Developing our awareness at work

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series The importance of mindfulness at work

awarenessHave you ever paid attention to the fact that our workplace can really be a place of intense emotions ?

Sure, it is a place of opportunities for personal achievements, success, camaraderie and even fun. But like in other areas of our lives, it can also be the crucible of intense emotions. For instance,

 Have you ever felt resentful of a colleague or your boss ?
 Obsessed by what someone else told you ? Or by the thought he is possibly even instigating something against you?
 Or fear of being fired or not being promoted ?
 Or sadness and anger for not being recognized , valued and appreciated?

Going through emotions is just part of our lives, isn’t it ? The issue at work though is that we tend to react to them in ways that can be harmful. To us and to others too.
And because neurologically we are wired a certain way, we will tend to respond to emotional situations almost always the same way, driven by our old patterns, beliefs and habits.

For instance, we will react by blaming others. Or blaming ourselves. Others will decide instead to fight back creating more confusion or they will start to behave in some obsessive ways. Or just go silent and suck it all. Or go in panic mode. The truth is that in most cases the response to the situation will rarely result into something productive or appropriate. And will almost never lead to the resolution of what may have caused conflicts, frustration or anger.

In today’s work environment, where things are changing so rapidly and frequently (technologies, organizations, competition, ..), we will all need to develop a new set of skills. Sure, we will always need to develop “business skills” . But emotional intelligence and awareness are essential assets we will increasingly need to navigate our corporate world. In my experience as a manager, some of the most important skills that make us more successful at work are our ability to connect to our inner life, our emotional and mental awareness. Connection to  our emotions and to our mind.

I have written on awareness in my book “Ecological Leadership”, and offered concrete tools and exercises. What I have discussed in the Non Violent Communication at work series is also related to awareness (awareness to our feelings, our needs, to others’ feelings and needs, factual observation).

In the next few posts of that new series, I will be sharing concrete tools and techniques that can be really helpful to develop increased awareness to our inner life. And as a result, develop more appropriate responses and behaviors to emotionally challenging situations at work.

In a famous poem, 13th century Sufi poet Rumi beautifully depicts how best welcoming difficult emotions in life, rather than avoiding them.  I could not think of a better way to end this first post, and before we discuss concrete tools in the next.

This being human is a guest-house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

Who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture.

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you

out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

–Rumi, “The Guest House”

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