There have been a lot of great blogs, podcasts and discussions recently about mindfulness. While I know there are many definitions, one I am fond of is as follows:
A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, etc.
I’ve given much thought to this subject, especially as I took a long walk with my rescue dog, Louie. I tried to figure out what mindfulness meant to Louie. I decided not much since he seems so easily distracted.
And then in a flash, I watched him make three quick hops and pounce on a molehill. His nose was buried up to his eyeballs as he snorted, and pulled on lumps of grass to reveal what he was hoping was a live mole. He was focused and intently going after what seemed to be his only goal in life…a mole!
I could see the ground moving, and I knew that little mole was running for his life! Too late! Louie caught it, pulled it out of the ground, and threw it up in the air. I was shocked! I yanked him away, but he was not having it. He had one focus, and there would be no deterring him. I commanded him to leave it and to heel. With much hesitancy, he obeyed. He pranced away as if he just achieved the greatest success ever. He did what he was created to do, and he was single-minded focus. Who could argue with his success?
Well, the mole for one. But he doesn’t count. As Louie pranced all the way home, I could not help but think about the leaders in our world who become so single-minded focused on winning that they lose track of everything else around them. Mindfulness is “achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment,” while acknowledging one’s feelings, thoughts, and hopefully, others as well. That is a tough balance. I don’t expect my dog to do it, but what about me? Am I mindful?
I’ll admit being focused is tough for me. I am that kid who consistently received the checkmark “Does not concentrate on the task at hand.” I had to learn early on to train my brain to focus. I did it by becoming an avid reader and a lover of words and stories. However, as I grew professionally, it became even more critical to focus. Many times, I became so focused on goals, I lost track of people, what was going on in their lives and even the world around me. I have not perfected the balance of focus and yet being aware of other’s feelings, but I keep moving further along that path.
As for Louie, he chooses his times of focus, and it is usually when he has picked up a scent. Sometimes I fear that if he were loose, he would pick up a scent and never look back until it is too late and he is far from home. I believe leaders can find themselves on a scent, whether it is achieving a goal, proving they are right, giving their opinion, or sharing advice. Before they know it, they can be so far off track, that they may find it impossible to re-center and find the balance of mindfulness. Being aware before we jump on a scent will help us not get off track.
As for the mole…it regained its heartbeat and breath and scampered back into its hole as Louie pranced in the opposite direction, convinced he had saved the world.