Today’s post is written by David Johnson
Building a business can find us leaving a breadcrumb of emotions behind us. At the risk of littering your desktop here are some of mine, “Joy…Happiness…Frustration…Inspired…Despair…Fogginess…‘Yeah!’ moments…Fatigue…Freedom.”
At the top end, joyful feelings can give me that feeling of invincibility, that I have this solopreneur thing finally licked. Twenty four hours later I am contemplating throwing the towel in and brushing up my CV for the job market.
Surfing the waves
Where I live in Hawaii is not far from the famous surfing and windsurfing beach – Ho’okipa. Those who are at the top of their game are unfazed by the waves that come in, riding whatever is breaking while quite often performing tricks at the same time. They decide when they want to stop, not the wave. I can’t surf. Body surfing is my best option. When a big wave hits me I am overwhelmed and come up spluttering. The wave is in control.
I sometimes look on emotions as like waves. They are continually breaking around us. Some we can manage whereas others completely overwhelm us, leaving us having to come up for air and regroup. Within the context of our business this can be exhausting. We don’t know when the next wave is going to break and time spent rebuilding frayed nerves is time spent away from the important work.
What would it be like if we could surf the emotions, riding with them while being little effected by them? Who knows, perhaps we could perform a trick or two as well, leveraging the power of the emotions for our own benefit.
Building inner resilience
Surfers use surf boards to ride their waves. The tool that I would like to introduce to surf the emotions is resilience. In my previous work I was working at the community level to help build resilient neighbourhoods. The term “resilience” comes from the field of ecology and means the ability of a system to withstand shocks. The ability of that system or community to resist damage, reorganize if necessary and get itself back up and running.
Perhaps you see a picture emerging here? A definition of resilience for small business owners would be – The ability to withstand the emotional ups and downs of building a business, to collect yourself and get back to doing what you love best.
Using mindfulness to help
Many tools might be used for building resilience, but the one I would like to offer here is mindfulness.
Emotions are a roller coaster each one set off by something that has just happened to us, a trigger. For everyone those triggers will be different. What floors me might go unnoticed by you, and vice versa. With time comes experience and perspective that can lessen the effects of those triggers. However, until then the emotions take over us, sabotaging our ability to focus and work.
The mind is the precursor of our actions and mindfulness allows us to become more aware of those triggers before they develop into full blown emotions. Mindfulness teaches us to become aware of our mind. Although the mind is so close to us many of us are unaware of what is going on up there. This is born out by people who start meditating saying that their mind is getting worse. This isn’t the case. What is true is that probably for the first time ever they are stopping and watching the mind. What we find when we pay attention to the mind is just how much chatter is going on up there.
Mindfulness practice slows us down and asks us to simply pay attention to the passage of thoughts. We don’t engage with them. We don’t make comments on them, judging them as good and bad. We simply notice them and let them go on their way.
Of course we will get caught up in dialogue with the thoughts. We will judge them. ….and then we will realise that we are doing that. So don’t judge that recognition. Recognise, notice, let go and go back to watching the mind.
How does this help us build resilience?
Mindfulness is a training of the mind. Look on the mind as a muscle and you are building its ability to focus and concentrate and not get so caught up with internal chatter. What you develop during your meditation sessions will slowly start to filter into your daily life.
The mind that you sat with during your meditation is the same as you take with you through your daily life. With time, perseverance and sincere practice you can bring that sense of noticing to your daily thoughts. The “bleh” that you are feeling is noticed and allowed to pass on its way. Yes, you might need to get up from your computer for a moment, take a breath, get some air, but this is done while keeping a detached awareness of what is going on in the mind. It is complaining, but you are not engaging with the with argument. You are watching it and breathing deeply.
The surfers at Ho’okipa see the waves, start paddling, get up on their boards and then ride the waves the way that they want. They are aware of what is going on around them but it does not effect their movements, rather it is used to inform what they do.
Building the internal resilience of awareness through mindfulness allows us to know what is going on inside of ourselves, and then instead of being overwhelmed, the situation instead becomes workable. We know what is going on around us and can find the space to decide what to do next while not drowning in our thoughts.
Building a mindfulness meditation practice takes commitment, but from my own experience the rewards are well worth that effort. Give yourself a few minutes each morning to sit quietly and see how it informs the work that you are doing.
About the author
David Johnson is a certified coach working with Introverts and HSPs. He has been a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner for 25 years, including 6 years as a resident of a Tibetan Buddhist Centre in South Wales. David brings his background in meditation and a long term study of ecopsychology into his work. You can keep in touch with David and receive his free ebook “Meditation in Service of Introverts” by going here.