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Mindfulness, Mindlessness, and Meaningful Work: The 3 M’s of Modern Life

mindfulness-731846_640By:  Mark Guterman

Nearly everyone today is busier than they want to be or at least too busy to spend enough time and energy on things that matter.  This “complaint” and the reasons behind it are legitimate to some extent, but mostly it has to do with the conditions under which we make our decisions and take subsequent action.

When we choose and act in ”mindless” ways, it means that we are on auto pilot and not taking responsibility for what is going on in our work and lives.  Furthermore, this stance, if you will, occurs when routines and habits trump our creative impulses or when necessity overpowers the desire for meaning and satisfaction.  Everyone experiences this in their work and lives.  The challenge becomes, of course, knowing when and how to stop and use our capacity for mindfulness to make our work and lives meaningful.

Mindfulness is not a mysterious or esoteric process.  It is simply paying attention to what is going on in and around us, and using that knowledge to make choices and take actions that express what is of most importance.  Many of us come to mindfulness out of necessity and, not having been taught the practice early in life, find it difficult to make it a habitual way to live and work.  Developing a disciplined approach to mindfulness can give us power and control in our work and lives and enable us to pursue and experience meaningful work.

Mindfulness can be learned by anyone, at any stage in life.  It requires us to notice and pay attention to things, feelings, thoughts, people, and our surroundings.  It also means we need to slow down our pace now and then, sometimes taking a full stop from our busy lives, and then being present to observe and experience things in the here and now.  Because most of us are caught in the drama of our busy lives, it’s a real challenge to practice mindfulness.

And even for those who make mindfulness a part of their lives, there is the deeper issue of knowing and living according to what we believe to be most important.  Paying attention and being present are important in and of themselves, but there is always the question of, “To What End?” Until we get clear about our purpose and then develop the courage to move in that direction, something will always be missing.  Discover what that something is and you’ll find the key to meaningful work.

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