What does the dizzying success of Steve Jobs, Rupert Murdoch and Oprah Winfrey have in common? One simple daily act – meditation and mindfulness.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness (the act of being present in the moment instead of acting on auto-pilot) is rooted in ancient Eastern spirituality, in particular Buddhism. In recent years, corporate mindfulness has been embraced by companies such as Facebook, Google and LinkedIn as a way to manage the anxiety and pressure that comes with the today’s business environment.
“It is now fact that mindfulness has the ability to rewire you brain . . . and by doing so have a profound affect on one’s health,” explains James Doty, clinical professor of neurosurgery at Stanford.
Steve Jobs and Mindfulness
Jobs used Zen mindfulness meditation to reduce his stress, focus on creating unique products, gain clarity and to challenge his teams to achieve excellence.
As the Financial Times recently pointed out, Jobs was quite specific about how he went about practicing this “discipline” (his words, not mine!). Biographer Walter Isaacson quotes Jobs as saying:
“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things–that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before.”
Some Simple Tips for Practicing Mindfulness to Improve Your Career
Over nearly four decades, Ellen Langer’s research on mindfulness has had an incredible influence across a range of fields. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, she shares some very practical ways you can practice mindfulness at work:
- Imagine your thoughts are totally transparent. If they were, you wouldn’t think awful things about other people. You’d find a way to understand their perspective.
- When you’re upset about something— ask yourself, “Is it a tragedy or an inconvenience?” It’s probably the latter. Most of the things that get us upset are.
- Think about work/life integration, not balance. “Balance” suggests that the two are opposite and have nothing in common. But that’s not true. If you keep them separate, you don’t learn to transfer what you do successfully in one domain to the other. When we’re mindful, we realize that categories are person-constructed and don’t limit us.
- Remember, too, that stress is not a function of events; it’s a function of the view you take of events. Mindfulness helps you realize that there are no positive or negative outcomes. There’s A, B, C, D, and more, each with its challenges and opportunities.
Life consists only of moments, nothing more than that. So if you make the moment matter, it all matters. You can be mindful, you can be mindless. You can win, you can lose. The worst case is to be mindless and lose. So when you’re doing anything, be mindful, notice new things, make it meaningful to you, and you’ll prosper.
Do you practice mindfulness? How does it impact on your day at work?