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One Bird, One Stone

A few years ago Harvard researchers Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert (author of Stumbling Upon Happiness) published a study in Science reporting that people spend 46.9% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing.  According to the authors, “a human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind….the ability to think about what is not happening is a [human] cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”

I’M NOT ALONE,” I wanted to scream at my computer screen as I read the study.  For years, I’ve been wondering if I have ADD or just extreme curiosity or paranoia or a zillion other issues that lead to this incessant wandering.  But this morning, in the depths of my computer, I found a scientific paper proving that our minds are wired to wander.  I finally had a paper reminding me that staying in the moment 1) is mega hard, 2) is a discipline that takes training and practice, and 3) is super duper worth it.

I’ve been thinking and talking about this notion of focus for a while, captured in a post a few months ago about unitasking (versus multitasking).  And I’m getting better at it, but still needing to consciously work very hard at it using some of the strategies included in that post.  This morning, I added a strategy to the list.  I set a simple intention:

“Snap back to the present when my mind starts to wander. Stay focused on the task at hand. Live today for today…not for yesterday or for tomorrow.”

And you know what?  It worked.  If my baseline is the average 47%, today might have been 20%.  When my mind started to wander, I said the words “focus on the task at hand.”  And I walked in the sunshine without pulling out my phone.  I tried to teach some kids to skip at my daughter’s school.  I worked steadily and even lost track of time.  All because of one simple little intention.  So if you’re like me and trying to stay in the moment just a teeny bit more, try making a clear commitment for one day and see how it goes.  You might just shock yourself.

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