Achieving present-moment awareness

The start point and the end point of becoming antifragile are the same thing: the ability to come to present-moment awareness.

Present-moment awareness means being focused on what is actually happening, right here, right now, in this present moment. Not thinking about the past. Not worrying about the future. Not imagining what might or might not be happening in another part of the world, tomorrow, yesterday, or today. Just being here now.

The better we can do this, the better we can carry out all the other steps of Inner Leadership: making clear sense of the situation, finding more ways to move forward, choosing the one that is best for us, and so on. So our ability to come to present-moment awareness provides a foundation on which everything else builds


How To Come to Present-Moment Awareness:

To come to present-moment awareness, pause for a second. Sit or stand still. Breathe in and hold your breath for a count of three. Then let it out slowly and do the same again.

Now bring your attention to what is happening around you. What can you see, hear, feel, taste, or smell? Describe it as if you were describing it to another person.

Now shift your attention inside your body. Take another deep breath and let it out slowly. What are you feeling in your body? Where? Describe the feelings as if you were describing them to another person. Are you experiencing any recurrent thoughts? What are they? Describe them as if to another person. Take another deep breath, pause, and let it out slowly.

Now bring your attention back to your surroundings. What is happening around you in this present moment? What can you see, hear, feel, taste, or smell? Describe it to yourself as if you were describing it to another person.

Repeat this cycle as many times as you find useful.

The more you practice this process, the more you will become aware of the reality of what is happening in and around you you, rather than the fantasy of what you might be thinking in your head. And the easier the process will become.

And as you do this you are likely to notice three things:

— The more we become detached observers of our own thoughts and feelings (by describing them as if to someone else) the less likely we are to get caught up in them. We realise that whatever we might be thinking or feeling now, it is different from what we were thinking or feeling two days ago, and it is different again from what we will be thinking or feeling two days from now. Our thoughts and feelings are just experiences we have for a short time. They are not reality.

— The more we notice the details of the reality in and around us the less we get caught up in the imagined fantasies of our minds. This centres us and reconnects us to reality as it truly is, not as we are imagining it to be.

— And third, we begin to realise that most of the inner churning we experience is not caused by the events around us but by the ways we think about and interpret those events. And if we are causing our own inner churning, that means we can control it.

And the able we become to come to present-moment awareness, the more antifragile we become. Because — as any tightrope walker knows — it enables us to focus fully on whatever is most important to us, right here, right now.

How much of your time do you spend worrying about the future, thinking about the past, or imagining events happening far away from where you are? What about the people on your team? Would it be useful to shift your focus more into the present moment?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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