How does mindfulness contribute to positive performance?
Do you spin a lot of plates? Never ending to do lists, emails just keep coming your way, more meetings than you’d like and then there’s actually delivering the work. My response to this is to keep on going, keep on pushing...until I crash. Sometimes metaphorically and sometimes literally. I see it in me and have seen it in clients. When you are constantly pushing forward it gets tiring. There is a mindset that if you're not ‘doing’ you're not achieving or performing.
HOW CAN MINDFULNESS HELP?
Mindfulness is about bringing awareness and attention in the moment to what’s going on within and around you. Contrary to popular belief it is quite an active process. Like most things in life it takes a degree of effort. One tool (and there are many) to help cultivate mindfulness is breath. As your day runs away from you, taking the time to just take a moment between meetings and breath, can help your performance. How?
In their model of peak performance Loehr & Schwartz point out that doing the complete opposite of what you mostly do can enhance performance i.e. if you’re always on the go, pausing and giving yourself permission to ‘not do’ can contribute to helping you perform at your peak. Switching off is as important as switching on. This model is drawn from sports psychology and is evident in professional athletes. As a golfer walks up to the next putting green they are using this time to regather, refocus in order to perform at their best when the moment arises.
Integrating a practice of mindfulness in your life helps build up inner resources over time, so when the pressure is on you can meet the challenges and perform at your best. We also know that mindfulness over time contributes to a number of positive outcomes including well-being (Brown & Ryan, 2003; Carlson & Brown, 2005).
SO WHAT IS THERE TO DO?
There are a number of practices you can adopt to cultivate mindfulness including meditating, mindful walking or mindful eating. But what is something simple you can adopt at work? In a presentation at the 2015 Mindfulness Summit (http://www.mindfulleader.org/mindful-leadership-summit-videos) Jim Dethmer talks about checking in with your self and asking ‘Where am I?’. He talks about being ‘above or below the line’. Above the line symbolising a positive, loving state while below the line being a negative state. Just noticing ‘where you are’ can help raise your awareness and attention. This then gives you the space to make choices. Choices like giving yourself permission to stop and have a break or redirecting your energy. Just noticing where you are and what you’re doing can provide the opportunity to overcome self-sabotaging behavior. Are you distracting yourself with lesser goals (I win prizes for this one) like checking emails instead of preparing for that presentation? No need to beat yourself up on this. Just notice where you are and make a choice.
Another question I will ask is what do I need in this moment? Sometimes it is as simple as fresh air. Again just pausing and paying attention and awareness internally and externally in the moment creates the opportunity to make conscious choices rather than always reacting and pushing. In this way I think mindfulness not only contributes to well-being and performance but to leadership.
If you are interested in finding out more about how mindfulness can help you and your staff please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brown, K.W. & Ryan,M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 822–848.
Carlson, L.E. & Brown, K.W. (2005). Validation of the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale in a cancer population. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 58, 29–33.
Loehr,J. & schwartz, T. (2001). the making of a corporate athlete. Harvard Business Review, 79 (1), 120-128.
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