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1) General principles that help us:


Our minds are busy pieces of machinery, constantly reviewing the past’s old stories or making up new stories predicting future scenarios and doing all of this through the lens of “coulda, woulda, shoulda.” The voice in our head is similar to a computer processing information, and when it’s on automatic pilot, its preference is as a self-critic. So we are constantly filled with coulda, woulda, shoulda about our past, and when we look into the future when we’re on automatic pilot, all we do is project our past into our future as opposed to see our future in terms of possibility.


This set of stories becomes our baggage, keeping us bogged down and living the same life that we led in the past, where the stories originated. This means that if we’ve experienced frustration in our business lives, as long as we operate on automatic pilot, we will continue our pattern of making choices that keep us frustrated.


Mindfulness is the opposite of allowing our minds to be on automatic pilot. It is the state of being aware in the here and now without holding on to the interpretations and judgments that the voice in our head tells us about what we are experiencing. When we are mindful, fully present in the present, our stories stop existing and we live in the moment; our entire experience is what’s happening now, now, now as opposed to those stories; our machinery is forced off stage in pause mode until we allow it to creep back onto center stage by going unconscious and allowing it to operate on automatic pilot.


Mindfulness is an acquired skill. We develop it by intentionally focusing in the now, exactly as it is, without adding any of the mind’s hardened stories of past and future versions of the same scenario. The more we practice mindfulness, the more time we spend being mindful and the less often our machinery creeps back onto center stage. The more mindful we are, the better choices we make in our business as well as our personal lives.


Ideas and their application to life and business become actualized in the now. Think of the present—or now—as a beam of light and our mind’s thoughts and stories as a shadow. Shadows and light are mutually exclusive; they can’t both occupy the exact same space because light removes shadows, and shadows are produced when the light is blocked. Mindfulness occurs when we put ourselves in the present, shining the light of awareness in the now on a particular situation and forcing our thoughts and stories—the shadow—into nonexistence for that time when mindfulness forces the machinery into pause mode.


The now is where things truly happen. Thoughts and stories don’t do anything; they’re like daydreams. All actions are executed in present/now. Every business meeting and sales call—in fact, all commerce—are dealt with in the now. Completion is always in the now, just as it is; failure and success are how we think of it or judge it, based on our machinery’s interpretations.


When we are mindful, we don’t get paralyzed by thoughts or fears that come from our stories; we can just take care of business.


An added benefit of mindfulness is that when we stay mindful, we remember that success and failure are constructs of the machinery, and we know that there’s no good or bad; there’s just what’s so. And we can focus on the business at hand and just take care of it.


2) What advice would you give to entrepreneurs and people trying to change careers in this less-than-encouraging economy? And how can some of the advice and lessons in your book be applied to benefit people who are trying to recover from career and personal setbacks, start over their lives and/or build something new?


Most of us take for granted that the voice in our head is me and that the identity it has crafted for me is also me and can’t change. Neither is true! Both are only part of who you are—really loud and forceful parts, but just parts. The mind’s machinery doesn’t want this secret to be out; it doesn’t want us to know “I have a choice to do what the voice in my head says or not, and I don’t have to allow it to boss me around.”


For many of us, our job and our money have become who we think we are—our identity—and losing these parts of our identity is much the same as a part of us dying, and that part wants to take the rest of us with it into oblivion.


Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a great pioneer in writing about death and dying, identified what she called the five stages of grief, the term she used to explain what we go through both when a physical death occurs and when we experience the emotional trauma that comes from losing our job and money, which we perceive as the loss of our identity. She describes the five stages as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.


When the job and/or the money are gone, it’s like a part of us died, and we don’t know how to go on with out it. Kübler-Ross says that until we go through these stages, we will not be able to let go of our old identity and create a new one. Until we experience these five stages, we won’t be able to experience the necessary rebirth of a new identity and to change jobs or occupations in order to go on with our lives in a positive way.


A fellow traveler of the grief we must experience with the loss of a job and financial security is our fear of change. Our minds are generally afraid of going out of our comfort zone, and change requires going out of our comfort zone. Thus our minds would rather have us stay in a painful place that our minds are familiar with than to change and risk unknown pain.


I call this familiar pain versus awkward pain; we put up with painful emotional situations because we’re not willing to take the risk of failure, because our minds fear that we might not survive the potential pain of going into uncharted territory, whether it’s applying for a new job, starting a relationship or, even scarier, doing something we may be believe could lead to embarrassment.


If we’ve lost our job and we let ourselves be dominated by our fear of something new, then we will be paralyzed. If we go through the five stages of grief about what we have thought of up to now as our identity and we act in a mindful way, despite our fear, we will be able to go into uncharted territory and find possibilities that allow us to recreate ourselves.

  • 24 Jun, 2013
  • Posted by Steve Fogel
  • 1 Tags

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