“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.” —Sylvia Boorstein
Mindfulness has become a catchphrase that promises well-being to those who consciously practice being present in every moment as it unfolds. And it’s true, there are many benefits to being mindful.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition of mindfulness is, “The practice of maintaining a non-judgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”
Recently I found just how useful mindfulness can be when problem solving. Mindfulness connects you to the “now,” and when you’re mindfully present you’re less likely to get bogged down with over-analyzing whatever issue you’re facing.
At an event I was working, there were several glitches, from not having name badge holders for registration, to a team member not showing up on time to fulfill their duties. It was easy to get triggered. I found myself running through all the scenarios about what went wrong and why.
But you know what?
My thoughts were like a runaway train searching for a solution to the immediate problem on all the wrong tracks.
I caught myself getting caught up with all the whys, whos, and whats, so I refocused on being present with what was. This quieted my mind, my thoughts settled down, and the solutions for what needed to happen came forward. I saw firsthand how being present with “whatever is” when issues arise will support you in finding the solution you need—efficiently and, best of all, without a lot of drama.
1. Acknowledge but Don’t Engage
When a problem arises, it’s easy to get upset by whatever you think the source is. You may even get caught up in thinking about how the problem affects you, which inevitably creates feelings of frustration. When that happens, how the problem makes you feel becomes part of the issue.
This is where mindfulness comes in.
Being mindful isn’t ignoring feelings, it’s acknowledging your feelings without engaging, and without adding your own interpretation.
When you’re being mindful, it’s much harder to get dragged into the drama of why things are happening the way they are. Instead, your mind moves towards issue-resolution because you’re simply dealing with what is. Sure it’s important to figure out what happened so it doesn’t happen again, but that’s something best saved for when the dust has cleared. When it’s happening in the moment, the most important thing is to “be in the moment,” even if it’s not your favorite moment ever.
2. Stay Present
The funny thing is that problems are often solved with ease when we stay in the present and don’t go down the rabbit hole of overthinking things.
When you stay present, it’s easier to move into problem solving. Even the team member that shows up late and throws everything off becomes a matter of adjusting the workflow rather than being upset.
Here’s what I’ve found. Problem solving isn’t about overthinking something to figure it out. It’s abut being present with what is, knowing that what you need to solve the problem will come forward from within.
3. Listen Within
Even when it feels like all hell has broken loose, being mindful can keep you calm. Your thoughts may go in many directions and that’s okay. Don’t engage, and your thoughts will simply come and go. When that happens, there is space for new thought, new creativity, and new movement. Your mind settles down, and the solutions you need naturally come forward.
Mindfulness and Problem Solving
Mindfulness is a great tool for assessing solutions and next steps. Trust that your innate inner wisdom will guide you. Be present, and your thoughts won’t high jack you into another reality. The best thing is that you don’t have to do anything. The next steps will appear. And after you move through the problem, you’ll have the clarity to evaluate and address what happened.
So, next time an issue arises, remember that the practice of mindfulness is not just a great tool for your overall well-being. Mindfulness also facilitates being open to finding solutions in the moment. The nature of being present allows you to access exactly what you need.