If absent-minded means that you let your mind wander at will, are you absent-minded?
It’s not unlike reading the large signs beside the freeway instead of watching the car in front of you. If you let your thoughts wander instead of focusing on the task in hand you leave the door open for random thoughts to enter. These may distract you from what you are doing. Imagine reading all your emails as they arrive instead of continuing to work on the task in hand. Some of your random thoughts will be helpful but still a distraction. Some are negative and very unhelpful. ” Why didn’t I speak up at yesterday’s meeting?”.
An alternative to absent-mindedness is mindfulness or situational awareness. Be fully aware of your surroundings. Listen carefully without distracting yourself. Turn off your internal dialogue. Do whatever you are doing as mindfully and as well as you can. Be present as much as possible. The moment you feel absent-mindedness coming on, snap back into the present. Anything else only exists in your imagination or memory. It’s a figment.
I coach people for public speaking and the best way I know of handling the rising fear is to lock into the present and let the negative thoughts drift by. Don’t give them air time. Don’t try to get rid of them. If you focus on getting rid of them you are still focusing on them. Just let them wander off as they wandered in. Imagine there is a stray dog in your front yard. Just let it sniff a bit and let it leave. No need to catch it or chase it away. It will get bored and leave. Same for useless thoughts.
Practise with your next conversation or meal. Put all you attention into what you are doing and let the thoughts drift by. If you pay $3.50 for a coffee and think of others things while drinking, you won’t enjoy the taste. May as well drink water.
Get a reputation for doing whatever you do very well. Become more focused and present. “What do we do now?” instead of “How did this happen?” You can only act in the present. You even plan in the present.
My favourite focused person is Roger Federer. He just looks at the ball. He doesn’t seem to get distracted from what is important.
So if you sense yourself becoming absent-minded, notice the shift and go back to what matters, whatever you are doing here and now.
Contact me if you want help to improve your mindful listening skills.
Paddy Spruce CSP
03 9808 8990
Mindfulness, Listening, Influencing, Accepting feedback gracefully.