by Kim Monaghan
Do you mind? If you don’t, you should. In fact, mindfulness is not only a growing practice for improving your health, but also your career. Mindfulness – the practice of stillness, awareness and focus – is rooted in spirituality and science. John Cabot Zinn, who pioneered the practice in America, sought a way to help incurable patients at University of Massachusetts whose options had run out. For these patients, help quickly turned into hope. In fact, the mindfulness training facilitated such drastic improvement in patient’s health that it has become commonplace in many cutting-edge medical programs.
So what does this have to do with careers? Everything. With goals of improving concentration, building focus, reducing stress, fostering strong working relationship – not to mention the proven health benefits from stress reduction – mindfulness is imperative to professional success. As a career coach (and registered yoga teacher), I was eager to be trained on formulating mindfulness practices into my profession. I soon realized many of my clients were also interested in how mindfulness might positively translate into their own lives. Together, we’ve discovered the most common goals of integrating mindfulness in career coaching include stress reduction, increased focus and dynamic leadership.
Science demonstrates that practicing meditation decreases stress. With meditation being a key element of mindfulness, the positive results of this practice will naturally translate to your career. But for those concerned that this segment is to metaphysical, stick with me; meditation doesn’t necessarily equate to a cross-legged squat in an ashram. Just three minutes of quiet, focused breathing at your desk, can make a huge impact over time. The health benefits of reduced stress are enormous (see WLM column “Stress and Your Career,” June 2012). But the career impacts are also impressive, including peaked performance in thinking, reasoning, and making sound decision.
According to Zinn “Mindfulness is not about fixing anything, but about seeing things are they are and then being in wise relationship to them.” In other words, if you can’t beat them join them or if the work needs to get done, why not do it to the best of your ability? This may be easier said with all the constant distractions of incoming emails, texts and various electronic communications. In fact, focus is slowly becoming a lost art, whereas multitasking is the “new black.” Unfortunately, the more we multitask the lesser the quality of our productivity and performance. But by incorporating some of the strategies of mindfulness, including training your brain in quiet attentiveness and concentration and awareness, we can take back pockets of uninterrupted time that result in dramatic increases in focus and results.
Rallying teams toward a common goals and leading organizations comes with a multitude of responsibilities and pressure. Mastering the techniques of mindfulness helps leaders maintain control, reduce stress and gain the unique edge often described as “dynamic.” Clear thinking, mastering progress, resolute discipline and nurturing key mutually-beneficial relationships are also distinguishing characteristics of a successful leadership career. It all begins with mindfulness.
The idea may still be a somewhat elusive, but when coupled with sound practices in performance development, great leaders rise to the top. But remember, mindfulness is not about winning, it’s about being. And that’s what makes for a great leader. So before you dismiss the notion, research the subject or talk to a coach who integrates mindfulness into their client collaborations. You will be glad you minded this advice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kim Monaghan is a coach, management consultant and proponent of “A Healthy Career” (www.aHealthyCareer.com). She is a professionally trained coach, certified resume writer, and a member of the International Coaching Federation.