I have been studying wellbeing for over thirty years. My motivation for doing so originated from my own struggles with anxiety that began at an early age. Having no guidance, I developed strategies that included perfectionism, avoidance, reactivity, and self-medication. Not only were these attempts to escape my internal discomfort ineffective, by my mid-twenties my behavior had become destructive. In fact, at one point I became so overwhelmed that I broke my hand against a cement wall. It was clear that something needed to change.
So, I went in search of answers. I scoured thousands of scientific research papers on the brain, emotions, and behavior. I studied thousands of years of lasting wisdom on happiness and human potential. I spent thousands of hours in silent reflection and in conversation with people who were also searching.
And it really all boils down to this – when it comes to living a good life, there is a profound difference between the messages we get from popular culture and what research and lasting wisdom tell us. The secret to a good life is not really a secret, but it is not what most of us have been taught either. The secret to a good life is not an idea, a philosophy, or a “breakthrough.” The secret to a good life is not the result of a workshop, a retreat, or a seminar. The secret to a good life is a practice.
We live in a society that constantly tells us that the secret to a good life is getting your circumstances just right – owning the right stuff, living in the right place, getting the right amount of recognition and admiration, knowing the right people… This is a great message if you are trying to sell stuff, but it is not an effective strategy for living a deep, fulfilling, and meaningful life.
The evidence from scientific research, lasting wisdom, and personal reflection is that the good life is a practice. It is the practice of working peacefully with what is outside your control and powerfully with what is within your control.
One form of this practice – mindful self-regulation – is built on the foundation of two incredible human abilities. These abilities are so rare in the animal kingdom that we can almost think of them as human super powers. The first of these super powers is the ability to observe the thoughts, sensations, impulses, and urges created by your nervous system. This makes space for the second super power, which is the ability to put your energy into what matters most. Strengthening these two abilities leads to authentic calm, confidence, freedom and connection in the face of ever-changing internal and external circumstances.
Mindful self-regulation builds the four foundational skills of unconditional wellbeing:
Presence: Bringing awareness and acceptance to internal and external circumstances as they are
Purpose: Focusing on the values, goals, commitments, and relationships that matter most
Cultivation: Building internal resources of courage, compassion, gratitude, and awe
Connection: Being of service through listening, understanding, and communicating effectively
If you have tried the strategy of getting life to be just right – if you have pursued material success and found yourself still longing for something more – if you feel pressure to look shiny on the outside while struggling on the inside – then consider practicing something different.
To support my clients and others, I have released the book, Good Life Practice: A Quick Start Guide to Mindful Self-Regulation. This guide is a simple manual for putting mindful self-regulation into practice on a daily basis.
For thirty years Dave has been focused on the foundations of wellbeing, healthy communities, and leadership. After more than twenty years teaching courses in human development, neuroscience, and mindfulness, he founded Applied Attention Coaching and Consulting. He works with individuals, teams, and organizations to help them focus their attention and energy where it will make the greatest positive difference. Using principles drawn from modern research and enduring wisdom, Dave offers practices that foster peaceful and powerful lives, relationships, and cultures. If you are seeking greater wellbeing, stronger relationships, more effective communication, or healthier culture, then Applied Attention can help.