Traffic Jams

How was traffic today?

Imagine your entire day was made up of cars carrying a thought or feeling. I bet that your day was full of traffic, maybe even gridlocked, if today was stressful. Did you want to call a halt to everything? Or, if your thoughts or feelings were pleasant, did you want to go for a nice long drive in those particular cars and avoid the less pleasant ones? This traffic concept is one of the visualizations from a meditation app, Headspace.

headspace-traffi

For those with preconceived notions about meditation, I’d like you to set them aside. Not all meditation is chanting phrases with your legs crossed. Instead, practitioners are taking time (10 minutes, in the case of Headspace) from the hustle and stress of our days to take care of ourselves mentally and physically. Some call it mental hygiene. Think of meditation this way: If you take the time to declutter and clean up your car, if you shower daily and do the laundry often, why wouldn’t you do the same for your mind? Meditation can improve concentration, self awareness, acceptance (Serenity Prayer anyone?) and physical well being (e.g., lower blood pressure). By the way, contemplative prayer is one form where prayer and meditation overlap. If you grew up, as I did, reciting the Hail Mary, then you’ve practiced contemplative prayer. Does it surprise you that this is very similar to the Eastern practice of mantra meditation?

Back to the benefits of meditation – this one is important for all of us who hope to age well: In one study, it appeared to slow the aging process in practitioners, including increasing the number of brain cells. Who knew you could grow a bigger brain?

meditation-bigger-brain

Blue is better!

Meditation comes in many forms (including the aforementioned chanting). The style I prefer is mindfulness. You start by focusing on your breathing, then taking stock of your physical and mental sensations. Throughout the meditation, your mind drifts off to tasks, worries, politics or whatever and you gently refocus. By the end of the 10 minute session, I’m calmer, less likely to react to things (pick any news topic right now) and, most importantly for me, a better listener for others. When I practice regularly, I find it easier to calm down in all kinds of stressful situations.

So, let’s get back to the traffic analogy. Do you chase after cars? Attempt to stop them? Do you realize how many cars are on your figurative road? What happens if you simply acknowledge them as they go by, instead of attempting to change them? Think about how you manage all of these thoughts and feelings today. Some of those self-management habits are healthy (e.g., going for a walk), some are less so, especially if you use them too often (e.g., alcohol or drugs). Meditation is free (or relatively cheap, like the Headspace app), requires no special equipment and travels well. All you need is you and a willingness to try.

I’ve mentioned Headspace before. It’s a meditation app that offers guided sessions and also gives you tools to help practice throughout the day. This traffic visualization is one of them. Helpful, huh? They have many others, like Blue Sky (Finding Calm). It’s a handy tool for finding calm when things are tough. If you want to learn more about Headspace or other meditation tools, you can follow the links in this post or just search on the web. I wish you peace this week!

 

 

 

I Think I Can

 

yes-i-did-it

Let’s start Monday with a pop quiz. 😉

Pick one:

  1. I can’t do that.
  2. I don’t know how to do that yet.

Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist has spent years studying how our mindset affects our performance and personal satisfaction.

She describes two mindsets: fixed and growth. In a fixed mindset, people believe their ability is a fixed trait, meaning it is what it is, they can’t learn new things (option 1). In a growth mindset, people believe they can develop a skill, meaning they can improve over time (option 2). This is a deep topic, worthy of a book (which Dr. Dweck has considerately written), //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=yar0dc-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=0345472322&asins=0345472322&linkId=bf4422fb0e8b3725f406af01e494abeb&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff” target=”_blank”>Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

For today, here’s something to nibble on as you go through your week: We live in an evolving world and we can choose to learn with it or stay in place. We can keep up with the stream of new data, new skills, new technology, new everything or we can be the rock that stays still in the middle of the river. Can you tell which one appeals to me? 🙂

i_think_i_can

Learning requires

  • Curiosity
  • Exposure to things that are different from you and how you think
  • Listening
  • Being uncomfortable when you can’t understand or do something…. at first
  • Practice, practice, practice until you get better
  • Taking a chance that you’ll fail, sometimes publicly
  • Faith in your ability to learn

crazy-enough-to-think-i-can

Why does mindset matter?

Our mindset frames how we see the world and whether we’re willing to invest, to have faith in our ability to change, to do things differently.

Can you imagine telling a child that they’ll never get smarter? That they’ll never advance to the next grade?

Would we tell a new employee that they’ll never learn a new skill and so we won’t send them to training?

Of course not. We would have faith in them that they will learn and grow. So why would we tell ourselves these negative things? I’m not saying that we should all go back to school or tackle every new concept. I’m saying that, if you want to, you can learn anything you want. The real challenge is knowing what you want to learn, not whether you can do it.

By the way, if you’re interested in more from Carol Dweck, check out www.curious.com, where she has a weekly post on mindsets.