Destination Mindfulness: How Travel Impacts Our Perspective
There’s something about traveling that presses the mental reset button and gives you a fresh perspective – both in the moment and in life overall. It’s one of the things I love most about travel.
Along my journey, I get to meet fascinating people – and talk about their experiences with travel. I want to introduce you to one such person and share our conversation. If you’re like me, you’ll walk away with new insights about the concept of mindfulness and how it can amplify the value of travel for both individuals and teams.
Jon McGraw is a partner at Vision Pursue, a company dedicated to helping people achieve a Performance MindsetTM that enables them to improve their focus, resiliency, and sense of connection. His background as a former NFL player and team captain provides a unique vantage point into mindfulness and how it’s achieved. Of course, we got to talking about how travel impacts mindfulness, and how you can pack up the clarity you achieve on vacation and bring it back to real-life.
Kim: Jon, I’m intrigued by what you and your company do. Tell us a bit more about your background.
Jon McGraw: Thanks, Kim. In 2012, as I explored options for my post-NFL career, I gravitated toward learning more about health and performance psychology. I was really interested in why, even when people achieve the heights of success in business or sports, they still experience increasing stress and feelings of dissatisfaction.
So, I took a deeper dive into studying how the mind works and how you can, in effect, train your mind to not only reduce stress but also to optimize performance. Along with my partners at Vision Pursue, we’re taking what science has uncovered about how the mind works and helping individuals, businesses, and sports teams to retrain automatic thoughts and emotions in order to realize greater satisfaction and improve performance.
Travel creates an ideal environment for people to practice the skills we teach. When we travel, what we’re doing in the moment becomes our primary focus – and we’re automatically more open to new experiences, with less judgment. As an individual, travel takes us out of our day-to-day routines and recharges our batteries by allowing us to relax and enjoy new experiences. Incentive travel as a reward or team-building exercise for employee groups comes with direct, tangible benefits like increased productivity, employee loyalty, and morale.
To me, the natural next question is, what if we could also bring improved mindfulness back from our travels and apply it to our daily life?
Kim: Exactly! I’m excited to hear your thoughts about mindfulness and travel. First, what exactly is mindfulness?
Jon: You’ve heard the expression, “We don’t see the world the way it is. We see it the way we are.”
Mindfulness is defined as paying attention – on purpose – to the experience of the present moment, without judgment and expectation.
Here’s an illustration of a dog and his master. The dog is experiencing what’s actually happening in that moment – a fun afternoon at the park. But the person is also experiencing everything that’s going on in his mind. Our minds are constantly full of automatic thoughts about what we need to do, what we didn’t do, what went wrong, or what could go wrong.
For many of us, when we’re on a dream vacation, gazing at a beautiful sunset, we enter an enjoy-the-moment, meditative state without even realizing it. All our other, automatic thoughts fall away.
Kim: That’s so true. Building off the dog in the park illustration, where do all the thoughts running through our brains come from?
Jon: In work – and life – we’re all programmed to achieve a result – to get from point A, or our current life situation, to point B, how we would like our life to be. Our minds
over-value point B, which creates a sense of urgency, and subsequently stress, about getting there. In simplest terms, Vision Pursue provides mental skills training that helps people get away from the A-to-B perspective and learn to focus on what we call an “expanding A” perspective.
Instead of making the end result the focus, Expanding A makes the activity in the now the primary purpose. When you’re able to do this successfully, results become the natural byproduct. People are able to focus on process goals vs. outcome goals, which enables them to enjoy the journey without over-focusing on the destination.
Kim: So, when we travel, we’re naturally breaking our A-to-B thinking and shifting into Expanding A thinking?
Jon: Right! Travel is a setting where we allow our minds to be more curious and open. We go in with fewer expectations – on-time flights and clean hotel rooms aside. A vacation naturally enables us to value the present moment.
Kim: There’s nothing like the feeling of being in the moment, experiencing someplace brand new. From what you’re saying, that feeling we get when we travel is the result of giving the experience our full attention. What can traveling teach us about mindfulness?
Jon: Mindfulness looks different depending on what you’re doing. For many, travel induces this state, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable. Here are some tips to help achieve mindfulness in our everyday lives.
Expect the expected: In our daily lives, there will always be challenges and we’ll feel strongly about them. If we expect this to be the case and have a response plan, we aren’t unnecessarily triggered or surprised by things. It’s fine to have high expectations in the future, but in the short term its helpful to align our expectations with the way the world currently is. Managing our expectations is critical for activating a mindful state.
Embrace: When life happens, we have two choices, Resist or Embrace. Internal resistance is more natural but requires a lot of energy and often creates more problems than it solves. An internal embrace gets us in alignment with what is so we have more influence over what could be. This is an internal practice and unlocks higher levels of creativity, innovative thinking, and problem solving. It keeps our attention on what is versus overvaluing a future state where all our problems are gone.
Control the controllable: It’s natural for all of us to focus our mental and emotional time and energy on things we have less control and influence over. However, this compromises our ability to positively impact things we do have control over. This seems obvious, but it’s a major attention trap and life suck for almost everyone who goes through our training system. When I get clear about what I have control over it almost always brings me back to what’s happening right now and calms the mind down.
These three mental skills get activated on vacation, helping many of us shift from A-to-B thinking to Expanding A, but they can absolutely be applied to everyday life allowing us to experience the seemingly mundane and boring parts with less automatic judgment. It enables us to make the process primary and the outcomes secondary. It also enhances connection with others as our automatic thoughts slow down.
Kim: That makes so much sense to me. I’ve loved getting your insights on why our travel experiences feel different, and how we can start to use travel to harness the power of mindfulness. Combining what you teach with travel experiences really expands the benefits of travel for both individuals and teams, doesn’t it?
Jon: Definitely. Travel is the perfect scenario to seek out and practice mindfulness. Whether it’s created by the environment or you learn how to activate it, the benefits of mindfulness on your mindset, performance, and life experience are the same.
Kim: Thank you, Jon. I also want to pick your brain about how travel impacts our sense of connection with the world, but we’ll save that for our next conversation. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, we're here to help you design a customized getaway – whether it’s individual, group, or incentive travel.
Call us at (877) 999-4533 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Waves to you and smooth sailings ahead!