This week’s theme is about effectiveness. That’s what most New Year’s resolutions are about right? Making new choices, better choices, that will push us toward positive change in our lives. Effectiveness is about doing what works. This is one of the more difficult skills to master when practicing mindfulness, since many behaviors are automatic. But with regular mindfulness practice, slowing down the thought process in your mind and making more effective choices in each moment, eventually it becomes easier to make effective choices.
If you have ever taken a psychology course, you’ve probably heard the name Pavlov. Pavlov was the guy who came up with the first and most popular example of classical conditioning, by observing salivating dogs. The dogs would drop their sloppy spit not only in response to food, but in response to the technician who fed them the food. Humans react similarly to external stimuli. Take for instance the interactions you may have had with family members over the holidays. Family members reacting to each other because of previous encounters seems to be a common experience during these get togethers. These reactions can be like a domino effect, triggering other family members to react. A comment by the matriarch triggers an eye roll in one family member, a sigh in another and yet another comment by the next. Do you care about doing what works in these situations, or you more invested in being right?
Maybe you have mindlessly eaten, drank, or loafed your way through the past few weeks? Things like picking up habits that you really don’t want or need, and engaging in behaviors that are no longer serving your goals. Focusing on effective choice can work with any situation. Say it’s cold, you’re tired and you don’t want to get out of bed. What’s the most effective choice in that moment? Maybe it is to stay in the bed this moment, and get up the next. Maybe you have somewhere to be, and the most effective choice would be to get up right now. Or perhaps you have nowhere to be and your goal is to reward yourself, then sleeping in might be the best choice.
Being effective is doing what works in each moment. One moment you may choose to roll your eyes at that annoying relative, but maybe the next moment you take a deep breath instead. Practicing non-judgement will help in making a more effective choice the next time. Breathing helps too. So if you’ve already broken your new year’s resolutions or haven’t yet started it maybe you can add something this year. Doing what works, practicing effectiveness. Perhaps that will keep you from spitting fire on those relatives next year.
Today’s Mindfulness Practice: Focus on doing what works. Try this for one whole day or maybe just start with one whole hour. In each moment do what works. Consciously choose the most effective option. Sometimes you may not have a great choice, but choose the best one available. If your conditioning is propelling you toward ineffectiveness, take a deep breath and sit with the discomfort for a moment. The discomfort will likely pass, and then you will be able to move forward with making an effective choice.
Post contributed by Mary How. Mary is the owner of Angelfish Creations, LLC and editor of the Flying Fish Blog