Achieving present-moment awareness

The starting point of becoming antifragile is the ability to focus on what is actually happening, right here, right now, in this present moment.

Not thinking about the past. Not worrying about the future. Not thinking about what might or might not be happening on the other side of the world.

Simply being here and now, in present-moment awareness.

The better we are able to do this, the better we will then be able to carry out the remaining steps of Inner Leadership. The more we can remain calmly centred and grounded in the present moment, connected with who we are at our best and what matters most to us, the better we will then be able to make clear sense of the situation, find more options to move forward, choose the one that is best for us, and so on.

Present-moment awareness provides the 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 are you seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, or smelling right now? Describe it as if you were describing it to another person.

Now shift your attention to what is happening inside your body. Take another deep breath and let it out slowly. What are you feeling in your body? Where? Describe those feelings as if you were telling 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 as many times as you find useful.

The more you practice this process, the more you will become aware of the reality of whatever is actually happening here and now, in you and around you, rather than the fantasy of whatever you are thinking or imagining in your mind. And the more you practice, the easier it will become.

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 hours ago or two days ago, and it is different 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. Yes the past happened and yes some kind of future is going to happen. But it is not happening right now. The past is over. The future is yet to come. Being here now, reconnects us to reality as it truly is, not as we imagine it to be. And only when we do that can we truly begin to let go of the past and to build the future we most want to create.
  • And third, we begin to realise that most of the inner churning we experience is not caused by the events happening around us but by the ways we think about and interpret those events. And if we are causing our own inner churning then we can let it go. And that will enable us to make clearer sense of the situation, find more opportunities to move forward, choose the best option, and inspire ourselves and others to make it happen.

The better we can come to present-moment awareness, the more antifragile we will become. Because as any tightrope walker knows, it is only by achieving present-moment awareness that we become able to focus fully on whatever it is we need to do right here, right now to create the results we most want.

How much of your time do you currently spend thinking about the past, worrying about the future, or imagining things that might or might not be happening far away from you? Would it be useful to shift your focus to what is happening, and what you can do about it, right here, right now, in this present moment?

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

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(And remember: you can’t learn to swim just by reading about swimming, you also need to do the practice.)

Photo By Noel Reynolds via

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