Be Considerate

I happened to utter that phrase this morning. I was thinking about where to place things and said that I needed to “be considerate” of the things that were already there and where they would go, specifically these were tools that had a purpose for their positioning. As I said it, those two words struck me as a parental phrase offered when trying to teach our kids to be decent human beings. Of course, I was talking about considering the environment, a totally different use of the words, but it still struck me. To “be considerate” is a very mindful thing to do.

To consider something is to think about it, to weigh the outcome. “Consider the consequences” when you are about to make some rash decision. This is very focused on you and the outcome of your actions. “Consider” in this case is to think about and weigh the results of an action. In the case of this adage, mindfulness is necessary to stop and think before you act. If you can “consider the consequences” every time you make a decision then you’ll be living mindfully with regards to yourself and how the choices you make will affect your immediate or even long-term future.

Being considerate of others, that’s still considering an outcome, but in this case, it’s more about walking a mile in their shoes. If you can be considerate of someone else, you can awaken your own empathy and start hopefully save someone else from their negative emotions. By being considerate of someone’s feelings, you’re stopping before being mean. By being considerate of someone else’s actions, you’re allowing that there might be some decision or purpose behind what they’ve done. Again, these are mindful acts. Empathy is one of the most mindful traits you can really embrace and luckily one begets the other. The more you consider how someone else will react to your actions, you give yourself a reason to continue to do that for other people. Especially when you see that your consideration has a positive effect. When you’re considering why someone did something, you can head down the rabbit hole of how it affects YOU or you can see that maybe there’s another side to the story that is completely based on them. By letting THEM have their own reasons, and accepting them at face value, you can save yourself from stress and anger.

There are so many things to consider about consideration. To my original thought, considering where you place thing is an art form? a science? a practice when it comes to interior design. The Chinese concept of Feng Shui is all about considering where things are placed for optimal flow of chi in your house. In my example, where I place a drill press may get in the way of placing boards when I want to use my miter saw. There is a flow, be it something as ephemeral as Chi or as literal as a board, and consideration is again a mindfulness when planning and when doing.

The big consideration, one that I’ve spent much more time considering in my 40s than in any previous decade, Death. Considering that you, your loved ones, your enemies all face that inevitability can sometimes bring consideration for how you treat them now, and how you continue to treat them. Either by considering that someday you may lose them or one day you’ll be gone, either is a heavy weight to let sit. I know it’s a hard one to think about but I’ve found tremendous strength in remembering that ultimate end. Some folks will do anything to avoid thinking about it, leading to different mindless pursuits as a result. By knowing that it’s always out there can hopefully give you some peace instead.

I’m adding some footnotes, a new thing for me, as I thought of examples through my writing and wanted to give some bonus reading.

What is Mindfulness? What is Mindfullish?

Mindfulness, it’s a term that gets mentioned regularly across all media these days. Generally, it’s a word that goes arm in arm with “Meditation” to the point that one might even think that “Mindfulness” means “Meditation.” While the two are well paired together, mindfulness is a more usable word in your daily vocabulary. You can be mindful of just about everything you do, and if you’re being mindful through your day then it will be very complimentary to your meditation practice if you have one.

At it’s simplest, “mindfulness” is being present and aware of the current moment, the thing you’re doing, the place you’re doing it and the experience of that moment. It can be as simple as noticing your breathing and simply paying attention to that breath, but it can also be your attention to actions like walking, exercising or driving. “Being present in the moment” is a new age sounding term that can be confusing if you’re not actually practising it, and it can be difficult to establish a habit doing. It takes an effort to distance yourself from looking at your cell phone, or your watch or your fidget spinner. Being mindful means being deliberate in your avoidance of distraction and actively seeking to be aware of your environment.

“Mindfullish” is the recognition that this isn’t easy to do all the time, heck it isn’t easy to do it some of the time. We’re actively conditioning ourselves to seek distraction and to step away from thoughtful time. We feel we need to be DOING things and even if that action is taken to stave off boredom. In truth, “boredom” can lead to discoveries about oneself or inspire insights into problems you’re dealing with, so avoiding it could be more harmful than helpful. The goal of being “Mindfullish” is to move past the esoteric and see how mindful behaviour is something everyone can pursue and from which everyone can benefit. It might lead you to meditation, and that’s great, but it might just mean that your day is slightly less stressed, your slightly faster coming or your temper is slightly lengthened. Regardless, it can benefit and shape your life.

While I’ve been focusing on being deliberately mindful for a while now, I keep seeing little incremental improvements in my quality of life. Yesterday morning, I dropped my favorite coffee mug and saw it shatter. I had a moment of frustrated anger where I let out my initial exclamation (which may have contained some choice words), but that was fleeting. As I took a breath, stepped back and appraised the situation the negative emotion dissipated and I chuckled. I was still frustrated to lose that item but realized what’s done is done, getting angry or sad help no one and that I could always replace the mug. It was a small moment, but one that could easily be a turning point in my morning where “everything was going wrong” or “it’s going to be one of those days” and set myself up mentally for a day of struggle.

I’m hopeful that being Mindfullish can spread to everyone and that when we’re flipping through Facebook, Instagram or Imgur that we can realize the moment and periodically step to the side and reflect on how much that matters or how it should affect the rest of your life choices at that moment. Being Mindfullish is fully attainable by every human, whether you’re taking distraction medication, anti-anxiety medication or just “too busy to think about it.” For now, just stand up, walk to a window and reflect on right now and breathe.