Have you ever experienced being completely stuck in your own experience of a situation? I am fairly certain I am not the only one. Recently, I witnessed a situation where two lovely people experiencing the same situation but from entirely different points of view literally blew up what looked to be initially, quite a nice friendship. It appeared that, in the absence of information and conversation, they each started imagining the worst about each other and fear concerning the other party started growing astronomically. They were each stuck in their own perspective and did not even try to see the situation from the other person’s viewpoint. It made me wonder about myself and what I would suggest to a client who was feeling stuck in a disagreement or impasse with a family member or colleague. Through my coaching course work, I have picked up some very useful tools. One is called take 5 and it is a tool to help you to get off the hamster wheel in your head and into the present moment so you can be present to yourself and the people around you right in the moment. Another word for being present is to be mindful. I use this definition of mindfulness: a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's current feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. The first tool is to flip into a sensing mode of being mindful instead of mindless. The other too, is also called Take 5: Getting a New Perspective. I find it useful to teach the first take 5 tool and then teach the second one. But first, let’s explore a few details regarding mindfulness.
What is it and what is the value of mindfulness? Focusing on just the breath for 5 mindful breaths helps us get into the present and in touch with our senses. There are numerous benefits. It is helpful to relax and get out of “fight or flight” which anxiety can produce. Research shows that learning and practicing a “Take 5” breathing technique (mindfulness practice), can shrink the amygdala, the brain’s fear center. Moreover, when we pause to simply breathe and relax, we will naturally pivot our attention back toward the current moment and collective reality. Learning to flip from mindlessness to mindfulness, can serve as a powerful preliminary tool to learning how to shift perspectives. When we become more present, a broadened perspective actually becomes more available. Once mindful, it easier to purposefully look at a particular situation in which you feel stuck in new ways. To shift from one state, feeling or perspective, one must first be able to calmly, without judgment, acknowledge and accept ones current feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. When you feel a need to get unstuck so you can see or engage in your situation in new ways, perhaps first stop and breath to flip into a state of mindfulness then you have likely primed yourself to examine the situation from a variety of additional perspectives. In so doing, you may gain new insights and more empathy as well as significantly increasing what you notice - within yourself and with others - as you move through your day. Here is the first take 5 tool.
Take 5 to Flip from Mindlessness to Mindfulness (In the Zone)
To get “in the zone” and flip into our sensing mode, it is useful to learn how to stop and take five mindful breaths.
1) You can take five by first setting up a daily cue that will remind you to stop and take five. ie. Brush teeth, answer email, take a sip of water etc.
2) Then respond to your cue and notice something new that you were not paying attention to a moment ago.
3) Next, move your awareness to your body and feel your feet on the ground and lift and lengthen your spine.
4) Notice your breath and begin with one complete breath. Breathe slowly and notice the breath going in and out. Then deepen and lengthen the breath. Finally, take 5 breaths this way.
5) Shift your awareness to right now and respond to whatever is present with openness, non-judgement and patience.
Here is a PDF of a webinar called “Mindfulness in Motion for Resilience, Collaboration and a Psychologically Safe Workplace” for further information about the value of learning to be mindful.
Flipping into sensing mode through using mindful breathing will generally result in being able to acutely notice how you are feeling in the moment. It also enables you to to shift your awareness to others in the environment. When you do that, what feelings do you sense in the people around you? What do you notice about your thoughts (towards yourself, the situation, the other people, the step forward you are about to make)? What is your current perspective? Please note: You do not have to believe the first perspective you take - or the first thought you think!
You are not your thoughts and you are not your feelings and you do not have to keep the first perspective that you notice yourself holding. We all have thoughts and we feelings, but feelings change (and usually shift once they are noticed) and we each can learn to take command of what and how we think. It is possible to mindfully examine a situation or issue in which we feel stuck from from several different perspectives. After you heighten your mindfulness (by breathing to get in the zone), you can also use another tool called “take five” to mindfully gain new perspectives.
Taking Five to Gain a New Perspective
Use this next tool anytime you feel a need to get unstuck so you can see or engage with your situation in new ways. “The first step is to candidly and compassionately acknowledge your current perspective before seeking to make any changes. Gaining a new perspective such that you can see your current perspective more clearly is vital.” (Drake, 2018). Once you notice your current perspective and purposefully look at it from several additional perspectives, we have greater power to choose. Here are the steps to take 5 to get a new perspective:
1) Identify your situation or issue.
2) Identify your current perspective (and what you gain and lose as a result).
3) One at a time identify several other perspectives including the perspective of the past, the present and the future; various other people’s perspective or even the perspective of objects in the situation. Try and not think about these perspectives; just feel into them.
4) From each new perspective, pause to reflect on what each new perspective offers, enables you to see and makes possible now. Identify 5 different perspectives and imagine the impact of each on both you and others.
5) Finally, ask yourself what has changed for you and what you will do differently now.
Try out these tools and then write out your reflections. What do you notice when you purposefully stop and take five? Want to talk your story over with me? Please contact me if you do.