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Advice from a monk

This past week I listened to a Lewis Howes podcast where he interviewed Jay Shetty, another podcast host that happened to be a monk for a period of time.  They talked about a couple topics I thought were particularly helpful and relevant to building more grit.

Since Jay was previously a monk, of course the question came out about meditation and mindfulness. Lewis mentioned that a previous meditation guru he had interviewed introduced the idea that mindfulness is actually about mind 'nothingness' and the ability to clear your head and 'read in between the lines' of your thoughts.  Jay agreed with the idea and went on to say that to him mindfulness means 'intentionality' - are you crafting, designing, and intentionally creating your life by design or are you in the passenger seat of life just reacting or coasting to what happens with no sense of intentionality with what you are doing? 

Jay goes on to talk about the 3 'S's:  sights, scents, and sounds and how the concept of mindfulness and intentionality applies to these particular senses.  With sights, for 80% of people, what's the last thing they look at before they go to bed and the first thing they look at in the morning? - their phone.  When you do that, you are seeing everyone else's priority, everyone else's messages to you, everyone else's issues and challenges, and you are already starting off your day reactively.  He then challenges us to start off our day looking at a painting, looking at a favorite quote, or a picture of a loved one.  How much would your day change if you started off looking at something inspiring? - that's mindfulness.  It's about being intentional and mindful about what you are exposing yourself to.  With sounds, he laughs at the idea that most of us wake up and start our day with an alarm!  When he was a monk, they would wake up to birds, nature, gongs, waterfalls, etc.  Changing the sound (or song) we wake up to can also help start our day with this intentionality.   He talks about 'sound designing' your life by purposely creating the sounds you have around you.  With scents, he gives the example of smelling your favorite food or the smell when you walk into a spa.  Scents put you in zen without even trying!  You want to create an environment like a rainforest where things can thrive and grow as opposed to an environment like a desert where things go to die, and we can do that be intentionally creating the sights, scents, and sounds around us.

Lewis and Jay then discuss the idea of creating and designing your life and how much of our life is shaped by fate and how much is shaped by free will.  Jay says it's like a dynamic dance between the two where some things have been created for us (where we were born, type of family, socioeconomic background, etc) and others are shaped by our free will.  About 10 years ago, Jay shared a problem he was having with a mentor by saying that he had so many ideas on what he wanted to do with his life, but he didn't know where to start.  The mentor's response was, "Open as many doors as possible and let the world close the doors that you aren't meant to walk through."Too often we look at our free will as giving us just binary choices, either this or that, choice a or b, etc, but the reality is there are always more options.  I think that is fantastic advice and find it to be very true.  I would just add to that advice that even if a door is starting to close, stick your foot in the door to hold it open for a bit longer.  If the door slams in your face or still closes and smashes your foot, then it's time to move on to the next door.  Sometimes the most rewarding things in life just take a bit more time to develop so we need to make sure to give each door the proper opportunity and effort.

"When you believe you have exhausted all options, just remember that you haven't" 

- Thomas Edison

Lastly, he shared the stats that Harvard did a study of 3,000 executives and asked them 'what's the number one skill for being a leader?'  Instead of communication, vision, or humility, the answer is Associating - the ability to spot patterns where everyone else doesn't see them.  We feel safety and security when people agree with us (aka confirmation bias or echo chamber).  According to an MIT study, a person is more creative and innovative that has a network of a lot of different people that don't know each other.  The reason is because they expose you to a variety of different ideas and beliefs that help challenge you and expand your mind.  So by exposing ourselves to different people, opportunities, and challenges, it allows us to have access to more resources and improve our ability of associating.

So this week, I encourage all of us to be intentional about the sights, scents, and sounds we allow into our lives.  Instead of just reacting to what happens around us, remember that you are in the driver's seat and that free will allows us to create more options and opportunities for our lives.

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