Dropping a glass can be a meditation bell calling you to attention, breaking on impact, shattering our awareness, snapping us to reality. Our intention to place the glass safely lost. We lament what went wrong, judging ourselves and others in the aftermath. Glass, a metaphor for relationships, work, management, or living, shatters when we take our attention away, leaving our body to complete the tasks assigned. Muscle memory, don’t fail me now.
“Everyone makes mistakes.” is a timeless excuse for the moment. Often followed by, “Just don’t let it happen again.” But what did happen? What mistake did I make? I intended to place the glass safely. Something happened along the way, and an accident occurred. I can’t recall what it was. And now, I am told not to let it happen again. What happened, so I don’t do it again?
Was it the surface, was there water on the glass, could I have caught it, was it too close to the edge? Did I even see it happen? I can’t recall, but I know not to do that again once I figure it out.
Typically, it’s one of these or none of these. But the root cause is always attention and awareness. We train our minds for tasks, such as placing a glass on surfaces. We rarely train our minds to see the intention through to completion. We allow our attention to wander and our muscle memory to act even when conditions are new or have changed. Our minds wander, and our muscle memory drifts, leaving our intentions shattered on the floor.
Fixing this problem is very simple to understand and painful to execute. When putting a glass down on any surface, you need to watch your hand complete the task. Then refocus on your next action. Say, talking to that person of interest you just met. It’s all about mindfulness and training. It’s painful to execute with consistency and skill. Learned once, learn over and over again forever. Keeping sharp and present is the key.
Mindfulness is an essential tool in your toolbox. Practiced and refined, it becomes a muscle memory of its own. Something you can count one, even when your attention drifts. Mindfulness can complete your intended action and remind you to keep centered while moving from task to task. If you keep your mindfulness sharp, you can engage in any number of intentions without the risk of a crash. It might even appear that you multitask, even if every task is intentional.
Mistakes and accidents do happen. Many things are out of our control. Mindfulness can allow you to complete stuff despite events outside of your control. Mindfulness can help you react better and more quickly when situations change. Take, for example, the glass we dropped. We lost mindfulness while placing it on the surface. Any number of things could have caused it the fall, but it was falling. Mindfulness would have given you awareness and options. You are pulling your attention back in time to save the glass, with a catch, a well-placed foot, or to clear people from the impending mess. Mindfulness applied to leadership yields similar results.
Mindful leadership sets goals and sees them to completion. Muscle memory in an organization is no different than your own body. Training your organization’s mindfulness starts just like placing a glass down at a party. Your muscle memory will get you 90% of the way there, but your mindfulness is the last 10% of performance. With the added benefit of giving more options, should something go wrong!
“Don’t let it happen again.” means be mindful. If you train your mind to be aware of your intention through to the end, you won’t have to worry about making the same mistake twice. From mindfully placing glassware down in a wild party to creating a company culture hum with efficiency, you won’t lose the focus you need when you need it most.