You don't know yourself.
You spend your life pretending to understand yourself, others, and the world. But the truth is that you have no idea--you're just doing what everyone else does: going with the flow instead of engaging in meaningful introspection.
You're a sheep blindly following your shepherd--the ever elusive and tantalizing vision of success in this material, superficial world.
But you want something more.
You're aware that, despite your limitations, there's still plenty of fulfillment to be discovered in this lifetime. So, you're trying to walk the fine line between professional success and personal fulfillment.
And I'm here to help you with that journey.
As a life coach and licensed therapist, one of the most challenging and important things I do is help people unleash their true potential--both at work and in their daily lives.
The challenge that most people face in discovering and then embracing their true selves has to do with their conditioning--the messages they receive from society. Because society wants you to move as quickly as possible. To keep your head down. To work yourself to the bone without critically examining yourself.
Part of real self-growth is deconstructing these cultural messages and then getting back in touch with reality--prior to thoughts, mind games, and measures of productivity.
The more individuals come into contact with unmitigated present awareness, the happier and more self-aware they become. And paradoxically, the more productive, focused, and efficient they are at work.
Meditation is a practice that teaches you how to become deeply present. It helps you leave behind the expectations society has placed on you and empowers you to get in touch with your heart.
Below is a 5-day meditation challenge for motivated individuals that want something more out of themselves and their experience, with the added benefit of improving performance at work.
Day 1: 10-15-Minute Guided Meditation
For the first day, download a meditation application. You can try any that look appealing--my favorite is Insight Timer. After downloading your app (or using YouTube, if at a computer), find a guided meditation that lasts about 10-15 minutes.
Take the plunge! Follow the directions of the guided voice. Trust in yourself. Know that there's no wrong way to meditate--it's not about having a "blank mind," it's about constantly returning to your breath or object of focus.
The first few days are always the most difficult, so remove any lofty expectations and just be present with whatever happens.
Day 2: 15-Minute Breath Counting Meditation
Set a timer for 15 minutes and, when you have a break during the day (or immediately after or before work), get started. After finding a comfortable body position, close your eyes and start taking slow, deep breaths. Count your breaths with an inhale being 1 and the exhale being 2. After you get to the count of 10, start over.
Repeating this cycle for 15 minutes will show you a lot about yourself. The thoughts you have that interrupt your counting--which is absolutely normal--will stand out. There's no need to do anything with those thoughts, simply return to counting and breathing.
This difficult exercise will improve your focus and set the foundational skills you need for meditation.
Day 3: 15-Minute Mindful Eating Meditation
Building on the basic skills of the past two days, it's time to integrate mindfulness meditation into your daily life. For the first 15 minutes of lunch, try bringing yourself to a state of mindfulness.
Focus on your breath and take a relaxed approach to mindfully examining, smelling, and tasting each bite of your food. Pretend that you've never seen it before. Be incredibly present and soak up every second of eating while always returning to your breath.
This type of mindful eating re-connects you to the environment and deepens your ability to be self-aware during all moments of the day.
Day 4: 15-Minute Walking Meditation
Another eyes-open approach to meditation will further ingrain your newfound sense of presence into your life. While walking to work, from work, or during a quick break, try a walking meditation.
Bring your awareness to your feet. Notice each toe, the arch, and your heel. Get your mind to scan the tops of your feet, up to your ankles, calves, and knees. Bring your awareness to your thighs, hips, and all the way up your spine to your head. Then start walking slowly. Notice how many parts of your body are moving at the same time. Constantly bring your attention back to your feet as you synchronize your breath with each slow step.
By now, you'll be noticing a slight change in your awareness. You'll be even more present in social interactions.
Day 5: 15-Minute Mindfulness Meditation
For graduation day, you have your hardest challenge yet--a very simple meditation.
Sit in a relaxed position during a break at work (or immediately before or after, as necessary). As you breathe, bring your awareness to your breath where you feel it most. For some people that's the nostrils, for others it's the cold air hitting the back of their throats, and for others it's their diaphragm.
Wherever you notice your breath the most--hold your focus there for 15 minutes. When thoughts come up and disrupt your focus, simply acknowledge them by labeling them as "thinking" and then return to your breath. Each of those moments is a meditation repetition that builds your strength.
By the time you've finished this exercise--especially in the five-day sequence--you'll have a much better understanding about yourself. You'll know more about underlying thoughts, fears, motivations, and the difficulty of encountering silence.
There's no shortcut to increasing your emotional intelligence. It can only be earned through consistent practice. Mindfulness meditation is one practice that can make an incredible difference in a short amount of time.
Don't believe me? Try it.