Lately I have been reading about the brain. We are in the middle of what I would call a brain research renaissance. Advances in soft tissue scanning technology have allowed researchers to map brain activity in ways that would have been unheard of just a few decades ago.
Some of this brain research is beginning to seep into the business press, specifically around advice for leaders. One phrase that is getting a lot of attention is “mindfulness.” I originally viewed articles on mindfulness for leaders as just another biz press fad but the more I read, the more I see some merit in this stuff. What I find particularly compelling is the concept that mindlessness is the opposite of mindfulness. If I am not mind-full, aware of my thoughts and ideas in the moment, I am mind-less, at the whim of any concept or idea that floats into my head. Ouch.
In essence, mindfulness is being present, focusing your attention on your current state. When left ungoverned, our minds are drawn to the past, what has already happened, or to the future, what is happening next. Current state is ignored, resulting in us missing valuable clues and data that will clearly impact the future.
Case in point: I just came out of a stressful meeting where conflict and argument have made me tense and angry. If I am mind-less, I will take those negative emotions into my next encounter, casting a damaging pall on the interaction and potentially allowing these negative emotions to color my decisions and actions. (For more thoughts on decision quality see my Alice’s Blog column and last month’s newsletter.
Let’s replay this scenario using mindful behavior. Feeling stressed and angry, I take a few minutes break, focus on my negative emotional state, make notes on how to resolve outstanding issues, and envision a positive outcome from these interactions. I take this action-oriented, positive energy into my next interaction with much better results.
This is just a small tidbit on a very large body of theory and practice. Hopefully it will spur you on to your own readings and research into the brain and how to better use it.