Living in a state of mindfulness is a worthy goal. Living mindlessly is not normally something to strive for. Yet, mindfulness and mindlessness both play a part in habit change.
First, a definition I found for mindfulness in Psychology Today: a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
I wrote about mindfulness in a post about responding vs. reacting which, in the end, is about pausing, ever so briefly, to be aware of your life, and to be guided by your goals and priorities.
I don’t mean goals like at work “make a sale today” and priorities to help make that sale like “call my best prospect today.” I mean bigger life goals like, “have great relationships” and priorities like “seek to understand what my spouse is saying rather than assuming something” (which then allows me to respond accordingly, as opposed to reacting).
Mindfully living life is a wonderful, worthwhile goal. It’s also a key to makes changes that stick.
Mindfully observing your behavior is a critical step in habit creation. After establishing a desire to change, an awareness of your behavior begins the process of being able to change it. And yet, mindlessness is a key as well. Here’s what I mean.
As you’ve heard me talk about many times, when we try to make changes that are too big, or to make too many changes at the same time, we almost always fail because our willpower is limited. In order to make a change that sticks, after first making sure to break it down into small pieces, work on one piece at a time for the 21 days it takes to become a habit. Once it becomes a habit, you can begin to work on another habit. And another. All those small changes add up to big changes.
This method works because once you’ve formed a habit you no longer have to think about it: it becomes automatic and routine, a mindless activity, and thus will no longer tax your limited supply of willpower, which can then be deployed to another new habit. So, mindlessness is something to strive for as a goal for good habits.
Habit change begins with mindfulness and ends with mindlessness. That’s a good thing. And that’s how both mindfulness and mindlessness, seeming opposites, are powerful partners in habit change.
What are your experiences with mindfulness and mindlessness as it relates to habits? Join the conversation with your comments…
All the best,