The world we live in is fast, loud and relentless. We get caught up in the frenetic energy of interruptions, meetings, emails, phone calls, etc. The seduction of getting things done can be addictive. However if you want to live a life well lived, you are going to need to figure out how to recognize when you are getting in your own way.
When our moods, energy levels, and focus shift, it’s an indication we need to pause. This is a learned skill, the ability to be in “doing mode”, notice a shift within ourselves, and intentionally pull away from the inertia of action and pause. Practices like mindfulness support the ability to notice, pause, and choose.
Pausing is similar to doing a “buddy check” on yourself. You know, your buddy who calls you, sends you funny text messages or stops by your office to see how you are doing. You are doing a personal check-in. The purpose of this check-in is to notice what you are saying to yourself or perhaps more accurately stated, thinking to yourself.
- “I’m never going to get this done.”
- “What is wrong with me?”
- “Why is this taking so long?”
- “Why can’t I figure this out?”
- “I don’t know what to do.”
- “I have to get this done.”
- “I am so frustrated. If Mary had just done what she said she was going to do, I wouldn’t even be working on this.”
Now, the above statements could indeed be true about the current situation. However, these thoughts are going to either distract you, deplete you, or discourage you. These thoughts add additional unnecessary pressure, resulting in stress.
Okay so we all want to experience less stress in our lives. So even if what we are saying is true, it may not be helpful. We know this because of the shift in our mood, energy level and focus. What do we do next?
Our thoughts influence our feelings which impact our actions. Listening to our thoughts without intentionality can insidiously impact our wellbeing, both mentally and physically. By pausing and taking a moment to intentionally notice the content of our thoughts, we are interrupting ourselves. We become aware of what we are thinking. It is in this brief interruption we can choose differently. We can stop listening to ourselves and start talking to ourselves.
- “I got this!”
- “I did enough today.”
- “I did well.”
- “It’s time to go home.”
- “I can do this.”
- “I am capable.”
This may bring up memories of Saturday Night with Stuart Smalley. Good! You probably needed to google that video for a small laugh.
You can learn to interrupt yourself. Stop listening to whatever pops into your head. And start to choose thoughts that encourage you, remind you of your priorities, and acknowledge your humanness (i.e. yes, you need to sleep and eat).
Here’s the point, regardless, your thoughts impact you. Choose wisely what you allow your mind to focus on.