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Giveaway and Interview: The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner

Note: The winners for this giveaway have already been chosen. Subscribe to Tiny Buddha for free daily or weekly emails and to learn about future giveaways!

The Winners:

Have you ever feared you’ll never excel at a skill or reach a goal you set? Have you ever judged yourself or your efforts as “not good enough,” creating a sense of paralysis? Or how about this: Have you ever felt so eager to excel that the process became stressful and unsatisfying?

In his book The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life, Thomas M. Sterner explores how to “master any skill or challenge by learning to love the process,” as the cover reads.

Sterner has mastered quite a few challenges; he’s a concert piano technician, an accomplished musician, a pilot, and a golfer—and he’s learned how to practice each skill with a focus on the present.

Sharing personal anecdotes, insights, and lessons, Sterner teaches us how to simplify and concentrate on the task at hand; break goals into smaller, more manageable steps; and slow down so that we can give our full attention to each step along the way.

I highly recommend The Practicing Mind to anyone who wants to find more joy in the process of working toward their goals, and in doing so increase their effectiveness.

The Giveaway

To enter to win 1 of 2 free copies of The Practicing Mind:

  • Leave a comment below
  • Tweet: RT @tinybuddha Book GIVEAWAY & Interview: The Practicing Mind http://bit.ly/R5EnKh

If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can still enter by completing the first step. You can enter until midnight PST on Sunday, August 12th.

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write The Practicing Mind? 

I was always learning new skills growing up. However, my creative mind was very unbridled and so it didn’t want to stay with any one endeavor for very long. I was undisciplined and lacked perseverance.

Perhaps what saved me was that even at a young age, I was aware that I was stuck in this pattern of behavior that made me feel disempowered in regards to my own destiny.  In my late teens, I set out to better understand why I operated in a manner that was not serving me well and to figure out how to change it.

That first led me into an extensive study of eastern thought and meditation, starting in college, and later into western studies of peak performance and modern sports psychology.  The culmination of what I learned and how it transformed me led to the book.

2. In Chapter 1, you wrote that our culture is built on multitasking. Do you think it’s possible to multitask without sacrificing mindfulness? And if so, how? 

I need to expand on the word multitasking. Yes, our culture is built on this concept because we are constantly trying to increase productivity. However, multitasking, as we think of it, does not exist. We really don’t do multiple things at the same time at the level of our brain.

What we do is more accurately described as “switch tasking” because our brain must stop each process it is currently working on before starting a new one.  It is very linear in nature. This happens so quickly that it feels as if we are doing multiple things at once but in reality we are not.

This constant stopping and starting not only costs us enormous amounts of energy over time, it causes our energy to be very scattered instead of being focused. Ironically, when we are more mindful and present in our activity, we are operating more in harmony with how our brains naturally function.

So I would have to say that trying to multitask interrupts a more natural state of mindfulness. 

3. In Chapter 2, you explored our instincts to focus on the fruits of our labor, as opposed to the process itself. How can we let go of outcomes and still work toward specific goals?

I don’t know if it is really our instinct to focus on our goals. I think we are taught this unhealthy mindset by our culture and the modern marketing media. Ideas like, “When you get a certain automobile, when you can afford a certain life style, when you look a particular way, then you will feel happy” are programmed into us constantly.

There is much profit to be made when those feelings exists within us. Along with that programming comes the feeling that we cannot be happy without those things. We are taught to be very attached to our goals. This mindset creates and reminds us that there is a void between where we are and where we want to be.

We must go through a process to reach any goal, but our perception and experience of that process is flexible and within our control.

I enjoy sailing, and most sailors would say, “When you have left the marina you have reached your destination.” This is because with sailing the joy is in the journey to the destination. You trim the sails for the most efficient use of the wind and in each moment the destination you have chosen moves towards you.

That process and that journey can feel effortless and joyful as you watch the sun sparkle on the water and feel the wind and sun caress your face, or you can check your watch every five minutes and curse the boat for not moving faster. The fifty miles between you and your destination remains the same with either perspective.

Your destination serves to steer your efforts, and that is enough. When you focus on the distance between you and the destination, your experience of the journey becomes one of impatience and struggle. You waste energy that could be going into observing and trimming the sails for maximum speed.

So it’s the understanding of this truth that gives us what we need to let go of our goals and to experience them flowing toward us without a sense of struggle and anxiety.

4. Later in the book, you talk about the pursuit of perfection and how it impacts our happiness. Can you speak to this a little?

This very much relates to the question on being attached to the goal.  I think we all experience a sense of incompleteness at times. That experience feels like, “I am not happy and I need to get to some other place where I will be. Then this feeling will go away.”

To me, this feeling is born from a false sense of perfection and our need to achieve it—the perfect job, the perfect relationship and so on. These all refer to a static place in time and space that we can get to with a certain amount of effort.

In reality, true perfection is none of these. By nature it must be ever expanding and evolving. For the musician, for example, perfection is not the ability to play a particular complicated piece of music, even if it were possible to define it as the most difficult piece ever written.

That would mean that once the musician mastered that piece, they were done growing. They would never evolve technically or grow any deeper in their relationship with music.

True perfection is infinite in its ability to expand, which means that you don’t reach it, but instead you are there right now, simply by being in your own process of growing.  This infinite nature is a gift, not a punishment.

When you can let go of the “when I get to here, things will be perfect” feeling and realize that you are already there, you give yourself the opportunity to experience perfection in every moment through your awareness of your own growth.

5. One of the main themes of The Practicing Mind is awareness. Why is self-awareness so challenging?

For me, self-awareness is being separate from our thoughts, not functioning within our thoughts. It is the realization that we are not our thoughts but the one who has the thoughts.

When I ask people to sit quietly with their eyes closed and stop thinking, most cannot. For many, this is the first time they realize that their mind produces thoughts even when their will is commanding it not to.

When we are not aware of this, our mind leads us around on a leash all day firing off thoughts for each circumstance we visit. We are then the puppets of the emotions these thoughts elicit. This is what I mean by being in your thoughts instead being the observer of your thoughts.

Awareness of this difference is most empowering because it gives you the privilege of conscious choice.

6. What’s one simple thing we can do every day to develop discipline and focus?

That’s easy—meditation. None of what I am talking about here is possible without self-awareness, and that awareness comes naturally through practicing stillness.

It’s important to remember that when you meditate, it’s the instant that you catch your mind producing thoughts without your permission and you reel it back into silence, or to your breath, that your awareness strengthens and expands.  Each time you re-center your mind, you grow. No effort is lost.

Understand that if you approach developing discipline and focus as a skill that will make you happy only after you achieve a certain level of it, then you are falling back into the trap of perfection.

Your awareness of your goal and your moment-by-moment effort toward it is enough. You have already reached your destination.

Learn more about The Practicing Mind on Amazon.

FTC Disclosure: I receive complimentary books for reviews and interviews on tinybuddha.com, but I am not compensated for writing or obligated to write anything specific. I am an Amazon affiliate, meaning I earn a percentage of all books purchased through the links I provide on this site. 

Avatar of Lori Deschene

About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook seriesTiny Buddha's Guide to Loving Yourself, and Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life's Hard Questions. She's also co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you change your life. For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow on Twitter & Facebook.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • Criola

    I’d love to win this book :D I picked up learning French and yoga for the x-th time in my life, and even though I’m committed to practice I often feel like giving up again – which leaves me with a nasty feeling. I therefore could certainly use Sterner’s advice and insights. Thanks for the chance to win xo 

  • Fiona C

    I would really appreciate this book for both myself and those I hold dear to read. I am at a place where I have practiced a little meditation but find i don’t commit reagularly enough to it, yet know I would benefit from it. The other areas covered in the book really appeal to me also especially the perfectionism thoughts. I was raised in a religion (which I am no longer part of) where being perfect is thrust into your mind daily. Thanks for the chance : )

  • Brandon

    This is a great opportunity you are providing for growth. I know I could benefit from Sterner’s work, and I already know the first three people I would have read it after me. Best of luck to all on this giveaway, and thanks, Lori.

  • Becca Caton

    Thank you for the opportunity, Lori.  I would love to learn more about practicing self-awareness and apply it to my life right now, with taking care of my baby, taking care of my career, and my moment-by-moment efforts.  Good luck to all those who enter the giveaway. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.mae.d Amanda Dohrwardt

    I could totally use this book! Maybe help me get my stuff together! :) Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=561548608 Jaimie Bougie

    As someone who studies Sports Psychology and who is also a competitive athlete, this book would be a great read for me and my clients.

  • Carol

    I have just completed a month long course in meditation and want to continue the discipline I have begun.  I know that meditation is getting heart and mind together and I have always relied on my mind.  I am sure this book will help me use the qualities of my mind to open my heart.

  • Jodi Salerno

    A very interesting interview which lead me to want to read this book! I will probably end up buying it through Amazon regardless, but winning it would be wonderful! Thanks for the opportunity!

  • Ingrid Huebner

    I am just getting started in meditating, and am finding its many benefits.  This sounds like an excellent book to continue my education on paying attention “in the moment”. Ingrid Huebner

  • Kimmee22

    I definitely need to read this book. I’m having that same pattern showing up – I’m working on discipline I guess

  • http://twitter.com/MySeryniti NovaReylin

    This sounds like a great book!

  • Jeet

    I would love to read this book. :-)

  • Jean Bean

    I am enough, I can always be more. I find being still, mindful comes naturally when I am gardening, sewing, washing the dishes, folding the laundry, brushing the dogs or the donkeys; a single task at hand calms me and I am peaceful. More than one thing going on and I find my heart-rate increasing, my thoughts racing, I am no longer present in the moment. Balancing life with real life is a continual process of progress not perfection.

  • Zan

    Thank you for the offer of the book.  I know I can benefit greatly from it.  In the interview I can see How this books addresses the things I am actively working on.  I truely am working on being present in the moment.

    Thank you

  • Steve

    Thanks for your work! 

  • Andrew

    “If we take eternity to mean … timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end.” — Ludwig Wittgenstein
    Words to live by.

  • pxymomma

    I felt better just by practicing mindfulness and breathing while reading this article!

  • Condocaine

    next book on my list to read, still catching up on the daily readings, thanks, had so much depression, just nice being outta the dark!!!!

  • Jennifer Jopling

    I would love this book! I feel like my heart is in the right place of learning to be happy with the wonderful life I have, but my mind constantly wanders and loses focus on the now. I would love to learn more on how to develop the discipline in my life!

  • Murali

    Meditation does help calm the mind and focuses it too and is a practice that I would highly recommend to anyone wishing to better themselves.  its not a magic panacea to all of lifes ills but will go a great way to give peace of maind to many. So does the practice of mindfullness. Trying to achieve ` perfection`  is a surefire way to distress and unhappiness. Forget perfection. wanting to learn new skills is a great way to enjoy life at any age and to make one feel better and grow older and wiser slowly. If Mr Mercer can show how to do this via focusing better etc then its definitely worth reading this book.  as I have not read it yet I cannot comment on the book itself, but hopefully will be able to read it and instil the advice into my own life and that of others.

  • augenblix

    Having just come back from a Vipassana, I can now say from an experiential (rather than intellectual) viewpoint, how profound and important the practice of meditation and mindfulness is. Not only does attention to our life and our environment make us calmer, and more balanced – it also helps us to relieve and let go of the miseries that we create for ourselves. It allows us to accept the impermanence of life, which gives us to a deep sense of calm and equanimity. It also helps us to connect to our love for self, and importantly, our love and desire for the good will of others. Making time for meditation each day may seem like a difficult task, but it is also possibly the most important decision you could make.

  • Melissa

    As someone who struggles with self-discipline and mindfulness, I would love a copy of this book to help me with my perfectionism.

  • http://twitter.com/olofdrofn Olof Eggertsdottir

    Meditation is very important to the mind and the body and I proved it today when I went in for my pre admission for my birth. They took my blood pressure and it was a bit high at 159 but then I asked them to give me a min and I slowed my body down and it was 119. That was quite the difference. 

  • md

    Timing of this is spot on … meditation practice is becoming a part of my life and really seeing the benefits of it.

  • http://twitter.com/eleonora85 Eleonora

    I’d really love this book as I need to learn to concentrate on a goal that’s very important to me and that now I finf out to achieve, maybe because I have to break it into smaller, more manageable steps first.Good luck everybody :)

  • claude

    I need this book or I will go insane!!!

  • Sterling_eyes

    This is where I’m at right now.  I’ve fallen behind on my health (mind, body and soul)  that I certainly could learn from this book and use some self discipline.  Thank you for sharing!

  • Joshuaundefeated

    I would like the book giveaway

  • http://twitter.com/IMSamShelley Sam Shelley

    Would love a copy of this book.  Meditation has done wonders for me.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000074082326 Kifferie Corley

    I would love to share this with my clients who struggle with anxiety and mild depression as a result of perfectionistic traits.  

  • Dennischk66

    Would like to get hold of the book to help me and guide through a hard passage of time I am going through.

  • lisa peterson

    I really enjoyed a peek inside the book and a glimpse into the author.
    At 34 I feel I’m going through some life changes and having a difficult time processing and trying to bring more peace and happiness into my life.
    I hope to read this book fully one day soon. 

  • Moxiemuchness

    I am entering a new chapter in my life. Refreshing the mind with this sound guidance sounds right. Count me in!

  • http://www.suntra.ca inderpal wig

    I’m living in an environment where I feel like I’m condemned for being slow and doing one thing at a time. I really liked the response to the multi-tasking question – that it’s really switch tasking. It explains why when trying to do too many things, I feel so drained, and at the same time, like I’ve accomplished less than the energy I spent on it!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/X66336WJEPMYMH73UYWYY3PV64 Carrie W

    If luck is when preparation meets opportunity, I hope this is my opportunity… I just added this book to my wish list on Amazon and then saw your giveaway post on Facebook!!!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/X66336WJEPMYMH73UYWYY3PV64 Carrie W

    If luck is when preparation meets opportunity, this must be my opportunity…. I just added this book to my Amazon wish list and then saw your giveaway post on Facebook!!!

  • Sondrakbrent

    I would “LOVE” to add this book “The Practicing Mind” by Thomas M Sterner to my library collection. Meditation has been a life changing practice for me and will forever be a part of my daily living. Thanks for all your simple wisdom Tiny Buddha!!!!!!!!

  • Trixie Clark 2009

    Can’t wait to get my hands on this book. It’s just what I need… Right here… Right now.

  • Anthony

    Good book and interview. Would love this.

  • anon

    I’m hoping to learn more about Buddhism and mindfulness is definitely something that I need more practice in! 

  • http://www.bestnatesmithever.com Nate Smith

    This book looks great. I would love to read it.

  • Tesskb328

    I need a book like this to further help me in relaxing myself in a more natural way. It also just looks like a really good read.

  • Juli Gusler

    My family often said I’ll do much much better if I know how to Focus well on my goal, and to develop the sense knowing what comes as Priority and what’s not. I would love a copy of this book to teach me the practice of Focus and self discipline. Thank you.

  • JediDad

    I would like to read the whole chapter where he talks about multi-tasking.  As a former 9-1-1 Operator/Dispatcher, I have to say multi-tasking is a must have skill.  I hope when he is talking about switch-tasking he is talking more an a macro scale.

  • Danielleneuberger93

    this is really interesting to think about. the topic of multitasking and still trying to maintain mindfulness in the modern world is a real problem that people face every day.

  • Kerry

    This book looks like just the thing I need right now!

  • Mary

    Meditation & discipline are challenges for me. Reading the interview inspires me to give it another go.

  • Josefina Hart

    Through Meditation i get in touch with my inner. I can see myself in a mirror. To obtain my Buddhahood. Thanks for all the inspirations. Josie

  • LMusicG

    I am a classical musician and am very interested in Mr. Sterner’s thoughts. I am constantly pushing myself to be a better musician, but I find that that pushing often doesn’t serve the music well. A major issue in my daily life is to have the right mindset: driving and disciplined but also mindful and calm. They don’t often go together, and this is a struggle for me!

  • LMusicG

    I am a classical musician and am very interested in Mr. Sterner’s thoughts. I am constantly pushing myself to be a better musician, but I find that that pushing often doesn’t serve the music well. A major issue in my daily life is to have the right mindset: driving and disciplined but also mindful and calm. They don’t often go together, and this is a struggle for me! 

  • LMusicG

    sorry, didn’t mean to post twice…can’t figure out how to delete it.

  • Loriann_thomas

    I am I need of this book as soon as possible as it will help me out in every way in my daily life, thank you

  • Melanie

    This book would come at the perfect time for me!  xxx

  • http://twitter.com/caoinhardi Caoin Hardi

    I have found so many helpful resources on tiny buddha and I’m sure Mr. Sterner’s book will add to that wealth. Thank you for your insights!

  • http://twitter.com/caoinhardi Caoin Hardi

    I have found so many helpful resources on tiny buddha and I’m sure Mr. Sterner’s book will add to that wealth. Thank you for your insights! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002558887686 Sean Anderson

    Very informative!

  • http://twitter.com/jlwarren jessica

    This book sounds like a wonderful read. I would love a copy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670260007 Lindsey Roth Kasch

    This book sounds amazing!

  • Wallace6922

    This books sounds great!! Always willing to learn :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jill.winkelman.14 Jill Winkelman

    ME…ME…ME! I would love this right before my LAST semester of school this fall. 

  • Nbernardo33

    Setting realistic goals is always tough, especially when they are for me. The book sounds fantastic!

  • Daniel

    Anything which helps me find that elusive peace within myself whilst I try to identify my demons and be the best “me” I can be is something I would be very grateful for.

  • http://www.facebook.com/heather.myers.739326 Heather Myers

    opps! it my details didn’t come up, I’ve re posted above! sorry!

  • http://www.facebook.com/heather.myers.739326 Heather Myers

    opps! I’ve never commented before, the blank comment below is mine. 

    This book is exactly what I need right now! Just reading the interview gave me an insight into why I am currently feeling the way I am – explained a lot! I would love to read this!

  • Mike

    Awesome insight

  • David M Degroot

    i could use a book like this to help me through the fall semester

  • Jodi

    Being in the “now” in today’s multi-faceted, cross-functional, cross-cultural, cross-technology worl is more challenging than ever. I’m all in! Would enjoy reading the book!

  • Minoueel

    This book looks wonderful. It will help me in practicing mindfulness a lot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/santo.ojo Santo Ojo

    This is my favorite subject, will love to get the giveaway!!!!

  • Lindsaygiffin

    So inspiring

  • Jessie Brandon

    I really enjoyed this interview.  I struggle constantly with unsuccessful bids to start my own company or basically succeed in a meaningful way in my life and I really feel it is because I freeze at the ‘big picture’ and talk myself out of living large.  Sounds like Thomas Sterner has some good advice on how to approach this differently. Thanks for the opportunity to read about this book.  Attempting to stay with the process of meditation, not without challenges for the monkey mind!

  • Monia

    Hi… thanks for this interview! And for the change of winning a copy… I def. should work on my self-discipline for sure… 

  • kenna mae hanna reese

    Plain and simple;
      I would love a copy~!!!

  • Vinterkveld

    As a beginning meditator, I would really appreciate this book. Go Tiny Buddha! Always great articles to read on here… :)

  • Karen

    Reading this interview with the author, Thomas Sterner, left me wanting more…to delve deeper into his insights and the ideas represented in his book.  Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy but I’m off to Amazon right now to add it to my Wish List.

  • Mark

    Give it away, give it away, give it away now. Red Hot Chili Peppers

  • Bailey R

    I teach at a middle school that moves quickly from bell to bell.  At every hour or half hour I am engulfed by the movements of 300 + bodies of energy.  This gets to be overwhelming by 4th period, I want to find a quiet retreat.  Learning to be conscious of my breathing and becoming a part of the flow instead of resisting will help me stay calmer.  My thoughts are often so scattered I forget what I am talking about, looking for, or who one of my students is!  This is a challenge that I NEED to meet with equanimity! Thanks for the words of wisdom.

  • Miknterry

    This is something I need to work on. Love the concept of this book!

  • Akvir

    I have been asked on many occasions why i can’t stick to one thing or another, be it career, jobs, business etc… I have also felt throughout the years that certain people have looked down on this as though it’s a failing on my part – a weakness. The answer to this question is as follows: It’s not that i CAN’T stick to whatever it may be, rather that i refuse to settle for SILVER when i know i can go in search of my GOLD! You don’t have to believe in me, because i already do – Iky Sangha

  • http://www.facebook.com/harleyfreak21 Nathan Morgan

    This would definately be a book I could use in my life.

  • Gwen

    Learning how to love the process – it just occurred to me that maybe that’s why my efforts and improving my health and weight loss have been successful in the past few years – because I am really loving the process, even on frustrating days. I can kind of step back and look at the whole process and appreciate it. Never occurred to me before – I think I was fighting the process instead.

    Wondering whether some of being able to love the process is jsut a level of mental and emotional commitment. 

    I wold love to read more – learn how to apply this to my own efforts at music study, which lately seems to be an exercise in futility – plateau in progress although I enjoy the activity. When there is “rightness” required it is challenging to let go of the expected and wanted result, and just enjoy that process.

  • Linda Lister

    As a singer, voice teacher and yogini, I am curious to read this book, since practicing is what I do every day!

  • Rjoyemonds

    I have been a near-daily reader of TB for a year+, and I finally officially joined.  What took me so long?!  Happy to be a participating member of such a positive community :)

  • Melinda

    Thanks for this interview. Very much needing guidance about how to focus.

  • Nancy Hanson

    what a great way to explain ‘multi-tasking’….’switch-tasking’ I love it! I sometimes have a hard time completing tasks and have become a lot better by increasing my mindfulness, learning to not judge myself and creating a system that works for me. Can’t wait to read and share this book! 

  • Worldwhirled

    I would love to develop my discipline and mindfulness.  This could help me in so many areas of my life.  Thanks for the contest.

  • gerri

    The present moment is the only real way to accomplish anything.

  • Kelly

    I am working on these things and the book would be great to help me out.

  • Melissa

    Would love a copy! Thank you for the beautiful messages and giveaways. :)

  • Newleafwriting

    I am working with experiencing quiet mind, stilling the mind so that it isn’t going off in several directions all of the time. Practicing mindfulness is helping tremendously.

  • http://twitter.com/AP1618 AP1618

    I read the sample from Amazon, and love it!

  • http://exciramedia.com/ Shannon Steffen

    Where the mind goes, the body follows.

    Looking at my body and life, I can definitely use a powerful book such as this.

  • http://twitter.com/Chacha1975 Charissa v.d. Vlies

    Wow this sounds like the book I need to read at this moment. I quit multitasking and started to be more mindfull last year and I am a different person! At the moment I am working on my inner judge to become more freely creative. I can use my intuition more and be less in control. I try and it is getting better, but I am still too much of a perfectionist. Practise makes perfect ;-) Perfect in letting go, letting flow I mean here. I would love to win the book. 

  • Cassie

    I will have to pick up a copy of this book, I really enjoyed this interview and a lot of the points resonated with me, especially:

    True perfection is infinite in its ability to expand, which means that you don’t reach it, but instead you are there right now, simply by being in your own process of growing. This infinite nature is a gift, not a punishment.

    This is something I am constantly struggling to learn and accept.

  • Omnispirit

    No plan, just dance in perseverance of process. 
    No expectation, just dance in persistence of the ever present. 
    To dance partnered with no preference, swaying in stride with
    what ever wills to arise. 

  • Jessnardo

    At thirty three years old, I am just now really seeing what it is that life is about. I have felt numb for many years; knowing I needed a change but not understanding how, why or what. This year so far I have been trying to learn and grow into myself and could use some guidance- like from this book. I am hopefuly journey will continue and that self discovery, acceptance and just letting go will bring me connected and whole to who I really am

  • Eva

    Thank  you! Great post!