05/29/2014 11:51 am ET Updated Jul 29, 2014

5 Steps for Using Mindfulness to Get What You Want


Money and work are hot topics with a lot of my clients these days. We talk about how to have satisfying work that also pays the bills, how to manage being in business for oneself or work for an insane boss, the possibility of internal psychological blocks getting in the way.

Jan's a smart, fully capable, well-trained woman with terrific marketable job skills. So why is she so unsatisfied with her work life? What's holding her back?

As we sit together exploring solutions, she uses mindful awareness to observe her own stories about what's going on.

The Power of Whispers
In the stillness of focusing her attention on her breathing, she begins hearing the whispers. What's wrong with me? I can't. I'm not good enough. Success is bad. Making money means I'm a bad person.

Learning to pay attention to your own stories is the very first step in getting more of what you want. The best way to start hearing your own stories? Get still, and just listen.

Your Brain Needs a Job
Settle yourself in for a quiet couple of minutes. Give your brain a job, one that's actually helpful, rather than replaying the same old I Can't/I Don't Want To movie. Find, and stay with, your breath.

  1. Be with the sensations of breathing in and out.
  2. Begin listening to your own stories.
  3. Gently challenge their truth.
  4. Ask what else might also be true.
  5. Ask what's true for you, not your family or friends or anyone else on the planet.

All you need to do is notice what you notice.

Honestly? The single biggest obstacle for Jan (and everyone else with whom I've worked) was her own thinking. She's been telling herself stories her entire life. The problem was that most of them weren't true.

Impassable Granite Mountains
Your stories about what is, or isn't happening -- those learned thoughts, beliefs and ideas -- are riddled with fear-based blocks that can feel like impassable granite mountains. Until you're able to hear them for what they are... made-up stories that have nothing to do with right-now reality.

We all make choices all the time, all day long. Choices that range from Ummm... another cup of coffee? to How can I get through one more second of this job I hate?!

Your choices are based, in part, on the stories you're telling yourself.

Here's the thing -- you can begin writing new stories for yourself. You can learn to choose healthier, happier endings, based on having a truer sense of who you really are, and what you want.

Do You Understand the Problem?
Which stories are you buying into? Which internal mind-movies are you watching? What's true for you, now? About a cup of coffee, about your job. Your life.

Internationally renowned mindfulness teacher and best-selling author, Sharon Salzberg, offers much wisdom about these matters in her latest book, Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace. In it, she says, "If I understand the problem, I don't add to it."

Once Jan understood her biggest challenge to be the fear-based stories she was telling herself, she was able to take focused action to get what she wanted. She stopped adding to the problem.

I Swear
The results began changing almost immediately. New job opportunities began showing up. And she was able to show up for herself and her clients in a much more empowered way. Her new work story now includes professional strengths, an understanding of the value of her skill-set and services, along with a healthy sense of herself as a professional worthy of being well paid.

Jan continues to learn that one of the benefits of mindfulness is about creating more strength and space within herself. This allows her to hear more of the story, without believing that all of it's true, 100 percent of the time.

As Salzberg writes,

This involves bringing awareness to the painful emotions that arise due to our self-judgment or difficult circumstances. We become more accepting and nonjudgmental of our experience, taking a balanced approach so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated.

There's a lot of good news associated with mindfulness. It's a powerful tool for getting what you want. Give it a shot. Please email me if you're stuck -- I'm happy to help.