By Simone Heijhoff
Contemporary science indicates that mindfulness is a form of brain training that increases concentration and focus. When developing a mindfulness practice, one expands self-awareness, emotional intelligence and personal leadership. These traits, given the general ‘busyness’ and competing demands we all face, are essential for success and sustainability in our modern fast-paced society and workplaces. Pioneering companies like Google, Apple and SAP have demonstrated that implementing mindfulness in the workplace can lead to better business results along with increases in employee wellbeing and happiness. Mindfulness contributes to increased satisfaction and engagement, and is associated with fewer costs and less absenteeism.
Mindfulness increases self-awareness and personal development
Mindfulness can simply be defined as; attention, awareness or presence. A contrast to ‘functioning on autopilot’. This capacity of attention allows us to experience what is happening from moment to moment with clarity. Both in your internal and external world, without your attention drifting to the past or the future. By developing this quality of attention, one becomes much more aware of oneself and own reactions to certain instances. With repetition, you recognize the difference between automatic reaction patterns and consciously chosen behavior.
For personal growth, mindfulness is not enough on its own. Something must be done with the newfound clarity and information. Important to mindfulness is the working of the senses and learning about how the senses lead to automatic, largely unconscious behavior. Mindfulness increases the awareness and understanding of our own sensory and physical experiences, emotions and thoughts.
Mindfulness is not simply a turn inwards, but also about tuning into what is happening in our external world, in our surroundings and the lives of others. The clarity that arises creates the space for other, more conscious choices, which in turn, promotes more personal leadership. For example, with regular mindfulness practice, one is better able to see the causes of stress, how one deals with this and how other choices can lead to different results. This understanding means, in both personal and professional realms, one is better able to leverage their strengths, talents and potential. This can even prevent burn-out.
Emotional intelligence through mindfulness and self-awareness
Self-awareness leads to emotional intelligence because one also becomes more attentive to his or her emotional reactions. Will see how emotions arise, understand his or her own influence with regards to emotional reactions, is less compelled by automatic, emotional reactions, better able to regulate emotions and to make conscious choices
Instead of being driven from conscious or unconscious bias based on personal preferences or resistance, it becomes easier to make neutral decisions. When a person knows and understands their emotional landscape well, this person also has more insight into the emotions of others. Better clarity about how emotions influence the behavior of others decreases acting on false or unfair assumptions.
Mindfulness for professional growth
Mindfulness hones insights about oneself and others, especially in regards to knowing one’s positive traits, talents and less favorable attributes. Armed with this information, one can better direct their talents and energies in the workplace and really thrive in a professional role.
Increased awareness about values and what matters most helps individuals make more conscious career choices, and take greater responsibility for them. The person who practices mindfulness will have clear professional goals and will take the right steps towards achieving them. By linking work more clearly to one’s own personal values and goals, both employer and employee benefit.
Mindfulness stimulates engagement and effective cooperation
Employees who know themselves will take more responsibility and ownership for their personal development and leadership. They know what motivates them and make choices grounded in this self-knowledge. As a result, employees who practice mindfulness are more engaged with the organization they work for and within the specific role they fulfill. These people are consciously choosing to spend their time and energy with your organization and its clients. Because mindfulness practitioners are intrinsically motivated, they bring added value.
Someone who clearly understands him or herself will also have more understanding of and empathy for the experiences and behaviors of others. Self-awareness leads to more empathy and compassion. Mindfulness increases the ability to step into the shoes of someone else, to understand their thoughts, emotions and perspectives, without the need to adopt similar ideas, experiences or worldviews. With a spirit of tolerance and respect, this opens up possibilities for exploration and dialogue in sourcing solutions.
Mindfulness contributes to overall health and wellbeing
High levels of self-awareness means a person takes more responsibility for his or her own overall health and wellbeing. Being self-aware means one knows their physical, mental and emotional state. It will be more evident, and at an earlier stage, when there has not been sufficient self-care and what actions should be taken. They can identify if things are going well or when more self-care is needed.
A practical mindfulness exercise for the workplace
Often, when we arrive at work, our heads are still occupied with everything that happened in the morning – be it a conversation we had with a partner or child, something we heard on the news, or a frustration that we encountered on our commute. What can you do to counteract this?
The Mindful Attention Shift
- When you arrive at work take a moment to connect with yourself by sitting down.
- Next, close your eyes for a moment and feel your body.
- Find your breath and follow your breathing for several moments with your full attention.
- Every time your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breathing.
- Then, take a moment to realize that you are about to begin your work day, and set the intention to make today an effective day.
- Make a conscious choice to give full attention to your work, leaving all the rest for later.
- Next, make a mental note of the 3 most important things to focus on today.
- Start your workday.
- At moments when you begin to wander off, or get swept away by less important distractions, repeat this exercise.
Many of my clients love this exercise. You can even adapt it for when you arrive home. You then make the conscious choice to stop working – and thinking about work – by giving your private life and your loved ones your full attention. If you are someone who works from home or has an unconventional schedule, then you can choose applicable moments to do this exercise. After all, this is not about location but about mindset.
Let’s say you are a person that works in the evenings after dinner, or after putting the children to bed. You can still first close work, shift to private mode and then shift back to working. This way you can truly and fully spend dinnertime with your loved ones, who benefit from having your attention fully, before you head back to work. Whether you are a CEO, an entrepreneur or a working mom, practicing little mental shift exercises like this one can make all the difference.
Want to learn more? Please get in contact with me via my website: www.youki.nl