Mindfulness, or being actively present in any given moment, can seem like a monumental challenge to master, especially in today’s time pressured, multitasking, busy-laden workplace.
One organisation making mindfulness more accessible for its employees is Google. Their strategy is simple….fresh air, gentle exercise, and the space to be alone in thought. At Googleplex, their global HQ, people transport themselves between campus offices and buildings by way of push bike.
Dr David Peterson (Director of Leadership and Coaching for Google) uses his daily bike rides between meetings to become more mindful. As he rides from one building to the next, Dr Peterson asks himself a series of questions which enable him to become more present in the moment.
What am I hearing?
What am I seeing?
What am I smelling?
What am I feeling emotionally?
Where is my head at?
And finally – how do I bring my best self to today?
He can always measure how stressed out he is by how far he gets through these questions!
You may not have Google’s bikes at your disposal, but becoming more mindful and present in the moment is possible for anyone. As a leader, practicing mindfulness regularly is a sure fire way to become a better one.
Ten years ago, mention the word mindfulness within a corporate environment and you would likely receive a few sniggers or snide remarks about yoga, kaftans and touchy feely stuff.
However, now the concept is no longer relegated to the sidelines and has assumed its rightful place in leadership development circles. More and more within my coaching practice I am seeing the words “mindfulness” and “being present” pepper conversations about successful leadership.
The research is compelling. There is strong evidence mindfulness helps to reduce stress, enhance curiosity, increase openness and acceptance of others and self, enables a deeper understanding of the people we interact with.*
Mindfulness – “being fully present, nonjudgmental and consciously aware of what is happening around us”* offers leaders many benefits.
But how can we practice mindfulness in the midst of a calendar loaded with more than we can possibly accomplish, and the ‘crazy-busyness’ of many senior executives’ lives?
Ironically, although mindfulness can be easy to begin, it can be very difficult to maintain.
As a state, mindfulness is not a quality that some individuals possess and others lack. On the contrary, as argued by Kabat-Zinn (2005), attaining a mindful state of consciousness is an inherent human capacity—a claim implying that most people have been (or at least can be) mindful at one point or another.
How many times have you found your mind wandering in that meeting or one on one with your direct report? The next time this happens, notice your thoughts and gently bring yourself back to the present.
An easy and simple way to start practicing mindfulness is to take a leaf out of David’s book and ask yourself some simple questions such as – right now, what am I seeing, what am I feeling, what am I sensing? What is my breathing doing?
Practicing mindfulness several times a day is a simple but effective antidote to the action orientated pattern of daily life.
Experiment with it for a week (or even a day) and see what you notice. I would love to hear your feedback.
*Dr David Peterson (ICF Conference, Australia, March 2013)