The benefits of mindfulness can span many areas of our lives. Those can include heightened awareness, improved efficiency, better task performance and higher productivity, alongside many other professional and personal benefits, such as inner peace and harmony.
Too often mindfulness is confused with meditation. However, the two are not the same, although the latter leads to the former. Meditation is a practice, whereas mindfulness is a state in which the individual is more aware and conscious about her surroundings. Mindfulness is more about attitude and it enhances the quality of our response to our environment.
Research from the University of California – Los Angeles has shown that meditation – a practice that leads to mindfulness – increase gray matter in the brain, which is made up of the bodies of neurons, particularly in the areas of the brain responsible for regulating emotion.
It goes without saying that improved emotional regulation improves our ability to deal with difficult emotions and leads to higher emotional intelligence, a trait that is considered as desirable if not essential in all job positions. It is associated with better and more effective communication skills, alongside other executive functions.
The main theme behind mindfulness is living in the present. As the Buddhist teaching goes: the past is gone, and the future is not there yet, so only the present exists. The rationale behind it is that with more alertness to the moment we are living in, our response improves.
We have a capacity to process or take in all of the information coming in from our environment, make sense of it, and respond to it effectively and efficiently. It seems that mindfulness is a promising way of improving our ability to do just that, especially in the times when there is a plethora of information all around us in every second.
On the other hand, with less mindfulness, we are prone to bouts of anxiety, stress, fear, and other normal emotional responses, which debilitate our focus and render us less effective in the face of adverse circumstances.
Mindfulness involves being more aware of yourself as well as of others, which leads to better work relationships and higher team productivity. More corporations are now catching up with the good benefits of mindfulness, although they might not all call it by that particular name. Google calls its mindfulness program “Search Inside yourself”. Intel Corporation calls its program “AwakeAtIntel”. Many other Silicon Valley companies have launched similar programs after realizing the value in such courses.
In fact, mindfulness has so significant benefits that INSEAD Assistant Professor of Decision Sciences, Natalia Karelaia has decided to include it in her MBA decision-making class. According to her, it helps leaders be more proactive in the face of external circumstances, be clear about their objectives, and avoid holding onto an old decision that is no longer feasible.
Any executive can reap the benefits of mindfulness by learning it themselves and by including relevant training in their development programs. The following reasons can justify such training:
- Meditation and mindfulness change how the brain process information and help in dealing with anxiety, depression, and life’s stressors, which increases productivity.
- Mindfulness enables people to be more aware of their values and principles, and, as a result, they become more aware of possible violations, which leads to better ethical conduct.
- Mindful people are better negotiators, for the simple reason that successful negotiation requires parties to be attentive to each other’s concerns, which include autonomy, appreciation, affiliation, status, and role, based on the work by Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro. It is when people are not aware of those concerns that impediments to good negotiation begin to appear. Mindfulness is likely to enable us to strike more win-win deals and have better long-term relationships with others.
- Mindful people accept criticism with a more positive light. They understand that behind that criticism is a chance of improvement and do not get stuck in a defensive mood. They don’t associate criticism with bad intentions, but rather, they see it as insightful feedback.
- Mindfulness enhances creativity, which is a very desirable trait that recruitment manager seeks in candidates. Creativity is important because it leads to innovation, which is the most guaranteed way towards competitive advantage in today’s intensely competitive environment.
- One study from Princeton University has clearly shown that our ability to focus is improved by actually paying attention to our attention. When we are aware that our attention has shifted from the task at hand, we bring it back and resume focus. As we become more and more aware of distractions, we learn to get our attention back on track which, with time, strengthens our focus.
Mindfulness leads us to a higher level of awareness, and its benefits are more and more acknowledged by people from different professions. Leaders of organizations can be role models and practice mindfulness themselves setting a clear example for others. If managers and leaders use their influence right, and the benefits of mindfulness appear on their health and performance, then team members are likely to notice and follow suite. Furthermore, it takes only small steps to increase mindfulness and alertness to the present, such as focusing on breathing for a few minutes, distancing oneself from the problem and the emotions associated with it, and training ourselves to notice our attention. Although small, the resulting improvements are substantial and worthwhile.
Josh Carlyle is an executive manager at HandMadeWritings - academic assistance service for students. Having a strong managerial background and almost 5 years of flawless experience in e-commerce, he is here to share some insights on latest management and training techniques and methods. Connect with Josh via social media!