This Is Why Mindfulness Isn’t Killing Your Motivation
The other night, I was talking with a friend about mindfulness.
I was explaining to him how much meditation changed my life, and how much happier I became once I learned to accept the present for everything it is.
“If you’re content in the present moment,” he asked me, “how can you keep pushing yourself? I feel like mindfulness is the opposite of ambition. And I never want to lose my ambition.”
I pondered it for a moment. It’s an argument that I’ve heard a few times.
Being mindful means accepting life exactly as it is. And acceptance can often breed laziness or complacency.
After all, if everything is perfect right now – what motivation is there to improve?
To answer this, let’s take a look at the root of it all.
Ambition, like most desires, stems from one of two places: love or fear.
Ambition from fear is dangerous. This mindset revolves around the idea that, “If I don’t X, then I’ll never be happy.”
If I don’t grow my business, I’ll never be able to support my family. Then, they will leave me and I’ll never be happy.
If I don’t learn how to play guitar, then I’ll never be able to impress my friends. Then, they will leave me and I’ll never be happy.
If I don’t make a difference in this world, then I’ll never be remembered. And if my legacy doesn’t outlive me, then I’ll never be happy.
Fear may be powerful enough to push you toward achievements, but it will also trap you in a detrimental mindset loop.
With each goal that you achieve, you will only set another one for yourself. Maybe that relationship will make you happy. Maybe the next project will give you peace of mind. Maybe once you have that much money in your bank account, you will feel at ease.
Fearful ambition is fruitless. You will never be satisfied with the amazing things you’ve already achieved if this is where your ambition stems from. Fearful ambition will always leave you waiting for the next thing to bring you joy. You will always be looking toward the future for happiness.
But the thing about the future is that, well, it’s always in the future. The only thing you have right now is the present.
Luckily, you have everything you need in this moment, right now.
Take a few moments to reflect on what you’re grateful for. Think about all the beautiful, incredible things that you already have in your life. Accept the current moment, and love it for everything it is.
And let that love ignite your ambition.
Loving ambition is the secret to being present without losing your drive.
To understand this, let’s look at one of the purest forms of love there is: the love that a mother has for her newborn baby boy.
When her son is born, she loves and accepts everything that child is. However, that does not mean she doesn't want her son to improve. In fact, her unconditional love produces the opposite effect.
Because she loves her baby so much, she knows that her son can grow into an incredible human. Because of this, she will always push him to do better.
She knows he will learn how to walk, talk, read, write, jump, play, debate and maybe even run for president one day. But that doesn't stop her from loving him fully in this moment.
And because she loves that baby unconditionally, it will not matter what he actually accomplishes.
She is not waiting until the day her baby can speak to be happy. She isn’t waiting for him to walk to shower him with love.
She accepts her child wholly and completely exactly the way he is.
And that is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is being aware of “what is” instead of focusing on “what isn’t.”
There will always be more. More mountains to climb, more countries to visit, more languages to learn.
And you should want to accomplish it all!
But don’t get caught in the trap that you need those accomplishments to feel happy. You don’t need that paycheck or that new car. You have everything you need right now and you can be happy if you choose to be.
Being mindful can be tricky. Our world moves at an incredibly fast pace and it’s easy to get caught up in the next deadline, the next event, the next adventure.
But with a little bit of training, you can stop your brain from running away with these thoughts and ideas.
The best way to do this is through meditation.
Take some time every day to breathe.
Focus on your breath. Try not to think about the deadlines you need to meet or the meetings you need to have. Try not to think about what you want to eat for lunch later or if you accidentally called that person the wrong name last night. Try to focus only on the current moment – the only moment that exists.
Practicing meditation will help you be mindful in every situation. Mindfulness means accepting everything exactly how it is.
That means accepting yourself. That means accepting your business. That means accepting your waitress, barista, and landlord.
There will always be things that frustrate you. There will always be a laundry list of things to get done.
But this moment is all you have.
Learn to love it, and then learn to use that love to push you forward.
Mindfulness and ambition are not mutually exclusive. You can accept the current situation and still acknowledge that you are capable of more.
Be your own proud parent. Love yourself unconditionally, and love your current state unconditionally. Be content with everything you have right now.
And then push yourself to be better.