Reality Is Not a Distraction

Practice is a hard word. At least to me it is. If I were to be fully honest with myself, bigstock-Fragment-Of-Wheel-Reviews-4705326I am fantastic at learning but not as strong at maintenance. Mind you, I’m looking at this in terms of years, not days or months. Daily practice of a newly enamored skill or craft is enlivening because each session reveals readily accessible newness. But take the practice of this same skill or craft three or four years out and my eye will move away toward a new light.

I write of this because of what I want to practice, and practice with a steady, advancing progress. What I want to practice is mindfulness. Not because it has taken hold of American society as of late, as evidenced by the November 1 NYT piece on the zeitgeist of mindfulness. No, I have been approaching this practice for quite some time, watching it unfold for me when I realized, sad and full of relief, that my keepsake box of hopes looked threadbare. So when I read that mindfulness is the Big Thing, I watch it teeter between craze and movement and secretly wish it will solidify as the latter.

I root for the latter because I have seen the negative impact of living mostly in past and future releases across all stages of life, particularly business life. Businesses operate as if the present were little more than the output of last year’s strategy exercise, the result of either a good plan or a bad one. People rush through their day-to-day work because there is either too much of it to focus on fully or because it is what one must get through to reach the future. And the past? It is the model to recapture or escape.

None of this maelstrom considers what simply is. Deep-breath-centered-in-your-face-obvious-to-the-point-of-ridiculous-is. In many ways it comes down to the acceptance of a singular truth: Reality is not a distraction.

To the team working on a high-profile project, functioning according to the approved plan does not inoculate them from the CEO’s recent exposure to another alternative or from a change in customer sentiment. To the leader trying to build credibility in an organization, a highly skilled group of lieutenants does not excuse the responsibility he has for their self-focused, corrosive behavior. To the company flush with success, achievement does not equal an enviable working environment.

These are not unusual scenarios. It likely would not take heavy effort to outline a few more, all bound to each other by the incredible effort put forth to ignore what is in plain sight. It makes me wonder how we got to the point where a premium is placed on the opposite of mindfulness, a point where enterprises founded on growth operate as if it can only be achieved by not focusing on the present.

Of course, I know how difficult it is to be mindful. I know how riotous it can be to stop, pause, consider and possibly modify a course that has been approved, stamped and roundly endorsed. It takes more than being mindful, or even being consistent. Such action asks for courage, for it is challenging to observe the full picture, to let the subtleties reveal themselves and to name them. Such courage flies against many people’s individual comfort level. In an organizational environment, this courage might fly against a culture of efficiency.

And yet focusing on what currently exists is probably the most efficient, and effective, action to take. For practicing mindfulness creates a potent mix of knowledge and potential. A mix that actually centers an organization toward the right next step, not distract it from a planned path.

Which is why I, in my quiet, individual way, bring myself back to reality and the call to practice, practice, practice.









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