Commuting to work, caring for family, making financial plans, negotiating office politics, preparing meals, keeping up with the news, dealing with health issues — there are many possible demands on your time and energy. In a busy world it is easy to have your priorities shaped by your circumstances and the people around you.
Twenty seconds is the amount of time it takes for the average adult to take four complete breaths. This is all the time you need to change the course of your life. Imagine how different your life might be right now if you took that amount of time to do one of the following.
Bring your full attention and acceptance to what you are experiencing right now.
Feel deep gratitude for the people and opportunities in your life.
Access a powerful sense of wonder for the miracle of your existence.
Notice the tiny acts of kindness people are doing for one another around you.
Find an opportunity to be kind to someone – no matter how small.
Connect with the values and relationships that give your life meaning.
Authentically wish for the wellbeing of those in need.
Cultivate genuine compassion and kindness toward yourself.
Listen openly and fully to the person speaking to you.
Get started on an important task you have been putting off.
The simple practice of stopping, breathing, and refocusing your attention and energy can make an enormous difference in your life. Your brain may come up with reasons not to do it – “I am too busy and stressed.” Or “I don’t need this right now, things are going pretty well.” This is because the human brain prefers known behavior over new behavior. We often experience resistance, boredom or distraction when we attempt to learn a new skill.
The human tendency to get caught up in the urgent, the familiar, and the comfortable can leave us feeling a victim to circumstances without much freedom. However, you have an incredible capacity to refocus your attention and energy on what is important, meaningful, and impactful. This practice is free, portable, and profoundly effective.
These small course corrections can have a dramatic impact on the path of your life. You can leverage one of the greatest gifts you have been given – the capacity to shape your own brain. Your nervous system is continually rewiring itself based on your behavior. This means that the most valuable question you can ask yourself throughout the day is “What am I practicing right now?”
And you can use technology to help you. Setting alarms or reminders on your phone or watch can prompt you to bring your attention to your body, your breath, your priorities, and the world around you. You can take a moment to assess whether what you are doing is aligned with your values and commitments. I use an app called MindBell. It causes my watch to vibrate about every twenty minutes or so — this is my reminder to be present, to connect with purpose and with the people around me, and to exercise my freedom to choose what I do next.
Presence, connection, and freedom – you can cultivate these powerful skills no matter what is happening in your life. You can feel your feet on the ground, let go of a resentment, remember your purpose, and fall in love with life in the time it takes to breathe four breaths. Twenty seconds – this is all you need.