1 Big Idea to Think About

  • Practicing mindfulness and focusing your attention recalibrates how your brain operates, allowing you to pay attention to what matters most.

2 Ways You Can Apply This

  • Do a push-up with your mind 
    • Focus on your breath
    • Notice where your focus is
    • Redirect your focus as needed
  • Use an anchor strategy like the Stop Practice
    • Stop
    • Take a breath
    • Observe what you are doing
    • Proceed

3 Questions to Ask

  • Where is my focus?
  • Is my focus on what is most important now?
  • How will I begin to practice mindfulness routinely?

Key Moments from the Show 

  • How Dr. Jha became interested in attention and mindfulness (2:42)
  • How to make it easier to pay attention to what matters most (8:34)
  • The undisputed importance of mindfulness (9:50)
  • A push-up for your mind (13:10)
  • Gaining powerful presence through mindfulness (16:30)
  • The lasting impact of being completely present (23:45)
  • How to use focus, notice, and redirect when listening (29:57)
  • Using cues to notice when you aren’t paying attention (31:10)
  • Rapid-fire Essentialist questions (37:01)

Links You’ll Love From the Episode

PEAK MiND by Dr. Amishi Jha

Connect with Dr. Amishi Jha

Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn | Website

Greg McKeown [00:00:00] Come with me on an exploration of self-discovery on this podcast, we decipher what really matters as we unravel the chaos of day to day work to learn how to build an essential life. Welcome to the What’s Essential podcast! Welcome essentialist and your host, Greg McEwan. Stop for a moment. Every time I say that, I need to stop myself. Take a breath. Are you here right now? Is your focus on this podcast? Or is it roaming somewhere else to the past, to the future, to your worry? To your to do list, to your phone. So whether you are simply browsing, talking to friends or trying to stay focused in an important meeting, you can’t seem to manage to hang on to your attention, no matter how hard you try your somewhere else. The consequences of that is that you miss out on 50 percent of your life, including the most important moments. Essentialism at the cutting edge of execution means asking one question, what’s important now? The complication is that we often aren’t paying attention in this moment at all, and the implication of that is that we can completely miss what matters. Now the good news, according to a marvelous new book, is that there’s nothing wrong with you. Your brain isn’t broken. The human brain was built to be distractible and even better news, according to Dr. Ameche Jha. You can train your brain to pay attention more effectively, and the best news is that by the end of this episode, you’ll be able to do that in just 12 minutes a day. So I’ve invited Dr. Amit Shah to be on the podcast today to help us make good on that promise. Dr. Jha, welcome to the What’s Essential podcast. 


Amishi Jha [00:02:03] So great to be here. 


Greg McKeown [00:02:05] Your book Peak Mind is just marvelous. It’s been received superbly all over the world. You’re an adviser to world leaders, no less. It’s marvelous to have you. Can you just give us a sort of Reader’s Digest version of your life? So birth till this moment? Go. 


Amishi Jha [00:02:24] Oh my goodness. The fact that you said Reader’s Digest puts us at a certain age range say so. Sure. Are you serious? Yes. Oh yeah, happy to. So I let’s start this far back because I want to go. I grew up in suburbs of Chicago. I grew up thinking that I was going to go to school and become a medical doctor. Realized very early on that there’s no way I want to spend my life in a hospital. I would be terrible at it. And that actually, hospitals aren’t a place where I can think and feel comfortable and extend care. Like many of the other friends of mine can do. It wasn’t for 


Greg McKeown [00:03:10] you. Sorry. It wasn’t for you. 


Amishi Jha [00:03:13] It was not for me. But I really lucked out because one of the volunteer opportunities I had was in a brain injury unit, and it was a formative experience where I got to actually spend time with a sort of a long term recovery sort of aspect to the hospital seeing people that had brain injury. Exercise their brain to a point where they were recovering, improving and changing it in a way that made their lives more functional, satisfying better. Of course, they were starting from an injured brain. It was very different, but that inspired a lot of curiosity in my mind. I wanted to pursue neuroscience as a as a field of study. And that little spark of you mean people can train their own brain to be more functional. How do we do that? That question remained with me throughout my neuroscience studies and even throughout my personal life when I found myself to fast forward a little bit going through pursuing those studies and successfully landing essentially a dream job. Being a professor at an Ivy League institution, fabulous place, setting up my own lab, being married to the love of my life and and having a beautiful young baby. We’re an ironic thing happened to me, which is that at that point I developed expertize in the neuroscience of attention, and one of my draws to the field of attention is that attention ends up being a brain function as well. I’m sure we’ll talk about that recalibrates the way the rest of the brain operates. It really tips the scale in favor of whatever it is that you’re paying attention to. And so it was sort of that notion of not only can we change the brain, but if you’re going to change the brain, you probably want to work with a system that tends to recalibrate the way the brain functions. So that was definitely part of my professional life, what research studies we were doing in the lab, etc. But I ended upon this ironic moment where because of now, I look back on it, the stresses and strains of of new parenthood, of having a spouse that was in grad school, of buying a 100 year old fixer upper or starting a new job. I lost access to my own attention, I became really distracted to the point where I didn’t think I was functional and I was certainly not enjoying my life anymore. I was missing time with the most precious people in my life. Hmm. And I was just like, this ridiculous. I study attention. Can’t just figure it out. Go read the literature. Solve this problem and I came up empty. You know the things I normally did, which is sort of dig my heels into the expertize and study my way through this problem space. There was nothing there. And so the search became a more perplexing and through that process of essentially searching and trying to open up. I came upon one particular way of training the mind that that I wanted to bring to modern neuroscience research. But was actually quite an ancient approach, which was mindfulness, meditation, training, and the kind of further irony is that I’m an Indian woman. I mean, I’d heard about meditation since I was, you know, probably not even walking and talking was part of the landscape of my family life, and I had rejected it for a variety of reasons. So now I found myself in a position where not only was I curious and started practicing, but I was trying to overcome my own skepticism regarding the whole thing ends up. We tried many different things in the lab, and mindfulness training ended up being one of the most successful ways to train attention. So I didn’t have to lean on my own word for it. Even though I did personally benefit. We could bring it to test through objective metrics, and this sort of landed me in a position where I knew I was not alone. I could not have been the only person who spent their life trying to get the peak or pinnacle of success, achieved it and found out I can’t. I can’t live this life. I’m missing it, which made me very curious to start working with populations where attention was consequential. People like military service members, leaders, business and medical professionals, elite athletes, there’s no room for lapsing. And frankly, that’s all of us. We need to be there for the moments that, like you said, earlier matter. And often we don’t know how. So that has been sort of the point of passion of my more recent life to bring you closer to the present moment. And that’s what I’ve been pursuing in our end of the work in my lab and continuing my own practice journey in my private life. 


Greg McKeown [00:07:59] Thank you so much for that context. So helpful. So impressive what you’ve really been able to go and do. I mean, we’re talking about a Ph.D. at the University of California Davis Postdoctoral Training, the Brain Imaging and Analysis Center at Duke University. And you know, and we could go on. I mean, it’s impressive work. You’ve done impressive work with impressive people. You also now have this, let’s say, well, you could have the problem of the curse of knowledge. You’ve got all of these examples and ideas. You’ve done the research for the book everything. So my next question is a tough one, which is if you, you know, if people listening to this could only do one thing to make it immediately easier to pay attention to what matters most, what would that be 


Amishi Jha [00:08:49] such an essentialist question? I’m going to give an answer that will sound easy, but people will learn will be a journey to implement a love loved one thing. The one thing that I would recommend people doing to get better access to their own attention, to own their attention in some ways is to pay attention to it. So pay attention to your attention. Make it the focus of what you are monitoring in your life and things will start shifting. Hmm. I hope that makes. I mean, that makes sense. 


Greg McKeown [00:09:28] You know, you’re saying it’s a meta answer, but you’re saying, look, the thing to do is to start becoming aware of what you are giving your awareness to correct, stand aside and look at yourself and say, OK, where is your mind being pulled to and what state is it in? And how distracted is it? And where is it being focused? So, I mean, is it as simple? I give me that in terms of like a very specific. Mental trick or tool that I could use going forward, you know, repeatedly what, what, what is that little trick look like? 


Amishi Jha [00:10:06] Well, I would say here’s the thing about the brain. A simple trick probably won’t work because it could be one and done. And what we need to do is really shift our notion of how the brain functions to more like the rest of the body. I mean, if I if I ask you now, you know. Greg, is it the case that you need to be exercising it in a regular, systematic daily fashion for you to benefit for your physical health? Right? Of course, yes. We could never say, what’s the one thing I can do for physical exercise that’s going to change my body forever? We’d never say that because we now understand that’s not the way bodies function. So I just want to kind of put that back to say, I wish there was one thing I could give you that one’s one and done would be sufficient. But what I would suggest instead, is to take this approach of a journey that begins with a simple practice that you do repeatedly in the same way you might do go from a couch to 5K and then decide you’re going to train for a 10k and then, you know, whatever half marathon a marathon. But the journey begins by taking those first steps, for sure. 


Greg McKeown [00:11:15] And that really is the spirit of the question I’m asking. So. So what is what would you say? You know, the book outlines a series of practices, but what is what is one practice that you would say, what’s that first couch to? What’s the first one you’d recommend? 


Amishi Jha [00:11:31] Right? Great. Great question. And it ends up that the reason that mindfulness and joining my labs kind of repertoire of tools word offer is because it itself so tightly connects with what we know about the brain science of attention. So the practice, I’m going to first describe what, what, what it looks like, and then let’s talk about why it could be beneficial because understanding that it’s doing something kind of profound in terms of exercising multiple systems of brain systems of attention makes the workout even all that more interesting and compelling. But in the spirit of this, pay attention to your attention as the kind of nugget of advice that I would give him saying it to ourselves a few times a day. It seems like it could work, but we are so prone to not paying attention to what’s going on. In fact, as you mentioned 50 percent of our waking moments, the tendency of the mind will be to wander away from what’s going on right now. And as not just when the thing going on right now is boring. I mean, neurosurgeons talk about wandering away during brain surgery. Nobody would say brain surgery is not consequential or worrying. So it’s such a prominent default of the way the brain functions as simply providing the instruction alone won’t work. Hmm. So we do want to think about training the brain through this practice. I’ll talk about a moment so that the default starts shifting so that we don’t need to actively, you know, only look at the Post-it note that we might say that, hey, pay attention to your attention. It arises in our mind to do that, to have what we call meta awareness. And so the instruction and I call it the find your flashlight practice in the book, which is actually find your focus. And I do that because it’s asking that same of people, where the heck are you? And how do we cultivate it? So the way somebody would who wants to do this? And like you said, we want to build up to something like 12 minutes a day. But the way you can start is very simple and very straightforward to understand, sometimes hard to do. So just find a comfortable spot that tends to be supportive of doing something that is going to be requiring quiet and attention doesn’t always have to be in a quiet spot, but we can begin there to kind of advantage ourselves. And we begin by paying attention to something. There’s always with us that we don’t have to actively put effort into doing most of the time and is very portable. We can take it with us wherever we go, and nobody needs to know about it. It’s low tech, which is a breath, right? The breath is such an easy anchor to have, and so the instruction is to begin by in this quiet place taking sort of this kind of dignified and alert posture because you’re now going to engage in an activity that is promoting your attention in the same way as you went to the gym, you’d wear the appropriate clothing, you’d set the stage to damage yourself. And then the first step is essentially notice your body breathing. You’re not. You’re not even attempting to breathe. You are being breathed. Thankfully, through our basic neurobiology, that just allows us to do this without a lot of effort. If we had to pay attention to in order to breathe, we’d probably all be dead because we’ll get distracted. That’s funny. So we notice our body breathing. And then the first formal step is. Select something that’s vivid tied to your sensory experience of breathing. Vivid breath related sensation could be the coolness of air moving in and out of your nostrils or whatever it is for you and your body. The pick something in particular. And then take your attention and I call it sort of the flashlight of your attention and directed toward that breath related sensation. So essentially, the first formal step is focus focus on those breath related sensations. That’s your anchor for the rest of the time we do this, whether it’s 30 seconds or 12 minutes or more. Focus on breath related sensations. Step two. Notice, as you’re doing this, you know, the goal is focus on breath related sensations. Step two Notice. Where are you right now? Is your flashlight actually on the breath? Did your focus drift away? So second step notice and you’re going to do this in an ongoing fashion too, as you’re sitting quietly anchoring on the breath, noticing, Oh, there I go thinking about something else. All you do in the next that moment when you notice your mind is wandered away from breath, related sensations redirected back. So it’s essentially a three step process focus notice and redirect. And in some sense, a lot of the work we do with military colleagues. They’ll say, Oh, you gave me a pushup, you gave me a push up for the mind. In the same way, it’s so foundational for my physical health to do a push up in the body. 


Greg McKeown [00:16:30] I have a friend who is an executive, a very impressive individual, and he found himself highly successful on paper and in reality, family, everything friends too. But he found himself more and more anxious and it reminds me of what you said before. It’s the spirit of success was supposed to feel better than this. Yeah. And so he started down his own journey into mindfulness and meditation, and he read, you know, read pretty broadly, let’s say. But his practice began this way. Every time he would sit down at his desk, that was his trigger. For taking three simple but deep breaths in and out and to pay attention to it. That was how the practice began. And that was the habit that became the ritual. And now, you know, if he’s going to if he’s meeting someone for lunch and they’re late or something instead of being on his phone or doing something, he’ll just sit there and perhaps meditate. Now, as long as maybe half an hour. And what that looks like. In development for him is that he has power in his presence like this. Of course, for him, he’s he has changed his experience. He finds more satisfaction in the experience of his life because he is experiencing it. Yeah, but for me, sitting down with him, he’s all there and there’s power there and there’s something. It is intangible, but it is discernable that he has it. Your thoughts? 


Amishi Jha [00:18:13] Absolutely. And I love that sort of anchoring on, you know, the number three is the number of breaths to take, and that’s a wonderful thing to do. Sometimes we’ll call it a moment to arrive where if you’re doing any kind of transition activity might ever. And the board of this wonderful foundation called the search inside yourself institute. And you know, it was born at Google, and they would do this at the beginning of meetings, which I love. So whatever it is that you want to do, we sometimes call it the stop practice where you stop what you’re doing. Take a breath you observe and you proceed because anchoring activities are wonderful. What you describe as the phenomenology of the result in your experience interacting with him and in his presence is what we’re going for. We’re not doing it to become Olympic level breaths follower. Nobody cares, right? We’re using the breath in this way because we want to be able to cultivate the core qualities of attention that engaging in these exercises really promote. And so maybe this is where I can kind of break it down by what I mean by that because it ends up that the three step process that I described focus notice redirect taps into three distinct brain systems. And actually, the fourth would be a brain system involved in my wandering, going away from the task at hand. Mm-Hmm. So even that word of flashlight that I described as describing this brain system sometimes called the orienting system, where it’s about sort of directing our resources of mind willfully and shining a flashlight just like you were in a darkened room where the director was focusing resources get crisper, clearer information or, as I describe the noticing, as a second step. Formally, call the alerting system, we’re alert, we’re broad, we’re vigilant to what is occurring in this moment, situationally aware, if you will, but the situation in this case is not just the external environment, but the situation in our mind as well. So the alerting system also is very, very important. Brain system, very different than the flashlight. It’s not about narrowing and pointing, but being observational and receptive. And then this third bit about redirecting is tapping into something called executive control, where the brain’s system of attention is to ensure that goals are being held and actions are aligned with those goals. So Focus Notice Redirect are tied to orienting, alerting and executive control as this normal brain systems. Now, when we take those collectively as attention, the thing that is really important to realize and it goes back to the question the comment you made regarding your friend. What does attention actually fuel? What do you use those brain systems and subsystems for you? Use them for literally every major thing you do as a human being, from thinking following a train of thought, for example, you need that flashlight to even hyperlink from one concept to the next or feeling we need to actually be aware of the internal milieu in terms of our our emotions and be able to regulate the emotions so that they’re appropriate, right? I mean, to be able to ensure that we’re either not overreacting or not holding in more than we should. So thinking, feeling and then I would say connecting, which really ties into what you’re saying regarding your friend. This is where we take our attentional flashlight or floodlight as I call the alerting system or executive control. And we now devote this resource in our engagement with other people so that they become the object of our focus or they are part of the external environment that we are receptive to so that our goals are regarding the shared experience of understanding each other, leading or communicating. So when people engage in that practice of of a mindfulness and breath practice, for example, what you gain is more attentional fuel because you’re exercising all three of those systems of attention. You’re sort of dampening down this other brain network that’s tied to mind wandering or off task thoughts that really allow for the wandering away that’s dial down. So more attention, less distractibility from the internal environment and then the power to devoted toward those that you interact, interact with and was palpable. When you feel an attentive leader, when you’re in the presence of an attentive leader, you feel it when you yourself feel fully fueled up in terms of your attention, that sense of agency and success, fulfillment and ease are what arise in us. 


Greg McKeown [00:22:43] And now let’s just take a moment for an outbreak. And now back to our conversation, there’s an amazing story I came across when I was doing research for my most recent book, Effortless. And it’s about a young man, maybe 16 years old, who goes to the doctors. He has some sort of rash on his back. He’s embarrassed about it yourself. You know, he’s self-conscious. He goes to the doctor. The doctor is completely present. Not in some strange way and certainly counter-cultural in the medical field, not over there on a computer when he’s barking, questions present the whole conversation. The engagement is 10 15 minutes. Not more. It turns out to be nothing very serious, and he solves the immediate problem easily. However, the young man went away with a sort of residue of the encounter. It stayed with him then that that that doctor was like, he saw me. He was there, he was present and there was power in it. And as it turns out, it stayed with him all the way through his own decision to become a doctor all the way through medical school. And now as a doctor, he tries to give that gift to the patients that he’s now trying to work with. Is it possible that a few minutes of total? Connection of total presence is so powerful it could change your life. I mean, I’m not saying every interaction can or does, but there’s something disproportionately impactful, at least in my estimation, for that kind of presence that you’re describing your thoughts? 


Amishi Jha [00:24:37] Absolutely. I think that when we are fully fueled up with our attention and we devote that resource that precious, it’s the most precious resource and some sense that we have to give. And when we devoted or directed toward another individual, it has extremely consequential ripples. It could be in that moment or beyond. This sounds like an exceptional case, but even in that moment, if the physician was not attending, you know, we often talk about an attending physician physician was actually paying attention. Right? If that had not happened and thankfully this person was not having a serious issue, but things get missed. Medical errors occur. You’re left feeling disregarded. Your most precious thing, your body, your mind, your being is disregarded. And it can be absolutely consequential. It brings to mind another example from from actually, that I describe in pig mind where a leader, a military leaders ability to do exactly what you just said in a very different setting had very positive and consequential ripples. Yes, I 


Greg McKeown [00:25:44] love this one. Go ahead. 


Amishi Jha [00:25:45] Yeah, this was a. Now somebody who’s become a dear friend and of course, continued colleague, the three star general I. Gen. Walter Piatt, who learned about mindfulness through a research study that my lab did several years prior and then conveyed this story to me after he returned back from his most recent deployment to Iraq. And this was after, you know, Iraq essentially had, you know, was put in quotes, defeated ISIS. What was happening is that a lot of the different factions that had banded together with a common enemy. Now we’re experiencing a lot of infighting and fraying and growing tensions. And, of course, a lot of animosity toward the U.S. and in that context. General Pyatt was there, too, as the as the head of the the international land force there to have a conversation with three leaders from three different cultural groups, three different religions. And they were very, very upset. And so the the interaction became an extremely conflictual. They were unhappy with each other, but they were definitely unhappy with the U.S., and he decided that he was going to apply all that he knew about his own from his own mindfulness practice to this moment. He was going to fully arrive and the way he was going to arrive and benefit his ability to understand what’s going on. Was that fully paying attention in this case, solely listening and not just hearing, but really listening? And so he sat there in this attentive mode. In the same way, it sounds like the physician in the story you described listening with precise clarity of what was coming in from each of the groups, seeing them acknowledging them without saying much at all. When it was his turn to speak, he was able to fully integrate and say that what he had heard to the point at which each of those leaders said, You really heard us, we feel seen. And it ended with, We can work with you, we can continue to work with you. And it was very touching because what he what he told me was that in that where a group was a Muslim cleric who had a prayer beads around his wrist, and at the end of that interaction, he took off those beads and handed them to General Piatt with the confidence to say, with this type of person that you are an orientation toward us, we will be able to work together. That could potentially be the seeds of peace. And certainly the right kind of communication that needs to happen to support peace. So I absolutely loved the medical example you gave, and this is a very different kind of context that shows again the power of paying attention. 


Greg McKeown [00:28:29] Well, the life, you know, life and death type stakes that if you are missing 50 percent of the information and of course, I’m quoting that directly from from from your book, it’s not my idea. Then then you’re going to miss lots of things that matter. And and there’s, you know, you have a marvelous chapter specifically about applying these ideas to interactions and relationships. I don’t know that you would frame it this way, but do you do you feel like there’s a push up? Equivalent for listening, you know, is there is there a way to, you know, a specific way to apply the same up technique for when you are actually in interacting with other people? If so, what 


Amishi Jha [00:29:26] are your thoughts? I mean, in some sense, it’s a pretty straightforward translation, because if the three steps are focus, notice and redirect, now the target is not your breath related sensations, but the other person. And so the focusing is on what you’re hearing, comprehending and noticing when you’re when you when the internal chatter is competing with what’s being heard or you’re forming stories or interpretations that are not getting the raw data of what’s being heard. So the noticing again, is not simply that you’re noticing the words, but noticing where your own mind is coming up against those words where it’s not serving you. And then the redirecting is when that happens. Get back to actually listening in this very much non evaluative, non-judgmental and present sent her way to the other person. 


Greg McKeown [00:30:15] What’s the trigger back to focusing? If you’re if you’re in the middle of a conversation, is it simply noticing, Oh, I am, I’m thinking about the things. It’s like, How do you how do you turn to your earlier point? How do you? Remember to pay attention when the whole problem is you’re not paying attention either know, like, is it just through? Is it just through the push up or is it is there some of the mechanism that would help, you know, help us come back to the person we’re talking to come back to this moment? 


Amishi Jha [00:30:48] When you formally do these practices with regularity and it doesn’t have to be that long, every day you start being able to kind of instill this mindset in terms of everything you do, whether it’s reading an email or driving to work or walking down the street, all of a sudden it’s like, Where am I right now? What am I doing right now? Sometimes it’s I don’t have anything to focus on. I’m going to let my mind go wherever it wants. Other times it’s Oh my goodness, I got through a 20 minute drive and I have no idea what occurred. So the insight becomes more of a acknowledgment of when you’re not present, when you are missing things, and that sort of motivates wanting to do with more regularity. Right now, I would say the default that we live by is we show up when we when we know we have missed something. So I think it was the last time we read a book. You know, you get to the bottom of page of no idea and you’re like, Oh, I was not paying attention. What could you? Is that getting to the bottom of the page? An external force? Could you to say no go back or in the middle of a conversation? So we’re saying, hello, are you listening to me? It’s a pretty salient example of why I am not acting in a way that is receptive to what’s being heard in some sense. That means we’ve pushed it too far. We’ve already checked out so much that it takes that salient feedback for us to get back on track. But the more we practice, the more attuned we get to our moment to moment experience. It might start with something like Mannum ruminating a lot on that conversation I just had. Noticing what is arising spontaneously, just noticing more and more what’s arising and then being able to say to yourself, I have a choice I can make. I can become blind to it again and go back to ruminating. Or maybe there’s something else I can do. So that’s kind of one answer is that there will be more presence. The other thing that you can do and you mentioned, you know, in the book, I have multiple practices. So this focusing noticing redirect is one aspect of it. But there are other insights we can gain to help us return back with more regularity and without a lot of external prompting. Just remembering the phrase that is, thoughts are not facts. Hmm. So that’s sort of like all of a sudden, you know, you have some kind of view on something and you’re like, or you’ve come up with some kind of catastrophic outcome. And maybe just a little bit of a reminder that says I made that whole thing up. I don’t really know what’s going to happen in the next moment. And being able to then distance yourself from what’s going on is another another way in which we can practice paying attention differently. So my answer is not going to be a quick fix. It’s going to be train yourself and check it out, check to see what happens in your own life. It’s not what you think because you end up showing up in a way that feels much more alive. I mean, I would say I felt more embodied after practicing mindfulness. I didn’t know I wasn’t embodied before, so it’s a different kind of quality that you can cultivate. And as you mentioned, when people practices, it’s palpable when we experience time with them. 


Greg McKeown [00:33:56] Yes, I’m curious about that early warning. It’s like, it’s like, what’s the how to cultivate the early warning before, like the early warning signal before the person says, Are you listening to me before the person leaves? OK, forget it. You know, I can tell you’re not here before we’ve read two pages in the book and we haven’t been there. But you know, it’s it’s how soon. I suppose that’s a pretty good check on the current level of our attention muscle. The the current level that we are on in our pursuit to have a peak mind is how quickly we’re going to be aware. That we’re not being aware. 


Amishi Jha [00:34:44] You absolutely know it’s funny, I was telling you that I I taught my class today, an undergraduate course. They’ve been practicing mindfulness practices for just a couple of weeks now, and one of the students said something that I thought was so interesting and we had a good discussion about it. She said Since I started practicing mindfulness, I’m noticing I might add my wondering more now. Is that a contradiction of mindfulness practice that I’m I’m wondering more. There’s a lot more mind-wandering happening. And then, you know, without me even having to say much, another student said, Could it be that you’re noticing it more often? And I was like. That’s right, right, so as we become more finely tuned up, our own tendency to check out, we check into and then all of a sudden we can do something about it. 


Greg McKeown [00:35:31] Yeah, there is sort of two kinds of people people who are mind wandering all the time. And then there are the people who know they are mind wandering all the time. 


Amishi Jha [00:35:40] And actually, those are categorically different people. That’s just saying 


Greg McKeown [00:35:43] it’s just so because because if you as soon as you become more aware of it in that moment, I mean, it’s a very zen kind of idea in the very moment being aware of it. You are not you’re not mind wandering anymore. You’re aware of it. You’re in that present moment. And it’s it can be as quick as that, I think is part of what you’re saying. I, you know, go ahead. Is there more? 


Amishi Jha [00:36:04] No, I haven’t. Yeah. 


Greg McKeown [00:36:07] I would like to put to you because it’s it was a central podcast, a rapid fire round of questions that have no business being rapid fire questions because they were quite intense. 


Amishi Jha [00:36:18] Oh great. Are you game? I’m game 


Greg McKeown [00:36:21] a game. You’ve been through a lot of things, and this is the first question what’s most essential to you? In one word, go first thought. 


Amishi Jha [00:36:35] Family. 


Greg McKeown [00:36:37] Why is that so important to you in one sentence? 


Amishi Jha [00:36:45] The meaning of my life, it’s. What makes me feel fulfilled? The connections, I have this beautiful answer. 


Greg McKeown [00:36:53] What have you said yes to? So far in your life that you most regret. You’re not allowed to say that you don’t have regrets. Yeah. 


Amishi Jha [00:37:10] Disregarding myself. 


Greg McKeown [00:37:12] What does what does that mean for you? What’s the practical? 


Amishi Jha [00:37:15] Yeah. Not paying attention to when? It’s tied everything we’re talking about, not paying attention to my body when my body or my mind was saying, we’re not, there’s not going to go well. So and then just pushing past that and resulting in physical pain or psychological angst, disregarding myself or, by the way, 


Greg McKeown [00:37:38] ignoring ignoring the the beings. Yeah, yeah. Let’s not do this. This is not the right way. Let’s not go there. That’s not Typekit 


Amishi Jha [00:37:50] and I’m on a ballistic path to what I’m doing. This is disregarding. 


Greg McKeown [00:37:53] Stop it. I’m I’m going forward. I love that. We can all relate to that. What have you said? No, to specifically a concrete example that you’re most pleased about. 


Amishi Jha [00:38:06] Believing other people’s versions of what it takes to be successful. 


Greg McKeown [00:38:10] Good answer. What does that mean? You mean? Do you mean because you’ve I remember reading stories into this, but that you’ve said, No, I am going to have a family, be successful in my family and have a profession. Is that what you mean or what? 


Amishi Jha [00:38:24] What is it really for specifically? Don’t waste your time studying mindfulness. It’s a career suicide. Nobody’s ever going to be interested in this topic. It’s never going to be something people take seriously. 


Greg McKeown [00:38:36] How that’s very interesting. So you literally were given advice of like, don’t even go there, don’t even go there. But you did. So that’s interesting. You knew there was something there that you should follow. What is something essential for you that used to be really hard, but you’ve made relatively effortless? 


Amishi Jha [00:39:06] Something essential. That used to be hard trusting my own judgment. Hmm. 


Greg McKeown [00:39:15] I like it. What’s something non-essential that is unimportant to you that you’re over investing in right now? 


Amishi Jha [00:39:24] Oh, how long of a list do I get to have? 


Greg McKeown [00:39:28] I’m. 


Amishi Jha [00:39:29] I would say. Overcoming a lot of programing that says. That women have to take care of other people when really it’s not my job to take care of people in that way that are my family members. Hmm. You like this committee? Need somebody? You got to do it. It’s your responsibility. It’s like tapping into the programing that I know is not serving me in this moment. 


Greg McKeown [00:39:56] I love it. What’s something essential to you, very important to you that you’re under investing in right now in your life? 


Amishi Jha [00:40:03] Oh, same thing as earlier my physical wellness. 


Greg McKeown [00:40:08] It’s the first thing to go. That’s my experience is my experience in my own life. It’s my experience in having, you know, talked to maybe ask that question a few times to people. What is something you could do in 10 minutes or less like literally post this conversation in 10 minutes to make it easier to make progress on whatever area of physical health your you know your wanting to work on. What can you do in 10 minutes a little microburst? 


Amishi Jha [00:40:38] It could even be as simple as like. Call up the trainer that I’ve been wanting to hire to help me work out. I mean, it’s yeah, that’s it. Yeah. 


Greg McKeown [00:40:47] I 10 minutes, 10 minute microburst. Actually, that’s good news. 


Amishi Jha [00:40:51] 10 more 10. Nine more minutes after I make the call. 


Greg McKeown [00:40:54] Yeah, that’s what it is. Nine more minutes left, and that’s a perfectly good thing. Ten minutes is the max right. It’s just it’s just just just to start. Sometimes the start is the thing we over. Complicate it with the Oh, I got to do all of this and it’s like, No, everything is actually just like the breath. Is that, you know, only happens in the now? You know, I came across some terrific research that said that that the now lasts about two and a half seconds. Mm hmm. And of course, it can be measured in various ways, but that idea that all you ever have is that that little moment. So that means all action must also inevitably be that simple to, you know, there’s a single action. It’s actually pick up your phone the next action to look for that person’s number. Press the button, you know, like to break them down into such tiny pieces I think can be helpful in breaking these things apart. Well, thank you for being game for that, for that essential around the essential round. And thank you ever so much for coming onto the show and helping us to be able to begin our journeys or renew our journeys towards creating peak mind so that we can focus on what’s important now. Thank you for being on the show. 


Amishi Jha [00:42:14] Thank you so much. This is a lot of fun. 


Greg McKeown [00:42:16] We’ve come to that time again. It is the end of the show. And if you found value in this episode, please rate a review on Apple Podcasts. The first five people to write a review of this episode will receive a copy of Peak Mind, so you just send a photo of your review to info at Greg McCue Incom. That is info at Greg, AMC, KUOW and com. And remember, you give it. Give us the last word here. What’s one key line you want everyone to remember 


Amishi Jha [00:42:51] and pay attention like your life depends on it, because it does. 


Greg McKeown [00:42:55] That’s exactly the one I wanted you to say. So everybody take a deep breath. Get back to your breath. Do the mental push up. Enjoy this week. Be present in it. And I’ll see you next week for another episode of the What’s Essential podcast.