Why do some people seem to handle challenges with grace and ease while others crumble under stress? A growing body of research points to mindfulness as the answer. Put simply, mindfulness is, “the act of being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment — without interpretation or judgment”, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Most people assume mindfulness involves sitting in cross-legged meditation for hours on end. But it’s actually a collection of practices and skills that can help you cope with stress more effectively, manage your emotions better, and improve your focus and productivity. Beyond meditation, other mindfulness practices include focused breathing, self-compassion exercises, and training yourself to be mentally self-aware.
Eighty percent of the world’s most successful people have some sort of daily mindfulness practice. Here’s what they do differently:
1. They don’t get hooked by their emotions.
When unpleasant emotions arise, we’re often quick to respond by rationalizing, blaming others, or trying desperately to push them down. Mindful people don’t react to fleeting feelings. They respond in a calm, controlled manner. They acknowledge their emotions, label them, and find compassionate, self-respecting ways to move forward.
2. They pay attention to their repetitive thoughts.
Out of the 60 to 70,000 thoughts we have every day, estimates suggest 98% of them are the same. Mindful people look for exaggerated, irrational, or unrealistic thoughts that may cause them undue worry. They choose constructive self-talk over falling victim to their inner critic.
3. They get curious and ask questions.
Mindful people are empathic and expert listeners. They ask open-ended questions to encourage vulnerability and by doing so, often create psychological safety on their teams. Self-reflection is a core habit of mindfulness, which helps you attune to what’s going well in the present moment so you can practice appreciation and gratitude.
4. They embrace imperfection (in themselves and others).
Perfectionism is a happiness killer. Mindful people understand that aiming for an impossibly high standard will only lead to disappointment.
5. They practice preemptive self-care.
Each day we make about 35,000 decisions, from what to wear to how to steer the company’s strategic direction. Mindful people manage their attentional resources. They monitor their internal state to watch for signs of depletion. They replenish their mental and emotional reserves before burnout hits.
Melody Wilding is a performance coach for sensitive high achievers and professor of human behavior. She helps leaders at companies like Google, Facebook, HP, Salesforce, and HBO stop doubting themselves so they can strive for a successful career and a balanced life.