Are you ready for some long-term fixes to today's workplace problems? Fasten your transcendental seat belts and get ready to enter the mindfulness zone.
Last fall I spent a day on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus listening to three experts in the areas of mindfulness and leadership: Bill George, Dr. Richard Davidson, and Roshi Joan Halifax. The topic was specifically the intersection of these two topics: mindful leadership.
If we're going to deal with corporate shortsightedness (e.g. greed), address the poor treatment of people in the workplace, and expand the possibility for fulfilling work, the ideas that the speakers shared will go a long way in achieving these goals. Further, our misplaced focus on money and power, our inability to shut off work, and our lack of effort to recharge our batteries can all be addressed if we practice a little mindfulness.
How? Mindfulness deepens self-awareness, which then facilitates our ability to reflect on our values. Once we're clear on our values, we can align our thoughts and actions with them.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. According to the Greater Good Science Center, "Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future" (What is Mindfulness? Accessed 10/28/14). The Center goes on to list benefits of mindfulness, including boosting our immune system, increasing positive emotions while reducing stress, enhancing the parts of the brain linked to learning, memory, and empathy, improving our attention skills, and fostering compassion and altruism.
That's a lot of benefits but the crux is the building of awareness of this moment and tuning out the past and future. Right now, are you being fired for incompetence, failing to pay for college for your kids, or getting into a fender bender? That may have happened in the past or could happen in the future, but ruminating on the past or feeling anxious about the future prevents you from being present now. In the graphic above, it's the dog who's enjoying the walk, seeing only what's right in front of him in the moment.