Ever have one of those days when everything seems to go your way? From the time you wake up in the morning until you retire at night it seems that the world is behind you – you are in full sync with the events and people in your life. You are focused, sharp and alert. You move with purpose; your actions are crisp and exact; when you speak you are clear, succinct and convincing. Your hearing is acute and you process new inputs rapidly and respond appropriately, quickly and with ease. Everything seems more vivid and alive.
I think that most people have experienced something similar to this – if not for a full day then at least for a few hours. But why and how does this apparently random phenomenon happen? Why aren’t all of our days like this? And is it a totally random event? Do we have any influence over how our day unfolds or are we simply riding the wild wave of life? We all know that we can’t control everything that happens in our lives, and we can’t anticipate with any degree of accuracy where exactly we will be five years from now. We have the power to make decisions, but we have no control over the consequences of our decisions. What you may not know is that you can increase the probability of having what most people would call a ‘really good day’ AND you can exponentially increase your effectiveness as an Agile coach or practitioner by doing one thing – practicing mindfulness.
So what is mindfulness, exactly, and why do we, as agile practitioners care about it? Well, greater minds than mine have contemplated and practiced mindfulness – also known as awareness, and there is a wealth of material that you can find very easily on the web. But here is one of the best definitions that I have seen:
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way:on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.
Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We feel more alive. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
Being mindful means being fully present here and now – focused on who you are with and what you are doing without distraction. As I always remind my daughter who tends to fret over some combination of future events, “Be where you are and do what you’re doing.” Being mindful also means that you are actively listening when someone speaks, i.e. you are seeking only to understand what is being communicated, not judging or evaluating their statements, or, worst of all, planning your response/rebuttal. If you think about the last time you had a truly meaningful conversation with someone – where both of you walked away with a new and greater understanding of each other and the situation that you were in – were either of you typing on a computer during that time? Were either of you texting on your cell phone or planning your family vacation while you were talking? The answer is probably not. I have had conversations like that, and it happened because both of us were fully engaged, attentive, honest and open-minded for the duration of the conversation. I always feel a great sense of calmness and satisfaction after something like that occurs.
Think about the last meeting or group function that you attended where the group really came together to accomplish something meaningful, i.e. the end result was better than any one individual could have done on their own – a gathering where there was a free, open and honest exchange of information by all the people in the room. In a situation like this you can feel the heightened sense of excitement and the positive energy that is pervasive throughout the room. Creativity seems to pour out of everyone as they ‘gain immediate access to…powerful inner resources for insight…” Now think about the last meeting that you went to where everyone had their laptops open and were typing away while the conversation dragged on; where people on the conference phone asked for everything to be repeated because they were ‘multi-tasking’. Note not only the difference in the end result for each meeting but also the contrast in mood and energy levels between the two. If you had a choice, which feeling and experience would you rather have?
As Agile coaches we are in constant collaboration with others. We are called upon daily to deal with new developments and find creative ways to inspire, guide and mentor our teams. We are constantly managing changes in our plans and planning. We spend a lot of time collaborating with people who we must depend on for the group and project’s overall success. In a sense, we cannot afford not to be mindful. Real, enduring and sustained agility is powered, at the most fundamental level, by mindfulness. As mindful Agile coaches and practitioners we can meet any challenge, overcome any conflict and create and sustain a fast-moving pattern of excellence in an environment of positive, creative and transforming energy.
So how does present-moment living work in practice? When your mind begins to wander to some possible future event or other troublesome thought – acknowledge to yourself silently that you are not focused and pull yourself back into focus. The very act of realizing that you are losing focus on the present moment is an act of mindfulness, and the first step toward the gateway to your amazing inner powers of intuition and creativity. When you find that you are judging or disagreeing in your mind with something that is being said – remind yourself to actively listen and try not judge, seek to fully understand what is being communicated. Be patient with yourself and know that with practice your ability to self-correct will grow and the time you spend ‘multi-tasking’ will be reduced. You will be amazed at how you can create a ‘really good day’ through simple present moment living.
So be where you are and do what you’re doing and experience the power of mindfulness. It’s a simple, practical technique for being Agile.