People want to get things done in life. Our To-Do lists haunt us and we sometimes have energy “the size of a dinner mint”. If happiness is offered, you might say “Forget this. I have stuff to do!” The implied question is being asked, “If I am happy, will I get anything useful done?”
It’s OK to be Happy
From “Will Meditation Kill My Edge?” in the 10% Happier app Dan says:
I think a lot of people confuse complacency with happiness.
Often, people think that unhappiness is the only way to motivate action. Although unhappiness can get you moving, it doesn’t provide a direction to move towards. There’s no target. Without a purposeful target, you will mindlessly leap out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Aspire Towards a Target
If you want a target to move towards and the energy to hit that tricky target, glance at Resilience and Optimism where I discuss having a mission and the right positive attitude toward humanity through agape, an unconditional love for humans.
With a mission as your target and the right positive attitude, you’re like a happy and fast moving boat in the sea. Your mission is your north star and your agape (love) keeps you afloat, energized, and connected with others.
Paddle Hard To Move Your Boat?
No. Pushing yourself hard to be the best mindfulness meditator merely creates mental cramps. As George Mumford said in the 10% Happier app, “Dude, you’re making this way too hard.”
If you’re a Star Trek Next Generation fan, I would tell you that you have to make the counter intuitive move of dropping your shields in the face of danger as described in STNG Hero Worship.
The paradox is that the harder you try to be great at meditating, the more likely you are going to struggle. As I share in the Wrong Effort By George Mumford section in Meditation Brain Headbands And Wrong Effort, trying to get immediate results creates its own obstacle.
There’s a great podcast episode [NSFW: cussing] of The Joe Rogan Experience (#1062) titled Dan Harris & Jeff Warren where at the 23 minute 43 second mark, Dan describes what it’s like to have doubt in the progress of your meditation practice. To make progress in your meditation practice, you have to:
Surrender.. Just let the practice do its thing. ..We’ve been doing this for a millennia.. Just do the practice. Stop worrying about it [your progress].
He then goes on in a fun way to describe how it’s like a video game. “You can’t move forward if you want to move forward.”
In boat terms, just raise the sail. Let the wind push you forward. In meditation speak, observe whatever it is that comes up into your awareness like watching a cloud in the sky. Don’t try to push or pull the cloud. You’ll get lost in the cloud of thought and be in the storm of mindlessness again.
So, here we have a target, energy, and a tactical plan for how to progress. To completely progress in an effective manner, beware of the comparing mind. This is especially true when in a highly competitive environment.
As George Mumford points out in the 10% Happier app in What’s Success, you can’t control others. He says, “You can only be who you are. So why not be good at that?” Live your best. You can’t directly control what others are doing so focus on your own progress.
Sharon Salzburg in Mindful Magazine’s Be Kind to Yourself—Right Now covers the energy drain that comes from constantly reviewing the past and measuring how you stack up compared to others. My advice is to let those unwholesome thoughts go. Apply the Handy Tip For Focusing on such thoughts. Let the clenched fist in your mind fall open. Turn your attention on to your own progress and sail on towards your target.
Continue To Up Your Game With Emotional Agility
Now that you have an effective way to progress in your meditation practice and feel safe that you’ll still get things done, it’s time to end this with a final tip: continue to up your game. Expand your horizons. Continue to deepen your growth in ways you haven’t considered. For example, consider your “emotional agility” as Oren Jay Sofer puts it.
Even though the happiness and balance you acquire from mindfulness meditation are highly useful, there is certainly more to be had by learning “emotional agility.” As Oren Jay Sofer points out with some hesitation in “Calmest Person of the Room” of the 10% Happier app:
Not only can it [emotional agility] make you the calmest person in the room, but it can make you the most powerful person in the room.
Managing your emotions well lets you flexibly respond to life’s challenges. Simply through being grounded, you can see clearly what effective response to an adverse situation will serve best.
I sympathize with Oren’s hesitation. Mindfulness and “emotional agility” are powerful and with that comes great responsibility. If you aim yourself towards a wholesome target and apply what is shared above, you will get out of your own way, get things done, have a richer life, and move like the wind.