Mindfully Shifting Your Approach to a Task Can Shift Everything

By Leo Babauta

There’s a subtle, mindful shift that we can make as we tackle any task, enter any project, start any conversation, move into any activity … and this small shift can make a huge difference.

The shift is a softening, a warming, an opening. And that might not sound very powerful, but it is.

Let’s say you’re about to start a difficult task, and there’s something about it that’s causing you to dislike the task and want to put it off. The task is difficult, overwhelming, full of uncertainty for you. So you either run to distraction and procrastinate, or you do it but really don’t enjoy doing it. Neither of these is helpful.

So what can we do instead of procrastinating or disliking the task? We can bring some subtle, mindful, powerful shifts to the task. And in fact, we can do this to any activity.

Try it out with one of the hardest tasks in your todo list or email inbox, something you’ve been putting off or dreading. Get ready to do the task, then try these practices:

  • Notice: Notice how you feel about the task as you get started. Are you tense? Dreading it? Wanting to just get it over with? Wanting to go do something else?
  • Curiosity: Now bring some curiosity about this sensation in your body — what does it feel like? How is it different than you imagined before you brought this beautiful curiosity to it?
  • Relax: Notice the tension you might feel in your body, even if it’s just microtensions in tiny muscles in your torso. Can you relax these tensed muscles a little? Notice how this might shift your feeling toward the task or activity. Rest in this relaxed state.
  • Warmth: See if you can warm up your feeling toward the activity. It starts in the heart area, and can come out as a sort of warm feeling in our torso. Don’t worry if you can’t do this right now, just give it a shot.
  • Friendliness: Instead of a feeling of dislike towards the activity, how about being friendly towards it? It’s a shift in how we relate to our experience. Are we hostile or warm and friendly? Try warm and friendly, like you would act towards a good friend in your home.
  • Openness: If you’re feeling closed and tight about the activity or task, try opening. It’s a relaxing not only of the muscle in your body, but of your mind. Your mind can suddenly relax into an open awareness, and suddenly you’re not so closed off in self-concern.
  • Gratitude: We’ve all practiced gratitude before, so you should know how to do it with this task — how can you be grateful to this task? Maybe it’s a way to serve people you love. Maybe it’s a sign that you’re pushing into the uncertainty of something meaningful. Maybe it’s a sign that you’re alive. Actually feel the gratitude in your heart.
  • Deep appreciation: Let this moment be a time to deeply appreciate this moment, this life. What a wonderful thing it is to be alive right now. And to get to do this task. Spend a few moments in this deep appreciation.

You don’t have to do all of these things, and certainly not at once. They’re all small shifts in how you see the task, how you relate to the activity, how you are showing up in this moment.

One of these shifts might be just what you need to transform this activity for you. It might be just the shift you need to transform this moment into one of profound appreciation, gratitude and openness.

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