Progressing Mindfully: Going the Extra Mile

I love to walk in the morning.  There is nothing more invigorating than a burst of fresh outdoor air to oxygenate the brain.  Add the surge in adrenaline and endorphins (and with luck, a nice sunrise), and I am ready to take on the day.  Usually, time permitting, I complete one or two miles.  It’s not exactly the kind of exercise that could help me to lose weight and gain muscle, or be considered cardio (I do an actual workout late afternoon).  It’s just enough steps to limber me up and help me start the day in a good way.  

Working from home these past few months has afforded me the time to rethink my morning walk.  Without the pressure of punching a clock I could extend it, making it a more significant calorie burn and mindful experience, as I do walk as a form of meditation as well.  I could now go the extra mile.  

In the beginning, it was a struggle.  Being so accustomed to two miles, at exactly that distance, I would subconsciously want to stop.  My brain, sensing the end, would brace my body for rest, an egg sandwich, and my second cup of coffee.  My feet would automatically switch direction and start bringing me toward home.  The extra mile took effort.  It required a trudge through mild discomfort.  In doing this, however, I noticed some subtle yet remarkable shifts: slow and steady weight loss, increased productivity and serenity, and most importantly, an extra jolt of self esteem. I did it!

What I surmised was that the awesome consequences and gratification of “going the extra mile” could be experienced in other areas of my life.  It could mean more than the literal act of moving my body through space an additional 5,280 feet.  

Going the extra mile is about progressing just beyond our natural inclination to stop.  Here are examples of ways I’ve sought to apply this principle to progress further on a path that is happy, healthy, and successful.  Try them:

  • Read an extra three pages before putting down your book.
  • Incorporate extra vegetables or a side salad into your lunch or dinner.
  • Address an extra email before shutting down your computer.
  • Meditate for an extra five minutes before going to sleep.
  • Hold the door an extra few seconds for the person entering or exiting behind you.
  • Burn extra calories by taking the stairs.
  • Remain silent while people are speaking for an extra moment (they can complete their thoughts and you can gather your own).
  • And fellow writers, compose  just two extra sentences before putting the pen down (they may turn into paragraphs or pages).

To facilitate the extra mile, utilize mindfulness practices.  When you are engaged in any worthwhile endeavor and feel yourself nearing the conclusion, pause for a moment.  Take a few deep breaths and check in with yourself physically.  Why are you stopping now?  Notice if there is any pain, fatigue, hunger, or thirst.  Then check in mentally and emotionally.  Is the task at hand causing feelings of stress, sadness, or anxiety?  Think for a moment of the potential benefits of continuing the extra mile.  Clearly, if you are overwhelmed take a break or stop altogether, but keep in mind that anything achieved through effort produces greater satisfaction, and esteemable acts (not always our automatic response or reaction) lead to self esteem.

When you move through life with mindful awareness, you can learn to sense that pivotal moment when negative feelings, boredom, or distraction might shift you to autopilot.  Instead of drifting off course or grinding to a halt altogether, you can tighten your grip on the steering wheel, put the pedal to the metal, and muscle forward for just one more mile.  Just one extra mile a day during the course of our lifetimes can ultimately carry us across countries and continents of progress and experience, resulting in a more fulfilling life journey.

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