The buzz around the benefits of Mindfulness in the workplace, for Leadership and for life in general, continues to grow. As the days and months roll by, the high growth in research evidence supporting these claims means that individuals and organizations are increasingly interested in finding out what benefits they can get from introducing Mindfulness practices. At Lea_p we grow leaders and it is therefore appropriate that we focus on how Mindfulness can help Leaders achieve success and fulfillment in their endeavors!
Here’s the top four reasons why we believe leaders will benefit from Mindfulness:
1 Heightened Self Awareness
Mindfulness helps people take the seat of the impersonal witness to their moment to moment life experience. We generally go through life identifying ourselves by our thoughts, feelings and body sensations and operating from a place of reactivity and habit. We learn through mindfulness to make the fundamental shift to understanding that we are experiencing those thoughts, feelings and sensations but we are not those thoughts, feelings and sensations. This is important because, 1. it is the truth!, and 2. because it creates a space between each stimulus and our reaction to it. It allows us to see how habitual we may have become and how fixed our mindset may be. In this space - this brief pause - we realize that we are actually at choice in how we respond to the constant stream of stimuli (as in, life events, what someone says to us, challenges and opportunities etc….). This choice gives us vastly more capacity to act wisely and in ways that foster our own success, fulfilment and happiness. As a leader, this attunement is crucial in maximizing our impact and range. It allows us to see, question and step beyond limiting beliefs and habitual reactivity into a field of endless possibility!
2 Increased Focus and Concentration
The result of living in the modern world, exposed to a deluge of stimulus from morning to night, fast and demanding lifestyles and a rate of change that would have seemed impossible even 20 years ago is that our ability to maintain attention and stay focused has deteriorated. A study published in Science Magazine in November, 2010 reported that our mind is wandering 47% of the time. Think about this - nearly half of our time is spent not thinking about the task at hand. A lower level of mind wandering (estimated at 10% in this study) is healthy and normal and is actually beneficial in terms of creativity. However, a high level of mind wandering limits our ability to be focused and what needs to be done and to be present for others. Mindfulness practice, at its core, develops our ability to pay attention. You can think about this in the same way we all understand that doing regular repetitions of doing arm curls with weights will result in building biceps. Just in the same way, the intentional paying attention to our experience in the present moment, noticing when we are distracted and then gently bringing our attention back to the present moment builds our attention ‘muscles’. This is the foundation of sustained focus that allows the leader to stay on track - both in terms of focus on who we are being and focus on what we are doing.
3 Self Regulation
When we train the ‘muscle’ of attention and increase our self-awareness through our mindfulness practice we become more highly attuned to how we are responding to experiences as they happen. Crucially, this attunement at the level of physiology (how our body is responding to our changing thoughts and emotions) provides us with an early warning system to a building charge that might otherwise erupt into an unhelpful reaction that is often regretted later and requires time and energy to ‘clean up’. This early warning system also tells us when we should really take a rest or, conversely, when we need to step up and take action instead of sitting back. It also warns us when we are not sure what to do and are starting to retreat into ourselves and go quiet, limiting our impact. By catching these cues at an early stage, we empower ourselves with a much greater capacity to respond more wisely and creatively. The leader can correct their course with small adjustments and stay focused on their objectives instead of having to launch emergency, damage limitation actions when they are blindsided by the loud shriek of the high pressure valve!
4 Emotional Intelligence
This awareness of our own internal experience and the capacity to self-regulate also provides us with a far greater capacity to stay present, curious and open to others and, from this presence, we gain valuable insight into their state and their needs. Empathy and heightened emotional intelligence bloom from this place. Our ability to maximize the efforts of ourselves and others to achieve a common goal (aka ‘lead’) grows from this place.