Last spring, I participated in a coaching workshop in Toronto led by two master coach facilitators who created a safe, powerful environment for our group to do some pretty intense work. During our final session together, each of us shared an intention about a deliberate change we wanted to make in our lives and drew a picture of a talisman that would be a physical reminder of that commitment. I sketched a Buddha who looked strikingly like the one pictured here: eyes closed in a reflective state, legs folded in the lotus position, a serene smile on his face.
The pledge I made was to be get better at appreciating and enjoying what’s in the plus column of my life right now and focus less on the ever-evolving catalogue of perceived deficits that preoccupy and drive me – i.e., what I should be doing bigger / better / faster as a parent, a partner, a business owner, a friend, etc. I defined the objective for myself and the group as moving from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset.
A little over a year later, I would say that I’ve made some progress towards achieving a more present-based steady state, but as a life-long striver, it’s not an orientation that comes naturally. My inner critic, the one who is horrified that I haven’t written a blog post in four months, didn’t plant a garden this year and hasn’t put together a photo album since our three year-old was born, is still very much alive and well. So that hasn’t changed.
What has changed is my ability to tune her out more successfully. One of the ways I’m doing that is by finding time, even if it’s just five minutes every day, to meditate. I wrote about the many benefits of meditation in an earlier blog post, and this article in last Sunday’s New York Times talks about yet another positive outcome of meditating regularly – greater empathy.
Another strategy I’m employing is to be very clear with myself about my priorities. That means preserving my time and energy for what I’ve decided matters most and being OK with letting the other stuff simmer on various back burners or, in some regrettable cases, fall off of the stove entirely. So right now, my website redesign takes precedence over other work-related creative endeavors, like blogging, and spending quality time with my kids while they’re out of school this summer trumps gardening (since it’s not an activity they want to do with me) and photo curating. That means lots of time in the pool, pitching and catching, playing Zingo and baking. Plus going to movies like Despicable Me 2. Not so bad, really!
The little Buddha statue I serendipitously found right after that coaching workshop, which now sits on my desk, is a good visual reminder for me of what the abundance mindset looks like in practice. There’s another statue I think of sometimes, too, from that ancient cautionary tale of what can happen when we sacrifice or shortchange those who we value most in the service of bigger / better / faster / more – and that’s King Midas’s daughter. The golden, but lifeless, unintended consequence of the king’s scarcity mindset and inability to be satisfied with all that he had before he made his tragic wish.