Achieving present-moment awareness

Both the starting point, and the ending point, of becoming antifragile are the ability to achieve present-moment awareness.

Present-moment awareness means remaining focused on what is actually happening, right here, right now, in this present momentnot dwelling on the past, not worrying about the future, and not being distracted by things that might or might not be happening on the other side of the world.

Once you achieve this, then you can begin to make sense of what is happening, find more opportunities to move forward, choose the one that is best for you. Then you can inspire yourself and other people to make it happen.

And the way that you begin is by strengthening your present-moment awareness.

To do this, 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.

This will bring you to awareness of what is actually happening in the present moment, rather than what is happening in your thoughts.

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 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 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 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 change it.

Once we have achieved this centring/centering, then 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 others) to do what matters most. This will make us antifragile.

And then when we are working to create what we most care about, present moment awareness will become invaluable again because — as any tightrope walker knows — present moment awareness is what enables us to focus best on doing what we need to do now, without becoming distracted.

How much time do you currently spend worrying about the future, or thinking about the past? 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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