Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pay Attention!

By Marci Shimoff

Well, the Olympics are over. Now I can finally get to bed before midnight! (I missed that 10 p.m. angel train many times in the past few weeks while glued to those events.)

I was in awe of the athletes—not only because of their extraordinary talent, but also because of their hearts and souls. Clearly what separates the best isn’t only physical prowess, but the mastery of their thoughts and emotions, as well.

I think we can learn a lot from these remarkable people—we can even apply the principles behind their mastery to raising our own level of happiness.

For example, these athletes have an amazing ability to be fully present in the moment. As they performed, I doubt any of them worried about how they looked in a swimsuit or thought about what they’d be having for dinner that evening.

All their attention was fully focused in the NOW!

It reminded me of a fascinating interview I did recently with Dr. Ellen Langer, a psychology professor at Harvard, for my upcoming PBS show on happiness, called Happy for No Reason (which airs in many cities starting September 6—we’ll send the schedule out very soon).

Ellen has done extensive research on mindfulness, the ability to be fully present and attentive to what is happening in the moment. She tells a story about a study with dolphins and their trainers.

Researchers divided the trainers into two groups as they trained their dolphins. They instructed trainers in the “mindless” group to think only about what they already knew about their dolphins, thus making them more focused on the past and less attentive in the moment during the training sessions.

They instructed trainers in the “mindful” group to think about what was new or different about their dolphins that they hadn’t noticed before, as a way to help the trainers stay more present in the moment during training.

The results were fascinating. The dolphins with “mindful” trainers actually swam faster toward their trainers and stayed with them longer than did the dolphins in the “mindless” group of trainers. Mindfulness made the trainers more attractive to their dolphins.

When you practice being more mindfully present in the moment, you, too, will be more engaging and attractive to be around—and you will experience more joy.

For the next few weeks, try this experiment:

Any time you notice yourself drifting into thoughts about the past or future, switch gears. Pretend you are an investigative reporter, and ask yourself what is unique or special about that particular moment. Pay attention to the details of the moment and the sensations you have, and experience appreciation for that moment.

How would your life feel and be different if you were more present and attentive?

Have a dedicated intention to be more conscious, more present, and see where it takes you. Think of this as your training—for the gold medal in happiness!

Marci Shimoff is a celebrated transformational leader
and #1 New York Times best-selling author. To learn
more of her powerful techniques for establishing deep
and authentic happiness and well-being, visit here.