I often find myself on platforms waiting for trains. I see the warnings to “Mind The Gap” between the train and the platform edge.
Apart from the immediate dangers of falling betwixt locomotive and platform, these words also remind me of the importance of creating gaps in my mind between stimulus and response.
We are inundated with stimuli all day, everyday, and they come in many forms. A stimulus can come from another person, our environment or from our incessant inner voice.
Creating a gap in the mind is simply to become aware of our emotional state and inner voice such that we can be better aware of our environment and then respond in a way that helps achieve our goals.
Sometimes, we find ourselves in need of a little help getting focused or responding to someone or something in an appropriate way. Situations in which I sometimes feel the need to Mind The Gap are when:
- someone has just said something that requires a considered response (not a knee-jerk, metaphorical punch on the nose)
- I need some creative insight or innovative ideas
- I’m feeling stressed or emotionally challenged
- responding to a critically important question or statement
- listening (truly listening) to someone
- I want to relax and my inner voice is chatting away
- I want to practice “being” and not “doing”.
When I feel the need to to Mind the Gap, I do so by consciously recognising the stream of thoughts running through my mind, the rhythm and position of my breath (centred or high in my chest), and the emotional state underpinning my current mood. With practice, this can be done very quickly. If you are with someone, to them, this should seem no more than the moment in which you are considering your response.
During this gap, I quieten my stream of consciousness, slow my breathing and create a more appropriate mood. I become more present. In this state of increased presence, I am able to find a state of mind that is more conducive to the situation.
Of course, it doesn’t always work. Sometimes the metaphorical punch on the nose is delivered or the stress levels remain obstinately high. That’s when I know it is time to take some time out.
For me, Mind The Gap serves as a very useful prompt to consider my levels of presence and thus improve my levels of performance.