Part of my role is to stay on top of current trends in developing leaders- taking the best practices from theory and the real world and using them to help leaders transform themselves and their organizations. One of the trends of the past 10 years has been a move towards mindfulness- essentially focusing on the present moment, including the nonjudgmental acceptance of our own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Modern practitioners are using mediation, among other practices, to expand their ability to be mindful. Mindfulness as a practice is picking up momentum across the business world, the military, healthcare, and schools. Research is piling up about the positive impact of mindful practices, and it’s being used to do everything from treating PTSD, to managing stress, to reducing medication after surgery.
Mindfulness is rooted in centuries-old Buddhist practices (but it feels new to us!) although people of any faith or tradition can practice the skill. From a leadership standpoint, I believe it’s a part of a larger focus on awareness- being aware of your self, your values, your style, that little voice in your head, your emotions, and the emotions of others. I’m working on this practice by taking a few baby steps, like trying to meditate for five minutes at a time, and I want to learn more.
If mindfulness has been around for a while, why did it take me so long to get on board? I think the answer is best captured by Dan Harris, in his book 10% Happier. Dan says that mediation is simply “exercise for your brain. It’s a proven technique for preventing the voice in your head from leading you around by the nose.” Harris goes on to say that it’s not a miracle cure, but in his non-sciency measure, it made him 10% happier. Who doesn’t want to be 10% happier? And a smidge more effective? Yet for many of us, mindfulness is difficult to access because of the language. Harris nailed it for me: “I suspect that if the practice could be denude of all spiritual preening and straight-out-of-a-fortune-cookie lingo such as ‘sacred spaces’ ‘divine mother,’ and ‘holding your emotions with love and tenderness’ it would be attractive to many more millions of smart, skeptical, and ambitious people who would never otherwise go near it.”
As a person who is desperately trying to make leadership development accessible to everyone, we need to use language that is easy and understandable (Trust me, whenever I use fancy-pants language like ‘isomorphism’ everyone rolls their eyes and stops listening. Or better yet, business lingo… has anyone leveraged their synergies lately?).
I’m a practical person- I will use anything that works. And science is on the side of mindfulness.