How many times do you go to bed with a headache, completely flustered by the events of your day? Only to wake up, check your email, and have it hit you all over again. You wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day, but then you check your email, or Twitter, or whatever else, and immediately let the stresses and concerns of other people hit you, and the headache immediately returns (or maybe you still wake up with all the mental baggage from the day before weighing you down).
In today’s age, its increasingly easy to get lost in the agenda of your day, to let the multitude of things you feel that you have to get done come crashing in on you and wear you down mentally. By the end of the day, you feel exhausted, but at the same time you don’t feel as if your getting anything done. Or maybe you did, but it wasn’t what you wanted, or wasn’t really that important to you. Part of this issue is setting proper goals for yourself, and time management. But the other part is just getting through the daily grind, staying committed to those goals when life gets you stressed out.
We all have the ability to fight this feeling. The ability to stay focused on what it is we want to do, no matter what gets thrown our way. This ability is Meditation. Marcus Aurelius calls it ‘retreating to your inner citadel.’ Hosts of other successful people do this exact same thing; putting life on pause, taking a step back, and reflecting. You have to make time for yourself before all else, even if that time is only 5 minutes (as Tim Ferriss says: “If you don’t have 30 minutes to meditate, you need 3 hours”).
This is one of the most critical things that I started doing to start the new year off, and the dividends have been tremendous. It is something I do every morning, first thing after I wake up, before I get the black crack running through my veins (…coffee). It starts your day off from a position of strength, focus, poise, and clarity. It’s amazing what meditating can do to the rest of your day, the productivity that it sets you up for. But this doesn’t have to be limited to your mornings. Employ it any time you feel a new stress hit you, or you feel that you are drifting off course. Or even when you feel some anger coming on, and the limits of your composure are getting tested. Any time you want to center or re-focus yourself: meditate.
Meditation also does not have to be some hippie, voodoo activity. It doesn’t have to involve prayer, yoga, herbal tea, or light rain showers playing in the background. It just has to be quiet time spent on reflection. However you want to go about that is up to you.
Just close your eyes and breathe deeply a couple of times. Let your mind wander around what you have to do or whatever has you stressed, and compare it with things that matter most to you. It helps center yourself; reflect on your current mental state or emotions. This isn’t just applicable for business. Very beneficial in personal life, school, what have you. Compare what you think is most critical task you have to do today with what is your most critical task. Are things really that important?
Another mental que that has often aided me is to think about your deathbed. I only have a limited amount of time on this earth. When I am at the end of my days, how am I going to look back on this moment? What decision am I going to wish I had made? Morbid? Maybe. But effective? O yes.
Something that may also help is to write out what you are thinking. This state of calmness and objectivity is hard to maintain once you get back to the rest of your day, but logging these thoughts to look at later on when life seems more hectic can be extremely beneficial to center yourself later on. Many successful people have been known to keep detailed diary’s/journals of their day-to-day thoughts, from Leonardo di Vinci to George Washington. There is plenty of content out on the webs that goes into journaling further, so I won’t dig into it, but reflection and journaling go hand-in-hand. Is it a requirement? Of course not, but they can be quite symbiotic.
A third que that helps me personally is to then envision yourself in the future being successful. You probably hear this all the time, but do you ever really do it? Its almost cliché at this point, but really try to put yourself in your own shoes, 5 or 10 years from now. Envision will it be like to have accomplished what you really wanted (as Big Sean so eloquently puts it: “but I already dreamed it so it felt like I rehearsed it”). But don’t picture yourself making the game-winning free-throw; you should already have that faith in your own abilities. Instead, picture the crowd watching you, the weight of their eyes and expectations, and their reaction when you ‘hit the shot’. Make it real.
This step, mixed with positive affirmation, can become very powerful to re-focus yourself and motivate yourself to accomplish and achieve that vision. Yes, positive affirmation sounds very self-helpy, like those talks people always have in the mirror in movies. But again, its preached and used for a reason. Don’t knock it till you try it.
But that’s it really. Like I said, this can take as long as you want or have time for. If that’s only 5 minutes, that’s fine, as long as you are able to truly focus on doing nothing. For me personally, its about 30 minutes total, as I use this state of calmness and focus to write out my to-do list for the day, and journal my reflections on the previous day. This is far easier to do when you have had some time to distance yourself from the past day, and its like hitting the reset button on anything negative that happened. But the key is to make sure you set some amount of time aside to reflect, whenever you need to. Whatever is stressing you, take it in, assess it in as objective a manner as possible, and then look to see how you can turn that into a positive for the rest of the day ahead of you. Then you will find yourself continually building upon each day, and progressing forward in successive fashion.