There isn’t a day that goes by when you aren’t constantly making decisions. Little ones, big ones, easy ones, tough ones – but decisions nonetheless. Our conversation earlier this week was more about the big ones, and how heavily they can weigh on you as you grapple with the input of your head and the pull of your heartstrings, which have a way of occasionally not exactly aligning.
Any number of the decisions you work through on a regular basis could easily fall into the category of “challenging,” so if I asked you to make this week’s “no-fail” mindfulness challenge about making a decision that’s on your mind, it wouldn’t be hard to at least try it out. You probably know well how it feels to sit squarely on the fence between yes and no, or stay and go, or chocolate and strawberry…you get the idea. So, let’s try something a little different, shall we?
One way to use mindfulness is what I like to call the “emergency” approach. Something happens that completely stresses you out, lights your fuse or knocks you flat. In an effort to not completely lose your mind (or your job, or a relationship), you decide to try to catch your breath. This is the mindfulness equivalent of pulling the cord on your parachute, allowing you to slow down, calm down and maybe even enjoy the view…or at least not destroy anything in it as a result of your irritation. There’s nothing wrong with this approach – in fact, it can be a real lifesaver. There’s a reason that for your whole life, you’ve heard people recommend that you “take a deep breath” when something tough comes your way. It really, actually helps. It’s water on the fire. It takes things down a notch.
If you take a few steps back from the fire, though, there’s another way to think about mindfulness. If you make the commitment to a regular practice, embedded in your daily or weekly routine, your stamina for discomfort changes. If you think of it in the context of a physical workout, the better the shape you’re in, the easier it is to run for the bus when you realize you’re about to miss it, or take the stairs two at a time (or at all) when the elevator just isn’t going to cut it.
Some of your toughest decisions probably feel like a steep flight of stairs when you’re trying to work through them. You can use mindfulness to manage the climb in a pinch, or you can be a person who’s been working with mindfulness more regularly – even when you’re not freaking out – and therefore someone for whom the flight looks a little less daunting.
So, if you’re following me so far, you see that your mindfulness challenge this weekend is really about more than just this weekend. Don’t worry, I’m going to help you put some scope around it though.
This weekend, look at your calendar for the week ahead. For each day, find a window of 5 to 10 minutes and book some mindfulness time with yourself. This isn’t a reminder, or an item for your to-do list; it’s an appointment. It can be at any time of day, in any place that works for you, but it is non-negotiable. It starts Saturday, it’s just a week, and trust me – you can do it. Be realistic, but be accountable.
Seriously, you spend more time on Snapchat in half a day. This is not a big deal to set up, but it could be a very big deal in the impact it has on your life – not to mention on how those big, scary decisions look when they pop up and take over your life, or maybe don’t (imagine that)…
Take 5 minutes, make a plan, and then, take 5 more to catch your breath. Et voilà, just like that, day one is under your belt. Just six more to go, and not only has your challenge been met, but your decisions may get just a little less stressful far beyond the scope of one mindful little “no-fail” Friday.
Photo credit: Gabriel Santiago