This post is the first of what I call the 'Mindfulness' series. I do not focus on what mindfulness is – many articles and books explain what mindfulness is and how to practice it. I am more interested in why and how mindfulness is essential to improving the way we think and helping us become high performers at our craft and business.
The post covers:
- Why the interest in mindfulness?
- A definition of mindfulness.
- The link between mindfulness and productivity.
- A quick tour of management and how mindfulness is linked (part 2 - next post)
- The next natural step – patterns
I became interested in mindfulness through the work of the high-performance sports psychologist Dr Gervais, who works with Super Bowl winners, Olympic gold medalists, and Fortune 50 companies to excel in their field by adjusting their thinking and approach. His focus is about training the mind to be that of a 'High Performer'.
Gervais clearly states that the relationship between the individual and the 'tribe' is crucial.
We would typically think of the 'athlete' as a solo hero. Gervais stresses the importance of the integrated coupling of the individual and the team, meaning that he believes success is only possible when the individual and the group act as one. I think most people will not disagree with this – we might, however, forget at times.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about unleashing the potential we all have in us. Potential which is already there – it just needs to be shaped, acknowledged, and used.
I like the definition by Jon Kabat-Zinn: a unique way of becoming aware "… on purpose, in the present moment … [without] judgment" with a relaxed, focused mind.
Linking mindfulness and productivity
The aspect that interests me, and why I think mindfulness is vital for productivity, is the idea of allowing the mind to enter the optimal zone of flow – of pattern making.
You might think that is a big statement. Let me explain.
The three critical elements in the definition are; unique, without judgment, and relaxed focus.
Unique – we are individuals and have a unique way of seeing the world. No one sees the world exactly as we do.
Judgement – if we allow judgement to creep in, we stop being fully present in the moment. As a result, we lose focus, ability to create meaning etc. We allow our biases and assumptions to pull us away from 'reality'.
Relaxed focus – allows us to see connections, relationships, and dependencies – all without judgement or bias. Things emerge organically – the 'truth reveals itself'.
The mind thinks in patterns. Humans are pattern makers – we are always in pattern seeking/creating mode. By using mindfulness, we are allowing the patterns to surface, adjust, reshape, and settle down. The process is one of creating meaning and making sense. Mindfulness prevents blockages and distortions of 'flow'.
This approach might appear a little out there or alternative. Well, it might be. It might be for those of us (myself included) who have been educated in a system aimed at control and condition (a conversation that I most certainly will have in another post – a hugely important one).
Mindfulness will increase and sharpen your awareness – there is research that backs this up.
The point that becomes very exciting is the notion of cognitive flexibility - it boosts your ability to become highly successful. You develop the ability to 'see' that which is obscure. We do this through the process of being adaptive and creative. The brain functions increase, and by acknowledging that we think in patterns, we are tapping into the 'shorthand' mechanism of our brain – we are linking the subconscious to the conscious mind, the process enables us to become high-performance decision-makers. It's as simple as that.
The ability to enter flow state (the optimal state we humans can be in) enables us to enhance our performance and function with high intensity and clarity.
Relaxed focus precedes the state of flow – deep focus precedes the entry point into flow or 'the zone'.
inclusiveness, empathy, sympathetic, and compassionate start to make sense and become part of our behavior.
These are not only great ideals for a leader or anyone to have, but they are the exact qualities that allow real, profound, and meaningful change to take place. They are qualities that help us solve problems with other people. The selfish gene seems to grow up in the process.
For those who do not know what flow or being in the zone means:
The Science of Peak Human Performance "Flow" is the term used by researchers for optimal states of consciousness, those peak moments of total absorption where self vanishes, time flies, and all aspects of performance go through the roof…"
Many companies bring mindfulness to bear on their decision making.
Like: Bank of America Green Mountain Coffee. 'Capital 'Aetna General Mills. Adobe Intel
The nature of the mind is to wonder, to be intrigued by stimulus – with mindfulness we can train our attention and give ourselves the ability, the potential, and willpower to bring ourselves back to the present moment in very deliberate ways – magic happens. We need to learn to tap into that mechanism and realize we are under-performing due to ignorance and lack of self-awareness.
If we use visual story maps that use pattern making as the driving principle, we are making a direct link with the mind and the world outside of us. Bingo!
SenseCatcher then takes center stage and allows us to translate how the brain thinks by taking full advantage of the organic flow of the mind and enabling us to get into a high-performance state. We allow our mind to be sharp and make incredibly accurate and fast decisions.
In the next post, I look at how management and mindfulness are linked. The focus is to explain why it is vital to manage differently.
In the third post in the Mindfulness series, I'll explore how patterns work when we are in flow and why using patterns allows us to perform at our best.