The premise of One Second Ahead is an interesting one: the practice of mindfulness can create a one-second delay between action and reaction, thus allowing you to move from impulsive behavior to rational choice. This one-second delay, writer Rasmus Hougaard argues, can create a ‘competitive difference’ and enhance your performance at work and in your personal life.
The book lists a loooooong list of areas (16 in total) where mindfulness can make a positive difference and gives practical steps for each, ranging from handling emails, to creativity, communication, and sleep. It also discusses 8 mental strategies to achieve positive traits like patience, joy, and the art of letting go.
One Second Ahead
The whole book is based upon two techniques: training sharp focus (the ability to concentrate on thoughts and tasks of your choice) and open awareness (the ability to observe your own mind). Both are practiced by breathing and focus techniques, with a recommended daily practice of at least 10 minutes. The book gives specific instructions and tips on how to practice these.
Of course, as Christians, practices like mindfulness can give us a severe case of the heebie-jeebies. And while I’m fairly open and definitely not a member of the behind-every-technique-is-a-new-age-conspiracy, this book is at times a bit too much on the vague and floating side for me.
When the author discusses an insight that ‘everything is potential’, he states for instance that we have no solid, isolated self and that we are not as clearly defined as we think. I get what he means—it’s an antidote to limiting ourselves by defining ourselves in too confining terms—yet I disagree with that description, as my identity and self is deeply defined as a child of God.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m convinced of the benefits of mindfulness, which after all comes down to trained, focused attention. As the writer rightly argues, we live in a world where we’re constantly distracted by a bombardment of signals and messages. The trained ability to focus on what matters is indeed a powerful tool, both at work and at home.
That being said, my biggest issue with this book is that it tries to be too broad and becomes at the same time too general and too repetitive. After reading through ten areas where mindfulness can make a difference, you go like I get the message-let’s move on. But after that, there were six more areas, plus eight ‘mental strategies’. The fuzzy structure of the book in that sense didn’t help either—like being presented with literally dozens of areas and tips before actually getting to the techniques needed to get there.
The ‘too general’ aspect also became clear in the stories and cases of people who had positive experiences with mindfulness—they weren’t fleshed out enough. When someone is introduced as ‘Lene, who worked in a European services organization’ I don’t have enough info or details to get into her story, to create an emotional connection. None of the people felt real to me, and as a result, I never connected emotionally with what the writer was arguing.
To conclude, I do believe One Second Ahead has an interesting and valid premise, and it does contain tons of practical tips, but it’s not worked out in the most captivating way.