In classical folklore and literature, the antagonist or force of evil uses distraction as a tool to trip up and defeat the hero. The villain confuses the hero by preoccupying him/her with either events from the past or fears of the future. This tactic prevents the hero from focusing on the present and dealing with the task at hand.
Flash forward to today, and you’ll find we are in similar situations. All around us, we are being bombarded with memories from our past and the worries of an uncertain future. The more we focus on these two extremes, the less likely we are to manage our here and now.
And so we stress out.
One of the most powerful traits of successful people is their ability to tune out these distractions and focus on what is immediately in front of them.
These are the people who practice mindfulness.
Wikipedia describes mindfulness as:
“…Being aware moment-to-moment, of one’s subjective conscious experience from a first-person perspective. When practicing mindfulness, one becomes aware of one’s ‘stream of consciousness.’ The skill of mindfulness can be gradually developed using meditational practices.”
More and more companies are tuning into this concept as a way to reduce stress and increase productivity in their workforce. It has quickly become a major buzzword in the corporate world, with companies such as Google, Safeway, Target, General Mills, and Aetna offering various forms of training for their employees.
The big reason for this new interest? According to the Huffington Post:
“Stress costs American companies an estimated $200 billion to $300 billion in lost productivity each year, and research suggests that mindfulness could be an effective antidote. Mindfulness training decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and meditating for just 25 minutes a day for three days in a row is an effective way to alleviate psychological stress, according to a 2014 study from Carnegie Mellon University. Research has also shown meditation can boost empathy, creativity, and focus.”
So, as advertisers tug on heartstrings for days gone by and the media fills our heads with the doubt and fear of a turbulent world, we can control our perspective. By being mindful of where we are, who we are with, and what we are doing we can live fuller, deeper lives, and be more effective.
We can’t live in the past or the future, we only exist in the here and now.
In his fictional short story, An Interview with God, James Lachard (not the Dalai Lama) asked God what surprised him most about humanity. God answered:
That they get bored of being children, are in a rush to grow up, and then long to be children again.
That they lose their health to make money and then lose their money to restore health.
That by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present, and live neither for the present nor for the future.
That they live as if they will never die, and die as if they had never lived.”
Joseph F. Bastian, president of The Human Performance Network, is a regular contributor to DBusiness.com and DBusiness Daily News.