Mindfulness seems to be the catch phrase of the day. Mindfulness in schools. Mindfulness in personal effectiveness. Mindfulness in yoga. And mindfulness in business and leadership. There seem to be constant reminders to be more mindful. Why? What’s it all about?
I was on the phone with a new client recently, and she explained how much she had on her mind. She was loving the job she was in, and also applying for a new position that she really wanted. As she waited (and waited) for word about the new position, she felt herself drifting away from her moments. Colleagues would be explaining situations to her, and she had a difficult time listening. Her direct reports would be asking for her thoughts on a project, and she found herself wondering if she’d be in her current position very much longer…and with no idea what had just been said to her.
“I want to be more present and aware of where I am and what’s happening in the moment,” she said to me on the phone. “I need to pay attention to this job while I still have it.”
“You want to be more mindful,” I replied.
“Yes,” she nearly shouted. “How?”
Mindfulness is, in many ways, very, very simple. It is, most basically, “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something,” or “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations” – which are ways of saying that mindfulness is about being present and aware of the moment. Each moment.
It’s being aware of where you are and what you’re facing. It means to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings as they arise, but to not get carried away by them. To allow them to pass through you, observing and learning from them.
But what’s the big deal about this? Why is it so important? How does it, can it, help us?
Mindfulness keeps you anchored in the present, not lost in worries or dreams of the future, or stuck in rehashing the past – which allows you to lead more Thoughtfully and intentionally, and to solve problems and take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves to you. Mindfulness keeps us grounded in what’s actually happening, so that we can be present to what’s actually happening. My client had a very hard time leading her team when her mind was wandering away from her team. Mindfulness helps us stay with the people and situations we need to lead.
Mindfulness also relieves us of our immediate jump to judgment, because it requires us to do our best to be without judgment. When we can calmly acknowledge and accept our own feelings and thoughts, we can more calmly acknowledge and accept the feelings and thoughts of others – those we work with and those we live with. This allows us to, again, be more present and open to what is happening and what is needed from us in the moment. Which again helps us stay with the people and situations we need to lead.
So how do we become more mindful? It’s something I practice (and practice…and practice) every day. The best tricks I’ve found are to:
- Breathe – simply breathe. It reminds me to be where I am, and makes me more aware of where I am.
- Notice where your feet are – if I pay attention to my feet on the ground (or whatever else they’re touching), I again stay in the moment and where I am.
- For that matter, notice any part of your body – this brings me back to the spot where I am.
- Use your other senses as well – by becoming more aware of what I’m seeing, tasting, smelling and/or hearing, I help myself (and sometimes force myself) to stay in the moment, present and aware.
However you practice it, mindfulness can help you become more present, more aware, more effective and more of a leader.
How do you practice mindfulness? What has it brought you?
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For support in becoming more mindful, contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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