Achieving present-moment awareness

The start point and the end point of becoming antifragile are both the same thing: the ability to achieve 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 on the other side of the world. Just being here now.

Present-moment awareness provides a foundation from which all else flows. It enables you to understand the situation clearly, to find the best way forward, and to inspire yourself and other people to make it happen.

The better you can do this the more antifragile you become, the more able you become to respond to anything that happens.

Achieving this involves seven stages. To take the first step, you first need to become more aware of the reality of what is going on for you, right here, right now, in this present moment.

To learn to do this, pause for a second now. 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 actually happening around you and in you, rather than the fantasy of what you are imagining in your head. And the easier it 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 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 imagine 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, we can control it.

Once we have achieved this centring/centering, the rest of the Inner Leadership process will show us how to ground ourselves more deeply, make clearer sense of the situation, and find a way forward that inspires us (and other people) to do what matters most.

And the more we become antifragile, the more valuable present moment awareness becomes. Because — as any tightrope walker knows — it enables us to focus without distractions on doing what we need to do right here, right now.

How much of your time do you spend worrying about the future, thinking about the past, or imagining events happening miles away that you can’t control and which probably won’t affect you? 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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(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also need to practice.)

Photo By Noel Reynolds via

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