Imagine a simple practice that can have a direct and positive impact on the level of career success you achieve. This practice has only positive side effects. (It relieves stress, improves sleep, promotes heart health, and reduces chronic pain, just to name a few). It’s an activity that can be started for free, requires no monthly membership fees, contracts, or commitments. Positive results can begin to accrue with just a few minutes of this activity per day, though committed practitioners often spend 30-60 minutes per day. Furthermore, it can be done anyone regardless of age, physical health, or IQ.
Would you engage in it?
Take a moment to think about what this activity could be. Close your eyes and concentrate on the possibilities. Take a deep breath and relax, giving yourself a chance to let the answer pop into your mind.
If you answered “yes” and said you would engage in the activity, the good news is that you already have. The activity is mindfulness.
For many people, the word “mindfulness” is immediately associated with meditation. While meditation is a beneficial and related practice, meditation is not a required part of being mindful. Mindfulness is simpler, and easier to begin.
- Sit quietly and focus on taking full, natural breaths.
- Take note of your posture, relaxing your muscles and making sure you’re in a comfortable position.
- Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breathing.
- Repeat a mantra or positive affirmation to quietly to yourself. If you’re religious, you may choose to recite sacred scripture.
- Listen. What sounds to do you hear?
- Notice your emotions. Ask yourself: when did I start feeling this way? was it a reaction or response to something that happened? Allow emotions to be present without judgment.
- Notice your thoughts. What seems to be preoccupying my mind? How long has this been going on? Focus simply on observing without judgment.
- Rather than wishing for a thought or emotion to go away soon, simply rest assured that eventually it will.
What I’ve just given you is not the list of 8 steps you must complete before you can say you’ve been mindful. It’s a menu of options. Once you’ve done one, you can say you’ve practiced mindfulness for the day. It’s that easy. Will you try it?
However, rather than giving a sales pitch for mindfulness, allow me to share a personal bias. For the last 3 1/2 years, I’ve had the privilege of sitting in regular, mindful conversations with one of the nation’s leading authorities on a discipline called “reflective practice.” This term has become popular among educators and mental heath professionals, and has a growing body of scientific literature associated with it. While that discipline is distinct in many ways, it has mindfulness at its core.
One of the companies I work with implemented mandatory group meetings devoted entirely to reflective practice. For two hours per month in one of this company’s largest divisions, virtually every staff member put aside other tasks and engaged in reflective practice. As a result, in this heavily unionized environment there was an enormous drop in the number of formal grievances filed by employees related to unfair management practices. This enabled greater efficiencies in the core business of the organization and provided a way to drive down the cost of service delivery. Evidence suggests that absenteeism decreased and morale improved within the division where this was implemented. I experienced the impact firsthand as a manager within the company, and I became a believer.
This experience prompted my thinking about the best way to evangelize about the benefits of reflective practice, and it occurred to me that mindfulness was the seed to growing this plant.
So what about you? What appeals to you most about the possibility of practicing mindfulness? Is it the health benefits? Is it the potential for improving your own professional prospects? Is it the possible financial benefits to your company?
Whatever the appeal might be, I invite you to play a game with me. Take a minute to practice mindfulness, literally right now. This article will be here when you get back.
Now, having done that, commit to adding one minute to your overall practice time each day for the rest of the week. At the end of 7 days, you’ll have spent 28 minutes at your newfound practice. Ambitious professionals among you may try to extend your streak of increasing practice time, but one need not get carried away.
Allow me to end by sharing a mantra that I’ve borrowed and adopted in recent years, as an encouragement to each of us: “every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better and I believe it.”