Mindfulness: Detours and DistractionsSep 02, 2021
Imagine going for a long run, ride, walk, or hike. You have a planned route that includes your favorite views. You warm up, begin moving with purpose, feel great, and suddenly, for some unexplained and uncontrollable reason, you take a detour down a road you know to be a dead end. After five minutes, you regain control, turn around, and start moving back to your planned route. You lost ten minutes. You continue to move along your planned route another half mile, suddenly, the same thing happens. This time, your detour (distraction) costs you 15 minutes. Before you know it, you are tired, frustrated, out of time and you haven’t even reached your planned destination or enjoyed the views.
This is exactly what happens when you become distracted. You start with focus and make progress. Every time you stop to check your vibrating phone, check social media, or read that email, your momentum stalls, and the detour occurs. Your effort to be efficient by multi-tasking doesn’t save you time, it costs you more time by extending your detour. You must now “get turned around”, refocus on the original task, and regenerate your momentum. This unintended sputtering results in wasted time and energy and is inefficient.
We are all human and will never completely avoid distraction, but improving our mindfulness can help minimize these detours or distractions.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is not the silver bullet, but it does improve your ability to focus resulting in increased performance, effectiveness, productivity, and improved health and happiness. Whether you are a student-athlete, an adult, a professional, a parent, teacher, etc., you've likely experienced the benefits of being “in the zone”. You’re focused, concentrating on the task at hand, maybe even oblivious to other events and distractions, AND DOING YOUR BEST WORK. Regardless, numerous studies associate mindfulness with being in the zone or a flow state. Simply put, by learning to become more mindful, you can improve your ability to get “in the zone” so you can do your best.
How to Create Mindfulness
First, recognize that you won’t instantly become mindful. Creating mindfulness takes time and persistence. You didn’t become chronically distracted overnight, nor will you quickly learn to control your distractions. Second, just like strength training, you can't benefit from being mindful if you haven't spent time in the “gym” to create it.
I have found it best to begin your pursuit of mindfulness in a controlled environment through deliberate meditation exercises. Consider mindfulness as a state of mind, and meditation as a tool to help you become more mindful.
A Quick and Simple Mind Training Exercise Session
- First, find a quiet location and a comfortable position.
- Set an alarm for 5-10 min. Ease into the session with 5 deep breaths. These initial breaths help to slow your heart rate, establish focus, and establish breath control.
- Once settled, continue to focus your thought on your breathing. Controlling the frenetic mind is the challenge, but your control and focus will improve over time. When your thought drifts, refocus on your breathing, and continue until the end of the session.
- Once your timer goes off, continue to focus on your breathing and complete the session with 5 deep breaths.
- Finally, think about how the session went and make notes for any required changes, frustrations, or any other thoughts that may help you prepare or improve your next session.
My next couple of posts will dig a little deeper on how become more mindful through four simple and practical meditation techniques.
To learn more, download a sample of my Peak Performance Begins in the Mind and corresponding workbook.
Consider taking my “Creating Laser Like Focus for Optimal Performance!”
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