“Mindfulness” is a popular term in today’s health-conscious Zeitgeist. It’s the concept of paying calm, active attention to the present state of things without any judgment. It means learning to recognize and live in the moment. The term often is used hand-in-hand with meditation, and it’s become prevalent in yoga, self-help books and even in elementary schools, where its youngest students learn to take a deep breath and just be aware of the moment and themselves.

I’ve always thought it was a bunch of New Age hooey.

I won’t deny that many seem to enjoy benefits from mindful meditation, but in general, it just doesn’t seem to work for me. I prefer to keep my mind busy and active, learning and experiencing things, and the thought of quieting my mind in this way only makes me fidgety and impatient.

But one day, my husband printed the word “WIN” in bold on a sheet of paper, cut it out and taped it to the top of the bathroom mirror.

“What are you trying to win?” I asked him, thinking that perhaps it was a sort of carpe diem motivational thing.

As it turns out, I wasn’t too far from the truth. He explained that “WIN” stands for “What’s Important Now?” It was something he picked up from legendary college football coach Lou Holtz.

Holtz was a master motivator who took on Notre Dame’s then-struggling football program in 1986. Among the many things he demanded from his players, he had them ask themselves, “What’s important now?” Under the simple but powerful acronym WIN, the act of asking and answering this question inculcated a sense of drive and motivation. It stopped players from dwelling on mistakes in past plays and other mental distractions. Instead, it helped them prioritize goals and sharpened their focus to the situation at hand.

Coach Holtz wanted them to be able to do this in an instant, at any given time. So he required his players to ask “WIN” 35 times a day — in every aspect of their lives, from sunup to sundown.

In no time flat, this mental exercise helped transform the floundering team into a nearly unbeatable force. Holtz went on to lead Notre Dame to nine bowl games and a national championship during his decade-long tenure, and eventually amassed an impressive career record of 249–132–7.

We all face challenges and critical choices in our lives, both personal or professional. How we respond to them and the decisions we make can have lasting impact. Repeatedly asking ourselves “What’s important now?” places us in the mindset to be able to better prioritize tasks, whether you're a lifeguard, a facility operator or swim instructor. It’s just a different sort of mindfulness.

I guess I was doing it wrong.