The tips in this month’s column are designed to help you succeed in climbing the ladder to “success,” whatever that may mean to you—whether it is growing your own business, including demonstrating interest and initiative; being principled and civil; or building relationships and consensus.
Perhaps the most effective and efficient way to achieve the foregoing, and not lose yourself in the process, is to do so mindfully, in a manner where you are not on automatic pilot, lost in thoughts that you take too literally and personally. Mindfulness lets you live in the present moment rather than the past or future, and accept rather than avoid what you don’t like.
As with any journey, you first need to know your starting point. As noted by Jon Kabat-Zinn in his book Wherever You Go, There You Are, if we don’t know where we are standing at this moment, a knowing that comes directly from the cultivation of mindfulness, we may go only in circles, despite all our efforts and expectations.
So, on your journey “to the top,” you must first develop an understanding of where you are standing at this moment, in the real world, and not as you, perhaps blindly, perceive it to be.
Next, you must find a way to deal with adversity. Whenever we are faced with difficulty, and the road to “success” is fraught with difficulty, it is only natural to try to push it away, by trying either to “solve” it, ignore it, or bury it under a pile of distractions. It is certainly very easy in the hectic life of a lawyer to get lost amid the distractions. Instead, we can accept the adversity. Acceptance in the mindfulness practice is not giving up or giving in; rather, acceptance means to understand, to allow the mind to embrace the true, deep understanding of how things really are. Acceptance is a pause, a breath of allowing, of letting be, of clearly seeing things as they are, not as we wish or imagine them to be. Acceptance gives us the opportunity to step away, just for a moment, so we react in a manner that will further our goals, rather than responding reflexively, which may take us off our path.
On your journey “to success,” first you must develop an understanding of where you are standing, with a clarity of mind that comes from a mindfulness practice. Next, accept difficulties along the way by accepting how things are, not how you imagine them to be, and allow yourself a pause to respond, rather than reacting automatically. And how do you get there? Moment by moment, and breath by breath.