Mindfulness Moving to Mainstream at Work
By Lane Michel
I heard a leader remark that “mindfulness is just meditation dressed up to make it politically correct for business.” That leader didn’t want a bunch of employees meditating around the office calling it productive time. At the root of the judgment is misunderstanding of mindfulness and its benefits to the organization.
A check this week on Google Scholar citations for “mindfulness at work” resulted in a staggering 137,000 citations out of the 266,000 citations for “mindfulness” overall. In just 2017 alone there are nearly 3,000 citations of scholarly (including peer-reviewed) research and practices for mindfulness while on the job. I say “Bravo!” if being politically correct broke the barrier to accepting that better understanding our human design and growing skills to improve communication, focus, results and quality of work/life. Those who choose, commit and maintain practices that are under the umbrella of mindfulness are finding reduced anxiety, more clarity, greater happiness and increased synchronicities. The benefits are never compartmentalized to work, spreading to home and community as well.
Simple Mindfulness for Work
Demystifying what mindfulness really means helps to open the door to welcoming new tools into the workplace. Mindfulness means pausing, becoming more aware of self and others after that pause, suspending reactions and then making clearer choices.
VeraHeart introduced “Pause for Choice” as a simple way to understand mindfulness and our interconnections with everything around us in any moment. Both must begin with a conscious pause. That all important pause creates the opportunity to be clear, smart, articulate and decisive. In the rush and fervor to act quickly, look and be intelligent and avoid mostly unconscious fears we have become a world of people going in many directions fast while missing so many cues, opportunities, learning and joy in the process. People are numb, anxious, stressed out, disempowered and unhappy.
Benefits of Mindfulness
- Reduce brain chatter
- Reduce negative thoughts
- Reduce anxiety and stress
- Improve physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health
- Stop automatic destructive reactions
- Experience what is really happening
- Live powerfully by choice
It’s far too easy to look outside of our self for the problem. In truth, better results and happier living comes from realizing that what will improve our lives and company results comes from within each individual first. Then, recognizing and growing connections between people in teams focused on a mission lights up performance and results like fireworks. We experience too little of this good kind of achievement at work, home and in our communities.
What Am I Signing Up for with Mindfulness?
Regardless of the approach, training or implementation of mindfulness you choose, expect to awaken skills that nearly all of us inherently have but rarely call upon consistently or powerfully. Mindfulness advances your mastery of these skills:
- Activate physiological support your body needs
- Briefly slow mental activity and increase acuity
- Calm or stop emotional reactions
- Invite participation of intuitive and inspirational abilities
- Awareness of mind chatter, including negative and positive thoughts
- Observing self with acknowledgement and without judgment
- Witnessing others with all senses, including physical and energetic
- Listening without formulating responses
- Remember purpose, bigger picture, context prior to pause
- Identify mental patterns (tracks, pathways, repeating steps)
- Increase heart-mind coherence (maximum personal potential)
- Make conscious choices with greater intention
- Acceptance of yourself and others’ experiences and choices
- Appreciation for our interconnectedness and organization
- Gratitude expanded, creating a more positive environment and experiences
- Clarity on personal responsibility going forward
Crossing the Mindfulness Chasm
The part of mindfulness at work that is still elusive is that the outcomes are so dependent on personal choice to embrace and sustain the discipline to put mindfulness techniques into practice all day, every day. We are seeing Geoffrey Moore’s adoption curve at play here just as it works for the technology industry.
Many innovators have been experimenting and creating cool results (for example, the University of Massachusetts Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program graduate taking their practices into the job)
More and more early adopters are gaining repeatable results (like Google’s gPause project that has spread globally and brings in experts to expand their results; see Lane Michel’s Talks at Google presentation sponsored by Google’s gPause Project)
The leader quoted at the start of this article represents the chasm to cross now. Mindfulness will increase in adoption. It will expand through more simple and practical experience. Books, workshops, coaches and Employee Assistance Programs will grow in numbers. Best practices showing repeatable benefits and performance improvements to will help leaders write the checks to increase these investments in people.
As the adoption curve advances, employees will begin to expect all companies they consider working with to support, encourage, provide or even demand some mindfulness elements at work and as a part of the company’s culture. That is what Moore called “Main Street” of the adoption curve. That’s where you get on board or fall away and have a hard time catching up. Just be aware that no one can predict when you might be too late in your adoption decisions.
The learning here is that leaders from all levels in organizations must educate themselves, experiment with and find their organization’s unique implementation of a mission critical emerging method for unleashing dormant awesome potential in people.
Choice, Not Directives
“By learning to experience the present moment as it really is, we develop the ability to step away from habitual, often unconscious emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events, see things as they really are and respond to them wisely rather than on auto pilot.” (mindfulnet.org)
The key — the trick — is that the choice to practice mindfulness is within each individual person. Leaders must blaze the trail. The choice you can make as a leader is to create a pilot, seed mindfulness learning and practices, and also recognize new results that are connected to mindfulness adoption. Be the example, too. Grow your bag of tools as a leader, a human being, a mentor and as a partner.