From Frazzled to Focused

How to shift from mindless multi-tasking to mindful engagement and lower stress, explode creativity and love every moment of every day.

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By Karl Lawrence on Friday, October 9, 2015
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In this week’s episode of Your Best Life, Karl interviews Dr. Ellen Langer, who has been a professor in psychology at Harvard University since 1977. Dr. Langer is considered the mother of mindfulness and positive psychology, and has published more than two hundred research articles and eleven books. During this episode, Karl and Dr. Langer discuss significance, mindfulness, multitasking, the intention of being mindful, creativity and mindfulness, health and mindfulness, and awareness versus drive.

Main Questions Asked:

  • Before you were Dr. Ellen Langer, what was your life like?
  • Why do we make ourselves unnecessarily miserable?
  • Has significance been generated by society’s pressure on us to perform, or is it an innate component we all need to feel valued?
  • Were we always mindless, or were there cultural shifts that led to people becoming less connected to what’s going on in the present?
  • Does the brain multitask?
  • What do we know about other cultures?
  • Does mindfulness have an impact on overall cognitive function?
  • What results surprised you the most in the correlation of mindfulness and creativity?
  • How do you feel about the integrative movement in medicine?
  • Is it awareness or desire that drives the outcome?

Key Lessons Learned:

  • Dr. Langer believes virtually all of us are mindless most of the time. We aren’t ‘there,’ and we don’t know that we aren’t ‘there.’
  • As a result of mindlessness, we incur a cost that otherwise we wouldn't have to deal with. We aren’t present to accept opportunities.
  • Sales of antidepressants show we are less happy.
  • Dr. Langer believes the answer to many of our personal, interpersonal, and global ills is mindfulness.
  • People believe that happiness relies on physical outcomes and the more that they have the happier they will be.
  • We are taught to put down others in order to make ourselves feel better, but this hurts our interpersonal relationships.


  • Culture leads us to feel insignificant. It is against this that we are motivated.
  • Significance is a natural state, and there is no reason to NOT feel significant.
  • Life consists only of moments; if you make the moment matter for yourself, then your life matters.
  • When people are not in the moment, they are ‘not there’ to know they are ‘not there.’


  • This is a way to be in the present, which is a simple process of noticing new things.
  • Mindfulness is not a practice; it’s a way of being and the way you are when you are at play.
  • As ou notice new things about what you thought you knew, you will realize you didn’t know it as well as you thought, so it will become interesting again.
  • The more mindfulness you have the more respect you have for uncertainty.
  • You will realize that everything is changing and looks different from a different perspective.
  • When you think things are stable and still, you are confusing the stability of your mindset for the stability of the underlying phenomenon.
  • When you think you know something, you no longer pay attention to it.

Multitasking and the Brain

  • You need to differentiate the actor from the observer’s perspective.
  • From the actor’s perspective, there are times where it looks as though the person is multitasking, but they aren’t.


  • The cure for our culture can be understood independent of any other time in history.
  • The best focus is on how to change things right now.

Intention of Being Mindful

  • We have 40 years of research that shows we can teach people to be more mindful.
  • The data shows that when the neurons are firing people are happier, more competent, have fewer accidents, and will live longer.

Mindfulness and Creativity

  • One should never dissuade anybody from pursuing any aspect of art.
  • The criteria for excellence are simply person derived.
  • Even in a situation where you can’t know, people are highly evaluative.
  • Our mindfulness leaves an imprint in the products we create.
  • When we are mindful, we light up and people find us more attractive, trustworthy, and charismatic.
  • The act of noticing is the essence of engagement.

Mindfulness and Health

  • We are given a diagnosis and tend to do what the doctor recommends and no longer tune into our own bodies.
  • Symptoms change over time. We are capable of affecting every aspect of our lives, especially our health.
  • Multiple studies show that changing one small thing can make a significant impact.
  • A diabetes study showed that, by speeding up a clock, participants had a functional change in metabolism that lowered blood sugar quicker.
  • The power of the mind exceeds what most people seem to be real.
  • Placebos are perhaps the strongest medication that exists. These are still used to test the efficacy of a drug.

Awareness vs Drive

  • When a person is in a particular state of mind, ‘all of them’ is there, including desires, perception, and awareness.
  • The best formula is to adopt the idea of uncertainty. Once you recognize that you don’t know, you are set to be curious and notice.
  • The difference between curiosity and mindfulness is that curiosity leaves the person to think they know it, which leads them to become mindless.

Thank you for listening!

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Links to Resources Mentioned

Ellen Langer
Mindfulness (book)
The Power of Mindful Learning (book)
Counter Clockwise (book)
On Becoming An Artist (book)
The Art of Noticing (book)

2 click to tweet links! (Thanks for helping spread the word!)

Tweet: Placebos are perhaps the strongest medication that exists. Find out more w/ @ellenjl @wellnessgroup

Tweet: What is mindfulness and how will it change your life forever? w/ @ellenjl @wellnessgroup

From Your Best Life Podcast with Karl Lawrence

podcast Psychology Ellen Langer
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About Karl Lawrence

Karl Lawrence is the host of Your Best Life on the Radio Network. Check out his work at Read More