Cultivating a Well-Behaved Mind

Mindfulness. Such a beautiful word. Who doesn’t want to be more mindful?

Yet what does that mean exactly?

I’m going to resist the urge to look it up. Fact is, I’m not that curious, for I don’t want to get distracted (which I’m thinking would be less than mindful). I am very content to get pretty literal with this one: Mindful has got to be ‘fullness of mind.’

We can feel blissful contentment when we reach mindfulness. However ‘fullness of mind’ is something you can only get to if your mind is behaving in the way it serves you best. It is the fullness of YOUR mind. We want the bliss of contentment and satisfaction with our thinking, and not a fullness to bursting that represents overwhelm.

So here’s the question of the day:
As a manager seeking more practice in self-leadership, how do you get your mind to behave?

I have three suggestions, but this is one of those thinking-out-loud postings for me, and I’d love to have you weigh in: You may want to look away for a few moments and try to answer the question for yourself before reading more… I’ll wait. How do you get your mind to behave? What instantly comes to mind for you?

Plant Panorama

Ready to compare notes with me?

1. Beat Procrastination: Eliminate Distraction

Turning an unconditional regard on my own habits, beating procrastination would probably top my list. I know that I have to stop forsaking long-term goals in favor of short-term desires, replacing self-indulgence with self-discipline. I mentioned the sneaky culprit earlier: Distraction. Where my attention goes, I go. So I suspect the more distraction I eliminate, the better I will get at overcoming procrastination. Logical sure, but easier said than done.

Outsmarting temptation is a biggie here. I know a manager who calls this “pulling a Ulysses.” Remember how Ulysses tied himself to the mast of his ship to resist the seduction of the Sirens’ song? He was limiting his ability to behave badly later. A common example these days: Don’t go shopping if you want to save money. Another: Stay offline with all social media tabs closed when you shouldn’t be socializing.

How do YOU beat procrastination?

2. Get More Impatient: Harness Discontent

I’ve mentioned impatience before, as a word the contrarian in me absolutely adores. Impatience reveals that valuable bias for a sense of urgency.

Most of us need more patience in our relationships with other people ”“ I’ll give you that. However I really think we need more impatience when it comes to the work that we individually do: Too much patience gets to be another way we procrastinate. We say we’re “still learning” or we’re “trying to be more open-minded,” when we’re really stalling, stuck in the mental gymnastics of not making a decision fast enough.

When I recognize that my mind begins to rant, I’m not as quick with stifling the discontent now. I ask myself why the rant (other people or me?) and then why not (why not be impatient?) Absolutely no coulda, shoulda, woulda allowed. Choose. Be decisive. Git ‘er done and move on.

Do you see the value of allowing more impatience into your thinking?

3. Turn Everything Into a Story

This is admittedly a new approach for me, one I am still testing. In my case this is also a way for me to channel that “still learning” affliction I know I do have into something productive and fascinating so I will be more self-motivated by some process.

This started with my study of Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind: I am fully aware that I’m a left-brainer by nature, and I am working on cultivating my right braininess. Pink says that the aptitude of Story is “context enriched by emotion. Story exists where high concept and high touch intersect.” To me, that means “Head, meet gut instinct: I want you two to get along.”

The woo-woo stuff aside (which is good, trust me. I recommend the book) I look at Story from the reality of all situations having a “once upon a time,” a grand adventure, and a “happily ever after.” The well-behaved mind will start something, execute it, and most important, finish it. (That was pretty left-brained logical, wasn’t it.) I also have that good impatience with stories: I want to get to the end, so it begs the grand finale and gets the glorious finish to happen sooner versus later (no thinly disguised procrastination).

Does that make sense to you?
Still learning this one, and all open-minded contrarians are welcomed to chime in!

So your turn now:

How do you think we managers can cultivate a well-behaved mind?

Let’s talk story; I’d love to hear from you.

My mana‘o [The Backstory of this posting]
Each Tuesday I write a leadership posting for Say “Alaka‘i” at The Honolulu Advertiser. The edition here on Talking Story is revised with internally directed links, and I can take a few more editorial liberties. What will not change? That we talk story!


  1. says

    I don’t think one can tell their mind to behave. I think we need to inspire our mind to behave. I believe this quote illustrates what I mean:

    “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

    So, is the picture…oh no, not another grueling morning run. Or is it a picture of how healthy we are or how well we fit into those certain clothes.

    From a tactical standpoint, reading certain things can get me going in the direction of behaving.
    .-= Dave Rothacker ´s last blog ..Are You a Wholesaler or Distributor? =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      Dave your quote reminds me of that parable about the brick layers:
      A gentleman saw three men laying bricks…
      He approached the first and asked, “What are you doing?”
      Annoyed, the first man answered, “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m laying bricks!”
      He walked over to the second bricklayer and asked the same question.
      The second man responded, “Oh, just making a living.”
      He asked the third bricklayer the same question, “What are you doing?”
      The third looked up, smiled and said, “I’m building a cathedral.”

      Good thoughts to be sure – “Begin with the End in Mind” as Covey coaches; have visionary thinking – however I’d make the argument that we are training our mind to behave when we direct its focus instead of having it randomly focus our attentions, don’t you think?

  2. says

    Rosa, it’s a great question and one I’m still learning about.

    I think I might add gratitude – which is one of the most valuable things I’ve learned from you.

    Gratitude brings attention back to the here and now, it fills you with a sense of well-being, it stills the mind, it opens my heart to what’s possible

    Something like that anyway :-)
    .-= Joanna Young ´s last blog ..Confident Writing is one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      Joanna I think this will be one of those long-standing “still learning” questions for me too.

      Mahalo [Gratitude] is a terrific add; thank you. It helps improve our attitude and as I’d shared with Dean earlier, I have learned there is also scientific evidence that it is smart strategy. As amazing as our brains are they only deal with one thought at a time – replacing a negative thought with a positive one knocks out the obstacle: Believe in your Biology!

      And by the way Joanna, Ho‘omaika‘i ‘ana ”“ Congratulations on making the Top 10 Blogs for Writers! Second year in a row for you as I understand it!

  3. says

    I love your quotation! I think fighting against procrastination means having an image in mind of the final product. Being able to hit the “publish” button on my blog post / squidoo lens. The feeling I have when I think I did quite well. The empty kitchen sink. The feeling I have when I got my tasks structured and sorted out. I try to imagine the final stage, the finish–and then off I go.
    .-= Ulla Hennig ´s last blog ..Dahlia =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      Dave and Ulla, I get this, I truly do, but I am discovering I need another turbo boost of some kind as well… those happy ending pictures are not enough sometimes, thus my exploration here to see what else I can add to a more winning strategy.

      What I am trying to dig deeper into discovering Ulla, is this part: “and then off I go.”

  4. says


    Your post makes me think a couple of things. First, quieting the mind is difficult, just as thinking of nothing is the most difficult thing to think. When I get frantic, I make lists (figuring that getting it out of my mind and onto paper helps quiet my crazy-brain) and I use a kitchen timer. I’ll set it for, say, one hour, and for that one hour I focus on doing one thing. Works for me.

    Next, and last, is your comment about impatience. I’ve thought a lot about that, too. It seems to me the root of impatience is anguish over the fact that we’ve not already gotten something else done, or we’re not somewhere else. We’re angry that we’re stuck at this stoplight rather than moving along at the posted speed (or faster). Why is that? Is there something so much better that we suffer now because we’re not “there” yet? That’s what it feels like. Sometimes impatience will fall away when you realize that’s a fallacy. Here and now is better than if and when for the sole reason that we exist purely here, now. And yes, I know how silly this sounds from a fellow who writes historical fiction and spends a good part of my time imagining the “then and there.” Regardless of my credibility, I think it anyway.
    .-= Jeff Posey ´s last blog ..Of Lines and String =-.

    • Rosa Say says

      I am with you on this Jeff (in regard to impatience), it doesn’t sound silly to me at all. We seem to both be channeling our impatience into a more vigorous questioning, asking ourselves to stop for a moment and clarify: “Hey, hold up, what’s really going on here?” so we can be sure we are getting to that root cause you mention.

      Where I suspect that discontent can help me is that I want to get to contentment, and not necessarily to patience: I want to keep the sense of urgency that impatience fires up.

      And Jeff, wonderful to see you back here for something other than #fridayflash! I am thrilled to know that Talking Story may have more appeal for you.

  5. says

    Rosa, yes, it’s two years in a row :-) Thank you.

    Thanks too for the article on brain science and positive / negative thoughts. I’m getting more and more interested in writing and the brain – how the conscious choice to write something positive for example, consistently, over time, changes patterns in our brains and (as a consequence) changes the way we feel, act, and perceive the world.
    .-= Joanna Young ´s last blog ..Confident Writing is one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers =-.

  6. says

    Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is the author of the quote I referenced.

    I guess I was thinking about the results we might be getting when we tune into mindfulness Rosa. I’m thinking we have a better chance to inspire our way into getting what we want as opposed to telling ourselves. In either case it certainly can be thought of as training.

    Actually, I think the ideas that you’ve come up with are really good.
    .-= Dave Rothacker ´s last blog ..Your Salesman (Part I) =-.

  7. says

    I really needed to read this post, right now. I then turned off iTunes (playing a podcast) and Tweetdeck, and after this, I’m going back to the task I started about 90 minutes ago … and got distracted from.

    .-= Simon Young ´s last blog ..Marketing Now Roundup =-.