In today’s competitive environment, we often complain about having no time for peace and happiness. We are so much engrossed in “doing” that we don’t get time “being” in the moment. Our minds are constantly meandering; we are often physically present at a meeting or discussion but mentally elsewhere.
Distractions arise either through our internal dialogues or through external objects. With the advent of technology, our distractions have gone up significantly primarily due to cell phones, tablets, emails, texts, WhatsApp messages etc. In our fight for survival in a competitive world, our internal dialogues are diverting our minds to wander in our troubled past or uncertain future, taking away our sense of being in the present.
How big is this problem? According to research articles, our mind wanders 46.9 percent of the time. In other words, we focus on our tasks a little more than 50% of the time we assign to it. This also means that our business is losing on effectiveness due to limited concentration. The loss in productivity resulting from limited focus underlines the importance for leaders and people in organizations to be mindful.
Mindfulness is an art of striving to focus on the present – being at the moment “here and now”. Our conscious level mind tries to fill any emptiness with internal dialogue by dwelling on the past or future. Not taming our mind results in it going into an auto pilot mode.
Our mind continues to be noisy even when things are calm in the external world, resulting in emotional instability. When we keep ourselves engaged in internal dialogues, we lose a lot of energy and peace. This impacts our emotional and intellectual well-being; our productivity reduces, and our ability to manage our emotions depletes.
Hence it is important that we shift to moving our mind to the present. When we focus ourselves on the quietness of the mind without the temptation to stray, we live the very core purpose of our existence, the purpose of being at peace, happiness and love.
In the spiritual world, mindfulness meditation enhances the power of concentration, peace and happiness for practitioners. In real life where one is dealing with pressing situations, it is highly recommended to pause from the daily schedule for two minutes periodically to experience being in the moment and observe the feelings, and emotions of self as an observer. Mindfulness is not an ultimate purpose; it is the journey of being oneself.
We know that we have no control over our past and yet, we keep thinking about it and lose a lot of energy. In Hindi, we refer to the past as “bhoot-kaal”. The word Bhoot indicates an entity that has no life or existence. Any reflection of the past that is done without being emotional, and with the sole purpose of learning from previous lessons is constructive, and will not drain your emotional resources.
Similarly, our future isn’t ours for the taking. Our lives may come to an abrupt halt at any given moment for us to even experience next dawn.
The moment we realize that both past events and future events are distractors, we are better equipped to concentrate on the present moment; our efficiency and effectiveness double and our tasks become more productive and effective.
Some principles and practices which can enable us to be mindful are listed below –
- When you wake up in the morning, spend a few minutes meditating. This could be in a form of breathing exercise or following a guided meditation.
- While doing or performing any activity, just concentrate on the same and don’t let your mind wander elsewhere. For example, if you are brushing your teeth, observe the process, feel the brush and experience the overall activity.
- Try not to overload yourself with a lot of information. Social media, in today’s age, provides a lot of information that is mostly noise. As far as possible, avoid your exposure to negative information during the early hours of your day. This includes reading newspapers in the morning as newspapers thrive on negative information, and the information you consume stays with you.
- While at work wherever your mind is taking you to past event or to some anticipated future event, bring it back and promise to spend time on the topic it is taking you to. Reserve sometime during the day when you could reflect upon these events with some constructive objective. This also means that you don’t let your mind wander on these events or topics again after you are done with reflecting.
- Remind your mind that you have no control over the external world but on the inner world. People will not be your way; you must need to accept this instead of getting angry on people or situations. When you get angry, mind accelerates the thinking and becomes noisy.
- Last but not the least, take regular pauses during the day. Close your eyes, focus on the emptiness of the mind, observe your breath for concentration. Be in this state for two minutes. This will help you recharge yourself and you will become much more effective, calmer and energetic.
Mindfulness and Leadership
According to management guru Peter Drucker, we cannot manage others unless we learn to manage ourselves first. Mindfulness leadership is all about developing high levels of self-management and being aware of the environment around you.
To explore the value of mindfulness leadership further, let me place it in context for further exploration. Sometime back, I had met a leader who is the founder of his organization. He had hired a head of sales for his business a few months back with the objective of improving his sales numbers. The person he had hired was very promising, networked and had shown a lot of promise to expand the business.
However, nine months down the road, the head of sales wasn’t producing results even after his tenure of nine months in the company. The founder had set up a meeting with him to review the progress. The new recruit was very anxious, stressed about the review meeting as he was aware that he had no results to showcase.
In the given situation, if you were to act as a Founder, how would you have conducted yourself?
This founder was very mindful of the fact that head of sales showed promise. He was also aware of the tremendous pressure and stress that the current situation had placed the recruit under. He followed the Choice Map as laid down by Marilee Adams (Co-founder & Partner of Institute of Inquiring Leadership).
According to Adams, people or leaders can choose to follow two distinct routes – the Learner Path or the Judger Path. One starts down the Learner Path with neutral questions such as: “What just happened? What’s useful here? What do I want? What are my choices?” One starts down the Judger Path with judgmental questions like: “Who’s to blame? What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with them?”
Learner questions generally lead you towards thoughtful solution-focused choices, says Adams. Moreover, they tend to produce win-win relating styles which help build and solidify relationships. On the contrary, Judger Questions tend to be automatic reactions; they often blame focused they typically produce win-lose relating styles.
In this situation, the founder made the sales head comfortable and reinstated his lost faith so that he did not lose his confidence. He was very well aware that had he pushed the head of sales into corner or blamed him, the head of sales would have probably reacted in a way that would have been detrimental to his own self or to the health of the organization.
The founder followed the Learners path and had a discussion with the sales head to understand what was working fine, what were the facts, what was the big picture, what were the choices available, what could be learnt, what was possible etc. This discussion helped them approach the situation from a positive perspective leading to solutions that benefited both the head of sales and the sales numbers of the company.
In leadership, being mindful to own emotions, values, feelings, and at the same time having the same awareness for others make a real big difference.