Ask Yourself One Simple Question
I have been a philosophical Buddhist for almost 50 years. In my journey through life, I have read about 400 books on Buddhism.
A key component of Buddhist philosophy is mindfulness. The concept of mindfulness is quite in vogue today. Even major corporations (which previously would have considered this topic as being too ‘out there’) are conducting seminars on mindfulness. In looking up ‘mindfulness seminars 2020’ on Google, I found countless programs ranging from a day to eight weeks in duration.
My great friend, Dr. Carol Kauffman, is the Founder of the Institute for Coaching at Harvard Medical School. She was recently recognized by Thinkers50 as one of the Most Influential Coaches in the World.
Carol has taught me to repeatedly ask myself a simple question. This question is the most useful tool for increasing mindfulness that I have ever tried.
If you want to become more mindful, consistently ask yourself this question. It will not only help you become the person you want to be, it will save you a lot of time and money!
Am I being the person that I want to be right now?
To me, this question is the perfect summary of what it takes to be mindful.
Nobel Prize winning behavioral economist, Daniel Kahneman, has a profound saying that he repeats in his bestselling book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, “What I see is all there is.”
As Dr. Kahneman says, our lives tend to be determined by what we keep in front of us. In today’s incredibly frenetic world, it is hard to keep focused on anything. If we do not ‘keep it in front of us’, it just gets lost!
Garry Ridge, the CEO of WD-40, is one of the greatest leaders whom I have ever met. One of his secrets of success is to keep whatever he wants to accomplish IN LARGE LETTERS in front of him and visible. Garry practices this every day of his life. One reason he has such an amazing track record of success as a CEO is that he keeps reminding himself of what really matters.
If you want to be mindful, keep a large poster at work and home that asks, “Am I being the person that I want to be right now?”
My CEO clients often attend multiple meetings in a day. It can be so hard to remain mindful. The presentations start to blur together. In most cases they have been thoroughly debriefed on the material in advance and know exactly what the presenters are going to say.
Despite their frenetic schedules, CEOs need to show interest and respect in every interaction. They care about their employees and want to transmit this caring through their verbal and non-verbal communication.
Why is mindfulness so important?
The presenters may be younger people who are many levels below the CEO in the organizational hierarchy. While to the CEO, this may be one of many presentations that day, to the presenters this may be one of the most important moments in their lives. If the CEO is not being mindful and truly present, the presenter may well feel crushed and deflated. If this happens, the outcome of the interaction may be the exact opposite of the intent of the CEO.
Mindfulness is even more important at home than at work. Almost all of us, as professionals, have difficult days at work. It is hard not to carry our stress home with us when we are with our families. As parents or partners, we want to be loving and kind. We need to be interested and focused on our conversations with our family members.
Why is this so important?
Just like our co-workers, our loved ones believe that our true values are not demonstrated by our words – what we say, they are demonstrated by our behavior -what we do.
In my Stakeholder Centered Coaching process, I am often asked to interview the children of my clients. In one memorable case, both daughters I interviewed commented that their father made a big deal of having dinner together as a family – and then proceeded to read his smart phone during the meal. In this case the outcome of his interaction was exactly the opposite of his intent.
My client still considers this feedback one of the most meaningful moments of his life. More important than becoming a better CEO, he learned to put away his smart phone and became a better Dad.
Wherever you go, keep this great question in front of you:
AM I BEING THE PERSON THAT I WANT TO BE RIGHT NOW?
When you feel that you are not being mindful at work, or even more important, not being mindful at home, keep asking yourself this question.
In my life, I feel very blessed. The people that I coach are good people with good values. Their challenge is almost never their intent, it is almost always their behavior.
My guess is that you are a good person with good values.
Almost all of us, including me, face the same challenge. Our challenge is not understanding the practice of mindfulness, it is practicing our understanding of mindfulness. Mindfulness is easy to understand. It is hard to do.
When do I stop being mindful? When I forget!
When do I start being mindful? When I remember to ask myself this question.
When asked who he was, Buddha replied, “I am awake.”
As Carol so eloquently points out, continually asking ourselves this one simple question can wake us up and help us become the person that we want to be.
Article written by Marshall Goldsmith