Incorporating mindfulness into an organization’s culture encourages growth, emotional intelligence, creativity, innovation and the capacity to respond to challenges with an open mind and decisive action. Some organizations have difficulty accepting the term “mindfulness” – and if it’s throwing you off for any reason then let me suggest that you look past the word itself and instead consider these three core themes: intention, attention, and attitude.
These themes are not stages, not building blocks, and they don’t happen in any particular order. While it’s often helpful to discuss them individually, these themes are actually interwoven into an overall and ongoing process where each theme informs and empowers the others.
Intention involves knowing why we’re paying attention. It includes reflecting on our values, our goals, our hopes, our dreams and then consciously setting our organizations in the direction that we want to go. The idea here is to allow reflection to lead to action so it may be better to think of this theme as taking steps that align with our beliefs and make progress towards our goals. Reflection is not the same as writing a “value proposition,” “value statement,” or a formal “mission statement.” In fact, there are two reasons why so many of these – while well intentioned – end up missing the mark.
- They’re not personal, and
- They’re not actionable or do not inform us on what actions to take.
It may be best to simply start from scratch. Ask yourself, “Knowing what I know about the organization and where we want to go, what are we doing to prevent or delay pursuing our goals.” When we reflect on our individual or organizational values, what our motivations are, what our intentions are – the reflection itself is an essential element of mindfulness.
The second theme of mindfulness is attention: attending to our experiences in the present moment. It’s the right here, right now – and this aspect of mindfulness is likely to involve some practice focusing the mind in the present moment. It doesn’t do any good to mentally rehash things that are in the past and rehearsing for a future moment is basically getting lost in a fantasy. Just notice everything that is happening right now. If you’re not paying full attention to the things unfolding around you, then at best you have a limited focus.
All too often we experience our life mindlessly. We’ve even created a word to describe our attempt to respond to the many pressing demands on our time: multitasking. While eating lunch and talking on the phone might be possible, it is not possible to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. Paying partial attention to several things is generally a formula for error.
According to writer Linda Stone, continuous partial attention “contributes to a stressful lifestyle, to operating in crisis management mode, and to a compromised ability to reflect, to make decisions, and to think creatively.”
If we’re going to meet the present moment with any type of skill then we have to be present to that moment.
Inherent to mindfulness is seeing clearly. It’s understanding the nature of what’s actually happening so that we have the ability, individually or as a team, to respond effectively. And if we’re not paying attention then we’re unable to see clearly what is needed the most.
The third theme is our attitude. This is really how we pay attention. Mindfulness involves a level of acceptance, not control. We’re not trying to make things happen a certain way. Forcing situations to happen in a way that we prefer is not addressing reality. We’re not trying to change the experience, we’re simply observing it with an attitude of openness and curiosity. Acceptance allows for the appropriate input, decision, and response without judgment, manipulation, or false attempts to control things. In short, it prevents wasted time and energy while enabling responses that are well reasoned and well intended.
As these themes interact, alertness begins to arise. We intentionally pay attention to the present moment with curiosity, acceptance, and with openness. – an attentiveness that offers something unique to the corporate world where mindfulness can awaken greater productivity, creativity, and innovation.
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