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What is better?
Ok, before we jump into what mindfulness is and how we can achieve it, it’s important that we just touch on the concept of ‘better’. Since ‘better’ is partly what this article is all about; how to ‘get better’ at your job and how to ‘get a better’ job.
A lot of the time, if not all the time, better is just an opinion.
The concept of better only really starts to have value when you place it within a context. A context with parameters, targets and objectives. Otherwise, your version of better vs. someone else’s version of better is literally just that; a version. An opinion.
Some jobs for example don’t really mesh well with the idea of better. They are more closely linked to the idea of taste. For example, take almost any creative profession; writer, artist, dancer, singer, actor, director. If you don’t ‘like’ someone’s art, or think that someone’s art isn’t ‘good’, isn’t that really down to your taste rather than whether or not they are actually ‘good’ at that particular discipline? There’s more to it than that, but think generally speaking in this context it’s about taste.
Then take a more scientific or objective profession like a heart surgeon, taxi driver, or engineer. Clearly in these professions you can more easily measure someone’s abilities. A heart surgeon that has less patients die than another is clearly a better surgeon. A taxi driver that has completed more trips on time without having accidents compared to another driver who is always late and crashes is clearly a better taxi driver. An engineer that has created a structure that is still standing after all this time compared to one that has had all their structures collapse is clearly a better engineer. Again, there is more to it than that, but generally speaking you can more easily define what ‘better’ is in relation to jobs like this.
Again, like I say, better is largely just an opinion, and you have to give it context and parameters in order for it to really have any significant value. Because for some people out there, the taxi driver that is late and crashes all the time, they still genuinely believe that is the better driver; and that’s their opinion. (By the way, that taxi driver is probably a mate, family member, or someone they fancy).
So, the first question you need to ask yourself is ‘What is better to me?’.
Is it more money? Is it more authority? Is it working in a particular climate or country? Is it working for a particular organisation or type of organisation? Is it being more active or more sedentary? Is it working as part of a team or working alone? Is it working 3 days a week or working 7 days a week? Is it working with strangers or working with family? Is it working in an office or working from home? The list is literally endless. For the average person, when it comes to work, ‘better’ is usually a job that they can only dream of doing. And for a lot of people, it often stays that way. But it doesn’t have to.
The point is, whatever it is that someone defines as better has all kinds of things contributing to it. Someone’s justification of better could be based on ethics, religion, health, or other lifestyle commitments. It’s really specific to the individual.
In relation to this article then, the next question must be, can you get better at mindfulness? Maybe… let’s see…
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness comes in many shapes, sizes, and styles. Across different cultures and sub-cultures the topic is approached differently. But the one thing that all these cultures have in common is their recognition and respect for the fact that we each have this thing inside of us; the mind.
How we achieve mindfulness then, is basically the approach we take, and the relationship we each have, with our mind or ‘the mind’. It may well even be that we don’t have a conscious approach or relationship with our mind. Naturally, this may or may not be an issue. It all depends on your situation; your context.
Stereotypically, when people think of how to achieve mindfulness they tend to think of things like yoga and spirituality. They might think about things such as hippies and ‘being free’. They might think about sitting under a tree in some kind of pretzel-shaped position, focusing on their breathing, and going, “Ooohhhmmmm”. They might even think about taking drugs.
And whilst all of that is most definitely part of mindfulness, there are other styles and components of how to achieve mindfulness that are worth exploring.
Ancient Greece and Simonides of Ceos
To explore the some of the aspects of how to achieve mindfulness that I believe are valuable and worth exploring we need to go back to Ancient Greece and specifically look at a person called Simonides of Ceos. Simonides was a lyric poet.
Now, naturally, because Simonides was alive all these many years ago some people will already be sceptical about his existence and the credibility of this information. But I encourage you to read on and see if you can find anything of value in the information I am sharing with you. Focus on the method and the technique rather than the story. The story about where it came from, fact or fiction, is and always will be a story.
Interestingly though, stories are great mnemonic tools also.
The Mind Palace Technique and Method of Loci
The story goes that Simonides was at a feast. Whilst at the feast Simonides was asked to go outside to see some people that were asking for him. When he went outside the building that the feast was in collapsed killing everyone inside. Simonides was the only survivor.
Then when Simonides was speaking to the authorities, helping to recall who was at the feast, he started to develop the Method of Loci a.k.a. The Mind Palace Technique. By recalling an image in his mind of where everyone was sat at the feast he was able to help identify the casualties. From this situation, a component of the art of memory was developed. The art of memory perhaps being better known as mnemonics.
What IS MNEMONICS?
Truth is, you probably already know what mnemonics is. You just might not know that you know. Mnemonics covers all kinds of things:
Connections and associations
And the purpose of all of these things is to help you remember information.
So, in reality, there are mnemonics all around us. All day, everyday. In truth, you already know how to achieve mindfunless.
Examples of mnemonics
One of the first ones I remember learning as a kid was what the lines and spaces are on a musical stave for piano(actually the keyboard for me):
Every Good Boy Deserves Football – These are the lines; E,G,B,D, and F.
FACE – These are the spaces.
But, you’ve also got ones like:
Roy. G. Biv or Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain – These are the colours of the rainbow; Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet.
These are just some basic and common mnemonics. But as you delve further into the world of mnemonics you’ll probably remember some you thought you’d forgotten and discover others that you find massively useful.
And the other thing about mnemonics is that you don’t have to be really strict. A mnemonic a friend and I came up with in primary school for rembering the order of the planets was
My Vet Ernie Might Just Sit Undoing kNitted Pants
Pluto – Shut up, I’m not debating this. Focus on the method!
Mnemonics is mindfulness
Here is an interesting nerdy bit.
The word mnemonics comes from the Ancient Greek word mnēmonikos; meaning ‘of memory’ or ‘relating to memory’. This is derived from another Ancient Greek word mnēmōn, which means ‘mindful’.
So, mnemonics really is mindfulness. And using mnemonics is one way of how we can achieve mindfulness.
Fun Fact: Mnemosyne (meaning remembrance) is the goddess of memory.
How can mindfulness help me in my job?
This bit is pretty straight forward. Whatever your job is you need to remember information. So, using mnemonics will allow you to better remember all this important information that you need in order to do your job better; whatever your job is.
So, maybe your job is a surgeon. The world of medicine uses mnemonics all the time to help remember complex information.
Maybe your job is a singer. Well, generally speaking, creative types are some of the most obvious advocates of mnemonics. They just don’t always realise it. You memorise lyrics to sing them. You bring together the practical and theoretical aspects of mnemonics in your performance. Creative types are basically ambassadors of mindfulness.
Perhaps it’s a taxi or delivery driver. Well, before Sat Navs, people used to remember things by remembering landmarks or particular events that had occured in places. That’s pretty much why streets have names. Visualisation is part of mnemonics and obviouslly that would help in this profession.
In essence, whatever it is that you do. Do you know all the important information that you need to know? If not, try using mnemonics to help you remember things more easier.
How can mindfulness help me in an interview?
Well, basically, you have to actually try and use it; before, during, and after. That’s how it will help you in an interview. And there could be any number of ways that you use it. Perhaps the most important thing is to just remember that you have knowledge and experience to draw from; which is stored in your mind. You need to be able to draw on this to answer the questions you get asked. Once you have created your own way of how to achieve mindfulness and be aware of certain things, then you can start to use and improve it.
So, when you start to feel any stress and anxiety in your interview remember that you have your mind. And in your mind you have the answers that you have. If you can’t answer some questions, no problem, these are opportunities to learn what to improve on and how to do better next time.
But you could also use it to help you answer these questions. One thing that is important to remember when you are in an interview is that you get to the point and answer the questions that you are asked.
So, maybe using something like an acronym would be helpful. To help you stay focused, on track, and avoid waffling on without actually answering the question.
Precise – What is the precise thing you were asked?
Open – Be honest and open about your knowledge, skills, and experience on the subject.
Instance – Give a good example of an instance when you have used these knowledge or skills.
Natural – Be yourself, be natural.
Try – Try your best. If you do that then you have done all you can do.
Get to the POINT.
Jobs that use mnemonics
There are loads of jobs that use mnemonics. The difference between most people, teams, departments, and organisations is whether or not they are consciously using them or not.
So, it’s not that some jobs use them and others don’t. It’s whether or not the individuals do and the cultures they are in use them. Naturally, then it’s also about how and when they use them. That said you will likely find frequent use of mnemonics in these professions:
But again, the list is pretty much endless.
Other styles of mindfulness
Mnemonics, of course, is just one style of mindfulness. It’s just one way of how to achieve mindfulness. There are lots. Infinite in fact, because everyone will have their own interpretation of what mindfulness is. But some other areas of culture that are perhaps most closely associated with mindfulness would be Buddhism, Hinduism vision quests, yoga, meditation, and critical analysis.
A little mnemonics mindfulness exercise
So, as has been touched on, there are tons of different types of mnemonics and ways they can be used. But here is one worth trying. Just for fun. This is an example of how you can achieve mindfulness. Suppose you need to try and remember a list of things in order. First of all, look at this list below.
One – Sun
Two – Shoe
Three – Tree
Four – Door
Five – Hive
Six – Sticks
Seven – Heaven
Eight – Gate
Nine – Line
Ten – Hen
You will notice that all the words rhyme, and that is key. Because it helps with the process of memorising.
Now here is a random list of 10 things:
Look at the list, try and memorise it. Then look away and try and write down the exact list in the exact order.
There’s every chance that you’ll do it. But if you really struggle then try this. Imagine the things in the list in relation to the other list of rhyming numbers and words.
Sun – Imagine a Sun with a cat’s face in it. Really try and create a mental picture of what that looks like. A cheeky little cat with a smile and it’s whiskers, glowing right in the middle of a big yellow sun. This is first in the list. One, Sun, Smiley cat’s face in the sun.
Shoe – Imagine a pair of shoes with sticks of fudge sitting in them. Again, spend some time making a mental picture of what that looks like. This is the second one in the list. Two, show, fudge legs in the shoes.
And you repeat this so on and so on. Now it doesn’t mean that you won’t forget stuff ever. Of course you will. You are human. But these are techniques that give you an opportunity to be successful more often that not. Over time you will get more in touch with YOUR version of the mind. You will see how you piece it all together. You will become more familiar with it and what it is in. This then allows you to get quicker and more proficient at things; recalling information, remembering methods, being able to self-motivate.
The only way to see if this really works is to try it out for yourself and see how you get on. Because like all things, they don’t always work for everybody.
One more thing…
As well as all this, mnemonics is an interesting topic that allows you to demonstrate how people are suggestible and predictable. Here’s another small test.
The ABCD test
Open a word processing document or get a little bit of paper to write on. Answer these questions quickly.
- Write down a fruit beginning with A.
- Write down a colour beginning with B.
- Write down an animal beginning with C.
- Write down a country beginning with D.
Once you are done. Circle those anwsers.
Now spend a little bit of time trying to come up with additional answers for each question.
The point being; there are more answers available that you could have chosen to write down. But you wrote down the ones you put in the circle first. These are your instinctive and impulsive answers. These are the first things that come to your head; to your mind.
Now, depending on where you are from and where you live in the world your answers will likely differ. Because the culture that you live in will have a more common emphasis and occurance of some answers more so than others. The answers you’ve written are likely to be linked ‘closer to home’.
So, here are the answers we might expect the average British person to write down.
And this is because they are common. But as we have proven, there are plenty of other choices that could have been written down. But these are quite often the instinctive ones.
How do we know this? Because to some extent we know what is in other people’s minds. Because we know what can be, and what is put there.
I have had a variety of jobs in my life. But one of my biggest passions is coaching. When I was 24 I set up a basketball club in the town that I grew up in; Exmouth, Devon, United Kingdom.
Over the past couple of years I have written some books that demonstrate how I use mnemonics to help with my coaching. Please check them out below if you are interested.
These books will definitely show you how you can achieve mindfulness; a mnemonic based version of it, at least.
S is for Something: Short, sweet, simple, silly, serious, stupid, smart, self-help.
S is for Short, sweet, simple Sports Coaching and Performance: For parents, players, and pedagogues.