Obstacles to Mindfulness and How to Overcome Them
You and I and all the 7 billion and counting people on the planet are endowed with the magic of time travel. We can visualize our futures in the minutest of details. We can set goals that take us in the direction of desired futures. And yet, somewhere between where we stand and where we want to get to, we come across obstacles that feel like driving with the brakes on. What we do not realize is that the vast majority of these obstacles live in our own mind.
The tendency to catastrophize and to focus on what can potentially go wrong is inherent in us because of its evolutionary advantages. After all, if our ancestors continually hoped for the best, they would not have survived the nearest saber-toothed tiger, nor passed on their optimistic genes to the oodles of us roaming the planet today.
However, in the relative safety of the 21st century, this negativity bias may be holding us back. It may be affecting our interpretation of past events and painting our future gray. Or it may be giving rise to regret over having done the wrong thing and staying stuck in a cycle of rumination. When beliefs are biased and exaggerated, life can begin sounding like an apocalypse!
But there is good news. What we create, we control. And what we control, we have the power to change. Given that there are ample things in life that are beyond our direct locus of control, like other people’s reactions, political systems and natural disasters, it is important that we take charge of our minds so that we can work towards positive outcomes.
1. Recognize Your Outlook
All change begins with self-awareness. If we are oblivious or in denial of what we need to change, we stay firmly in stage one of the change cycle – and that does not get us far! Think of how you respond to events. More importantly, think about your interpretation of events. For it is these interpretations that become the building blocks of the life story you craft and the identity that you strengthen.
2. Challenge Your Thoughts
Our thoughts are the window that point to our beliefs. Not only that, they are also the most direct route to our emotions and behaviors. When we think thoughts of impending doom, we feel anxious and step back from what may have been good for us. By critically questioning the veracity and helpfulness of our thoughts, we can substitute them with more positive ones that lead us in the direction of our goals.
3. Live in the Present Moment
We experience life through our interpretation of it. When we are focused on past worries of what may have been, or dreading upcoming calamities that may never come to pass, we blind ourselves to the possibilities in the present moment. The reality is that life is pretty indifferent to our fate. It is not out to get us, nor eager to help us thrive. It just is - brimming with obstacles and opportunities. It is up to us to minimize the former and harness the latter, so that we rise to our highest potential and live as our very best selves.
4. Create Your Own Luck
We have all seen, known and read about those lucky people who seem to win lotteries and be at the right place at the right time. And we rarely count ourselves amongst them! However, by studying their lives, we now know that luck is not pure chance. It is an attitude. It is an attitude of curiosity, of humility, of courage and of a desire to open up and embrace life that makes these people approach others, take risks, learn from experiences, Gain confidence from failure and hope for better outcomes that makes them succeed despite the failures.
Life is a journey we take on but once. We owe it to ourselves and to those who we can potentially impact, to give it our full selves - mind, body and soul,so that we find fulfillment in success and in doing our part in making a difference to the world.