Mindfulness-Based Strategic Awareness Training (“MBSAT”) program’s definition of mindfulness: “Paying attention in the present moment with strategic awareness to ongoing events and experiences both internally and externally with an attitude of curiosity, openness and acceptance.”
Mindfulness and Balance
Mindfulness is about being aware and allowing life to unfold moment to moment as well as accepting what is unfolding or ourselves. Through acceptance and non-judgement, instead of reacting, we may then observe. By observing, we may become aware of options that we could choose to act on, which if we are reacting, we may not be present to. This applies to all aspects of our lives, including our professional lives.
I invite you to consider that mindfulness is like your sense of balance when riding a bicycle. The only way to discover your sense of balance is to get onto the bicycle on a flat, open space and to try and try and try until magically, you find your sense of balance. Once you find your basic sense of balance, it becomes innate. You can then choose to explore the world of riding different types of bicycles as well as a diversity of terrains. With consistent and regular practice and through accepting that you need to give yourself the space to fall, pause and the option to get back onto the bicycle, riding different types of bicycles and on a diversity of terrains becomes increasingly easier. Consequently, your ability to regain and maintain your sense of balance improves and over time, what you need to do to maintain your balance seems to automatically kick in. This provides you with more confidence to embrace come what may.
By cultivating a consistent and regular mindfulness practice, you are increasingly building and improving your sense of balance. Perhaps starting with sitting meditation focused on the breath (to find your sense of balance), from there, you could choose to explore a diversity of mindfulness practices (types of bicycles) with differing levels of challenge (terrain).
For some us, these uncertain times may be akin to riding on an unchartered and arduous mountain trail. For others, it may be more like riding on a tight rope 10 floors high. Our ability and confidence to embrace the situation (however we may be experiencing it) will differ depending on our sense of balance as well as our openness to accept that this is unchartered terrain. We may fall and when we do, mindfulness gives us space not to react but to become aware of options that we could then chose to act on.
Mindfulness in the workplace
There are 2 perspectives we could explore.
First, for many of us, we go through our workday not realizing the toll that stress is taking on our mental and physical health until we reach a breaking point or something life-changing happens. We push through the day, no matter how tough or long or how tired we are, as in today’s context this is considered being accountable and resilient. Increasingly, however, organization are recognizing that this leads to presenteeism, “being physically present but mentally absent at work.” By intentionally introducing mindful breaks into your workday and creating space to practise self-care, there is a growing body of evidence that this improves the mental and physical state of people in the workplace.
Second, many of us are required to make a plethora of decisions, day to day. Some are routine and perhaps mundane and others may require us to be strategic and thoughtful. The practise of mindfulness develops strategic awareness and the MBSAT definition of strategic awareness is, “An open, receptive and generative mind, free from the preconceptions and cognitive distortions that so often cloud our judgment, feelings, and behaviours.” We are meaning-making machines, constantly assigning meaning or making decisions in our heads, especially in a VUCA world. Strategic awareness enables us to observe what is unfolding with an open, curious and non-judgemental mindset. This may give rise to options which we may not have otherwise be present to. Consequently, this impacts the quality of our decision-making.
To bring mindfulness to your leadership, you need to first be a practitioner; then, once you experience the benefits, you could become an advocate by demonstrating the benefits of mindfulness and the positive impact it has on you and your decision making abilities.