“The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character, and will.” ~William James
I was talking with a patient today about her coworkers. She remarked that this one was always defensive; that one has a mind that quickly wanders in meetings; and that the others seem to try hard but fail to focus on a project long enough to get it in on time. She then lit up as she told me about the new person at her company who is clear, focused, creative, patient and funny.
William James was describing mindfulness when he described “voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again.” The leader at her company was displaying mindful leadership. This leader was effective due to his self-knowledge, self-awareness, and centeredness. It is necessary for leaders to have a method to manage the constant barrage of information, possibilities, perspectives, and responsibilities to sustain their presence of mind and overall health.
This method consists of training your mind to drop the autopilot and to stop multitasking, so you can bring all of your mind’s capabilities to the moments of your life. According to the American Psychological Association, “The inability to focus for even 10 minutes on any one thing at a time may be costing you 20 to 40 percent in terms of efficiency and productivity.”
Mindfulness can be learned. But, it does require your engagement in the activity of bringing your mind/attention back to center, over and over again. Center could be your breath, sounds, physical sensations, or an object you are looking at. Your mind is going to wander-that’s what minds do. Just like your mouth secretes saliva, your mind secretes thoughts. Mindfulness is simply noticing your mind has wandered away from center, that it’s caught up in mental secretions, and bringing it back to center. 10 million times.
Mindfulness allows you to observe whatever is happening, as opposed to being caught up in it, and identified with it. This frees you up to see more clearly, to come up with creative solutions and to let go of anxiety about the future or regret about the past. Mindfulness is a way to combat the defensive, judgmental, critical, scattered, or distracted nature of our minds.
I’m guessing that you brush your teeth daily because you think oral hygiene is important. If you think your mental health is important, you may want to take a look at your mental hygiene.