It’s the day. All 3 runners are lined up, itching to burst at the sound of the whistle. When the sound hits the air, they’re off. The wind races past their ears as their legs pump into the pavement. In a split second, Runner 3 takes a rolling stumble over the first hurdle. Unexpectedly, Runner 2 follows suit on the next. Naturally, Runner 1 thinks they’re in the lead, then, whoosh. The next moment is a blur of flailing limbs.
Don’t worry, the runners are all okay. What was the cause of the 3-Stooges-esque stumbles? All these athletes were well-focused and intently trained. They had one itty bitty ginormous issue. They were so absorbed with winning the race they didn’t notice all their shoelaces were untied. 👟
Zooming out, think of the race as the next promotion or project. It’s common to think: If I try the hardest, exert all my life force into this [____], I will win. But, is it really a win if your eyes can barely stay open and you can’t remember your last meal?
What if getting ahead wasn’t “fix what’s broken when it breaks,” but preventing the breaks? While you can’t stop life from happening, you can equip yourself with more padding. Protective padding isn’t always physical. It’s awareness of what’s going on with you and the world around you.
Work can become a little bit lighter… a little bit brighter through practicing mindful awareness.
Awareness Through Perspective
The first step on this road of “break prevention” is developing perspective. Venturing out of your personal routine is a wonderful way to awaken to the world outside your view. Two ways to do this are: 1. trying something new and 2. listening to perspectives outside of your usual circle.
You’ve done a lot of this already: you took a first breath. You went to your first day of school. You had your favorite meal for the first time.
The experience of going beyond your routine helps you gain views from different angles.
Awareness Through Listening
Snowballing off the listening for perspective.… Listening includes everything that is and isn’t said. Truly attentive listening does not focus on what you want to say next. PsychCentral has a simple guide for attentive listening. In it, Hilary I. Lebow suggests a technique of focused thinking called “active listening,” which is thinking of yourself as a mirror of the speaker and reflecting back, rather than waiting to insert your thoughts.
Focused listening is also an internal activity. Your body is constantly giving you signals. You retract your hand when it gets too close to flame. If we learn the language of our own body’s signals, we can reduce our stress and feelings of raggedness.
In a world that is so confusing, attentive listening helps open our minds to understanding.
Awareness Through Patience
We all forget people are living lives with stress and pressure alongside us. No one is exempt. That’s where patient awareness comes in.
Set a cautious leniency with yourself and the world.
- You are allowed to be imperfect.
- The world is, also, imperfect.
Living by these statements seems like a Sisyphus-and-the-boulder task. Yet, isn’t that what it’s about? What if beauty can only be found in imperfection? Patience helps uncover the beauty that may be lying under the surface.
Awareness That Leads to Resilience
Recently, our CEO, Niki Fielding, shared a 10-minute podcast on Resilience by Prof. Megan Reitz. The best way to describe it is the over-used plane metaphor: you can’t help someone else, unless you put on your own mask first.
You are strong enough to handle what’s coming next because you’re aware of what you need. You’ve equipped yourself, as best you can, with varying perspectives, the ability to listen and be patient.
Tactical Practices to Increase Awareness Without Rolling Out a Yoga Mat During Work
It’s the only autonomic bodily process that we have some control of that can impact our nervous system! We might as well use it. If you’re a nerd that wants to learn more, check it out.
For harder tasks, break down each step. Pace yourself. Fast work leads to mistakes as we know.
- Physically Pulling Yourself Out of the Situation
If you have the liberty to go for a walk or talk with someone outside the project, do it. Take a break y’all.
Whatever you need, sticky notes, a mantra… remember you’re a person. People are not perfect.If something challenging comes along, it may be hard, but you will handle it.
As we’ve learned from our runners, if you run a million miles a minute, you can miss out on: future signs of turbulence and the beauty of the moment.
You may notice that some pieces of advice surrounding awareness contradict themselves. That’s okay. Awareness is not something that can be accurately described. It’s felt. Just like athletes need to eat more protein, you take whatever advice you need to get yourself. Part of becoming aware is applying the right wisdom to the right moment.