Whether your company is still recovering from the recession or experiencing growing pains, Thanksgiving is a perfect time to pause and take control. Not of your business, take control of your mind by using mindfulness techniques. It will help you become a more self-aware leader who understands yourself, your motivations, your values and the purpose of your leadership. Over time, you will find that you have become more effective and satisfied in your work.
Once the domain of hippies and flower children, the practice of mindfulness has gone mainstream. Google executives and even a U.S. senator sing its praises. In 2007, Chade-Meng Tan launched Google’s meditation program, which currently teaches 2,000 Googlers per year to meditate in order to become better leaders. Companies like Aetna, Blackrock, Ford, General Mills, and Goldman Sachs are also believers.
Tim Ryan, the Democrat Congressman from Ohio, is on the budget committee. No surprise that it’s a stressful position, rife with conflict. When Ryan vehemently disagrees with someone and his body clenches up, he practices mindfulness, so he told 60 Minutes in an interview.
Mindfulness was popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He trained as a scientist at MIT. He founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the Massachusetts Medical Center. “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” says Kabat-Zinn in an interview with 60 Minutes. “It’s about knowing what is on your mind.”
It is the nature of the mind to wander, said Kabat-Zinn. Rather than getting lost in each thought or chastising yourself for having the thought, bring your mind back to your breath. Mindfulness is about stopping, paying attention, becoming aware of present moment and not judging whatever is happening as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ “Mediation is about paying attention in a systematic way for no reason other than to be awake,” said Kabat-Zin.
It’s simple, although not necessarily easy. When stressful thoughts take over, don’t berate your staff or make a critical, irreversible decision. Instead, return to watching your breath. It is an opportunity to relax, de-stress and gain clarity about your work and the decisions you are facing, writes Bill George a Senior Fellow, Harvard Business School in the Huffington Post. Better yet start a daily practice of taking 15 minutes to quiet your mind, reflect and be introspective, he continues. Here are four ways you can practice mindfulness everyday.