This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Who Will Cry When You Die?" by Robin Sharma. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Want to know how to be more mindful in your everyday life? How can being more mindful help you to regain control of your life?
Mindfulness is important because when you are mindful and present in your daily life, you gain more control and consequently, feel happier and more fulfilled. However, remaining mindful in a world full of distractions can prove to be difficult. Thankfully, the list below provides tips on how to remain mindful from Robin Sharma’s book Who Will Cry When You Die?.
Continue reading below for tips on mindfulness.
Why Mindfulness Matters
Do you want to know how to be more mindful? Mindfulness is key to seizing control of your life, writes Robin Sharma. If you focus fully on the task at hand, you execute it to the best of your ability. You gain more control over what you do and your impact.
(Shortform note: Intense focus on the present can be helpful in your work life, too, according to Cal Newport in Deep Work. Newport’s concept of deep work is an activity that demands all your concentration. As we move toward an economy in which deep work is more necessary than shallow work, honing your ability to do deep work increases your workplace value.)
Sharma recognizes that it’s hard to concentrate because our world is full of distractions. But you possess the power to concentrate: Learn to control your thoughts and focus. If you can’t, your attention will constantly shift, and you’ll never progress toward your purpose.
(Shortform note: Sharma’s advice to control your thoughts and avoid distraction has much in common with Buddhist teachings. In Buddhism, “Right Concentration,” the ability to focus on a single activity or idea, is part of the Buddha’s Eightfold Path that leads to enlightenment. Buddhist teachings add that learning to concentrate intently on negative desires or feelings, such as revenge, does not lead to enlightenment. Your state of mind must be pure and open-hearted, with a desire to attain a higher level of awareness.)
Sharma recommends five specific strategies to build your ability to be mindful:
Strategy #1: Meditate
(Shortform note: Sharma recommends you start meditating regularly, but he doesn’t offer specific suggestions on how to do that. A basic practice is to develop an awareness of your body and breathing and to stay with the in- and outflow of the breath until your mind wanders. When you notice your mind wandering, bring your attention back to the breath without admonishing yourself for having lost concentration. Do this for a set amount of time, like 10 or 15 minutes.)
Strategy #2: Read Mindfully
Read something physical (like a book or magazine) and mark in the margin of the text whenever you become distracted, advises Sharma. This shows you how often you get lost in thought and lets you practice coming back to presence.
(Shortform note: Sharma advises you to notice when you get distracted while reading, but reading offers several other ways to strengthen your mindfulness muscle, too. For instance, turn off all technology while reading and notice how often you think about checking your phone or email.)
Strategy #3: Take Mindful Walks
Go on walks without a destination and without thinking about your life’s worries, advises Sharma. Be aware of your surroundings and bring your attention back to them when it has wandered.
(Shortform note: Sharma recommends leaving behind your worries when you go on walks. But how do you “leave behind” worries? In his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie recommends learning to accept what’s outside of your control and thinking about how likely it is your worries will come to pass—which usually isn’t that likely. Disengage from your worries before a walk by taking these steps.)
Strategy #4: Plant a Tree
Sharma proposes that you plant a tree to become more mindful of the passage of time. The changing leaves will keep you connected to the cycles of nature and ground you in the present.
(Shortform note: Beyond the mindfulness benefits, living near trees can actually reduce the negative impacts of depression and stress on health. This is because green spaces offer room to exercise and enjoy social interactions, activities that combat mental distress.)
Strategy #5: Mindfully De-Stress After Work
Finally, after work, mindfully de-stress before engaging with your loved ones, urges Sharma. Sit outside your home for a bit or take a quick walk to disengage from work and be more present with the people you love.
(Shortform note: Sharma gears his advice about de-stressing after work toward people who work in an office. But what about people working from home—how should they de-stress when there’s no barrier between their job and their personal life? One way is to set up an end-of-work ritual that helps you transition from work mode to after-work mode. Completely turn off your work-related technology, for instance, to give yourself time to prepare to be with your family.)
Be Mindful of Your Instincts
We’ve just talked about the importance of mindfulness and the ways you can build your capacity for mindfulness. Now, we’ll talk about two specific areas of your life where mindfulness is especially critical.
The first area is your instincts. Sharma claims that usually, your instincts about people, things, and circumstances are right, and when you’re mindful of them, you’re more likely to make decisions that move you closer to your purpose.
(Shortform note: Sharma suggests heeding your instincts more often since they’re generally reliable. Research confirms that some of your instincts—specifically, first impressions of other people—are reasonably accurate indicators of whether or not you’ll get along with someone. In a study, researchers compared the first impressions of strangers meeting a person—who we’ll call Person A—to personality reports on Person A completed by their longtime friends. The first impressions were similar to the personality reports by longtime friends, showing that the participants’ instincts were accurate.)
Be Mindful of Your Weaknesses
The other area of life you should bring mindfulness to, says Sharma, is your weaknesses. Understand what your personal hurdles are and then make necessary changes to overcome those hurdles and effectively seize control of your life.
(Shortform note: Sharma advises you to be aware of your weaknesses, but it’s often not easy to determine what they are in the first place. Thanks for the Feedback offers advice on how to locate your blind spots: the weaknesses you’re unable to see. One way to do this is to record yourself in situations where you’re experiencing difficulty—perhaps in conversation with a co-worker. A recording tells you objectively how you behave and sound in that situation, allowing you to assess if the difficulty you’re experiencing is due to a behavioral blind spot (for instance, being rude to people).)
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Here's what you'll find in our full Who Will Cry When You Die? summary:
- Why most people end up leading lives they’ll regret
- How to seize control of your life and turn it into one you’ll look back on fondly
- How and why you should set intentional breaks in your daily life