Mindfulness for Managers: a brief context

The world of Emotions have become big business since Daniel Goleman first brought them to our attention in the 1990’s.

However, we cannot view Emotional Intelligence in isolation to other fields of study in the world. My research and personal experience is that we have to look at Emotional Intelligence in conjunction with the learning of Neuro-science, Psychology, Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), Positive psychology and the like. Why? Because they all overlap and link together to help provide us with a bigger understanding of whom we are as human beings.

We know more about the science behind our thoughts and emotions than ever before. Scientists are able to track, link and explore the way thoughts are built and affect the building blocks of our body’s right down to the cellular level. We are indeed awesomely and intricately made!

Emotions are intricately linked to our thoughts as the chemicals and hormones which make up the brain and body. They are activated and released with the mere act of thinking and we know that they, like our thoughts can be controlled and mastered.

For me, the cornerstone of Emotional Intelligence is the skill of Self-Awareness. Self-Awareness is the ability to perceive and understand your own emotions. (You can find out more detail on how to develop your Self-Awareness here)

Self-Awareness is critical to your success because if you don’t know what is going for you at any given moment, you can be influenced by other’s moods, behaviours and actions. And, this can get you into trouble….

One of the best tools in my toolkit is the 5 – 14 minutes I try to spend at the beginning of most days getting in touch with myself and spending time with God. I say most because I don’t always get to do this. And, I find on those days I do not spend the 5 – 14 minutes getting clear on where I am and what my purpose for that day should be, I am far more easily de-railed and less centred than when I do.

So today, I thought I’d share the very powerful concept of mindfulness…

What is Mindfulness?

It’s the attitudes we cultivate towards our thoughts and feelings and behaviours as well as the experiences we have in the world.

Our attitudes are made up of 3 components:

  1. Being aware of….
  2. …..Our present experience and ……
  3. …. Accepting whatever arises in the moment

Source: Dr Ron Siegl

In what Situations Can I use Mindfulness?

Mindfulness has many and varied uses but I have included a few to give you an idea of the range you could you use it in your own life:

  1. Facing our fears
  2. Feeling overwhelmed or stuck
  3. Setting and achieving meaningful goals
  4. Improving relationships and decreasing conflict in the workplace
  5. Building confidence and self-esteem of yourself and others
  6. Developing a compassionate outlook allowing us to build genuine relationships

And mindfulness practice has been proven in psychotherapy and in medicine to positively affect:

  1. Anxiety disorders
  2. Depression
  3. Substance abuse
  4. Those suffering from psychosis

Why Choose Mindfulness?

Practising mindfulness trains your brain to be in the present which studies have shown lead to great feelings of well-being, the ability to follow through and achieve our goals more effectively.

If we are experiencing a difficult or challenging situation, our brain has a thought which activates our amygdala in the limbic part of our brain and responsible for flight, fight or freeze in threatening situations.

Normally, we would react to the situation or at best, we’d give ourselves time to think about a response.

In difficult and challenging situations, Mindfulness can help you in 2 important ways:

  1. In the Present: it becomes your real-time life preserver because it allows you to become aware of your thoughts and feelings about the situation without being pulled into the “drama of the situation”. Essentially, it allows you to accept the thoughts and feelings but not react to them with any intensity
  2. In the Future: it creates long-term changes in your brain’s structure because your amygdala starts to fire less and therefore your ability to manage stressful situations becomes much, much stronger.

Source: Dr Ron Siegl

In his TED.com talk: All it takes is 10 mindful minutes, Mindfulness Expert Andy Puddicombe explains why mindfulness is so powerful and the positive impact it has had on his life.

How does Mindfulness link to Emotional Intelligence?

Mindfulness is a tool to help you become more Self-Aware, one of the 7 skills identified in the GENOS Model of Emotional Intelligence which I use. It is the foundational skill and as such Mindfulness is one of the essential tools for developing your Self Awareness. And, just like any tool, the better the proficiency of the user, the better the results they will get from this tool.

How Can I Practise Mindfulness?

A daily dose of mindfulness is recommended of between 7 – 14 minutes (but if this seems intimidating, just try 1 minute to begin with!)

  1. Grab yourself a chair and sit down comfortably into it
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Become conscious of your breathing: try breathing in through your nose and exhaling through your mouth
  4. Try to focus just on your breathing – this will be difficult to do at first as your attention will drift. When it does, reign in your thoughts and refocus on your breathing. Try this for 2 – 3 minutes a day at first and aim to try for 7 – 14 minutes of mindfulness each and every day.

What Should Change as I start to Practice Mindfulness?

Over time you will start to notice your thoughts like clouds passing through the sky. We start to notice a certain kind of lightness. It’s like we start to see our brain as “doing its antics” again rather than experiencing the thoughts and feelings as attacks on us personally. We start to see these catastrophic thoughts and feelings as removed from us directly

A caution: we won’t see our negative thoughts stopping straight away but our relationship to them will change.

We start to realise that we don’t identify as much with the thoughts. We realise they are untrustworthy and so we don’t get caught up in them anymore. From a brain science perspective, this is where our amygdala’s start to fire less.

Self-defeating thoughts are beliefs. We tend to have a pre-occupation with self-esteem due to concerns with where we fit in the social hierarchy because where we sit ultimately affects how we view ourselves and others.

As we practice mindfulness though, what we start to realise is that forgiveness and compassion for ourselves creates much better results than focusing on our self-defeating thoughts and this allows for our negative feelings to dissipate.

We learn to accept the feelings, to be with them and accept them. This creates inner peace and freedom from delusional thoughts and more to being connected with others.

Allow for the Gap

It’s critical to allow for the gap, meaning that we should learn to experience the feeling BUT not to act straight away on the feeling.

We want to learn to suspend judgement and accept things without being positive or negative but just that they are.

The Link between Distress and Stress

When we learn to accept distress, we lower our stress.

How does this work?

We increase our capacity to tolerate the situations without feeling increased intensity in the emotions because we are not:

  • taking it so personally
  • we are present and do not switch off – we are in the moment
  • we feel the fear of the feeling but accept it rather than resist it

When we turn our attention to something, we increase the feelings towards it and experience it more vividly.

Conclusion

In summary, mindfulness is a great way to allow us to become more present and aware of how our thoughts and feelings are influencing us, to accept and be with them. In so accepting rather than resisting our negative thoughts and feelings, we are able to dissipate their levels of intensity and allow our thinking brain to take back its control.

Over to You:

  1. Where can you see yourself using mindfulness?
  2. In what situations do you think would mindfulness not work?
  3. What stories or examples do you have of how mindfulness has worked for you?

And, if you are looking for ways to develop your Self-Awareness, why not sign up for my FREE 7-Day Master Course on Developing Self-Awareness? You can find out more here.

Until next time, I will

See you at the top,

Kerry