Why Mindfulness ?

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series The importance of mindfulness at work

In the first part of this series, we discussed the importance of developing some form of emotional intelligence and self-awareness at work.
Daniel Goldman (in his book) defined Emotional Intelligence as 5 interrelated domains :

1. Emotional self-awareness — knowing what one is feeling at any given time and understanding the impact those moods have on others
2. Self-regulation — controlling or redirecting one’s emotions; anticipating consequences before acting on impulse
3. Motivation — utilizing emotional factors to achieve goals, enjoy the learning process and persevere in the face of obstacles
4. Empathy — sensing the emotions of others
5. Social skills — managing relationships, inspiring others and inducing desired responses from them

In other words:

  1. Knowing your emotions.
  2. Managing your own emotions.
  3. Motivating yourself.
  4. Recognizing and understanding other people’s emotions.
  5. Managing relationships.

The « good » news is that, although we might at times feel we are victim of our emotions, emotional skills are trainable. Those skills can then be helpful in our response to triggers (a colleague strongly disagrees with you), during difficult conversations (with your customer, or with your team members)  and in developing our ability to deal with stressful situations (in period of changes for instance).

This is where mindfulness can help us developing those skills. There are many resources on mindfulness available online as it is gaining tremendous traction in the corporate world now (a very good example would be the success  of the “Search Inside Yourself” program at Google or the increasingly popular Wisdom 2.0 conference)
At a very high level, mindfulness is the practice of a certain form of meditation used (among other things) to bring emotional balance as well as peace to our mind.
I really like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness:

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, 
in the present moment, and

Kabat-Zinn, if you haven’t heard of him, is a teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

Now, let me be clear . The objective here is not to suppress emotions ! There is no way to stop an emotion from arising, that is part of our lives and kind of what makes us human. Mindfulness will help us in being able to get closer to our emotions while clearly understanding that we are not defined by them (in other words, moving for instance from « I am angry » to « I experience anger in my body»)

By developing an ability to pay attention to our inner life we become more emotionally stable and grounded.

Mindfulness not only helps with emotional intelligence, but is a key tool to access our agitated mind. It i said we have about 60000 thoughts/day,  of which only 0.5% are conscious thoughts ! Our mind thinks us, not the other way around ! Mindfulness, as a way to pay attention more consciously, develops a different way of being by helping us to regain mastery of our thoughts. And start to think consciously!

At work, in difficult situations, to what extent are we responding by making conscious choices instead of merely reproducing the same old responses, colored by the same old emotional imprints !?

In work situations, we will instead develop more awareness about how we make decisions , and move from compulsion to choice. Choice of our emotional response, for instance. We develop an ability to have a different perspective on things, see the bigger picture as we manage over time to be less entrenched in our emotions by being more able to reframe difficult  situations. And ultimately be more able look at others point of view, which leads to empathy.
A key trait leaders increasingly need to develop, as discussed in the « Ecological Leadership » book.

Let’s now look in the next installment of this series on mindfulness at how we can start at our workplace!

Series Navigation<< Developing our awareness at workHow to start practicing mindfulness at work ? >>

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