As a C-suite executive, you experience challenges throughout a typical day. The difficult decisions you have to make that could make or break the company, the tough negotiations, and conversations with the stakeholders, and the immense pressure to create and follow through with the company’s business plan to ensure growth and profitability.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a reliable way to ease all that pressure and manage the stress that comes with it? Well, there is- mindfulness! Mindfulness can help you become more effective, calm, decisive, and peaceful as a leader, even as you take on your demanding tasks to make the company a success.
In essence, mindfulness is a practice that allows you to be grounded in the present moment and remain aware of your experiences. You are aware of where you are and what you are doing in the present moment. By observing how you think, feel, act, and react in the here and now, without forming judgments or opinions, you are said to be aware.
According to the Harvard Business Review, various mindfulness-based practices, including journaling, meditation, and introspection, are being taken up by well-known successful companies such as Google, Goldman Sachs, Apple, Medtronic, and Aetna, to name a few. In fact, Janice Marturano, a former top executive at General Mills, a company that also embraces mindfulness practices, quit the company to found a company called Institute for Mindful Leadership, which offers mindfulness meditation courses to business leaders.
These companies have strongly held on to these mindfulness techniques because they have discovered that the leaders and employees benefit from them.
Some of the benefits these mindfulness-based methods are known to bring are:
It is easy to get stressed as a leader, especially when you have loads of tasks on your schedule that are mentally demanding. It is also possible to experience feelings of anxiety and depression when trying to find and execute a solution to a problem that your company is currently facing. During these times, mindfulness comes in handy as it is known to help reduce the levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol in your body. It helps you relax and be calm. It also helps you learn how to respond better to stressful situations. For example, suppose you have come from an exhausting meeting, and you are required to make serious decisions that need reasoning and deep thought. Take time to increase your level of mindfulness so that you become more mentally able to take on the task.
When business deals are not working out, and the company’s performance worsens by the day, you can find yourself emotionally unbalanced. Your levels of aggression may arise, and you find yourself acting in a reactionary unpleasant way. With mindfulness, you become aware of your feelings and emotions in the present moment, and it becomes easier to be less aggressive and reactive to your colleagues.
Research suggests that you are more likely to show compassion to people if you practice mindfulness consistently through your words and actions. You might notice yourself being more understanding to your employees or teammates when they make mistakes and help rectify them with kindness and gentleness. And this, in the long run, helps to build unity and a compassionate culture among your colleagues.
When working, we often get distracted. You start thinking about your family and what you need to do for them, or you drift off into thoughts of the upcoming business trip. These distractions tend to keep you from being more productive and attentive at work. Research from Harvard Medical School showed that mindfulness helps regulate a critical brain wave found in the brain known as Alpha rhythm that lowers the information that brings about distraction, which can be pretty useful.
If you want to have your brain perform better, mindfulness might be a good consideration for you. Scientific studies show that mindfulness is linked to enhancing the concentration of the gray matter in your brain, mostly in those areas that perform crucial functions such as perspective thinking, regulating emotions, self-referential processing, memory, and learning. This benefit can help take your work a notch higher and become a top performer.
When you are stressed about work or even your personal life, it is often difficult to get a good night's sleep. Your mind goes from one thought to the other, keeping you awake for longer. In turn, you feel exhausted in the morning and not ready to take on the day. Mindfulness allows you to reduce the stressful thoughts that keep coming up and the constant mental chatter in your brain that makes it hard for you to sleep. This way, you get a suitable environment to fall asleep fast and stay asleep through the night to wake up feeling fresh.
When you have constant negative feelings about a project you are working on and feel that you are being affected by the negative thoughts while working, you can use mindfulness to reduce the momentary negative effect. Mindfulness practices such as walking meditation have been found effective in this area. You can take some time off, do a few minutes of walking meditation and then reflect on the project and discover what is really going on, and it will help you be more positive.
When working with mindfulness, you are strongly encouraged to have a mindfulness routine that you follow as that helps continue it in the long term so that you get its full benefits.
There are many ways to get started with a mindfulness routine. The first option is to begin with mindfulness meditation and then slowly incorporate other mindfulness-based practices such as mindful eating, mindful speaking and listening, visualization, resting awareness, reflection, walking meditation, and others to help improve your level of mindfulness throughout the day.
To get a complete understanding of mindfulness meditation and the other practices, here is a complete beginner’s guide to mindfulness meditation that goes into detail about all the mentioned practices.
The second option is to take mindfulness courses designed for business executives, such as the one from Institute For Mindful Leadership or any other similar courses you feel are more fitted for you. These courses help build mindfulness for people who lead different organizations and train them on how to leverage mindfulness to improve personal and overall company performance.
The third option is building a mindfulness culture in your workplace and being part of it. This can be achieved by arranging a few weeks-long classes for everyone in the company that is aimed at helping them become more mindful. Google practices this through their “Search Inside Yourself” program, with the help of Jon Kabat Zinn, who is a respected mindfulness expert, that improves the employees on various self-development aspects, including emotional intelligence.
Such a culture makes better employees, but it also helps to build unity among the workers, from the top executives down to the junior staff, which is also among the 7 strategies to improve employee engagement and boost morale.
In summary, mindfulness is an effective strategy for clearing and refreshing the mind after a long period of stressful events and tasks, remaining emotionally and mentally balanced, and improving focus and productivity.
To enjoy the benefits of the practice, you can squeeze as little as 1 to 5 minutes daily to make slow but valuable changes in your life that will help you have a rewarding experience in the long term. Research shows that 5 minutes of mindfulness meditation can significantly impact your stress levels and overall well-being if done consistently. This means that if you take a few minutes out of your day to practice mindfulness, you can do better in your work and personal life.