We live in a culture of always being hustling, of rest being for the weak, of being busy as the sign of a fulfilled life. And every year, we make New Years resolutions or SMART goals for everything that we are going to achieve, we have bucket lists and 30 before 30 lists, all focused on achieving things.
Don’t get me wrong, self-improvement, and living a goal-oriented and purposeful life is good. Wanting success and having that desire driving you forward can be good for you. Provided that you are doing it for the right reasons.
Living in a capitalist society has taught us that we always have to be working and that rest is for the underperformers. And that is where the problem with a goal-oriented life lies. Not having the goals or living with purpose or wanting success, but when hustling and being driven start impacting your life in negative ways. We should be wanting all these things because we want them, and not at the expense of our physical and mental health.
I usually start out my year with goals in all the different areas of my life, and I always start the year hopeful and full of optimism, and as the year draws on, I get further and further from achieving those goals. And I blame the busyness which I have traditionally imposed on myself.
What I have been learning is the value of resting and being mindful. And while mindfulness has been a buzz word for a while now, there is so much information and research backing the value in mindfulness. It has been shown that there are definitive changes in our brains as a result of being more mindful. And just as other mental illness impact the brain function, mindfulness can counter this.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be a big activity, such as an hour long meditation. It can be slowing down as you make your coffee or tea, and only thinking about what you’re doing, as you put the coffee in the cup, add the sugar, add the milk, and so forth. It can be putting on your favourite song and dancing for 1 minute. Spending 30 minutes colouring in when you have more time. Having your morning coffee outside in the garden. All it requires is for you to be in the present moment.
And as you spend more time in mindfulness, you will slowly start to see the impact, like when you get angry, as you experience the fire filling up your belly, and your jaw tightening, you will have more time to process the anger and decide how you want to express it. And that is just one of the benefits, being able to be present with emotions, and feel them and express them instead of reacting to them.
Being mindful has been shown to work wonders for anxiety and depression because instead of focusing on the past or the future (or both, in my case), you focus on the present moment, and what you can achieve now, and in that way, you are able to break down your goals, and what you want to achieve, into more manageable tasks, and feel less overwhelmed, and more in control of your time, your emotions and yourself.
While it may be counterintuitive when talking about goalsetting, let’s make one of our goals for this year to be more mindful.