Mindfulness is quickly becoming mainstream. In a world where pace is valued, and expectations are more for less, taking the time to train yourself to operate at your best, rather than reacting automatically to stimuli is critical. Yet mindfulness is not a quick win. You will not become mindful by doing a quick one-day online course. Like a toned body, a controlled mind requires discipline, practice and commitment.
For leaders today, it could not be more important. Leaders now have to deal with unprecedented levels of change, with consequences which are far reaching and complex. Taking the time to think through critical decisions, moments and conversations starts with an understanding of self, and the ability to recognise and, if needed, control automatic response for the best outcome.
Today, creativity is needed. We need to create about the ‘next big thing’ or predict what’s coming next. Our best decisions come to us when our brains are quiet, when our mind wanders. How many times is your brain quiet during the day? Without silence and reflection, we may not notice these eureka moments as they are drowned out by busyness and priorities. Allow yourself some downtime and the next big idea could be yours.
Mindfulness can also help with problem solving. Having to resolve issues can be daunting, and may cause you to feel under pressure. These feelings will dampen your ability to notice the solutions which your subconscious may be offering up. Focusing on the positive, and training your brain to keep perspective will help with this. When trying to solve a difficult problem, think positive. And take a break. A break shifts your attention to another task, freeing up your subconscious to continue work on the problem. When you go back to it, you may find that you have come up with solutions you hadn’t even considered before.
The leaders in our program told us that, taken together, these three meta-capacities opened up a vital space in the previously automated flow of their experience. One leader summed up what this meant: “I now have moments of choice that I didn’t have before.” The leaders in our study became less reactive and more responsive, which in turn affected many other skills, such as regulating their emotions, empathizing with others, focusing more readily on issues at hand, adapting to the situations they found themselves in, and taking broader perspectives into account. This, we believe, is why mindfulness training can impact the important leadership capacities of resilience, collaboration, and leading in complex conditions.