Over the last few years, mindfulness has grown in popularity in the corporate world as directors and managers seek to improve their performance and deal more effectively with the effects of stress. But what exactly is it? And how can it improve work performance?
Mindfulness can simply be translated as the ability to concentrate on one thing at a time without distraction. In the same way that lifting weights regularly in the gym strengthens a muscle, practicing mindfulness regularly strengthens the mind’s ability to concentrate. The more focused our minds are, the easier and quicker it is for us to master new tasks and learn new skills.
The reason it is needed now more than ever is that our brains are becoming less focused due to the huge amount of information we are bombarded with every day. Constant distraction from the TV, computers, emails, newspapers and mobile phones means that our minds are constantly skipping from one source of information to another and our ability to focus on any one topic for more than a few moments is decreasing. This is one of the main reasons why more and more people are experiencing more stress, anxiety, ADHD, panic attacks and a host of other psychological disorders worldwide.
So how does one go about learning mindfulness?
There are various techniques that help focus the mind which can be developed with a 15-20 minute daily mind observation exercise or it can be incorporated into any daily activity. Learning to be fully present in every moment allows us to observe our minds and gain a deeper understanding of how the mind works so that we can use it to our full advantage rather than fight against it. When we have an instruction manual to anything, life becomes easier and learning how the mind functions before we use it is no exception.
Here are 7 ways in which mindfulness can benefit the corporate executive:
- Focusing on one thing at a time saves time! Mindfulness training allows the mind to focus on one thing without being distracted by multiple thoughts at once. Think about it. Throwing a ball in the air and catching it is simple, but what happens when you try and juggle with two or three? You are much more likely to drop one or if not all of the balls. The mind is no different.
- Clarity of thought. When our minds are not distracted and we can fully focus on one thing at a time, it allows us to think, judge and reason more clearly. It allows us to make better decisions based on rationality rather than emotional responses.
- Peace of mind. When our minds are distracted or agitated, the smallest problem in the world seems like the biggest. We have so much going on in our minds that any extra dilemmas or problems feel like added baggage to our already over-burdened mind. However, when we are present our minds become calm, peaceful and the biggest problems in the world seem considerably more manageable.
- Communication. How many times have you been introduced to someone and forgotten their name 2 minutes later? Or you’ve been so eager to express your thoughts during a conversation that you have not listened to the person talking to you? How often has your mind drifted off in boardroom meetings as you think of all the tasks you should be getting on with that day? Mindfulness helps you stay alert so that you can listen to the information happening around you rather than letting your mind drift off to thoughts in the future or past.
- Improve relationships. If we are stressed or under pressure, we can lose control of our emotions very easily which can result in poor relationships with our work colleagues. For a business to be successful co-operation among team members is vital and personal differences must be set aside. Mindfulness allows us to become aware of our negative emotions before they escape our mouths and allow us to stop, take control of our thoughts and react in a more constructive and beneficial manner.
- Increased creativity. When our minds are focused on one thing at a time, we activate the right side of our brain which is connected to creativity. This not only allows us to solve problems more quickly but brings us to the present moment where we can think up new ideas, rather than using our memory which only searches for old solutions.
- Increased energy and vitality. Thinking uses up energy. Every thought you have, no matter how big or small creates a physical reaction. When we use mindfulness and focus on one thing at a time, it enables us to let go of emotional thoughts from the past and future which cuts off our physical response, making our mind and body more relaxed and increasing our energy and vitality.
Mindfulness is not new. It has been used for many thousands of years in the East to attain a peaceful state of mind, a deeper understanding of who we are and clarity as to how best to serve society.
In the same way, it can give us a clearer understanding of how to create a positive work environment, work to the best of our ability and achieve objectives more easily, successfully and enjoyably.