Last year, I published an extremely popular post titled “Future Leaders Need Organizational Mindfulness.” Since then, I’ve seen several articles about mindfulness and leadership. It made me think that this might be good time to step back and ask some basic questions about this practice and its place in business.
So I reached out to Elad Levinson, who helped me with the first post. He is an experienced organizational development and effectiveness consultant as well as a practitioner of mindfulness. His background includes senior management roles with Stanford University, Agilent Technologies and ICANN. And he has a terrific LinkedIn feed of articles on the subject.
First off, what’s a brief definition of mindfulness? And is it the same as meditation?
[Levinson] Mindfulness is the basic human experience of being aware in the present moment of changes that occur in our physical, emotional, or mental responses.
Meditation is both art and science – it is a method for training the mind and emotions to be responsive, aware, and friendly.
Speaking of science, is there any science behind the practice?
[Levinson] Thousands of research studies have been conducted on the practice and their results are published in peer-reviewed journals such as the Academy of Management Journal. Evidence-based research has shown that mindfulness is health enhancing, encourages positive mental and emotional states, and increases the quality of human relationships. A peer-reviewed journal, Mindfulness, publishes peer-reviewed articles related to the latest research.
Why should an individual consider practicing mindfulness (i.e. what are the benefits)?
[Levinson] The immediate benefits are:
- More control over an individual’s emotional reactions so that there is greater choice in interpersonal situations
- Increased sense of “agency” – the experience of being an influential person in your own life story
- Improved physical and mental well being
- Improved problem solving and decision making ability
- Increased capacity for stress
- Improved focus of attention
- Increased empathy or a better sense of understanding the experience of others
For mindfulness to be effective, should it become a part of your daily routine? Or is it something you can draw from only when you feel you need it?
[Levinson] You are best able to draw upon the value of mindfulness when you practice it regularly. On the other hand, studies have shown that even five minutes of practice can increase awareness and focus.
Mindfulness as a part of daily routine is very easy to implement. Take something that you do every day, such as eating breakfast, exercising, walking the dog, brushing your teeth, and during that time choose to be fully present, making an effort to do whatever it is with full undivided attention.
If I wanted to start practicing, where’s a good place to start (i.e. books, resources, apps, etc.)?
[Levinson] Here are four great places to start:
- More Than Sound’s “What is Mindfulness?” podcast series. I also recommend their CD Working with Mindfulness, with esteemed instructor, Mirabai Bush. Mirabai is also a contributor to my Thriving on Change
- Dharmaseed – There are hundreds of talks and free podcasts by topic or teacher. Start with Basic Mindfulness 101.
- Mindful.org publishes very useful articles and videos on the daily practical applications.
My thanks to Elad for sharing his knowledge. As our lives become more digitally connected and that feeling of “always being on” starts to grow, concepts like mindfulness can help us stay focused. It only takes a few moments a day.
Image courtesy of Sharlyn Lauby