Here we are again with Monday’s Mindful Quote. Plato once said:
The beginning is the most important part of the work.
That’s similar to Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu’s saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” When we want to make a change in our lives or there is a big project in front of us, getting past that initial threshold is one of the most the most difficult tasks. All of a sudden cleaning or getting that extra cup of coffee seems really important to do; anything really to put off getting started. This happens at home and work all the time, and we often call it procrastination.
There are 2 steps to work with this:
- Get clear on the first step — As you may have heard before, the fundamental task here is to really just get clear on the first “step” and not focus on the big picture at this time. Really get basic. That will help you moving forward and from there things may fall in line. For example, if it’s a project, maybe the first thing that needs to get done is to open up a word document.
- Make distractions a mindfulness practice — Instead of hating our distractions or allowing them to be an opportunity to kick ourselves one more time, let’s take a different approach. Let’s actually investigate them, and the best way I know how to do this is through mindfulness.
- Step out of auto-pilot — Of course, thoughts and impulses are likely to emerge at some point to distract you from being focused. Here is where you can begin to make a mindfulness practice out of this. Mindfulness informs us to become aware of our thoughts, sensations and emotions without judgment. We set aside our judgments because those are part of our habitual reactions and this allows us to seeing what is occurring unfiltered. From this space, we are more capable to be effective as we’re no longer in a state of auto-pilot.
- Adopt a beginner’s mind — As best you can, hold all of this in your awareness with a beginner’s mind, as if you had never noticed these thoughts, sensations, and emotions before. The reason for this is that we want to strip away all of your preconceived notions that are wound up in your habitual reactions. We want to start fresh, anew. In addition, as strange as it might sound, you might also consider bringing in an attitude of caring, much like you might pay attention to a newborn or puppy and just let it be.
- Here’s how it might look — When you become aware you are in a state of distraction, just note that you are in a state of distraction. We’re not judging this as good or bad or right or wrong, just “distraction.” Now, bringing a beginner’s mind to this, notice the thoughts, “Oh, I just need to get this next cup of coffee and then I can get back to this” or “let me look at a few of these websites and then I’ll work again.” Allow yourself to become aware of any underlying emotions that may be there, is there frustration or anxiousness? Notice the physical sensations that are often associated with the emotions, maybe there’s tightness in the shoulders or tension in the chest.
At the end of this you want ask yourself what is most important to be paying attention to right now and bring your attention back to that.
You can do this all in 1 minute or more if you like. Even if this takes time out from getting back to your work, know you are likely doing what is most important which is becoming more intimate with the habitual reactions within you that often sabotage your best interests. This will help you more and more to catch it earlier as time goes on. Also, there are reasons you have developed these reactions, but that’s for another post.
Give it a try.
When we can step out of our habits and see them for what they are, we sit in a space of choice where we are no longer held hostage and allow for the opportunity to step in a new direction.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.