By Dr. Janice Presser, CEO, The Gabriel Institute
We’re learning more and more about the mind all the time. Neurological functions. Brain chemistry. Thought processes. Feelings and states like being ‘in the zone,’ or ‘positively engaged,’ or even ‘transcendent.’
But it seems we are talking more about mind, and using it less.
We used to use the word ‘mind’ as an action verb or concrete noun. I present three examples for your analytic pleasure.
When I was a kid, “mind the baby” was a phrase often directed to older siblings by an otherwise-engaged parent. It was a call for attention and action – at minimum a few doting moments playing peekaboo or counting fingers. Today, the more likely strategy would be to put the baby in front of the television, or perhaps an attention-grabbing app running on a baby-proofed tablet. Stimulation, yes. Mind? Not really.
A few years later, when I had come to understand some of the ways that my actions affected other people, I got a lot of reminders to “mind your manners.” I’m not the product of a white-glove household. There were no silver spoons at our table and never more than one fork at a time either, so the rules found in etiquette books weren’t part of the manners that were supposed to be minded. To my mother, manners were simply morals in action. You were expected to come to any situation with your morals intact, to be aware of them, and then to apply them to the situation. Respect wasn’t just a song title.
And then there’s the expression I remember from a time when I had just had my feelings hurt in some teenage way by some teenage boy. I was commiserating with a friend when her mother, a southern belle of great wisdom, said “Don’t pay him no never mind.” To my New York City ears, that was about as confusing as a suggestion can get, but it stuck with me. I deconstructed the sentence and realized that, with three negatives in it, she was really telling me not to expend any more of my time, attention, or misplaced emotion on someone who didn’t deserve it. And she was right. There’s a cost to you when you pay with ‘mind.’ It’s like any other investment: start by estimating your ROI and act accordingly!
I know there’s a renewal of interest in ‘mindfulness’ or self-awareness, and that’s a good thing. I just hope that it takes the form of what Adam Grant (in his best-selling book, Give and Take) calls ‘otherish’ behavior. Without the blend of self and others, it’s a cold and lonely world.
Perhaps, to your mind, none this really applies to you, and I’ve misunderstood your personal situation. If so, I hope you’ll call it to my attention so I can act on it. Or, if you happen to have been a fan of Saturday Night Live in the 1970’s, just picture me as the late Gilda Radner’s delightfully dotty character, Emily Litella, who misheard, misinterpreted, and misspoke, until finally set straight.