7 Lessons From my Journey With Mindfulness

Growing up, I was a rule-following overachiever.

I got good grades, played competitive sports, invested time in extra-curricular activities. My efforts were directed towards a clear goal: get accepted at a good college.

It was always the overarching goal, because I thought life worked like this:

  1. Follow the rules and do what you’re told
  2. Go to a good school
  3. Get a good job
  4. Be happy and have a good life!

It made sense at the time, so I followed the approved path forward.

And for the most part, things went as planned! I attended a prestigious university, loved my time there, and graduated with a covetable job-offer in hand!

After graduating college, things were still going according to plans. I was in a relationship, moved to an exciting city for work, and had a solid network of friends.

But in the many months that followed, this lovely picture of adult life seemed to fall apart piece by piece.

  • My relationship came to an abrupt and surprising end.
  • I was nearly laid off from my job, and amidst financial difficulties, my work environment became extremely stressful.
  • My closest friends moved to cities across the country.
  • A nagging knee injury started causing me pain and discomfort in daily life.

I had always thought of myself as an upbeat and optimistic person.

But the dominant emotions I felt in this time were fear, anxiety, and self-doubt.

My physical health, social life, and career all felt threatened.

Amidst this uncertainty, I questioned everything that I once took for granted:

  • Is this really the path I want to pursue?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What does it mean to find fulfillment?
  • What do I actually care about in life?
  • What am I really good at?
  • What’s the point of it all?
  • How did everything change so quickly?

I was in a tailspin. Everything around me felt like it was falling apart.

So I did the only thing that made sense at the time: made an all-out commitment to focusing on getting myself to a better spot.

Committing to Myself

I had never made my well-being a top priority, but I knew I needed to start figuring out what that meant.

I didn’t really know where I was going (or what I was doing) so I took things one step at a time.

First off, to overcome my knee injury, I started doing yoga. It helped me develop greater strength and flexibility, which lessened the issues with my knee.

So I kept at it! And after a little while, I realized that yoga was also helping me out in other ways.

No matter how I felt going into it, I’d come out of a yoga class feeling both peaceful and energized.

I started becoming more aware of how my body felt when I did different things throughout the day. I came to understand myself and my abilities more clearly, so I could make better decisions.

That added awareness prompted me to make other changes in my weekly routine.

  • I shifted my diet to eat more nutritious foods that gave me energy.
  • I started doing more strength training, which made me feel happier and more capable.

It felt like I was on the right path! Slowly but surely, I was making progress!

…But I still had a long ways to go.

At this time, I didn’t have any systems, tools, or habits for dealing with the aftershocks of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty that continued to shake me in daily life.

A close friend kept encouraging me to try meditation. Although I had read about it online, at the time I was resistant to the idea. “Meditation” was a loaded word in my mind. I associated it with monks in monasteries, and spaced-out hippies who were disconnected from reality.

It didn’t feel like something that was right for me.

But then my friend made a comparison that changed my perspective forever.

The Reframe That Shifted my Perspective

I remember exactly where we were, eating bibimbap in a small Korean restaurant in Chicago.

The subject of meditation came up during dinner. After expressing my hesitations and skepticism, my friend said the following:

“You go to the gym and exercise to train your body, right?

Well, a few decades ago, nobody exercised like that…You wouldn’t see people jogging down the road together, or lifting weights in a gym. But over time it became clear that exercise makes you healthier. So people started to do it. Eventually, it became common sense.

The same thing is happening now with meditation. Meditation is training for your mind, like lifting weights is training for your body.

Although meditation isn’t as commonplace as fitness yet, hundreds of studies have shown the benefits of meditation.

Meditation is going through the same progression that fitness went through a few decades ago! It’s only a matter of time before training your mind is just as widely practiced as training your body.”

He had me speechless. I had never thought about meditation as training for my mind!

The other side of his comparison was obvious: I knew that working out was good for my body. At the time, I had just started re-experiencing the benefits of working out through my newly developed yoga and strength training routines.

When I worked out, I gained new abilities, and felt better in every way.

Could the same be true for my mind with meditation?

“Just try it for yourself,” my friend added at the end of his story. “You can be judge. But only if you give it a go.

Committing to Meditation

The more I thought about his remarks, the more it made sense.

I started to connect the dots with the mental benefits I’d experienced from yoga, like the added awareness it gave me.

After making those connections, I was committed to giving meditation a go.

But as you read last Sunday, meditation did not come easy to me.

I knew there were benefits to it, but I struggled in execution. I’d forget, make excuses, put it off til later, and make no progress…

It took me months of trial and error to string together a consistent practice in the beginning.  But eventually, the right pieces did come together. And over time, they’ve evolved into something robust and long-lasting. I’ve built a foundation for a lifelong mindfulness practice.

But looking back, it makes a lot of sense why I made the mistakes that I did when getting started:

  • I had no accountability
  • I had nobody to teach me the fundamentals
  • I had no support for when I stumbled
  • I had nobody to ask questions when I felt confused

If you find yourself in a similar place, and want a sustainable way to build your mindfulness practice, enroll in the beta-launch of Mindful Every Day.

I’m offering it at a discounted price until tomorrow night, Friday, July 29th at 11:59PM. After that, enrollment will be closed. Spots are limited, so act quickly.

7 Lessons From my Mindfulness Journey (Thus far…)

As I spent this time looking back at the beginning of my journey, it struck me how far I’ve come.

I started thinking about what I’ve learned since first hearing about mindfulness in 2014. I hope these lessons will be motivating for you to commit to your own practice.

1. It’s never going to be the *right* time

You will always be able to come up with excuses not to meditate.

The question is: Will you give in to those excuses?

Or will you commit to giving it a go?

At some point, you need to decide that you are committed to living mindfully. You have that option right now.

If I never committed to practicing meditation, I’m not sure I’d have any sort of legitimate practice today.

2. Consistency Reinforces any Commitment

Committing to something is the first step. Without staying consistent with your practice, commitment doesn’t mean anything.

Once you’ve planted the seed of a behavior with your commitment, daily action is the best way to nourish it.

When you’re getting started with meditation, all it takes is 5-10 minutes a day to make great progress.

3. Mindfulness Isn’t All About You

One of the most compelling reasons to practice mindfulness is that it helps you put more good into the world.

Although the act of meditation is a necessarily inwardly-focused process, the impact of you practicing mindfulness doesn’t end with you.

When you carry yourself with greater peace, awareness, and compassion, everyone around you feels the benefits. Reminding yourself of this helps you stay committed.

4. Mindfulness is a Gift That Keeps on Giving

You don’t need to be a meditation expert to start experiencing the benefits of meditation.

But that doesn’t mean the benefits will run out once you’ve solidified your understanding and practice of the basics.

There’s always more to learn and experience. I’ve been committed to mindfulness for a number of years, but still know that I’m at the very beginning of a lifelong journey.

(Side note: I feel the exact same way about my physical practice…There’s always more strength, flexibility, and control to develop in the body! It’s an endlessly rewarding journey.)

5. The Challenge of Mindfulness Doesn’t go Away

Once you have the ball rolling, it’s much easier to stay consistent. And sitting in meditation feels more comfortable over time.

But despite any those changes, mindfulness still requires effort and intention. The natural tendency of the mind is to wander. That doesn’t really change.

It doesn’t matter where you are in life, or how experienced you are with meditation. The exercise maintains it’s challenge.

This can feel daunting when you’re getting going with the practice…But in reality, it’s what makes the practice so rewarding!

6. Mindfulness Impacts Every Part of Your Life

Everything you experience in life is shaped by your mind.

I could dig into the scientific research that’s been conducted to illustrate the benefits of meditation. But the anecdotal evidence might be more powerful.

I’m not a very boastful person. But I’m proud of how my mindfulness practice has helped me grow.

Here are some of the most significant changes I’ve experienced as a result of my mindfulness practice. I’m…

  • Better at focusing, and less prone to distractions and procrastination.
  • More grateful and appreciative for the countless good things about the life I live.
  • Clear on what matters to me most…my priorities and values.
  • Better at recovering when I hit the inevitable pot-holes, rough patches, and challenges in life.
  • More adept at recognizing potential issues before they become an issue.
  • More comfortable with discomfort, and am able to work through it more effectively.
  • More present, more often.
  • More honest with myself and others. I care most about seeing things as they are instead of grasping for “good” things and rejecting “bad” things.

With all of that in mind, I am so far from perfect in all of these areas of life…And I’m not trying to be!

All I care about is taking steps in the right direction. And practicing mindfulness has been instrumental in making that happen.

7. You’ll Make it Farther With Support

Mindfulness starts with you, but that doesn’t mean you should go it alone. Getting support and guidance from those who have done it before you will speed up your learning process.

There are many ways to self-guide your learning journey through books, videos, podcasts, blogs, etc.

But if you’d like a more guided approach, enroll in Mindful Every Day before time runs out. (Enrollment ends tomorrow night, Friday July 29th at 11:59PM.)

I’m not the most experienced mindfulness teacher out there. But I have learned a ton through my own practice, research, writing, and 1:1 coaching.

I designed this course to help you avoid the missteps and roadblocks I ran into in my journey.

Your Journey Starts When You Commit to it

It doesn’t matter where you are when you get started with meditation. All that matters is committing to the practice.

If you’re feeling great, know that training your mind when the seas of life are calm will help you weather the storms more effectively. (And there will always be unexpected storms in life.)

If you’re in more of a low point, know that the way out of a rut is small steps.

Wishing you all the best as your journey continues!