What program, habit or change do you think most people don't do, (but can) that would have the greatest impact on their lives? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
Short but regular morning meditation. I found that more than 80% of the world-class performers I interviewed forhave some form of daily meditation or mindfulness practice. Both can be thought of as "cultivating a present-state awareness that helps you to be nonreactive."
This applies to everyone from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Justin Boreta of The Glitch Mob, and from elite athletes like Amelia Boone to writers like Maria Popova. It's the most consistent pattern of them all.
It is a "meta-skill" that improves everything else. You're starting your day by practicing focus when it doesn't matter (sitting on a couch for ten minutes) so that you can focus better later when it does matter (negotiation, conversation with a loved one, max deadlift, mind-melding with a Vulcan, etc.).
If you want better results with less stress, fewer "I should have said X" mental loops, etc., meditation acts as a warm bath for the mind. Perhaps you're a world-conquering machine with elite focus, but you might need to CTFO (chill the fuck out) a few minutes a day before you BTFO (burn the fuck out).
Meditation allows me to step back and gain a "witness perspective" (as with psychedelics), so that I'm observing my thoughts instead of being tumbled by them. I can step out of the washing machine and calmly look inside it.
Most of our waking hours, we feel as though we're in a trench on the front lines with bullets whizzing past our heads. Through twenty minutes of consistent meditation, I can become the commander, looking out at the battlefield from a hilltop. I'm able to look at a map of the territory and make high-level decisions. "These guys shouldn't even be fighting over here. What the hell is Regiment B doing over there? Call them out. We need more troops around the ridge. For objectives, we should be going after A, B, and C in that order. Ignore all the other so-called emergencies until those are handled. Great. Now, deep breath, and . . . execute."
A few options to get you started:
1. Use an app like Headspace or Calm. Headspace's free "Take10" will guide you for ten minutes a day for ten days. A number of my guests also use Headspace to help them get to sleep.
2. Listen to a guided meditation from Sam Harris or Tara Brach. Maria Popova oflistens to the same recording every morning -- Tara Brach's Smile Guided Meditation recording from the summer of 2010.
3. Take a TM course (). It will probably cost $1,000 or more, but this option offers a coach and accountability. For me, this is what kicked off more than 2 years of consistent meditation.
4. If you want to try mantra-based meditation without a course, you can sit and silently repeat one two-syllable word (I've used "na-ture" before) for 10 to 20 minutes first thing in the morning. TM purists would call this heresy, but you can still see results. Aim for physical comfort. No crossed legs or yoga-like contortion required. The default is sitting reasonably straight on a chair with your feet on the floor, hands on your thighs or in your lap, and back supported.
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