Being Mindful without Losing Your Edge with “10% Happier”

When I picked up 10% Happier by Dan Harris at the airport bookstore, it was ideal timing. I has just finally uttered the sentence, “OK, fine. I’m not a good flier,” to my husband, who only said, “I know.”

Airport bookstores, I personally believe, will outlast all other bookstores as long as electronics are not allowed during take-off and descent. Americans have programmed themselves to be constantly entertained and we’re all a little bit afraid to fly. Turning the page takes your mind off that time you were convinced to watch the movie Flight. Just me?

I went down my normal terrible takeoff train of thought, “Oh god, what was that bump? It was nothing. Nothing! I wonder how long I could hold onto the wing of a flying plane without falling off? Oh god! Falling!”

I opened the book to distract myself, only to read about the author, Harris’s own panic, generally generated by stress at work. At its peak, that stress manifested itself in a can’t-catch-your-breath panic attack while reading the news on Good Morning America.

Harris, like a lot of high achievers, compared himself to and competed against colleagues. He vied for the the attention of big hitters like Diane Sawyer and Peter Jennings, trying to pitch the best stories and ending up spending months reporting in Afghanistan post 9/11.

Upon returning to the U.S., Harris fought a battle with addiction that led him to his on-air panic attack.

After seeking helping and finding himself reluctantly on the religion beat for ABC, Harris stumbled upon some self-help gurus like Deepak Chopra. He kept being led in the direction to meditation to manage the chatter in his head and his tendency to react before pausing to recognize the situation in front of him.

As Harris learned to meditate and became more in-tune with the mindfulness movement, he learned some lessons that everyone who’s ever felt too tired or too stressed can take into their lives:

1. You can be mindful without losing your edge at work

Harris struggled to find a balance  between his “zen” lifestyle and his competitive streak, wavering between being, as his father called him, “ineffective” and the guy who threw his papers around in the newsroom. He has a secret to balancing those thing, it’s …

2. Work hard, but detach from the results

When you’re focused on goals and working towards those, you should focus on the work that it takes to achieve your goals, but don’t think about the possible negative outcomes.

3. There’s a certain amount of stress or as Harris calls it, “insecurity” that drives a person and a certain amount of stress that starts to cloud one’s judgement. 

Harris met several high-powered execs who meditated or were mindful who said that not all stress is bad. He even drew his own conclusion that, “vigilance, diligence, the setting of auspicious goals – these are all the good parts of insecurity.” The point is that you need to learn to recognize the bad parts that start you down a path towards negative self-talk.

4. You can be kind without being walked over

Or as Harris puts it, don’t be a jerk. Being a jerk leads to what Harris experienced – reduced clarity, ineffectiveness and rash decisions. On the flip side, he said, “compassion has the strategic benefit of winning you allies.”

And after finishing the book on fitcation in San Diego, I needed to get back on the plane and return home. Instead of picturing myself hanging onto the wing (I should probably talk to someone about that), I took a series of deep breaths and still freaked out a little, but not a lot.

If you’ve ever been told, “you should try meditation,” you should read this book for a taste of what it’s really like. The story of Harris discovering his own path to mindfulness follows an interesting period in the nation’s history – 2000-present day. The story is rich with behind-the-scenes tidbits from ABC and carries grit back from Harris’s time in-the-field. Read it for yourself to feel more OK with your own pursuit of success without the weight of worry.


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About Jeana Anderson Cohen

Jeana Anderson Cohen is the founder and CEO of a premiere wellness media destination that creates content and community to help womxn live better lives and achieve their goals. Before founding health-focused companies Jeana earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison - and fresh out of college she worked on the '08 Obama campaign in Michigan. From there, she created and executed social media strategies for brands. aSweatLife fuses her experience in building community and her passion for wellness. You can find Jeana leading the team at aSweatLife, trying to join a book club, and walking her dog Maverick.