If you're a fan of "Inside the Actors Studio" you undoubtedly enjoy host James Lipton's questionnaire at the end of each interview. Lipton asks every guest 10 questions and gives credit for the questions to French talk show host Bernard Pivot.
The questions are the most popular segment because (if answered honestly) they presumably remove the manufactured shell of celebrity and reveal insights into true personal character. But, lets face it, the guests know the questions are coming and have weeks to prepare responses that are both witty and celebrity-worthy.
Lately I've been thinking a lot about the first question on Lipton's list -- "What is your favorite word?" I've been thinking about it because I believe it should be a word that actually informs your daily behavior and not just something that is fun to say or pleases the ear. Why have a favorite word that doesn't do some heavy lifting?
Your favorite word doesn't have to make frequent appearances in your daily vocabulary. I almost never say mine. It's not clever, funny or alliterative. But it is powerful. I truly believe it's an important key to enjoying life, self-improvement, success and even controlling the passage of time. How's that for heavy lifting?
My current favorite word is "mindful." Like many profound life skills, being mindful is profoundly easy. It is simply a matter of turning off the autopilot that we all run on. It's breaking the mindless following of automatic behaviors that we practice every day. It's asking if this is something I really want to eat. It's enjoying every bite once you decide to eat it. It's asking if this is something I really want to say. It's closely listening to every word in a conversation. It's replacing multitasking with focus.
Being mindful is turning on the powers of observation that have been turned off by mindless activity. It's looking at your children as if you've never seen them before. It's hearing their voice. It's seeing the shades of color in their hair. It's looking at the tree in your front yard and actually seeing it -- in three dimensions with the squirrel sitting right above the knothole.
Mindlessness is what makes time seem to pass more quickly as we age. Because we've experienced so much, there is very little that is novel. Novelty is what gets the attention of our senses and makes our brains divert processing resources to fully observe. Since most experiences are not recognized as new, we simply acknowledge them without experiencing them again. Scientists tell us that the biochemical reactions that accompany novel experiences don't even bother to kick in, so the moment rushes by.
Remember the first time you held hands when you were a young teenager? The moment expanded because it was novel. Being mindful is recognizing and appreciating the novelty in each and every moment that we experience. And as we all know but few fully grasp, there is only this moment.
What's your favorite word?
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