Mindset is NOT Mindfulness

Banner Picture By: Wil Stewart


Podcast Script Below

By Dave Nelson, Founder at Milestone Mind

May 30, 2017

Ever since I could remember spirituality was synonymous with prayer. It was a thing you did, not necessarily a thing you experienced.

My parents did the best they could to raise us good Catholics: Church every Sunday, sacraments, and so on. It's all they knew; it's what they were 'TAUGHT.'

They came from a generation that was also 'TAUGHT' to not ask any questions, or challenge any notions. Just take what you're told and keep your mouth shut. Forge ahead despite your own needs. This goes without saying: how dangerous a social MINDSET.

A lot has happened since those early years of church every Sunday, all leading me to a crossroads as short as two years ago. The catalyst was more than just dissatisfaction in a career. It was health, both physically as well as not managing stress well - allowing it to grip my body into what felt like a tension plank lasting hours on end. 

My body was covered in psoriasis, my diet, although I thought was healthy, was anything but that.

I felt like I was a dying twig: from being a solid oak that I was previously during my athletic pursuits and early professional career to someone who had become a sell-out because he was being a good little Catholic boy, keeping his mouth shut, and not asking any questions or challenging any notions.

That was until I woke up one day and asked: What the hell is happening? Who am I becoming? How am I pursuing the best version of myself? Am I owning it, or am I being owned? Am I a contender or a pretender right now? Am I an inspiration to my kids, to myself and the world, or am I just some dude that settled, who blended in, despite having a lot to offer to the world? How am I finding ways to live an exciting life, one where I am fully alive, and one filled with love, friendships, exciting adventures, memories and future stories?  

And the questions went on like a steady stream of electrical impulses into my soul. Zap, Zap.

I've always been a fighter - it was a way of life that allowed me to endure, capture and move forward. But, these questions all but brought me to my knees - I found that much of my fight was avoiding answering these questions; challenging them and deriving my own answers. I was afraid of what the answers could've been. How come? I did not have a great answer for this question. This was encouraging.

Add on top of this we were expecting our second child and was just handing my new $25,000,000 quota we had to hit that year - up from just $3,000,000 three years prior. Nothing like being rewarded for your blazing growth. 

The stressors were compounding, but at the center of it all were these questions that I felt obligated to answer - but didn't know how to.  This became a much bigger stressor than any of these external activities. 

I prayed, I went for jogs, I opened up to my wife, but still, the change wasn't coming; questions weren't immediately being answered. In some cases, things got worse, such as my skin condition.  It struck me that I had to change if I wanted to see change.

Seems obvious, but this requires humility, which at the time was not a strength of mine; mostly by way of insecurity: a pandemic amongst men.

I started to challenge every notion that I had carried with me to that point - I had to: my diet, my faith, my mindset, my profession, my fitness routines, my daily and weekly practices, my tribe, my belief system, my goals, my priorities, my ambitions, my fears, my capabilities, my values, and the list goes on.

Challenge, challenge, challenge.

I was starting to turn something that was once a strength but had become a weakness over time, back into a strength again: my fighter's mentality, but with a major twist. It was the central thing that was transforming my whole perspective - from this mindset came all of the other transformations I was hoping to make in my life, leading me to feel and live FULLY ALIVE. 

This time though, it wasn't a fight with the world around me, trying to preserve my ego; rather, it was a bare-knuckled fight with the ego itself; with a fixed mindset; with pride.

It is in changing that we find purpose.
— Heraclitus

The ego is a powerful thing that is meant to drive us towards growth and self-actualization, however, if left unchecked, unchallenged and fixed, the self becomes its slave. 

This time, my fighter's mentality wasn't unabashed, rather, it was open, vulnerable, and humble. But, it was going to come out on top.

The key ingredient, however, isn't just answering these questions, but pursuing the action behind the answers that were being produced.

As we know within Milestone Mind, with every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction. 

In some situations, I over-corrected. 

Specifically around MINDFULNESS. 

There is so much out there today about Mindfulness that it sometimes feels like people are on these permanent acid trips around the whole notion. 

I was close to becoming one of them. As I was beginning to realize I was not finding the depth of spirituality desired through religion, church and the mindless recitation of the words in prayers, I turned to alternatives, meditation being one of these approaches, proving to be a very fruitful, deeply meaningful practice for me.

It was so powerful; I was beginning to feel IT was just the change I was seeking - at its core, it created a state of mind that brought about peacefulness and harmony in my life. 

Now, before I go on, I cannot say enough beautiful things about Mindfulness - making it a part of your daily practice will have a profound impact on your life and all its aspects. It is life-giving. It is where great clarity can and will be gained. It is that impactful.


Now for the catch, and a point I think is critical in calling out for all those seeking both mindfulness and mindset or just one over the other. 

They are NOT the same thing, yet are both EQUALLY as important for your life.

Let's clarify.

Mindfulness is intended to activate the Alpha brain waves in the mind. These waves create a sense grounding, relief, and calm for the person. In it's simplified form, mindfulness is the intense focus on just a single thing: breathing, music, chanting, you name it, and from this, Alpha waves activate.

Alpha waves exist when the Beta waves are off, and give the mind a much-needed break so that new ideas, notions, and information can set it.

It's like taking a rest between sets in the weight room. You can't just keep benching - that would ultimately lead to fatigue and failure. Rest and recovery are critical for growth in strength-enduring activities. 

Surprise, surprise, the mind works the same way. You can't just have it on at all times; it needs its rest in-between activities.

Conversely, Beta wave activity is present when we are in default mode. Default mode is where thoughts, ideas, notions, judgements, memories, stuck states, to-do lists, stressors and the like live. For our ancestors, the default mode served us to do basic tasks, and it was directed forwardly - it had to be, they lived day-to-day. Their default mode was not overrun as it is with people today, and that's because we are confronted with choice, upon choice, upon choice about all of the minute areas of our lives that the default mode ends up overflowing.

What can this cause? Mental fatigue. Add on top of that improper form (your mindset) going off of the weightlifting analogy, and not only are you fatiguing, but you're doing the exercise incorrectly - so you're giving max effort, with no rest, and with no progress with your strength. Ugh, talk about insanity.

Mindset is the exercise itself. It is creating deliberate action in your life - it is when your rest is over, that you attack the activity with deliberate focus, and form. 

I've been asked many times: is Milestone Mind like Headspace? I find myself using mindfulness to answer these questions (deep breathing so I don't overreact). Of course, this comment is an over-reaction.

But let it be known, we are not like Headspace at all. Both them and we are so vitally important to your lives. We are a Mindset practice; Headspace is a Mindfulness practice. We are the direct compliment of Headspace. Milestone Mind is what you do when you open your eyes, and LIVE LIFE FULLY ALIVE. Headspace creates that place where you can retreat to appropriately calm the mind, gain clarity of action, and heal and restore. Milestone Mind is then where you get after it upon completing your Headspace session.

But you can't have one without the other.

I tried, it doesn't work. 

You need both mindfulness and mindset, understanding that they are different, yet uniquely powerful for your life.

I think people can agree that Mindfulness and Mindset tend to be seen, in some ways, as opposing practices, with particular types of people gravitating to one over the other. 

This has completely distorted both the benefits of each and in a typical social mindset kind of way, detrimentally stigmatized each.

For example...

When you think of meditation, one might think of some hippie with their legs crossed, eyes closed, incense burning (among other things probably burning), saying namaste to one another - yet, outside of meditating, or talking about meditating, they don't do much else with their lives. In some ways, this is an accurate image. What's missing? Action in their lives. Life is not meant to be lived in some dream state at all times to reach ultimate self-expression and thus satisfaction. Deliberate action and growth are very necessary ingredients to reach this place.

Next, when you think of mindset, one might think of the hard-charging alpha male, preparing his mind for battle, the big presentation or ultra endurance race, and that this is a testosterone filled, positive mantra creating, the law of attraction state of mind. Again, in some ways, this is an accurate description of the notion of mindset as has been developed in the Western World, yet, what's missing? The practice of quietness to gain clarity in their actions, in their thoughts, and in desired outcomes. Life is not meant to be lived 'ON' at all times - you just cannot endure being 'ON' at all times. NOTHING CAN. Look at the balance of nature, in of our lives...with day there is night, with awake there is sleep. As much as people try to fight this notion, your body and MIND need sleep.

So, inappropriately, Mindset and Mindfulness have almost become opposing figures. INAPPROPRIATE being the key word. They are meant to be complimentary figures - in harmony with each other. 

One of my favorite books is Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. He was one of the last 5-Great Emperors of Rome and was a staunch practitioner of Stoicism. More importantly, he was a highly effective Military leader, yet created SPACE to reflect on his life, his days and his choices, to SHARPEN his mind for action. 

This is the point of mindfulness: to not get lost in it, but to visit it for strength, clarity, and rest, and to then return to ACTION. 

They compliment one another - both are needed for the other to thrive. This is definitively using what seems to be opposing forces if kept alone, to create a great whole: YOU.

Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look.
— Marcus Aurelius