Mindfulness: The Path To a Successful You

It seems that “success literature” has been around for ages. Literally. The Art of War by Sun Tzu was written in the 6th century BC.

Walk into any bookstore today, or cruise the Internet, and you’ll find truckloads of advice on how to think, how to get rich, how to make and keep friends, how to earn and maintain trust, how to stay motivated, how to work smarter, how to talk, how to exercise influence. You name the aspiration and someone has written a book on how to attain it.

Finally there’s a book that doesn’t promise the moon. It simply offers a straightforward framework for managing your life mindfully—aware of and attentive to the skills and behaviors that produce great results. The research-based book is The 9 Dimensions of Conscious Success by David E. Nielson.

I interviewed Nielson to get a flavor for his research findings and how they can apply to anyone in any area of pursuit.

Rodger Dean Duncan: In your study of successful people, self-awareness emerged as a common foundation. How would you define self-awareness, and how does it manifest itself? In other words, what does it “look” like in observable behaviors?

David Nielson: I define self-awareness as having the capacity for introspection and knowing at any point in time what is going on with you. That means you can consider yourself separate from others and the environment and can focus on your thoughts, feelings, physical state and belief systems.

I believe the manifestation of awareness is when you take it out of the “internal” and make it “external”—that is, you can express it. There’s an exercise where individuals can articulate “Right now I’m thinking …” and “Right now I’m feeling …” A conscious pause is another behavior I like to emphasize to increase self-awareness. Briefly pause before saying or doing something. First, this provides an opportunity to consider and second, to really know “where one is.”

Finally, I think honesty is a manifestation of self-awareness. Here’s a simple example: It’s very common as a salutation for people to greet others by saying “How are you?” A common, almost automatic response is “Good” or “Fine.” These may not be an authentic representation of true self-awareness. Without going into a lengthy description that may shock the other person or put them to sleep, a truly accurate, self-aware response might be “A little tired right now but otherwise good” or “Slightly frustrated right now but getting better.”  Like many things in life, this could be a strength overused so I caution people to be careful.

Duncan: It might be argued that many public figures—politicians, celebrities, etc.— are woefully lacking in self-awareness. So why are they “successful” by some definitions of the word?

Nielson: There may be plenty of those examples right now. I wonder if some of them are actually individuals who are consciously or unconsciously inauthentic to project themselves as something they are not. Self-awareness ties closely to Authenticity and I strongly believe you can deceive yourself and/or others—for a while. I believe others eventually see through it. At that point success is hampered.

Duncan: You advise writing a Personal Purpose Statement. How do you suggest a person use such a document?

Nielson: The simplest application is to ensure we are aligned with the work we do. We can all use a Personal Purpose Statement in several ways: 1) as a “touchstone” to keep us living a “life on purpose,” 2) to help others know what we’re about, and 3) to ensure we’re working in the right space—in the right environment and with the right people.

Duncan: Your Conscious Success Model includes six “differentiators.” One of these is Authenticity. In addition to trustworthiness, what other factors are involved?

Nielson: The differentiators are linked to the Success foundation (Purpose, Self-Awareness, Social Awareness), for Authenticity, self-awareness and social awareness being most critical. Certainly, honesty is a critical factor—my own definition and goal for authenticity is: “I never want to deceive myself or others.”  I believe keeping agreements is another element of authenticity—can you be depended on to do what you say you will do.

Duncan: Personal responsibility is another differentiator you regard as critical to success. In a world where victimhood is so widespread, how do you coach people to take more responsibility for the results they produce?

Nielson: I emphasize the concept of 100% Responsibility. In my work and in my book I focus on actionable, practical things individuals can really apply. For most of us, it’s helpful to focus “solutions” or “actions” on behaviors. A behavior is observable and measurable. You either did it or you didn’t. There are three key behaviors on which I focus in coaching others: 1) Stop blaming others for non-results, 2) Stop justifying non-results with excuses, 3) Keep creating options to produce the desired result.

This column by Dr. Duncan was also published by Forbes where he is a regular contributor. Follow on Twitter @DoctorDuncan

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Rodger Dean Duncan

Rodger Dean Duncan is bestselling author of CHANGE-friendly LEADERSHIP and a regular contributor to Forbes and Fast Company magazines. He is widely known for his expertise in the strategic management of change, for organizations and for individuals. In 1972 he founded Duncan Worldwide to train and develop leaders. His clients have included some of the top companies in the world, as well as cabinet officers in two White House administrations.

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