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Tag: podernfamily

Responding, Not Reacting to Your Smartphone


Have you ever watched a tennis sequence in which a player serves and the receiver runs in reaction to the serve and then hits the ball back off balance? Throughout the exchange, the server stands firm and it seems like they’re dictating where and when the receiver moves. 

Do you ever feel like that with your smartphone? Are you the receiver and is your smartphone the server?

You’re woken up every day by an alarm on your phone, and from that moment on, you may feel like you’re frantically reacting to it. We’ve all been there and know the feeling.

You can see it in many if not all competitive sports: One side appears to be in control of the flow and is doing what it wants while the other side is just barely keeping up and trying to react. It’s prevalent in many human interactions as well. I see it frequently in negotiations, with one party taking the lead and making the first strong offer while the other party just reacts.

When you’re on the receiving end and feel a lack of control, it’s obviously not enjoyable. It can almost feel like you’re a puppet for the other party, and even if you’re ultimately deciding how you’re reacting to them, you’re still reacting in some way.

In terms of mindfulness, it’s certainly a situation in which you are not acting based on your own intention or self-direction.

Apply Some Mindfulness

There is hope, though. We don’t have to be this way — with our smartphone, in sports, or in negotiations. In all of these scenarios, there are strategies that have been developed for learning how not to react or how to break out of that cycle.

The first suggestion is a very general and personal one. If you feel like you’re often out of control, reacting to your smartphone, and your habits are mindless, apply some mindfulness. You may actually want to sit down and meditate or think about your life in general. Ask yourself if there are particular situations in which you regularly feel grounded, in control, able to set your intention and consistently act according to it, and not reactive to technology or people.

We are all complicated beings. Sometimes, we can be very grounded, self-directed, and have the initiative in one context (ex. at work) but not in another (ex. with our family). It’s very common for people to not be reactive with close family members.

Think carefully about your life and I bet that you will find at least one context in which you do have skill, wisdom, and the ability to not be reactive. This is not something you’re going to figure out in one sitting, but asking yourself, “What is it about me in that context that has enabled me to be non-reactive?” would be beneficial.

Transfer Your Skills

The goal is to learn about yourself in one context and then try to see the parallels in another. In this case, can you try to apply those same kinds of habits or skills in connection with your use of technology?

I’ll leave you with two final tips:

1. You may find it easier to transfer over skills to the smartphone context from one in which you had to consciously practice and learn how to be grounded, focused, and not reactive.  If you are naturally a good negotiator but find it hard to negotiate with your family, it may be harder for you to transfer that natural talent because you may not be conscious of how or why you are effective. It might take more effort to understand the how and why.

2. Start practicing whatever you think may be useful from the one context in which you’ve been successful, happy, and self-directed. Then you can develop some ideas for how you can apply that practice to your smartphone use. See if it works. Don’t expect it to work immediately or give up too quickly. Practice every day or throughout the day.

By following these pointers, you can identify and leverage the skills needed to wrestle control back from your phone.

You Use Technology More Mindfully Than I Do


Since I write and teach about using technology mindfully, many people assume that I’m somehow naturally gifted at that practice.  They believe I’m always focused at work and never struggle with distractions when I should be doing something more productive.

In fact, when I tell people about my work in this field, they get embarrassed and think I will look down on them because of how poorly or distractedly they use technology.

I’m in the Same Boat

What I tell them is that I’m just as prone to mindlessly using technology as anybody else. I suspect making positive and healthy use of technology is even more challenging for me — and that’s why I’ve become so obsessed with this topic.

If it came easily and naturally to me, I probably wouldn’t be focused on it at all because I wouldn’t realize the need for improvement.

This reminds me of the founder of one of the karate styles I study. He was a pretty weak, sickly child. It isn’t hard to understand why he turned to karate, as he saw so much benefit from it compared to other children who were naturally strong and athletic.

The main reason I’m saying all of this is to let you know that if you’re having any self-critical thoughts or feelings about how you interact with technology, I’m in the same boat as you are. Even those who have practiced and taught the discipline for many years have expressed difficulties with staying mindful.

There isn’t anything wrong with you.

Focus on Your Improvement

In my experience in several different areas, I found that people who have natural talent in a particular field often aren’t very good at teaching it.

My theory is this: Those who are naturally talented have never had to struggle or work through challenges. There wasn’t much conscious thought behind it. Generally, they are great at demonstrating but often aren’t very effective teachers, as they can’t understand or relate to others’ learning experiences and see what they need to improve. 

So when you’re working on being more mindful — even though you may feel like you’re struggling — practice self-examination and you will develop your skill and ability to identify ways to continue being mindful.

Focus on how you’ve improved as a result of your efforts and not just your perceived shortcomings.  Have a bit of self-compassion.