam! It’s a habit. I don’t have to think or worry about it anymore. It just comes to me naturally. It becomes part of my routine.

This is true for everything we do in life. Whatever lasting change you want to achieve in life – whether it’s getting in shape, teaching yourself new skills, increasing your knowledge in your area of expertise or learning to make more money – break each goal down into a subset of behaviors. Do them frequently enough and no matter what your goal – you’ll see results.

Here’s how you can develop a habit that sticks

  • Set a goal for 30 days and focus on developing one or at the most 2
  • Make sure to write your goal down on paper and look at it every day
  • Fully commit to your goal. If you think you’re one of those people who find it hard to stick to their goals – publicly commit to it. Find someone who helps you measure your progress each day and encourages you to keep going.
  • Log your progress regularly.
  • Remain publicly accountable – report on your progress each day.
  • Reward your little successes.
  • If you fail, that’s okay. Find out what went wrong and start again.

What is more important than your habits?

Literally, nothing. Habits are the foundation of the quality of your life. And if the foundations are weak, you will not be happy with the way you live. One major reason why people fail to create lasting change in their lives is that they try to do too much at once.

In other words, if your new habit requires more willpower than you can muster, you will fail. If your new habit requires less willpower than you can muster, you will succeed. This is why it is so important to start small, and increase gradually.

The achievable habits

Achievable habits are habits that are easy to follow through. If you think reading 10 pages each day is too much to do, keep a target for 5, or even 2. I can assure you that once you start, you won’t keep the book down after reading only two pages. Keep a target for 5 pushups each day, and I guarantee that your workout won’t stop at those 5. You will end up doing many more variations.

All great things start small

It is true for almost every wonderful thing around us. All great things start small. Richard Branson started Virgin with a student magazine. Some of my most favorite projects started out small – but turned into some of the best opportunities over a period of time.

I was fascinated by Dale Carnegie’s world famous book, ‘How to win friends and influence people.’ The opening gave me some food for thought. He says that the book took 15 years to complete – because it started as a lecture, turned into a leaflet, then into a series of booklets each expanding in size and scope, and then came the book. The entire process took 15 years to complete.

Do you see what I mean?

The challenge of ‘big’

The problem is that we interact with big ideas, big things, big companies, so frequently in our lives that we tend to forget how these big things started out. Whatever it is that you want to achieve in life; I suggest you take some time to sit down and break them down into small, achievable targets for each day/ week. No matter how scary the goal seems, broken down into small bits, it will be so much easier than you imagine.

Here’s how you can make your new habits stick;

First things first, the only way you will ever change something in your routine and habits is by recognizing the larger goal for which those habits are being developed. Otherwise, it will take a lot of willpower and effort to remain true to what you’ve decided for yourself.

Big names like Seth Godin, Tim Ferris, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, and many others rely on daily habits to achieve their biggest goals. These people understand the importance of good habits – and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do the same.

Were there any challenges that you faced when trying to bring a change you badly wanted? We would love to hear your stories.

5 traits to help you become world-class at whatever you do

You know what you want from life – but you look around and feel dispirited. There are many obstacles in your way. It seems very hard, if not impossible, to reach your goal.

The passion is there.  But you just don’t know how to move forward. Many things are holding you back. And competition is one of them. You’re worried that thousands or millions of people are trying to achieve the same things you are.

After all, there are just 24 hours in a day. You have bills to pay, responsibilities to take care of, relationships to give time to, a job to focus on. It’s all so overwhelming; it seems hopeless.

With so much going on, it just makes sense to start tomorrow. Moreover, the learning curve is so steep and time so limited. What should you do? How do you get out of the rat race? How do you stand out from the crowd? How do you become world-class at your gift when you’re stuck trying to start?

The truth is, it is very easy to surpass most people at a competitive level. They are dealing with the same practical and existential crises that you are. Most of them give up and quit before reaching mastery at their craft. They have little or nothing to show for their efforts. Others keep playing at the level of mediocrity.

With a few adjustments and tweaks to your lifestyle, you can quickly jump to the top 5-10% of your field. That’s where the real challenge begins. Your next target is to get to the top 1%. And it requires a change in your very being.

Getting to the top 1% also means you’ll have to alter your entire life to become focused on your creative expression. Every moment of your life will either take away from your performance or add to it.

Take the first step

Taking the first step in a new venture, whether it’s a business or career path, is always daunting. I remember how difficult it seemed when I wanted to start a blog. First, I kept thinking about starting it for months.

Then I got stuck trying to find the right niche because I’m multi-passionate. When I finally decided on one, I still had to figure out a load of technical stuff like SEO and keyword research.

There was just one obstacle after another. I’d be lying if I said I never doubted myself. I often wondered if my efforts were even worth it.

Suddenly I found myself in an unexpected situation; I got pregnant and had some complications. My doctor advised strict bed rest. I said goodbye to my fulltime job, but my mind needed something to focus on. I needed an outlet for my creative energy. That’s when I actually started the blog I had been thinking about for the past 2 years.

Everyone starts as an amateur. Don’t compare yourself with someone who is far ahead in her journey. Have humility.

Here’s a story I really like. Meet Kenzie and Harris. They both dropped out of Brigham Young University, got married and were working at an Apple Store. They were both passionate about music and kept recording music covers on YouTube and Vines.

They had enough money between them to last a year and decided to quit their jobs and focus on their music fulltime. They kept uploading videos for months – without gaining much traction or being noticed. At max, they had a few thousand followers.

Then one day, everything changed. They posted a Vine that went viral. Suddenly, they were being called by agents for contracts and other Viners.

What did Kenzie and Harris do that most people don’t? They put themselves out there again and again and again. They had the courage to take the first step.

Get educated

Take your dreams seriously. Most people don’t. Commit to your dreams if you really want to be world-class in your endeavors. Get educated. Find a mentor. Join a course. Take a class. Go back to school if you have to.

When I first started my blog, I thought all I needed was to know how to write. And then I discovered writers who were so much better. Their work could cast a spell on readers, and I went on to spend hours each day studying how they crafted their pieces.

I immersed myself in the process to the extent that it was easy to forget about time when I was working on my blog.

I also had a mentor who helped guide me and taught me more in 2 months than I could ever learn on my own. I’m still not where I want to be, but I’m confident that I soon will.

Be consistent until you have a breakthrough

To become truly world-class at what you do, be consistent. It is another area where most people fail. Everything meaningful in life is a marathon – not a sprint. It tests your willpower and commitment.

Most people burn out and quit. Consistency is the most fundamental virtue to becoming the person you most want to be.

“The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, but the hero uses his fear, projects it onto his opponent, while the coward runs. It’s the same thing, fear, but it’s what you do with it that matters.” Cus D’Amato

If you want it bad enough, you’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. Even a lack of results won’t stop you. In fact, obsessing over a specific result will make your efforts forced, instead of natural.

When you truly want something, you’ll be willing to forego sleep, lessen time with friends and hobbies and take risks. When you have that resilient consistency in you, you’ll be surprised at how quickly results start to show.

Transcend guidelines and follow your instincts

This is the final stage of the process of becoming world-class. Putting yourself and your work out there in the world will get you ready for this part. As you do that enough number of times, you’ll develop keen instincts. It is now easy, almost natural for you to transcend guidelines and bring the best of your art to the world.

At times, when you’re following your instincts, you’ll be told it won’t work. And regardless of how frequently you’re told this, the idea wouldn’t enter your head.

At this point, you are becoming more holistic about your art.

You’re going above and beyond what it takes to be great. Everything you do – the way you sleep, what you eat, how you organize your life around your work, how you spend your mornings and evenings – is focused on optimizing your performance. You’ll follow creative and insightful bursts of energy to get your best work out with consistency.

Most people have no structure to their lives. They are living a long bout of reaction to everything that happens. They open their eyes and check their email or social media, they talk endlessly about other people, they focus on the negative, they waste time, they eat unhealthily, they don’t exercise, and then they wonder what’s wrong.

Stellar performance requires: a mindset and 10,000 hours of practice

Skills, talent, and initiative are all required to be the best in your field. But there’s another element; the right mindset, confidence in yourself and your abilities, and faith. And then there’s the effort. Real, backbreaking hard work and sacrifice.

A now popular study was conducted in 1993 where three psychologists picked 10 of the best violin students who could become international soloists. They picked another group of 10 students who were good enough to be part of the orchestra and 10 more who could become music teachers.

All of them had started playing the violin at age eight, and had decided to become musicians at the age of 15. In addition, each of them spent 50 hours every week at their academy practicing violin.

The top two groups of violinists spent exactly 24 hours each week practicing on their own, while the bottom group spent 9 hours practicing outside the academy.

The difference between the very best in any field and the average ones is almost always the amount of time each person spends practicing their craft. And then there’s the mindset.

Phil Knight, founder of Nike and author of ‘Shoe Dog’ said,

“I thought back on my running career at Oregon. I’d competed with, and against, men far better, faster, more physically gifted. Many were future Olympians. And yet I’d trained myself to forget this unhappy fact.

People reflexively assume that competition is always a good thing, that it always brings out the best in people, but that’s only true of people who can forget the competition. The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting, and I now reminded myself of that fact. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past.