What’s the difference between being grounded and being mindful?
Mindfulness is one component of groundedness. Whereas mindfulness focuses predominantly on your state of being, groundedness focuses more on your actions in the world, on your doing. Groundedness argues that perhaps the best way to improve the quality of your being is to improve the quality of your doing. It is why each of the above principles are accompanied by concrete practices. No doubt, mindfulness— and more broadly, the teachings from ancient eastern wisdom traditions—are a component of groundedness, but far from the whole thing.
In the book you write powerfully about being diagnosed with O.C.D, and how transformative it was learning to accept, rather than struggle against, the disorder. I find myself at once nodding along with the wisdom of that approach, and then a second later wishing all the tedious, unpleasant things in my life would go away. How can we get better at accepting the things in our life that, clearly, our life would be better without?
Acceptance does not mean passive resignation. I think a lot of people get confused there. What acceptance actually means is seeing things clearly as they are, which, of course, opens you up to taking the productive actions that actually give you a chance to change those situations. So the first step to improving the things in your own life that, as you put it, "you would be better without" is to accept them for what they are. Practicing acceptance is often very hard in the short-term and in the acute moment, but it makes life much easier in the long-term.
I suspect I’m not the only person who struggles with what you call the “knowing-doing gap.” How can I better align what I know I should be doing with what I actually do?
The first thing is I would try to get rid of the word "should" altogether! Shoulds are tough. Wants and wishes are much smoother. So, for instance, maybe make a list of all the things you genuinely want to start doing, and that becomes your starting point for progress. From there, it is about taking small consistent steps which compound over time for big gains. The number one cause of falling off the bandwagon with progress is doing too much too soon and getting discouraged as a result. You don't need to hit home runs. You just need to put the ball in play, over and over again.
But still, this stuff is hard! I am just as guilty as the next person of reading a leadership or personal growth book and feeling super inspired but then not really doing anything different, at least not for more than a week or two. I knew this about myself and other readers heading into this project, which is why I held myself to ensuring each chapter of the book includes very concrete and practical and accessible practices to help readers close the knowing-doing gap.
A line of yours I love is “marrying self-discipline with self-compassion.” In pursuit of the former, we often lose touch with the latter. How can we stop doing that?
Doing hard things is hard. You cannot get the most out of yourself without occasionally being scared and failing. If you beat yourself up, you just waste energy. Being kind to yourself is key. It is what allows you to quickly dust off and get back on the wagon.
Being a human is filled with challenges. Caring deeply is hard (because the things you care deeply about are the things that tend to break your heart, since they never go exactly as you wish). It is a constant reminder: This is what is happening right now, I am doing the best that I can. The most genuinely tough people I know, the true badasses, are also some of the best at self-compassion. This is not a coincidence. If you want to go to the edge, particularly for a long time, you better be kind to yourself.
Edward Stephens is a Senior Editor with Brunswick, based in London.
Photos courtesy of Brad Stulberg.