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Mindful : October 2018
INQUIRE NEGATIVITY RULES From the dawn of our spe- cies, the human brain has been on the lookout for dan- ger. Why? Because before you can work on being happy, you need to survive. It’s called negativity bias, and it still rules today. For example: You have a great idea for a new project. You ask 10 people what they think and nine of them say things like, “This is fantas- tic,” or “This can really make an impact in so many ways.” But one person says, “ What’s wrong with you? How could you ever consider this? This idea is sure to fail.” Which comment is stickier? The brain’s first job is to scan the horizon and anticipate any danger—and “danger” in brain-speak can be anything that causes even momentary discom- fort, which also happens to be a natural and integral part of change! In order to ensure your security (in this case, the status quo), the brain will conjure up all the potential pitfalls of this idea, from anticipated failure to doubt that it’s going to make a difference. Well, from thoughts come actions, and from actions come conse- quences, so you have doubt and fear of failure showing up as laziness, procrastina- tion, or “forgetting” to do the thing you planned to do in support of your change. This just leads to more thoughts confirming that you couldn’t really make this change anyway. And... your motivation disappears. What can you do? First, recognize that this old wiring is part of the human Take Inventory Take honest inventories of your social and your physical environments to iden- tify where you’re suppor ted and where you’re not. experience. Be on the look- out for negative thoughts in response to your plans, and remember Thoughts aren’t facts (not even the ones that say they are). When they arrive, soften your body and take a deep breath. Ask yourself, “ Do I know this thought to be absolutely true?” If not, visualize how you will feel after having made the change you want to make. Allow that feeling to propel you forward. OUR FRACTURED ATTENTION Just while writing this sentence, my phone has lit up twice, stealing my attention. (Yes, I’ll put it away now.) Anybody with a smartphone knows the experience of continuous partial attention: It’s what happens when you quickly switch between tasks—and the brain drain that can occur as a consequence. In our constantly connected world, where a device right in our pocket (or on our wrist) serves as a hub for work, personal life, fitness tracking, incessant news updates, and even medita- tion apps, for many of us, fractured attention is more the norm than not. Unfortunately, this doesn’t support the sus- tained attention needed to make lasting changes. When it comes to chang- ing or adopting new habits, researchers say that, depending on the difficulty of the task, it can take between 20 days and more than 200 for a new activity or way of being to become automatic. In other words, it requires the ability to sustain your attention for a → You may notice that many of the people you spend most of your time with may or may not be suppor tive in your life, but are not the most inspiring, and there are others on the periphery who are doing what you want to be doing, and could be inspiring to you, but that you’re not spending much time with. Consider how you might connect more with those who live the way you’d like to be living and draw them closer to you. If you find that you don’t know where to find inspiring people, do a search in your area of local interest groups. While in-person is optimal, don’t discount the power of having regular contact with inspiring people online, too. 1 Write your name on the left-hand side of a piece of paper. 2 Draw three short lines to the right of your name, and continue doing that progressively, fanning the lines out to the right of the paper. 3 Write the names of the people you spend most of your time with on the lines closest to you and continue this until you write the names of the people in your life you spend the least time with. 4 Nex t to each person’s name, write a number on a scale of 1-10, where 1 stands for least inspiring in respect to the change you want to make and 10 stands for most inspiring in respect to the change you want to make. October 2018 mindful 19