Six tips for getting “enough” out of tech events

As I prep for three tech conferences over six days in Austin, I close my eyes, take a deep breath, exhale and open my eyes. “Enough” seems to be hard to identify. In a world of abundance and ubiquitous tech, we constantly seek the optimal balance. I prepare my work and life, clearing out the non-essential to leave room for inspiration. Inspiration comes in the form of people, things and experiences. Each must have time, space and attention in order to fully appreciate their value. So here are a few thoughts on how to prioritize “enough” so that you bring your best self forward and come away with new ideas, friends and an action plan.

  • The human side is really quite simple, like my friend Ted Rubin says, “be good to people.” There will be many new faces and ideas mixed with the old. I thrive on connecting the dots between them all to make the experience all the more rich.
  • Schedule time to pause and reflect, either alone or with someone else. Walk and talks are an easy way to incorporate movement, connection and reflection.
  • Write down your main takeaway(s), tag with context and share (if it would be of value to others). My motto, “knowledge is power, sharing is powerful” definitely applies here.
  • Eliminate the digital distraction of unused apps on your phone. Make sure you know the passwords in case you want to load them back on later.
  • Manage your contacts. When you make a new contact make sure your record it, tag it and follow-up. Loads of apps can make this easy, but do it while you still have context. If you collect a card, write the event and something memorable about the interaction on the back so you can do it “later” (but while it is still fresh). Bring business cards, but also have a picture of yours on your phone to easily share.
  • Pack light. Mix & Match clothes and bring only the chargers you need. Don’t forget an extra battery!

My bag feels remarkably light. No extra papers, books or devices nor flyers or give-aways to leave a lasting impression will accompany me this time. I admit, as a global nomad, one learns the art of packing efficiently. That combined with the incentive of ever decreasing baggage allowance. Nevertheless, my bag seems considerably lighter than in years past when heading to Austin. With smart phone, tablet, watch and noise reduction headphones, I am set. A few mix and match outfits fit for the climate, walking shoes and I am good to go in a carry-on. My backpack is nearly empty, leaving space for a few select goodies to bring home with me.

Although this list is is compiled with conferences in mind, the practice of enough can be applied in many aspects of our lives. I hope you find this list helpful, and welcome your input, sharing and even invitation to walk & talk in Austin to discuss digital life balance.

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10 Great Gifts for Geek Girls 2016

Still looking for the perfect gift for your geek girl?  Well I have rounded up a 10 of my favorites, including links so you can order online in time for the holidays.  Enjoy!

1. LifePrint 

Okay so it may not be a wellbeing device, other than it will certainly give you a good serotonin kick from the feel good factor of watching pictures of friends and family come to life and sharing them too.  This cool little device is only available at Apple Stores (LifePrint website is sold out).  At a pretty decent price point ($129.95), don’t forget extra stickyback paper ($49.95 for 110 pack).

2. Docking/Charging Station

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Devices and their chargers can be both hard to keep track of and batteries loaded.  I love having a docking/charging station for them when I get home. (If you have kids, you might want two.) This keeps all devices at the ready for my next adventure, but more importantly keeps me present for my family.  There are many different styles, so rather than take my recommendation, look for one that matches.  I like this combo dock and charger to minimize cables.  Wearable tech is great, but most of them still need to be charged fairly regularly.  Until the battery life issue is fixed, at least you know will know where the chargers and devices are in the house. I recommend picking up a pack of short cables so that you can leave them connected at the ready (Lightning for Apple devices and MicroUSB for back up batteries, wearables and other non-Apple devices)

2. Ring.ly

 

A favorite from last year’s list as a newly launched product.  To Ring.ly, I say, “You’ve come a long way baby.”  They began with a beautiful smart ring and now have a smart bracelet.  More importantly, their notifications are now connected to many more apps, to fit a wide range of needs from rideshare, fitness, dating and more.  Keep that phone in your purse and the ugly black rubber fitness tracker at home.  Control your compulsive phone checking, so you don’t miss the here and now.

4. Cord Keeper

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Innovation can be simple to solve the problem of cable tangle.  If you have ever struggled with the tangled cables of your headphones you will love this beautiful leather solution.  Not to mention if you have any challenges with arthritis or poor circulation, they will simplify access to your cords and cables.  You can get them in time to stuff stockings in a five pack for $22.99

5. Stashbandz

stashbandzLast years bomb was the Purse-in-Boots that didn’t deliver (sorry I ever recommended them).  But this year I found a more universal solution.  To keep your smartphones at the ready, how about a garter or boot liner with a pocket instead.  Stashbandz Boot Cuff let’s you have a pocket in any boot. And for those times when you aren’t wearing boots, but rather a dress with no pockets, try the  Stashbandz Garter Purse.  I have been eyeing both for a while, and think it is time to go for both.  With the phone size increasing, most pockets don’t accommodate it anymore, even some purses don’t. Their unisex waist bands can be a great way to discretely carry phones for men, or even a medical device that needs to be worn.

6. Bellabeats Leaf

It is not so glamorous, but the reality is as women our reproductive health has a huge impact on our wellbeing. It should therefore be part of what we can track and understand.  Bellabeats has not only created a great wearable for women from puberty to menopause, but it is beautiful and something you would enjoy wearing even if it weren’t tracking.

7. Quell Wearable Pain Relief

Chronic pain a problem?  I saw this product before they launched and were still testing.  I have been waiting for it to finally come out, and here it is.  If you have chronic pain, this is an exciting innovative non-invasive approach to pain relief without drugs.

8. Muse: Brain sensing headband

I used these devices in my dissertation study on wearables and presence of mind.  People really loved the experience of learning to meditate in a simple way.  My kids even tried them before I distributed them. I noticed a marked change in their ability to focus and filter out distraction.  Perhaps it was a little competitive mindfulness in who get calm their brain and get more birds in the game.  Nevertheless, an interesting tool for those of us with busy brains.

9. Pwr+ Portable Laptop desk stand

portablelaptopdeskWhether moving ourselves from our seats to fight sitting disease or simply relieving tech-neck, changing the angle at which you work and look at your screen is important.  Many chronic pain issues are either caused by or exacerbated by looking at laptops at the wrong angle.  This one even works in bed if you are having a flair up and need to work from there (or want to watch a movie).

10. Gratitude Journal ~ the original! App

gratitutejournal

I looked at paper journals, and there are several really nice ones.  You can choose those with prompts, inspiring quotes or blank.  Reality struck me that if I was to accomplish a practice of journaling my gratitude it had to be through an app.  If I have learned anything in this last year it is to find my happiness and health in gratitude.  So whatever medium works for you, use it.

Note: If your Geek Girl can wait, my personal favorite is the AppleWatch 2.  Unfortunately, they seem to be hard to come by in time for the holidays.

Have a wonderful holiday season. I hope you find many moments to be present with your loved ones and yourself.  Be kind and practice gratitude and giving, even if all you have to share a smile and laughter.   Enjoy!

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Transition to BE-ing@Work in Practice

apple heartAs a result of my research, I have immense respect for the wearable technologies potential to enhance both physical and cognitive function as well as the current limitations.  Completing a PhD takes a toll on the body and mind. I consider myself lucky, as I have many of the tools available to me to monitor this impact and the recovery.

I was profoundly struck by the irony of what now feels like a near miss, just days prior to graduation. Had it not been for the passive capture of my heart rate on my AppleWatch, I would not have been able to share the data with my doctor electronically when things went sour. He was able to both diagnose and prescribe remotely without delay. The issue resolved, but I am now more aware of the benefit of tracking vital signs passively for prevention. I became my own research subject, yet again.

I have shifted my attention back to the wearables, apps and other innovative tech based interventions that complement our wellbeing goals. The book BE-ing@Work is still in the works. As I collect more stories, best practice and insight from the field, I will be ready to share it. In the meantime, I am sharing my research at a few upcoming events. I will be speaking at Virgin Pulse, Thrive Summit 2016, In Boston next week. I am also booked to speak at the Employer Health and Benefits Congress, in September. I hope to see you there and hear your stories about technology and wellbeing in the workplace.

In the meantime, I am working on sharpening my knowledge in corporate wellbeing strategy by getting certified as a Corporate Wellbeing Specialist through Corporate Health & Wellness Association. There is a lot happening in this space from the HR benefits side that can apply my research and crosses over from social strategy and organization change.

Very soon the BE-ing@Work website will be launched. This will have more exciting details about the specifics of social tech and wellbeing in the workplace, new research projects and more. In the meantime, you will still find that here a lot of other things that I have worked on over the last few chapters.

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Sharing BE-ing @Work

Echoes -Winter2016Thank you to the White Mountain School for inviting me to share my work as part of their Winter Echoes Issue.  As an alumna, I can certainly say my time at WMS contributed to development of my strong sense of self and BE-ing.   This seemed like a fitting launch to sharing my work in the world.

I will be presenting BE-ing @Work: Enhancing Capacity For Presence In The Workplace at Thrive Summit in Boston in May.  More to come as I wrap up the book and make room for sharing live.

Note: For you hearty academics, my dissertation, BE-ing @Work: Wearables and Presence of Mind in the Workplace, is now available on ProQuest.  Thirst for more?  The book, BE-ing @Work, which extends the scope beyond wearables and is more accessible to a wider audience (less academic), will be available this Summer, if all goes well.

Stay posted, the BE-ing @Work website is also in the making.

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Balance is Not a Four Letter Word

LinkedIn-OutsideWorkTo my surprise and delight it seems the world is awakening to the value of balance.  Today’s #OutsideWork posts on LinkedIn shared by influencers resonate with well-being and balance’s impact on success.  I have been busy interviewing leaders for my upcoming book, BE-ing @Work.  The emphasis on well-being and balance is increasingly apparent in the stories they shared.  Far beyond the implication of physical health and productivity, lies the connection with self as well as with others to BE one’s best and thrive in that.  Balance seems to have overcome its outdated reputation for meaning flexible hours for working mothers. This shift has left me with a strong sense of hope in the future.  Practice and implementation may be a way off, but the conversation has evolved.  Let’s keep it evolving from preaching to implementation and practice.

Note: Slots still available for interviews on BE-ing @Work throughout February.  If  interested in sharing your story about interventions or actions you use to bring your best self to work and bring out the best in others, please contact me.  Highly productive individuals who suffer from chronic syndromes or illness.  (i.e. Depression, Lyme, MS, …) are of particular interest, but not required.

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Back to BE-ing @Work

BE-ing in ThoughtI keep coming back to be-ing. Our upbringing was seeped in the value system of Self Reliance for many generations.   I was raised with the resonating lines penned by my ancestor, Emerson. “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” “Our chief want in life, is someone who shall make us do what we can. This is the service of a friend. With him we are easily great.”

With this foundation, there is little wonder what led me to this juncture. It is a point in which I seek to understand the ways in which I/we can best accomplish be-ing at work. To be our best selves while bringing out the best in others in whatever we do requires a deep understanding of self. Technological advances have changed the conditions and tools in which we engage with others and our work. In order to build and maintain mutually beneficial and effective relationships today, presence of be-ing must evolve in concert with the advances of technology.  The advances both augment and challenge our ability to be true to that self. Starting with presence, we have greater potential for the ability to thrive and succeed.

The last several years, I have engrossed myself in a doctoral journey in Human and Organizational Systems that has both provided answers and triggered many more questions. I emerge having explored wearable technologies as potential intervention for hindrances to presence, an element of the ability to BE one’s best. The journey is far from over, despite acceptance as a scholar. I return to practice with a renewed curiosity and desire to explore both the barriers to presence and actions/tools used to enhance presence.

The dissertation is done, soon to be shared after the proofreaders have at it.  Now, with room to breath and energy to exhale, I look to what’s next.  I am collecting more stories to make the book version of my dissertation more accessible to a wider audience.  If you have stories to share please contact me directly at heidi (at) forbesoste.com.  More specifically, I am looking at what people identify as challenges to BE-ing their best selves and bringing out the best in others and how the overcome those challenges through actions and tools.

bridge-buildingA brief note to people who have worked with me over the last ten plus years in various iterations of 2BalanceU.  From building the tools to share wisdom, to teaching and speaking about the application of social tools in organizations, to building bridges between tech and people, to researching the behavioral science of presence and technology it all remarkably returns to 2BalanceU and 2BU. The path through social strategy and connecting people and ideas for their greatest potential remains one that I shall travel, albeit creating my own route.  Expect no change in name, but rather the approach to achieving the path to BE-ing one’s best and bringing out the best in others.

More to come very soon.

Bridge image credit to Kevin Kenny

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Balance ➜ Perspective ➜ Productivity and Wearable Technology

PorchingReturning to flow in writing can be a challenge after a pause away from finger to keyboard.  The unexpected result of a minuscule creature’s bite forced pause and reflection on my dissertation as I recovered from the symptoms of Lyme disease.  Whatever the cause, I welcomed the gift of reflection and perspective breaking my myopic trance of data and theoretical analysis.  Amidst the constant flow of Summer’s visitors, I was able to try out my thesis and analysis on a wide variety of audiences and settings.  This is an attempt at explaining my evolution of thought and practice, to return from the obtuse academic speak to the clarity of language understandable beyond the realm of scholars.

I explored various angles to express the connection with wearables as social technologies. Despite this connection being obvious to me, in my admittedly myopic state, was not so for others. Wearables allow for an intimate and multi-sensory connection to individuals. They provide both incoming (ie. sensors that track heart rate and motion) and outgoing signals (ie. updates, beeps or vibration alerts). This connection creates a greater understanding of how we engage with the systems in which we exist, as well as how to best manage the relationship for sustainability of both individual and the system. For example, stress triggers, sleep patterns and idleness are known physiological challenges that impact psychological behavior.  Wearables provide a access to data that potentially enable users to modify negative patterns of behavior.

The buzz of my research on wearable outcomes  lead curious visitors to me.  I listened and observed the reaction to my Apple Watch (the one device I wore) and the conversations it brought about.  With fascination, I observed my own behavior as to how I engaged with the device and what it meant to me.  I watched and listened as others shared anecdotes of their experiences in correlation with their wearables.  Between the design feedback, health changes and lifestyle impacts I was impressed with how many, how and who was being impacted by wearables. It was another moment of discovery of the data beyond the study data being far more interesting and worthy of exploration. That said, these conversations were not part of my study and hardly academic in nature. They took place on the porch over wine and sunsets. Nonetheless, I became excited again with the possibilities for where it all will lead.

The momentum of excitement over the potential for improved quality of life and health as social technologies mature is taking form.  It is in its infancy, yes, but nonetheless the wave can be felt.  It is only a matter of time, patience and inevitable innovation before the technology will be integrated into our systems seamlessly.  The acceptance of the benefits to global and individual health and wellbeing will eventually outweigh the fear of ingestables and embedded devices, their data and even the systems that utilize the data. Remember, it was not that long ago that we wondered why we would want a smart phone (user penetration nearly at 80% in US, up from 9.6% in 2011).

The physical devices themselves are not necessarily making the change.  The potential change results from the ability to improve wellness through greater accuracy and communication of data using intimate sensors, signals and apps.  Individual wellness improves the system’s ability to be productive.  The challenge of becoming one with the tech ecosystem is understanding the human factor of systems. Social technologies provide a window into how systems interact with one another, as well as a channel for that engagement.  Finding the optimal balance will benefit everyone.  We have a ways to go, but I am hopeful.

I happy to see that I am not alone in my thinking.  The latest issues of Harvard Business Review focus on Rethinking HR and Design Thinking. Outside Magazine’s interview with Jay Blahnik on the Apple Watch provided a rare view into Apple’s integrative approach to wearable and app development aimed at improved quality of life and productivity.  I look forward to fully emerging from writing the final pages of my dissertation to contribute to the discussion.  Until then, this is a brief exercise to get my fingers moving on the keyboard.  The exercise of allowing myself to fully “be” while recovering and enjoying the company of family and friends has provided me the perspective needed to produce the final pieces.

Allowing room for pause and perspective has not only provided clarity in the findings of my research.  It is an integral part of the process for the system to find balance that makes room for the seamless integration in the future.  In presence, being mindful of ourselves and device usage so the benefits outweigh the risks is key.  Placing the Watch in “do not disturb” or even to removing it completely, breathing the fresh air and enjoy the company of an old friend can be a blessed gift of perspective and productivity.  So now back to writing the final chapter of my dissertation and designing the role of CBO (Chief Being/Balance Officer).

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Surprise and Delight Indeed! I ❤️ Apple Watch

Admittedly, I ordered the Apple Watch because I am a geek girl at heart.  I justified my purchase of the 36mm (smaller) sports version because of my research on wearables and to test an application under development.  I pre-ordered it fairly early on the day it became available.  My purchase confirmation stated “June” as my delivery date.  Sigh, I will just have to wait, I thought.

Needless to say, as I am writing this now, I got it sooner.  In fact, this was the first surprise and delight.  I received a notification the day before the launch that my AppleWatch would be arriving with UPS the next day.  Nicely done, Apple, under promise and over deliver.

First Apple Watch TextI quickly set it up and began fiddling with it.  I sent a voice to text message to my husband in Sweden.  It was simple and actually got my voice.  To be fair, I’ve had a little practice as I often voice to text when on the go: dictating thoughts for my dissertation, or texting.  Speaking with punctuation doesn’t both me.

I wasn’t planning on writing a “review” per say of the Apple Watch.  In fact I normally shy away from doing this for any one product or brand.  But after reading some of the ridiculous reviews that I do not feel reflect my experience, I felt compelled at least to share mine.

This is my personal experience, so let me provide a little context. I wear many hats. I have 25+ years as a professional working with emerging social technologies.  I am currently doing my doctoral dissertation on wearables and presence of mind in the workplace.  I am 46 year old mother of a tween and teen (with very active schedules). I am married to a Swede who travels more than half the year. I have a pretty active lifestyle, in other words, I exercise but go through phases of inconsistency (who doesn’t?).  We moved from Sweden to the San Francisco Bay Area just over a year ago, from one hyper-connected region to another.  I needed to increase my year round vitamin D intake and activity to combat my season affective disorder (SAD). It worked!  Given my many hats, balancing the various roles and their overlaps is a constant in my life.

My research set my expectations on the variables in developing wearables like battery life, sensor strength, size and even materials.  I am impressed with the range from the phone.  So far, this has not been an issue for me, often using them on opposing side and floors of the house.  The aluminum frame is light and despite my activity level, seems tough enough for normal wear (no blender test here).  The band is the nicest I have experienced for something rubber based.  I actually don’t mind wearing it.  I have been testing countless wearables in the wellness and notification category in the last three years and several I even continued to wear daily.  This has given me a sense of their potential purpose as well as the expectations in the trade-offs.  For example, I knew not to expect the Watch to extract from the ambient energy my body creates to power it (not yet, anyway).  I would have to take it off and charge it.  As I have said before, wearables are in their infancy. Think back to the mobile phone in a briefcase to align with where we are now using the smartphone.  The factors of design innovation, user critical mass and infrastructure all had to move together to get us to where we are today with a computer in our pockets (or on our wrists).

Apple Watch "Get off your Bum"So for the heart.  I didn’t think I would be using the texting or answering the phone on my wrist.  That said, these are the functions that I use most.  In fact often at the same time (well replying to a text via the Apple Watch while talking on the iPhone).  I like that with a gentle tap followed by the raise of my wrist, I can respond with quick voice to text.  After a couple of days it came as second nature.  So much so, that I caught myself wondering why people were looking at me talking into my watch as I walked through the square.  Oops, I guess I just showed my inner geek girl on the outside.  I had received a similar look while wearing my first handsfree headset.  At least this time they didn’t look at me like I was crazy.

For productivity, I use it to filter and “feed” me just what I need. I no longer keep my phone on my desk, limiting the notifications of things that sneak through the filters.  With the Watch, I keep my workflow going, only responding to what I have identified as critical (even then sometimes with a tap to send “can’t talk right now”).  I add my thoughts through dictation to text directly into Evernote to integrate in my research notes from wherever I am.  I have now resumed my morning hikes, accompanied by an audio book (a different kind of “action research”) which I control from the watch. Audible needs an app to bookmark and comment.  Nothing like productivity and wellness combined.

The ApplePay function from the Watch took a couple times to figure out.  That said, the additional step feels more secure rather than a hindrance.  I paid from my groceries post-hike and even picked up an extra cable at the Apple Store, using it ApplePay from it.

The funny thing is, I thought I would mostly be using the Watch for the wellness functions. Particularly as Wellness is related to my research.  The reminder to stand (or as I refer to it, “get off your bum”) feature has been a lovely surprise.  I can normally sit and write when in flow for hours.  This is not healthy.  The gentle reminder to stand works great and so far enables me to keep right on working.  I just stand at my desk while I finish typing.  I like the fact that it does track and perhaps help with the aggregate capture of my health data.  But not being personally into quantified health (someone who loves to track their own data), this is less relevant for me.  That said, I do find it motivating to go for a hike when I see I haven’t moved enough.

I do still use my other fitness wearables when I want to track sleep patterns (the watch charges overnight on my bedside) and breath (Watch still doesn’t measure this).  To be sure there is room for improvement, but this is only the first version. With time, as we have seen with all devices worth developing further it will get slimmer (battery), stronger (processing) and more capable with time and the dedication of the teams working on it.

As an active multi-tasking Mamma, scholar and professional, Apple Watch has got my vote!  Nicely done Apple!

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Competitive Mindfulness

Mindful v MindfulnessCompetitive mindfulness may sound like a complete oxymoron. I have recently observed this during my dissertation research on Wearables and Presence in the Workplace.  I thought it might be worth sharing to see where the conversation goes.

The concept of competitive mindfulness was rather humorous to me at first.  Interaxon’s Muse, one of the devices in my study, is an EEG monitoring headband accompanied by a smartphone game that teaches the user to improve their focus. When the user is focused, they get birds. As their attention sways, the wind picks up.  My kids and their friends hijacked two of the units to see who could get more birds.  Initially they strategically disappeared into the other room to ensure minimal distraction for best results.  It did not take long before they could sit amongst the chaos of kids to accomplish their focus. In fact they seemed to be listening more, both to themselves and others. Not to me, of course. That would take more than two weeks, and the devices needed to be delivered for my study. Is competition so wrong, if that is what it takes to interest them in improving their focus?

Several weeks ago, I attended Wisdom 2.0.  It was an interesting mix of mindfulness from meditation and yoga to conscious business and self-awareness.  The participants ranged from practitioners to wellness providers, leadership development professionals, organization psychologists and coaches.  I tried to soak it all in and capture the pieces that are relevant to my dissertation (trying to focus myself to get it done, rather than get distracted by the many tangents I could have taken).

Morsels of conversations debating mindfulness as meditation, what meditation means and its purpose.  I was surprised, well not too, at condescending comments towards non-daily meditators.  “When you do it, you will understand mindfulness.”  Doesn’t sound like a very compassionate and non-judgmental thing to say. It is my own belief that method for achieving mindfulness comes from within each person.  One could be laying in the bath, hiking a ridge or sitting in lotus pose with their eyes closed.  I believe it is not the method, but the goal of listening to one’s self and experiencing the world, in the moment, without judgement.

There are other smartphone apps and wearables that have mindfulness components to them.  Some of them have sharing elements that one can choose to make competitive.  One app is based on Mindfulness expert Jack Kornfield and Adam Gazzaley  research in contemplative neuroscience.  Simply by their using the term “neurocrossfit” has an element of competition insinuated.  Deepak Chopra says, “”I think this is the best way to reach a lot of people,” of his app and use of Dreamweaver for meditation.

lagomDon’t get me wrong, I think competitive mindfulness is great, in moderation.  If a competitive component is what is needed to develop greater compassion, self-awareness, and less judgement, is that a problem.  Of course, full disclosure, I thrive on a little bit of competition.  Not too much, but just enough or ”lagom.”  If there is one thing I learned in my life in Sweden, it is the beauty of “lagom,” which I think applies well here.

I can just hear my kids now, “I fell asleep faster than you.” “Yeah, I got a higher compassion score than you.” (Or, is this just me dreaming?)  I look forward to seeing how they will respond to  Spire. Who can be more balanced between focus, fitness and calm.  If this is what they are competitive about, I am not too worried. If they master yoga poses and breathing with intent to nail a pose better than anyone else, this at least gets them on the mat.  The other pieces may follow.  In fact, I think there is a great deal of hope in competitive mindfulness.  Especially when to goal is to achieve personal best, competitive with oneself.

Is competitive mindfulness, the future?  For those who think meditation will make them better people but still judge others who don’t meditate, you have work to do.  Competition does not equal judgment.  Maybe a walk in the woods or a long bath would do you good.  I feel for you and am right there with you.  We all have work to do to strive for our personal best that mutually serves us and the greater system.  Only then, can we thrive together.  Lagom competition for a balance of empathy, compassion, humility and reality is a better goal for competitive mindfulness.  How many birds can you get, or compassionate deeds can you do in one day?

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