On this very day last year, I had shared with you 36 lessons from 36 years of my life. Today, I complete 37 years in the present state of being, and thus wish to share with you the 37th lesson I have learned in the year gone by – one of the most powerful lessons that I believe has the ability to turn me into a better person and a better investor going forward.
That lesson is of mindfulness, or a state of active, open attention on the present.
When you are mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
“Oh, that’s same as meditation, right?” you might wonder like I did when I came across this practice some time back. Well, meditation is a tool to help you learn to be mindful.
In its simplest form, mindfulness is the skill of being present and aware, moment by moment, regardless of circumstances. You can practice it while meditating while sitting quietly and focusing on our breath, or you can practice it while you walk, stand, lie down, sit, and work, or while playing with your kids, washing the dishes, drinking tea, talking to friends, consulting a client, or researching stocks to invest in.
When it comes to investing, I find mindfulness to be one of our best defenses against behavioural biases. And why?
You see, the stock market is by definition, anxiety-inducing. Ben Graham called stock price fluctuations represented by Mr. Market as manic depressive. Look at people trading inside dealing rooms. Or just look at the talking heads on business television and you will know what I’m talking about.
Amidst this chaos, a state of mindfulness can help you put your mind in a healthier, more balanced and unemotional state.
- You won’t be worried about short term fluctuations in stock prices.
- You won’t act in haste or on impulse.
- You won’t be distracted by regrets of your past performance or worries about your future returns.
- You would keep yourself immune to the news and noise all around.
- You would try to do your best work in the present, with utmost focus and discipline.
These are all necessary attributes you need to achieve success as an investor. As Charlie Munger says…
A lot of people with high IQs are terrible investors because they’ve got terrible temperaments. And that is why we say that having a certain kind of temperament is more important than brains. You need to keep raw irrational emotion under control. You need patience and discipline and an ability to take losses and adversity without going crazy. You need an ability to not be driven crazy by extreme success.
This is all what mindfulness can teach you, and much more.
Now the question is – how do you learn to practice mindfulness? Can it really be learned?
Well, a beautiful resource I can suggest – and which has helped me immensely – is a book written by the noted Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh – The Miracle of Mindfulness.
In this book, Thich Nhat Hanh explains how we can acquire the skills of mindfulness in daily living. As he also writes, once we acquire these skills, we can slow our lives down and begin to live in the moment.
I haven’t learned a better, more powerful lesson, in the year gone by.
I wish you are also able to appreciate the power of mindfulness that has the ability to bring immense peace and focus back into your life. And that can also bring positive results as far as your investments are concerned.