There is so much written about mindfulness in the workplace that you would be forgiven for thinking that it is a panacea for finding laser like focus, productivity, and wellbeing. Whilst mindfulness undoubtedly can assist with all the above, this is a very limited notion of what mindfulness is and how it can help us at work and in life.
Mindfulness is in fact a way of being, rather than doing, that enables us to cultivate a relationship with ourselves and with others in which new possibilities are created for communication, motivation and creating meaningful connection.
When the outside VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world can feel overwhelming and out of control, we can look inward and learn new skills to be able to show up in this world, not just surviving but thriving and being able to take advantage of all the incredible opportunities that exist. So, let’s explore 3 ways in which mindfulness helps us to do that.
- Mindfulness enables us to strengthen our connection to others
A simple definition of mindfulness is ‘being present’. But the question is what are we being present for, and what is it that we want to be able to see, that perhaps we are not seeing when rushing from meeting to meeting on autopilot? The Mindful Nation UK report defines mindfulness as ‘paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment, in the mind, the body and external environment, with an attitude of curiosity and kindness’. We start by building a foundation of self-awareness that allows us to get to know ourselves better, so we can observe our thoughts, feelings and emotions and be aware of how they are impacting our interactions during the day. When our mind is no longer jam-packed full of our own internal distractions we then have the headspace to be able to be fully present for others, to interact with others without being driven by assumptions, and habitual patterns of responding, but to see and respond to what is there. This liberating way of being can significantly strengthen our relationships with others making them more meaningful and giving us the motivation to connect in new ways.
- Mindfulness creates alignment to our values and helps us envision our future
Mindfulness is a very powerful way of creating motivation in our lives. How often do you stop to ask yourself, what are my most important values and am I living my life is a way that aligns with them? We suggest taking the time to journal about what values are most important to you and to then explore whether your current way of living and working is getting in the way of you aligning to those values? Being clear on what’s most important helps to keep us on track when we encounter setbacks and when the winds of change sweep in as they so often do. Mindfulness creates the clarity we need to align to our values in our every day life and it can also help us to makes changes when we feel we aren’t living our best possible life. We can use mindfulness to help us make more conscious choices about where our life is heading, about how we are showing up in our lives and decide whether we need to ‘course correct’. This could be as simple as wanting to live with more alignment to your values, for instance, showing more compassion in your relationships. Or it could be that we feel we need to make a bigger shift and perhaps ask for the pay rise or the promotion we feel we deserve, or to apply for our dream job.
- Mindfulness creates confidence, courage and compassionate leadership
Can you think of times you have avoided a conversation with a colleague or team member, or perhaps you have shut down during a conversation, or you have said yes when you meant no? Often what prevents us from having those tough conversations is that we enter a state of empathetic distress and worry endlessly about how the other person will feel in the conversation and worry just as much about our own distressing emotions that are likely to come up when having the tough conversation. Mindfulness gives us the ability to recognise this empathetic distress and to instead put ourselves in the shoes of the other person and to explore the situation to find out what is really going on, what emotions are involved and how we can help.
When we know ourselves better through a consistent mindfulness practice and developed the self-management skills to be able to handle ourselves in challenging situations, we start to gain a sense of confidence that enables us to move towards challenge and difficulty with a sense of courage. When our minds aren’t full of noise and distraction, and we have that inner confidence, we are also then more effectively able to move from ‘me to we’, to put ourselves in the shoes of others and ask ourselves, how can I best help this person who is in distress and what would be of most service here. This is compassionate leadership in action. Dr. Thupten Jinpa, one of the leading researchers at Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research sums this up beautifully when he states that “compassion makes courage” and goes on to say, “Having compassion for others frees us from fearing…it turns our attention outward, expanding our perspective, making our own problems…part of something bigger than us that we are all in together.”
This is the potential and opportunity of mindfulness.
This Guest Blog was written by Emma Carbery, Managing Director Mindfulness Dubai
Emma has been practising and teaching mindfulness for over 10 years, is a qualified mindfulness teacher and brings warmth, humour and compassion to those she works with and a deep understanding of what it feels like to experience anxiety, stress and overwhelm. She has completed advanced Mindfulness teacher training with expert teacher Shamash Alidina, is certified by The Society for Holistic Therapists and Coaches (UK) to teach mindfulness and has studied Mindfulness with Janice Marturano of the Mindful Leadership Institute (USA), and the US based Mindful Schools organisation. She is currently working with the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, the organisation that was born at google to bring mindfulness based emotional intelligence to teams at google, (www.siyli.org) to be able to bring their program, Search Inside Yourself, to the UAE. She is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Personal Development (CIPD) and also holds Masters’ degrees in Politics, Public policy and Human Resources.