How important is mindfulness in today’s world?


In case you claim, like many, to have a short attention span, I’ll cut right to chase. Mindfulness is more important than ever before. This will likely stay true as we progress further through this digital age.

In the past decade, the topic of mindfulness has seen an upward trend.

This is partly due to the popularity of mindfulness meditation among high-status corporate executives. Naturally, some may be sceptical of what is being pushed by those people, believing they are out-of-touch with plights of the everyday plebeian. But mindfulness isn’t some fluffy fad. To be mindful means to be conscious and aware in the moment. It solves a real problem. It helps us focus on the present. LinkedIn news editor, Natalie MacDonald, believes that the ability to focus will be the most important skill (2019) in 2020.

As we progress through time, new technologies and ideas are capturing the attention of the world, but the depth and duration of our attention are shrinking. These changes are partly due to the very many choices we have in which to dedicate our time and energy. A large majority of us work eight hours a day and sleep for eight hours a day. For the remaining eight hours plus weekends, we have no shortage of content to keep us occupied. We have hundreds of seasons of shows to binge, thousands of new Tweets to read, millions of apps to distract us, billions of hours of videos on YouTube to entertain us. With such an overwhelming level of content at our fingertips, our thoughts and decisions can become less thoughtful and more automatised and reactive to cope with all the stimuli. Did you finish this intro? If so, high-five: ✋

Why it’s important to be mindful today

Prevalence of habit-forming technologies

You probably remember the subliminal-messaging-in-advertising hype a decade-and-a-half ago. Perhaps we are a bit too complex to be manipulated by a liquor ad that debatably shows the word “sex” on some ice cubes. The truth is that while we might not be subconsciously influenced by silly or suggestive peculiarities in ads, modern companies can exploit our emotions, thoughts and habits to influence us and keep us coming back for more. This is a substantially more intimate and effective strategy.

“But like so many innovations, we did not know we needed them until they became part of our everyday lives.”

Nir Eyal, “Hooked”

Tapping into our internal triggers, such as a particular emotion, allows companies to create products that “scratch our itch” (Eyal, 2014). Products can even be engineered around our negative emotions and bring us relief. Before we know it, these products/technologies will become part of our routine and might replace previous ways we scratched our itches. Of course, not all habits are bad. Perhaps you are using an exercise or budgeting app and you feel it adds values to your life and strengthens your positive habits. That sounds like a reasonable investment of your time and energy.

In some cases, companies will not care about helping you with positive habits but creating addictions for their own bottom line. This is where your own mindfulness around the consumption of these products and which ones you allow your time, money and effort is critical. Be aware of your own vulnerabilities and blind spots. Try drilling down to the most basic reason of why you are using a product or technology. It’s ok if it’s to ease a negative emotion, but having the awareness will only make you know yourself better which is a cornerstone of the mindful person.

Opt-in/consent awareness

Companies are keen to get you to share your location, opt-in to their communications, tell your buddies about them and consent to provide more of your data for their own benefit. You can’t really get by easily without the willingness to register for some products or services. This is truer now than ever and is likely to continue as our work and play become ever more digital.

In Australia, 58% of job vacancies are advertised on websites and 11% on social media (Australia Jobs report, 2019). If you are looking for work, it’s likely that you will explore opportunities online and be prompted to give personal details. Even if you have a strong password and two-factor authentication, bad things can happen. Consider the PageUp data breach in 2018 that affected 120,000 people (Pash, 2018). Compromised details could be used as first steps for trying to steal identities. These breaches begin to feel common as companies neglect to keep security a focus as they scale. Your mindfulness can come into play when you really consider the company and what information you are going to willingly hand over.

Be mindful when signing up

Even when doing something as routine as registering for a new site or app, take a mindful approach by considering how much information and what permissions you are giving.

  • Is there an alternative to signing up for this service?
  • What is their reputation around online security?
  • Can I omit certain information, such as optional fields?
  • Are there pre-ticked boxes that I should untick (opting-in for communications, sharing your info with third-parties, sharing more data for the “best experience”)?

Opt-out in the settings area

Things aren’t always so clear anymore – by default, you may be inadvertently giving more than you think.

If you’ve already registered for something, review the Account and/or Privacy Settings area to see what else can be turned off that wasn’t mentioned in the sign-up process.

Deeper thinking capabilities

The internet and its child tech have given us an unimaginable degree of convenience. Everything we want to know is just seconds away. History, science and math we learnt in school? We can just Google it. We no longer need to remember conversations. They are stored in our email and apps. Good times? They are memorialised in our Instagrams or backed up in the cloud as gigabytes or terabytes. And remembering to remember? That’s what setting reminders on our phones and digital calendars are for. Our brains are adapting to this relatively new landscape. We’re able to access new information and experiences quite easily but at the cost of shorter attention spans, starvation for novelty and easy solutions to all problems.

A great benefit of mindfulness is that it simply builds your ability to focus. Adopting a mindful approach will help you avoid unproductivity and brain-laziness (such as mindlessly browsing or not using critical thought). When we are accustomed to skimming through content and relying on our trusty, search-engine-friend, we are not understanding on a deeper level. Sometimes, our lack of attention and critical thinking causes us to fail seeing past one piece of information and understanding all effects, particularly if something initially appeals to us emotionally or reaffirms our existing beliefs.

Imagine that you see an article on social media on a trending topic, perhaps an economic policy that is being proposed. The headline first captured your attention. It mentioned the group who would receive benefits from the policy. Did you allow your attention to evolve into actually reading the article, or dedicate further thought or exploration on the topic? If not, did you allow your entire stance on the policy to be formed by this headline?

Understand complexity

In the above economic policy example, think further to understand the people who will win and who will lose. It is not possible for everyone to win. When you fail to think deeply, you miss understanding the layers and systems that make up a complex issue.

Overcome bias

In addition to just trying to think on a deeper level, consider learning about common cognitive biases, including confirmation bias. Mindfulness paired with a knowledge of these biases will help you identify fallacies in your own and others’ thinking processes.

Nurture your brain

We can still enjoy the convenience of today while practising a more mindful effort to understand our world. Many conveniences of today free up a lot of our thinking power so let’s use it for something meaningful!

Modern humans have an average brain size of 73–85in³. Mammals weighing 130 pounds have brains averaging 12in³.

Yuval Noah Harari, “Sapiens”

We have an enormous capacity to critically think and learn. It’s easy to undervalue it in our modern, sometimes cushy world. But we can be mindful that in all of the stimuli, things may not always be as they appear and the burden is on you to analyse what you observe.

Become more emotionally intelligent and happy

Using our human brains to their potential is not limited to critical thinking; we can further develop our emotional intelligence. Popularised by Daniel Goleman, he describes emotional intelligence as having 5 main elements (Goleman, 2005).

5 Facets of Emotional Intelligence

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Intrinsic motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social skills

Using a mindful approach in your interactions with others will help you better understand (and tolerate) others, be it family, friends, co-workers or the dad at the supermarket with the screaming toddler. You can be a less reactive, more supportive and grateful person using mindfulness.

Higher emotional intelligence also aids you in better understanding yourself. It equips you with the skills to be less reactive and more deliberate. If you are mindful enough to pause and recognise your feelings, then have control over how you react to triggers, you will feel more in control. This is a powerful ability as you are less likely to allow external factors out of your control to negatively affect you. When you do feel negatively affected, you are aware of it and make a choice about how you react, if at all. In the modern world where mental health problems are on the rise, mindfulness can help us counteract some emotional build-up early on and “let things go.”

Conclusion: Mindfulness for the 21st century

With all the things competing for our attention mindfulness ability has never been so valuable. Mindfulness could arguably be the most sought after skill by employers, as along with it, comes a thoughtful, resilient, empathetic, productive and problem-solving employee. As we consider our daily routines at home and work, we can try to practice being more mindful in all we do. Whether it’s using our favourite app, registering on a site, looking at the world news headlines or interacting with other humans, we can benefit from building this crucial skill. The more we are mindful, the more we are attentive and in charge of our actions. It is not just about nature walks, meditation sessions or corporate workshops. (I personally enjoy mindfulness meditation and can recommend ways to squeeze more into your day. Reading Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan is great for beginners).


Australian Government, Department of Jobs and Small Business (2019, 14 May). Australian Jobs 2019. Retrieved from

Cognitive Bias Codex. Retrieved from

Eyal, Nir. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. Penguin, 2014.

Goleman, Daniel. Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence. More Than Sound, 2011.

Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Harper, 2015.

Koven, Melissa (2019, November 22). Integrate mindfulness meditation into your day. Retrieved from

Pash, Chris. (2018, June 29). The number of job seekers exposed by the PageUp hack now runs into the hundreds of thousands. Retrieved from

Tan, Chade-Meng. Search Inside Yourself: the Secret to Unbreakable Concentration, Complete Relaxation, Total Self-Control. Collins, 2013.