Tools – give me tools.
what most of the people we meet in the workplace want – tools. Tools to
be more efficient, productive, effective and less stressed. Often what
they want are solutions to complex problems – more often what they want
is out of their control.
So the question becomes – is there a master tool? If so much of what people want at work is control – is there a “tool” to help them?
Well – there is no tool or formula or
magic to control other people – or events that can often feel random
and overwhelming. However, there is one tool we have that is within our
domain to control – and its power is being explored and revealed by an ever-growing body of research – and that is mindfulness.
Mindfulness, a concept and practice inherited from Buddhist traditions, has found its way into mainstream psychology and medicine – and slowly into the workplace.
The benefits of mindfulness are many –
and the list keeps getting longer: help with depression, alleviation
of pain, quicker recovery from surgery, relationship issues, help with
sleep problems, eating disorders, anxiety and phobia issues and overall
The “magic” of mindfulness is that it
rearranges neural networks. Cutting edge science continues to prove
this in powerful ways. And the truly exciting news is that power comes
from us. We are the tool.
What is Mindfulness?
As earlier stated – mindfulness is a concept and a practice. While there is no set definition it can best be described as:
Paying focused attention
To the experience of the present moment
This definition comes from mindfulness pioneer, Jon Kabat-Zinn, a
Western Buddhist practitioner who founded the renowned Stress Reduction
Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
According to Kabat-Zinn, at its’ essence, mindfulness is the “confluence of intention, attention and present time experience.” It is the awareness of awareness.
Daniel Stern, author of The Present Moment in Psychology and Everyday Life, defines the present moment as “being approximately three seconds – between three and ten. And in describing Stern’s work, author Ruth Cohn explains, “many
functions in nature and culture that occupy such intervals of time: an
exchange of communication between infant and caregiver, a cycle of
breath inhaled and exhaled, a musical phrase, a conversational “turn.”
Perhaps the moment of now is an essential ingredient in the operating
system of our design.”
Bringing the Benefits of Mindfulness to Our Work
mindfulness in everyday life takes effort. Many related practices
(meditation, yoga, some martial arts, time spent away from media and
technology, time spent in the natural world) will help to cultivate
mindfulness. But the mind needs the focus and consistency of a regular
practice if it is to undo old neural patterns and learn new ones.
For many, the workplace is one of the
most stressful places in their lives. Pressures are constant.
Differences, even non-conflictual ones, among people requires lots of
neural energy to manage. Most people in this culture work too many
hours, often without any breaks. Many workers operate in a low – level
flight or fight mode. Out of touch with feelings and the thinking
patterns that reinforce stress and anxiety, many people constantly
“re-trigger” those negative habits throughout the day. Mindfulness
practice offers the possibilities of mental and emotional rest, despite
the events that surface in the average workday.
10 Ways to Practice
- Make a commitment to
practice. The first step is to become more aware of being aware.
Essentially mindfulness is the art of being an observor of your self – your thoughts, feelings and your behaviors. As the definition above states – without judgment)
- Start slowly – today I will become more aware of _________ and practice by placing your attention on that.
- Start each day with a few minutes of conscious awareness. Breathing is the key to opening up your awareness.
Instead of jumping right out of bed into your routine, take a few
minutes to notice how you feel and consciously set your intentions for
- If your tendency is to move
at a very quick pace while getting your day started, focus on slowing
yourself down. Even if you have to get many things done in a short
time frame – you can control the racing to-do list in your mind. This
will help regulate your energy in a different way.
- In the course of your work, practice really listening
to others. This requires you to shift your energy to the other person
and take the focus off you and your mental to-do list, even for a few
- Consider ways to recognize
other’s accomplishments, needs, difficulties and practice small, simple
acts of empathy and kindness that may lighten their load. They have
- Pay close attention to your
body language. The way we use our body has a powerful effect on closing
our attention down – or opening it up. We can’t stress enough the value
and importance of being aware of how you breathe.
- Watch your language – the
words you use cue your physiology. When you tell a colleague that you
are “slammed” in terms of work – you are signaling your brain that it is
having or about to have an unpleasant experience.
- Take a few minutes to identify what you would like your outcome to be in
certain interactions – an important call, email or meeting. Most of us
find ourselves in the midst of interpersonal situations with no idea of
what we really want. In other words – know your intention.
- Find some time, at the end
of your workday or in the evening for self-reflection. It’s challenging
to do this without judgment. Discernment and judgment are very
different. Practice noticing without judging.
didn’t say this was easy. That’s why it’s called a practice. We get
the chance to do it over and over until we can perceive the little
shifts and changes that evolve into habits.
There is a power in mindfulness that you can tap into. It’s all up to you.
As always, we’d love you to share your thoughts and comments with us.
Thanks for sharing and tweeting this post and please be sure to subscribe to receive notice of our weekly posts!
Louise & George Altman, Intentional Communication Partners