by Scott Eblin,
reviewed by Steve Gladis
1. Overview. In a world where most of us are more connected to work than any other part of our lives, this book offers an escape hatch: Mindfulness—the intersection of awareness and intention. Mindful attention to our physical, mental, psychological and spiritual domains when we’re at home, at work and in the community acts as a kind of North Star for us all.
2. Your Brain Overworked and Overwhelmed
- Smartphones and other technologies keep us tethered to work, which overworks, overwhelms and exhausts most of us. In fact, Americans are in contact with work 72 hours a week; 33% of us report extreme stress—pointed right at work—and most of our visits to the doctor are stress-related complaints.
- Mindfulness = Awareness and Intention. Awareness means objectively, not judgmentally, focused on the present—not focused on the past or the future. Intention is sorting out external interference vs. our own internal chatter, self-talk. Mindfulness helps us manage the “gap” between our thoughts and how we act on them. Moreover, distractions keep us from mindfulness. One study suggests that we get distracted every 11 minutes!
- Fight-Flight or Rest-Digest: SNS (sympathetic nervous system) controls fight/flight reactions—it’s automatic. The amygdala, hypothalamus, and brain stem prepare us for action. The PNS (parasympathetic nervous system) focuses us on the physical and switches off the SNS emotional surge, allowing us to consider options under pressure. Psychologist Rich Hanson says, “SNS is the accelerator and the PNS is the brake.” Chronic stress (SNS state) leads to thinning of the executive function of the brain that helps us make good decisions and exacerbates the amygdala that triggers more stress—elevates BP, increases stress hormones, hurts the immune system, and much more.
- Meditation—mindful, deep, belly breathing (sometimes called the relaxation response) is like the switching station between flight/flight and rest/digest—it ‘slows your roll,’ calms you, and helps you think more clearly and make better decisions.
3. Your Life GPS ® —Personal Planning Model—Best Self
- Ask yourself: when in my life was I my best, happiest self—when was I really in the zone? Often making time to do what it takes to be your best self is not that difficult: Taking time to walk, to read, to meditate. Eblin talks about your personal life GPS. Developing habits that are physical, mental, relational, and spiritual will help set patterns that support your showing up as your best self and doing these in key places—at home, at work and in the community.
- Make a list of when you were at your best in each place and then look for common denominators to find your GPS. For example, maybe you were teaching, sharing, and learning. So, create an environment that allows those activities to flourish. Become thoughtful and act accordingly—do first things first, meditate, set boundaries, and be strategic.
4. Four Mindful Domains: Physical, Mental, Relational, Spiritual. Create routines that are simple, regular, and reinforce your best self. To become more mindful (present, aware, and intentional), imbed routines in the four domains of your life:
- Physical: Movement is the “killer app” for mindful physical activity. It calms the flight/fright state, it’s free, and you can take it wherever you go. Walk, run, swim, do yoga—but DO something, regularly. Habit is king.
- Mental: Breathing is the “killer app” for mindful thinking. Breathe slowly (deep, belly breathing) and even when your mind wanders, come back to focusing on your breathing. It improves memory, retention, and calms the brain, allowing it to focus 10 times better. Focus on the present, not the past (can bring regret) or future (can bring anxiety).
- Relational: Listening is the “killer app” for stronger relationships. We’re social animals, relying on relationships to nurture us. To instill a sense of caring with another person, just listen in a caring and attentive way. Eblin describes three types of listening: Transient (me-focused, distracted listening); Transactional (you-focused, problem-solving listening); and Transformational (us-focused, relationship-building listening).
- Spiritual: Reflection is the “killer app” for spiritual, mindful awareness. Figure out your purpose—What am I trying to do and how do I need to show up to be that best self? Becoming intentional about creating space and time to reflect allows you to assess your direction in life. Meditation, prayer, quiet time, and journaling are a few habits that help us create mindful space in our lives to reflect on our purpose in life.