This is it! This is the year that you’re going to use that gym membership, go through your old clothes taking up space in your closet, get rid of those hurtful relationships, start that savings account, learn Spanish, play an instrument and cook that delectable meal that seems too impossible to tackle. Yes, this is it, and you’re going to do it all (or even just one of these) with intention. That’s the key to being mindful and following through no matter the situation. Seem impossible? Well, with intention, you probably would not have arrived at the place you’re at today. There’s a level of conscious deliberation and desire that helps us move forward in our life (go to college, get that job, save money for a house, plan a vacation), where we arrive somewhere on our journey. If you plan on getting to a particular place, then you have to keep your eye on the ball.
With all the distractions that we continually encounter – the alerts on our phones, the kids needing your immediate attention, that sale at Nordstrom – we are often diverted from our original goals that seems so attainable just moments, weeks or months earlier. Why do we let this happen? The simple answer is that you’ve developed a habit of allowing distractions to pull you away from your intention. A habit is an automatic reaction to a stimulus. Whether is to assuage anxiety, avoid a call from your mother in law or procrastinate to avoid a short term discomfort, we all are susceptible to losing focus, even though we really, really want to reach those goals.
When you set a goal or an intention, there’s a lot of planning. Part of the plan has to include what to do when you get distracted or off track. And, I don’t mean beat yourself up for losing focus! It’s likely that something in life will ultimately challenge you to lose your focus, but getting back on track requires another type of plan. One that includes self-compassion and empathy. And, a way to get right back on that horse. In order to do that, you have to develop a new habit. One that redirects your attention to the original goal. But, finding your focus in that moment will also require practicing the art of focusing. You can do that with meditation.
Now, don’t go rolling your eyes at that word. If you’ve heard it but haven’t yet tried it, it’s pretty basic. Sit with your eyes closed, in a comfortable position, and notice your mind… you may find that your mind is racing, that you can’t stop the streams of thought. That’s exactly what you want to notice. Try to pay attention to the activity without joining the story line. And, notice when it starts to quiet down, even for just a few seconds. Now that you are noticing your mind’s activity, find an anchor – something to focus on – it can be your breath, or sounds. Your breath is always with you, so notice the cool air in your nostrils and your lungs expanding. Notice how your back moves when you take a deep breath. Notice how your abdomen moves up and down. These are all aspects of noticing your breath. If your anchor is sound, pay attention to the volume, the tone or the silence. Your mind will wander away from these things, but your intention is to bring your focus back, again and again and again.
With deliberate practice on focusing your attention while meditating, your life will soon take on an intention and deliberate focus when a simple distraction takes you away from your goals. You’ll be able to say, “hold on, I’ll be right with you,” or, “Sorry, can’t do that today, I’ve got other plans.” Try it for a day or a week. Notice what keeps you away from what you really want, and refocus your attention on your goals.
About the author
Laurie Goldey, MFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and holds a master’s in psychology and counseling from California State University, Northridge. Goldey has been a student and practitioner of mindfulness in her own life, and she regularly shares her mindfulness practices with her husband and teenage son. She currently resides in Agoura Hills, Calif. To learn more, please visit www.sittingprettyguide.com.