You wake up late and struggle to get out of bed, thinking about all the work you have to do — all the work you hate doing. How far you are from your goals terrifies you, makes you feel inadequate. You always get distracted, and never get as much work done as you think you should, for which you feel guilty, adding to all your negative feelings.

You wake up naturally, spring out of bed, thinking about all the work you have to do — all the work you love doing. How far you are from your goals motivates you, makes you feel inspired. You get some work done, eat, take a break, and continue working. At the end of the day, you feel thoroughly satisfied with how much you’ve achieved, leaving you feeling fulfilled, adding to your motivation for the next day.

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What’s the difference between these two?

One is positive, the other negative? Yes, that is obvious.

One is happy, the other sad. One is inspiring, the other depressing.

One is an upward cycle, the other a downward spiral. All of this is obvious.

The key difference between the two is in their method and journey, the first is working hard towards uncertain goals, is stressed about everything and that acts as friction in their journey. The second is striving forwards, perhaps also to uncertain goals, but importantly doesn’t feel over-pressured from themselves to achieve. They might be stressed with work, but it doesn’t affect them in the same way. As such they fly effortlessly on their journey — the key they have is mindfulness.

Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, said “It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ — caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour”

Mindfulness is about reconnecting with your emotions, seeing the world for what it is, without the endless layers and mental obstructions of stress, worry, anxiety and depression.

The key to mindfulness is subjective, each person will have different experiences, just as no two people have the exact same life. Common prompts might be yoga or meditation, it could be cooking or knitting, watching a fulfilling movie, reading or writing. Some people find mindfulness in taking a break with family, others find they need a break from family. Some like gardening, or using essential oils. Some find caring for someone else, a person or a pet, to be beneficial. Some even find astrology and spirit crystals, for all their scientific impossibility, helps them reconnect with themselves. These are all the things we choose to identify ourselves with, the things that resonate with us, which we adopt into our lives, simply as ways of living. We don’t think about them as methods, as they are so ingrained in us, in our very identities, yet they are.

Personally, I’ve tried so much, and still haven’t got it completely right. I find yoga really helps me, although I don’t do it as much. I adore cooking, although although money and the size of my stomach limit that hobby. I really need to start reading more, I acknowledge that as a fault of mine. I also find writing helpful, although sometimes stresses me more than it offers respite.

Although the methodology and routine of our daily lives is not all that influence our mood and output, your perspective, self-awareness, and mind-set is also key.

This is where I have found it important to recognise how far you are in your journey; not a literal journey to your goals and aspirations, but a journey with yourself. How are you compared to a year ago?

Yet it is important to stress that this ‘life journey’ isn’t about success, at least not to me, but about virtue.

What do I mean by virtue? It is not the moral high-ground, as is the traditional sense, but about being as close to complete happiness as you can, as closely realised both inside and out as possible — this is where yoga and Eastern Philosophy have influenced my viewpoint.

Some find it easier than others and have less obstacles, while others have better starting points, which is why you can’t (and shouldn’t) compare yourself with others.

We also get virtue and success mixed up in our heads all the time, comparing our material success to others’ material success, when we should be saying to ourselves “are they further on their journey?”, and if they are, how and why? They are no better than you for being further, likewise you are no better than anyone behind you.

In fact, there is no behind or in front. We need to throw out this ingrained idea we have that life’s journey is a linear, set in stone, like a road, when it is in fact much more like endless pastures of green.

Going back to the question, on what’s the difference between these two? So much.

Perhaps a better question is which one am I? And which one is you?

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