One Mindful Question to Change Your Entire Day

By Wendy Quan

Before I reveal the one question that can make each day profoundly more positive for you, please consider another:

Do you believe your thoughts affect your life?

Chances are you are thinking, “Yes, of course!”

Your thoughts stream constantly all day long and create your perception of your life’s experiences. If you pay attention to the thoughts you are thinking during the day, you may notice that these thoughts jump from subject to subject a lot—or that you are ruminating about a particularly bothersome subject. There is a term in mindfulness called the ‘monkey mind’ which quite fittingly describes when your thoughts are bouncing around from topic to topic.

Being Mindful is Simple
Your thoughts affect your emotions, and your emotions have a big impact on your experience of daily life. So what if you paid more attention to your thoughts? This not only gives you self-awareness of your thoughts, but allows you to decide what you’re going to do about the thought—if anything at all.

Mindfulness practices are actually simple once you learn some basic concepts. These practices help us be present with what we are experiencing in the moment, recognize what we are thinking and feeling, and add a touch of non-judgment to our human experience. This non-judgment is directed at ourselves and at others.

The Power to Choose
One question I offer to my audiences, which is really very simple, has made a very big difference in people’s lives. Catch yourself as often as you can during the day, and ask yourself this question:

“Do I need to be thinking about this right now?”
When you do this, you will observe your current thought, and as you continue your observation, you will see that this thought will turn into the next thought, then the next, and on and on it goes; our human minds are fascinating. The thoughts are likely disjointed and even be surprising to you when you notice how disparate they are.

Put the Question to Use
When you ask yourself the question, “Do I need to be thinking about this right now?”, acknowledge if your current thought is useful or not. While “functional thought” is productive and useful, many of our thoughts are more dysfunctional, caught up in something that may be bothering us or worrying about something hasn’t even happened yet.

Application to Daily HR Life
The opportunities to use this question are endless, but here are a few great examples:

Scenario 1: You are waiting for a meeting to begin with a disgruntled employee—what thoughts are you having in that moment? Do you have to be thinking that thought right now?

  • Let’s say your thought is, “I’ll need to explain HR’s process for dealing with his complaint, and I need to remember to cover the key points of . . .” That is functional thought, a good thing.
  • Alternatively, let’s say your thought is, “He’s going to come in here again to waste my time and will drone on about his problems like always.” That is dysfunctional thought—judgmental—and likely would result in your not giving the employee your full attention. Also, you are creating a negative experience for yourself.

Scenario 2: You need to make a presentation to a group next week. You are nervous and stressed, losing sleep and feeling butterflies in your stomach. Do you need to be thinking about this right now?

  • If in this moment, you are preparing for your presentation, this is functional and necessary.
  • Alternatively, if you are stressing when you are not preparing, you don’t need to think about this in this moment. Tell yourself you are making preparations, and release yourself from projecting into the future. Be here and now, in the present moment.

A Question Worth Asking Often
So give this quick and easy question a try and see what difference it makes for you. Chances are you will be happy to see that it helps you have a more positive day.

Wendy Quan provides mindfulness meditation facilitator training and certification online courses which are available to CPHR BC & Yukon members at a preferred rate. Find out more. Also, CPHR BC & Yukon member can access her on-demand sessiosn Mindfulness for Busy HR Professionals and How to Bring Mindfulness into Your Workplace with No Ongoing Operating Costs free!

Wendy Quan, founder of The Calm Monkey, is an industry leader, helping organizations implement mindfulness meditation programs and combining change management techniques to create personal and organizational change resiliency. She trains meditators to become workplace facilitators.

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