30/05/2014 11:51 BST | Updated 29/07/2014 06:59 BST

Just 'DÒ' It


This symbol is the Japanese character "DÒ" (pronounced doe). "DÒ" refers to practice as a way of life. The closest (and rarely used) word in the English language for one who lives according to this principle is "practic." The definition of practic is "a person concerned with action or practice, as opposed to one concerned with theory."

It seems that there should be an English word for a way of life where every response is treated as an opportunity to build skill. Since such a word does not exist, I am unveiling it here for the first time. I introduce to you the brand new word...."practicism."

While I may have coined the term practicism, I certainly did not invent the concept. People have been discovering this way of living for themselves and offering it to others for as long as there has been language. This wisdom is contained in the Prayer of St. Francis, the words of the Buddha, the poetry of Rumi, the writings of the Torah, the oral traditions of indigenous peoples, the lives of Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa, the wit of your grandmother, and the counsel of the best advisor you ever had. Gathering around the fire, the kitchen table, the altar, and the boardroom, this approach to life has been passed on from one generation to the next for thousands of years. The vocabulary and specifics may vary, but the basic elements have remained constant.

Not surprisingly, scientific studies show that individuals and organizations who employ practicism are healthier, happier, and more productive than those who do not. Intentionally choosing a response based on what you value most, rather than based on a temporary thought or sensation is good for your physical and psychological wellbeing, your relationships, your work, and your play. Moreover, the people around you benefit when you approach life in this way. Even more remarkably, modern genetics suggests that the wellbeing of your children's children is affected by what you practice in your lifetime.

Practicism is based on four simple premises:

You are always practicing something.

If you survived yesterday, then your brain assumes that how you responded to your environment was valuable and it stores this information.

You get better at what you practice.

Based on your past behavior, your brain builds connections between nerve cells so that you become more skilled at what you do repeatedly.

What you practice is your responsibility.

While circumstances and consequences are mostly outside of your control, you are the one who ultimately chooses your response - no one else.

The quality of your experience is a function of what you practice.

At any given moment, you can respond by Learning, Opening, Valuing, and Exploring, or you can respond by Contracting, Resisting, Avoiding, and Protecting. What you choose will have an enormous impact on how you experience your life.

Life is full of unwanted moments that occur to us as unpleasant, uncomfortable, or even downright awful. Is it really possible to practice fulfillment and enjoyment even in difficult or challenging circumstances? Apparently. I received the following text from a client of mine last week:

"I see that I can be upset and still experience kindness and joy. So surprising. Love it."

The scientific literature is filled with the benefits of being able to self-regulate your thinking, your emotions, and your behavior. Self-regulation, more so than intelligence or talent, is the key to overall well-being and performance. It turns out that the foundation for all other forms of self-regulation is control of attention. The more effectively that you can purposefully aim, sustain, and return your attention, the more successfully you can choose a useful response to your circumstances.

How do you strengthen your attentional control? You practice of course. Throughout the day you can consciously step back and observe the events, sensations, and thoughts that are occurring. I suggest doing this 5-10 times a day for a minute or so. By stabilizing your attention, you can develop a strong foundation from which to "DÒ" your life.

Have a practice that works for you? I invite you to share your experience in the comment section below so that others will benefit.

Dave Mochel is the founder of Applied Attention; a company dedicated to teaching people how to tap into their incredible capacity to respond calmly, positively, and purposefully in any situation. He translates research in neuroscience, behavior, and performance into simple principles and practices than can be incorporated into any activity or organization. The result of his work is reduced stress and anxiety with improved performance, relationships, and quality of life. For more information, visit

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