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Mindful : June 2015
I hit the ball outside of the sweet spot, my hit doesn’t have as much strength and there is an element of strain. I can feel the resistance—the bump or the friction created by missing the sweet spot—in my body. If I spend too long hitting outside of the sweet spot, I am likely to be sore or achy in a way that goes beyond normal fatigue. This happens in life as well as sports; even if we are “hitting ” fairly successfully, sometimes we feel the strain, stress, and resista nce of being out of our sweet spot. As a young marketing manager, for example, I did my job well and was rewarded with “fun” projects a nd numerous promotions. But because working in marketing for a la rge corpora- tion wasn’t a good fit for me personally, I couldn’t find and work from a sweet spot. I could get a hit, but there was no real ease: I always felt an element of strain, stress, and resista nce that ca me from being in the wrong job. A decade later I found myself hitting outside of my sweet spot again, this time not necessarily because I was in the wrong field. I had work I loved, but the structure of my work was wrong. I was doing lots of great things, getting lots of great “hits,” but hitting outside of my sweet spot was exhausting, and eventually it took a toll on my health. I hear similar stories from my doctor friends: They love healing people, but have a hard time working from their sweet spot under the constraints of the insurance companies. Likewise, as a mom I have days where I miss the sweet spot altogether. It’s not that I don’t get through dinner and bed- time—the kids do end up fed and asleep. It’s that when I miss my sweet spot as a mom, the dinner and bedtime routines utterly exhaust me; I feel the strain of traveling over a bumpy road rather than a smooth one. When we are out of our sweet spot at work or at home, not only are we more likely to feel fatigue and over whelm, we a ren’t fulfilling our potential. We miss out on the feeling of “flow,” when time stands still, and we no longer feel pressured or rushed, when life and work no longer feel so hard. Athletes increase the odds that they’ll hit the sweet spot when they learn to “groove their swing.” When golfers groove their swing, for example, the sweet spot of the club strikes the ball cleanly and launches its flight. Being in our sweet spot is a felt sense; we know intuitively that everything is aligned. Our sweet spot doesn’t require conscious thought; our unconscious mind tells us that we are there through our bodies. Our unconscious knowl- edge is shockingly powerful—and far more exten- sive tha n our conscious knowledge. Consider that our conscious brain processes information at a rate of about fifty bits per second, while our unconscious, intuitive ner vous system processes information at a rate of 11 million bits per second. Fifty versus 11 mil- lion. That’s not a small differential, and it means that our unconscious minds are constantly cluing us in to our experience, both internal a nd externa l, through our bodies, if only we pay attention. Try listening to the feedback your body is giving you right now. Say something really untrue out loud, preferably to someone else. Try something like “I love it when my boss humiliates me in front of my tea m,” or “I adore having the stomach flu.” Then notice: How does your body react? The response will likely be ever so slight: a minuscule pulling back, or tensing of your jaw, or a tiny shoulder raise. When I say something that my unconscious mind hates, my body tries to tell me through a little heaviness in my stomach. If I spend too long out of my sweet spot a nd do something that feels wrong for me, I end up with a stomachache. → 5 Steps to Finding Your Groove 1. Take Recess When we give ourselves a break from overwork, we increase our brainpower and conver t stress into productive and creative energy. Have some playtime. 2. Switch Autopilot On This doesn’t mean being “mindless” and bumping into walls because we don’t know where we are. It’s about using our brain’s natural ability to run on well-grooved habits, which are more power ful than willpower in carr ying life’s burdens. 3. Unshackle Yourself Take time to break free from things that tax us, like our smar tphone’s constant siren song. It opens the door to more joy, and it’s much simpler to do than you think. 4. Cultivate Relationships What are friends for? Lots of things. It’s a cliché and it may sound hokey, but life is simply hard to pull off all by ourselves, and there is solid science that tells us our brain is healthier when we nur ture our connections to others. 5. Tolerate Some Discomfort Do what it takes to develop master y, which makes hard things easy; have the courage to follow your passion and purpose; and learn how to bounce back when the going gets rough. June 2015 mindful 37