Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mindfulness Can Make You A Better Leader

“Leaders all over the planet are beginning to understand the benefits of purposefully learning to be more attentive and focused, non-reactive, and clear.” ~Saki Santorelli, EdD, Center for Mindfulness executive director

It is so satisfying when your personal and professional lives intersect. The art of mindfulness is one that I have been working on for some time, and it is now in vogue in the business world.

To me, "mindfulness" is living in the present moment without being influenced by the past or the future. That may sound glib, but it is really tough because our minds naturally want to dash back and forth between the past and the future and everything in between.

To illustrate, watch the way young kids play and interact. They do not really consider the past and the future because all they know is the present. Over time, however, our minds become more busy, and it becomes tough to live in the present moment. If we are able to get our minds to focus on the present, though, life is so much clearer and simpler.

Most mindfulness training starts with some form of meditation. Find a place to sit either on a cushion or the floor, and close your eyes. With your eyes closed, observe your thoughts. The most effective way to do this is to focus on your breathing. As thoughts or feelings arise, let them pass and return to your breathing. It may sound easy, but in reality, it takes some practice to get the mind to slow down.

Practicing mindfulness through meditation relieves anxiety and stress. I can personally attest to this.

You may be thinking, "That is great, Jerry, but what does all this have to do with leadership?" It is about finding clarity and getting to a place where you can make better decisions. When living in the present, the baggage of the past will not affect current decisions. Mindful leaders also do not fight change. If you are living in the present, resistance to change is not an issue.

To see things more clearly, you must have an undistracted mind. If your mind is busy, even at a subconscious level, your ability to focus and analyze is diminished. Now, I am not saying that mindfulness can replace knowledge, skill and relevant data in business decisions. Instead, all these elements should be utilized to get maximum benefits.

The University of Massachusetts is home to the Center for Mindfulness, which offers courses to help leaders bring mindfulness into their organizations. For iPhone users, there are many additional resources in the App Store under "meditation." Consider taking some classes on mindfulness. I promise it will change the way you see the world and your business with very little effort.

You can do this!

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