ACTivity/ Moments of Choice

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Jakarta, 18 October 2017 — If your life is a sequence of moments you create, how to make them quality moments?

As a leader, you aspire to turn your everyday life into a sequence of quality moments that make the best use of valuable opportunities. You know that you have to increase your personal power to create more of these moments, day by day.

Growing your power of influence requires curiosity, an expanded awareness of yourself and the situations you are in, and your toolbox full of leadership skills.

From these three, deciding to boost your curiosity might take the least time. You can start right away, yet it is not that easy. What often gets in the way is your past and our future.

Past and Future Distractions

All of us have an active interest in the past. Think of the times you spend reminiscing about your past successes and happy times, and when you struggle to come to terms with negative experiences in your past, and also the times when you mourn your loved ones who have left life.

Equally or more important, we are attracted by the future, which commands a large amount of attention. Often, our curiosity for the future is colored and constrained by the experiences from the past that we carry with us.

As Eckhart Tolle showed us in 20 years ago in The Power of Now, we spend so much time thinking about the past and the future that we rarely give ourselves the space we need to experience all the treasures of the present moment, of the Now.

Because of our attachment to the past and the future, we easily let quality time slip by. Distracted as we are, we fail to make moments special in the present time. Often, our mindfulness is not yet strong enough to remind us that the only time we have is Now.  

So how to make more quality moments?

It starts with realizing that Now is the only time to make choices and take action. And that when we are guided by a stronger mindfulness, we can make better choices which lead to better actions. 

A Focus on Mindfulness

A mastery that leaders practice frequently is to increase their mindfulness to make better choices using their awareness of whatever is happening inside and around them Now.

If we keep practicing that, we can make more quality moments happen, and move forward until we can string them together like pearls, in a journey of minutes, hours, days, weeks, years and a lifetime.

So how to be more mindful?

When we talk about mindfulness, we refer to a heightened sense of awareness and curiosity of what is going on inside and around us, and therefore we also have more openness for learning to change and make better decisions.

Classical Eastern philosophy helped us discover that between our awareness of what arises in our mind (such as being happy, feeling a sense of struggle, of fears) and the next thing we will do (the action we will take), lies a precious moment of choice, almost like a pause button. Pressing that pause button can help us exercise mindfulness before deciding on a course of action.

Mindfulness can be practiced at any time, to help us be fully present and engaged with the here and now. Jon Kabat-Zinn summarized the essence when he said that "mindfulness is the awareness that arises when we non-judgmentally pay attention in the present moment.” The decision to step back from judgment is key.

Moments of Choice

Seen from this mindfulness angle, our life is like a string of moments in which we can make choices. We always have the liberty to choose, and that is why leaders can influence positive changes at almost any time and place.

With mindfulness, you see that you are always in charge of creating your journey, moment by moment. Because there is only the Now to live in. The rest is the story of the past and the illusion of the future. 

You can think of it like choosing to step into a circle that you have drawn in the sand on the beach. Even when the water erases the circle, you draw it again next time to step into it again, and so it continues. 

Some Holocaust survivors have shared that no matter how dire the circumstances around them had become, they still experienced a sense of freedom in the choices they could make for themselves. They found and created moments of choice. 

Whether in good times or bad times, the quality of moments come down to what we create with mindful choices, including how to make the best use the present moment, the Now. As leaders who practice their mastery of mindfulness, we can create more moments of choice, for ourselves and for those around us. 

Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when we non-judgmentally pay attention in the present moment.
— Jon Kabat-Zinn