We all have had that feeling of “not being there.” Have you ever driven home, and then turned off the car and tried to recall the trip – it generally evokes pangs of anxiety as you worry about all of the near accidents you could have had on the trip and not realised how close you got to not making it home at all!
Or, you’ve just been in a meeting where your colleague made the presentation of her life, and she asks you on walking out, “Well, how did I go?” As you catch her expectant gaze, you realise straight away that you were off on some daydream, worrying about some ill-defined event in the future, or still ruminating about your argument with your teenage son that you had hours ago before work even started. You um and argh through some sort of pathetic response – you know that you’ve let her down – her expectant gaze turns to disappointment.
You’re occupying the world of mindlessness.
We spend so much of our lives on autopilot, not noticing, not focusing, not really being there. As Stanford researcher Ellen Langer remarked, “We are so frightened of the age of the robot, but for much of the time we are robots already.”
“Well, what’s the alternative?” I hear you ask. Good question.
Welcome to the world of mindfulness. No, it’s not about trekking off to Nepal to sit on some mountain top while you chant ancient mantras to yourself (though, there’s no harm in doing that, if that’s what floats your boat!). It’s about being present. Training that piece of grey matter between your ears to be there, not off somewhere else, gallivanting around like some untethered thoroughbred horse.
“But, what does this mindfulness mumbo jumbo have to do with business; isn’t just what hippies go on about?” Another good question.
What if I told you that one of the world’s largest software companies embraces mindfulness as a way to drive business performance? What if I told you that it was the key workplace intervention that adds around $60m USD to a company’s bottom line for each percentage point lift in employee engagement. Have I got your attention yet?
Wait there’s more! Ever heard of Bill George? You might have read his work on Authentic Leadership. He’s now a Harvard Professor, but before that, he took a humble medical implant business from a relatively unheard of a small turn-over firm to a $60bn monolith. Do you know his key secret – yep, you’ve got it, mindfulness.
I’m on a bit of mission to bring mindfulness to the business world. No, I’m not some zealot that grew up on some alternative lifestyle commune. I, like many others, came up through the school of hard knocks and rose to lead a number of successful organisations. I discovered the power of being present. Yes, it’s something that requires constant practice, but it’s a well that never runs dry – it can sustain you through the toughest of times.
QUT has given me the opportunity to design a course on mindfulness that suits the business world. I’m keen to talk to you about what you would like to see in such a course, and how you think it could be applied in your workplace. Please get in contact. My details are: firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07 3138 6701.