Energy and focus are in high demand in an era that requires constant upkeep with change, demand, accountability, and urgency. Energy to be fully focused and present when emails continue to pile within the inbox, the longsuffering patience needed to navigate workplace conflict with other colleagues and employers, the need for empathy when experiencing resistance from your inner circle whether at home or at work, authentic self-control needed to maintain self-confidence with a team that may despise openness and vulnerability, and the inner fortitude needed to become characteristically patient, creative, kind, and controlled amid the day-to-day rigors of a full life that persistently requires endurance week after week. Repetitive therapeutic and medical counsel will consistently inspire individuals to pursue physical exercise, proper nutrition, human connection and acquire sufficient sleep. These are definitely key elements for successful life metrics that produce inner fortitude with stamina and energy.
Many organizations are continually wrestling with the common expression of how “people are our best asset.” Yet, they are realizing that degrading these foundational life metrics for a successful outlook can be devalued, depreciated, and demeaned through harsh conditions, improper attention to basic needs, and the neglect of routine self-care that can empower and refuel individuals for optimal performance.
Consider sleep. We all need sleep hygiene that nourishes our prefrontal cortex, the decision-maker and manager of our lives. The multi-dimensional circumstances of sleep loss can impact poor performance in many ways as it tends to diminish the cognitive capacity for both attention and focused alertness. Brain research gives evidence that these individuals that turn to stimulants only to perk up again are able to reduce the deleterious effects of sleep deprivation while attending to monotonous and routine tasks that require minimal cognitive resources. Yet, they suffer when in need of attending to different life tasks that demand more divergent thinking with creativity. It might be worthwhile to reconsider taking on more if your workplace counts on you beyond the everyday and routine tasks if sacrificing sleep will taper what you can actually produce and contribute for tomorrow.
Don’t Mistake Pushing Through for Resilience
How do we develop what the medical community is now terming micro-resilience, when we are actually sleep-deprived, ravenously hungry, exhaustingly tired, and mildly dehydrated with an important meeting less than 20 minutes away? Taking time to hit the reset button while experiencing an emotional hijack is a necessary skill in our contemporary landscape.
“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, a leading pioneer, professor emeritus, and expert in mindfulness-based stress reduction. “It’s about knowing what is on your mind. You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” Making your resilience a top-priority personal issue will likely have great dividends in the long-term outcome. Mindfulness promotes the self-awareness and management skills to be attentive to personal reactions toward others, the sufficient energy to be fully present in conversations, inner patience to listen and empathize, and having the wherewithal to effective decision-making as well as stamina-building for endurance that can last for weeks to months in your personal work and life history. Developing the capacity for mindfulness is not only mission-critical to the success of your own organization but also contributes to the outcomes of your work and life history in meaningful ways.
Practice Makes Perfect
The recent decades of research demonstrate that mindfulness can be improved through practice. As a result, many pioneering Fortune 100 companies such as Google, Cisco, P&G, and Facebook are all integrating mindfulness training in the workplace to promote creativity and innovation, as well as emotional intelligence and well-being in their employees. In adapting these efforts to their engineering organizations, such companies would be well served to consider how mindfulness may heighten the divergent thinking that is so essential in technical design, and how a mindful attitude of openness, not just attention, may be a major catalyst for innovative mindsets. Mindfulness — a way of paying attention to care and discernment to yourself, others, and the world around you — has been much researched. Evidence from the clinical contexts also indicates that mindfulness provides many demonstrable benefits. Overwhelming evidence continues to suggest that mindfulness promotes personal resilience, cultivates job satisfaction, reduces stress and anxiety, increases divergent thinking, and improves leadership flexibility with heightened emotional intelligence.
The latest trend in the development of employees for organizational health is mindfulness training. There continues to be a burgeoning array of apps, self-help books, and corporate interventions designed to help individuals become more mindful and thus more resilient, focused, and aware — qualities that many employers believe can make their workers more effective in their roles. Many current findings are indicating a robust, valuable, and realistic guidepost toward becoming more mindful.
Getting Over the Hurdles
Often, we think of coming into contact with the present moment through the processes of attention, flexibility, focus, and purposefulness. The ability for individuals to direct attention to the moment without becoming easily distracted is a distinguishing feature for present-moment processes. Inner distractibility, constant rumination, persistent worry, and active dissociation from having contact with the present moment are the ongoing challenges to the practice of mindfulness and developing a lifestyle of present awareness. Difficulties in these areas cause individuals to experience a disconnect within their most important relationships and create emotional distance.
Here are some practical steps toward building a life of mindfulness in practice:
- Reflect on when you are most likely and able to practice, and then add 10 minutes into your routine so that it can become a habit over time. Many enjoy mindfulness exercises first thing in the morning. Listening to an audio practice during your commute is popular and can set up your work day well. Others commit to practicing right before bed. This can work but often initiates sleep before the practice concludes!
- Establish realistic expectations for your practice. Expect your experience of developing a new habit to be stormy. Mindfulness is not about getting rid of all distracting and unwelcome thoughts — it is about noticing that thoughts are there. Some days your mind can be quite busy, charged, or even disruptive. When this is the case, practice curiosity and the technique of allowing.
- Take notice of the times when you begin to be more mindful and acknowledge the impact this brings to you and others. Seeing these benefits in your practice will be essential to continuing.
- Tell those closest to you at work and home that you are trying to build a mindfulness practice. Tell them how they can help and support you to build momentum. Connect with others who are interested in becoming more mindful throughout their day. You can encourage and challenge each other to keep to the practice.
Just like getting into shape, becoming more mindful involves training. That means you have to practice. Giving up a small percentage of your time is a small price to pay for the improvements that are on offer. The message is clear: If you desire to experience the benefits, you have to put in the time to practice mindfulness. Contrary to its presentation, mindfulness is not about living life in slow motion. Clearly, it is about enhancing focus and critical awareness in work and life. It can be seen as clearing away distractions and staying on track with personal and organizational goals.