Reality Check: To be Deliberate

It’s probably the influence of advertising, but the word “mindfulness” for me conjures up the image of a lovely woman in a yoga pose. Waterfalls, peace, and harmony abound.

Being mindful—paying attention to the present moment—is a really helpful practice.

But maybe you are like me and have trouble envisioning yourself beside a waterfall wearing yoga pants. So let’s try a different word: “deliberate.”

What does it mean to be deliberate?

Deliberate action is intentional action—not impulsive, thoughtless, or mindless reaction.

Rather than believing that external forces control us or even that our internal impulses are in charge, deliberate action indicates acting from choice. We consider, choose and act. It’s deliberate.

And while we can’t guarantee that a deliberate act is the right or most effective choice, to take deliberate action is certainly to take control of the action.

For example, think of the simple act of putting your tools away after a job. You could do it in a rush, without thinking. You may find yourself dropping nuts and bolts into containers where they don’t belong. Perhaps tools are left on the bench “for now.” A part rolls around, lands on the floor, breaks, or gets lost.

Or you can do your task deliberately. Look at each piece; where does it belong? If it goes in a container, is it labeled? Each object, placed gently, precisely, deliberately. It doesn’t take much, if any, more time.

Choosing to be deliberate is choosing to focus your attention on the task at hand. It’s even helpful for relationship-building “tasks.”

For example, deliberately turn toward your spouse or your child when they talk to you. Instead of an instant retort, choose your reply. See if it makes a difference.

Deliberate action is helpful for safety, too. Consider deliberately getting the stepladder rather than hopping on a chair. Deliberately come to a stop at the stop sign.

These deliberately safe actions might seem to take a few seconds longer. But choosing deliberate action is a big time-saver when compared to spending a few hours in emergency or worse.

I know that choosing deliberate actions can be difficult. It requires intention and attention. What could be more difficult? How about deliberate thoughts?

Thoughts just seem to pop into our heads, particularly when we are distracted or hurried. If your thoughts seem out of control, here’s a question: What thoughts do you want to have?

For example, would I rather think about how this person wronged me? Or deliberately think about how another person treated me well?

Do I want to think about doom and gloom news broadcasts? Or deliberately think about progress that I’m seeing?

Do I want to think about how I messed up yesterday? Or deliberately think about what my opportunities are now?

Controlling thoughts is difficult enough, yet feelings are even more difficult to directly control. While choice theory suggests that actions and thoughts drive our feelings, still, let’s say for the moment that we could deliberately choose our feelings. Might it help to consider what feelings we want?

For example, would I rather feel anxious? Or courageous? Jealous? Or content? Optimistic? Or hopeless? Grateful? Or resentful?

Can we deliberately feel a specific emotion? Try an experiment. For the next two minutes, try feeling gratitude. How does it feel?

So, if the term mindfulness doesn’t resonate with you, try being deliberate. If you’re about to act impulsively, pause and say to yourself, “I’m going to take a deliberate action.” After all, if you don’t have the time now to do it right; when will you have the time to do it over?

Do you act deliberately? Does choosing to be deliberate make a difference in how you think or feel?

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