How mastering mindfulness can make you a leader that others will notice
You may have heard of this phenomenon called mindfulness. Before we start, take this quick quiz:
- Where is your mind at this present moment?
- What are you thinking about right now?
- How likely is it that you’ll become distracted by thoughts about work, family, others, finances or something else?
- As you read further, how much attention will you still be paying to the details in each sentence?
- How useful are those distracted thoughts for getting some valuable information out of this article?
Were you distracted by all these questions or are you still with us? OK, let’s get started...
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is based on the science and medical discipline of neuroscience. In a nutshell, it’s about focusing [without distraction] on what’s happening right now. It is the psychological process of bringing your attention to the experiences that are occurring in the present. Mindfulness isn’t concerned with the past, and it certainly isn’t concerned with the future.
Mastering mindfulness involves developing the ability to calm your mind to access its full potential. With a calm and focused mind, we can harness our thoughts to achieve far greater outcomes for ourselves, and for the people around us. If that sounds a bit like a superpower, in many ways, it is. And this is just the beginning.
Can anyone master mindfulness?
The short answer is yes, but it isn’t as easy as saying “I’m going to be more mindful”. This would be like saying “I can swim”, therefore I can be a Gold medallist for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. You probably can, but you have to invest something every day to get there.
All of us face a wide variety of emotional influences and stressors in our busy daily lives. Switching all of these off in one go is an almost impossible task. But it is possible. Mindfulness is closely related to meditation, and many people practice meditation techniques for years without ever truly “perfecting” them.
By learning mindfulness, we can reduce the effects these daily stressors have on our ability to focus on the present. As we rehearse and practice mindfulness techniques, our brain becomes increasingly more accustomed to this new way of operating, until it becomes automatic or habitual.
How will it help me as a leader?
For starters, you’ll feel healthier and happier, which has flow-on effects for your effectiveness as a leader. Mindfulness is a well-proven treatment for anxiety disorders, and a reduction in anxiety and stress is beneficial for everyone’s health.
As a leader, you’ll have the ability to more accurately determine exactly what’s going on in the present moment, which in turn will allow you to:
- Remember details more accurately
- Avoid judgmental thinking about people or events
- Provide helpful verbal and non-verbal cues to employees and colleagues when they’re speaking
- Increase clarity in your thinking and perception
- Exercise positive control over your everyday environment
When the time comes to evaluate the past or to plan for the future, you’ll be in a better position to do so. But in the present, you’ll have the ability to laser in on exactly what’s going on, without being distracted by thoughts that have little or no value.
By developing mindfulness, you will learn how to:
- Focus on one thing at a time - Easier said than done in today’s technology driven world. Your mobile phone is one of the main culprits for reducing your ability to focus. Try turning it off for an hour or two a day and do something like reading a book, connect with someone genuinely or go for a walk in a park and notice things you take for granted.
- Avoid the temptation to judge - While you should avoid judging other people and their ideas, it’s also good to practice your ability to remove judgement from events and even the way you feel about your own thoughts.
- Value the moment - By focusing on past or the future, you aren’t allowing yourself to get the most out of the present moment. As the saying goes: “Don’t rehearse tragedies. Don’t borrow trouble.”
- Be aware of your senses - One of the best techniques for becoming more mindful is to be aware of every sense. What can you hear, see, touch, and feel? What are the sensory inputs around you, and inside you, that you can notice right now?
- Use language to explain the present - Practice spending a few minutes a day to write down what you think and feel about the present. Not what you should be feeling, or what you think about the past or future, only your non-judgmental thoughts and feelings in the present.
If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness, and how it can help you to become more effective leader, AIM offers a popular one-day mindfulness program that will teach you how to:
- Apply the neuroscience of mindfulness to your workplace
- Improve your focus to take back control of your busy schedule
- Access your power in the present moment
- Recognise why you do what you do
- Realise the power in a calm workplace
- Practice mindfulness to assist with your overall productivity and performance