You would never catch a Star leader saying, “I’ll be happy when …” They know that tying happiness to a particular thing or a circumstance would just give unnecessary power to that thing and circumstance. Instead of waiting for that promotion, or that house, or that relationship, just concentrate on what you can do in the now, or maybe in the next 24 hours to make your life better.
The way to gain such clarity in the present without getting overwhelmed by uncontrollable circumstances is through Mindfulness. As Steve Jobs describes:
“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.”
What Steve Jobs describes is using mindfulness as a means to have complete control and awareness over your mind and actions. The way ahead may seem murky, filled with unknown obstacles and reasons to worry. Getting stuck on only worrying and planning for such exigent futures impedes action in the present. What does mindfulness have to offer over productivity apps and making timetables? It rewires your brain’s approach to problem-solving, takes into account both circumstances and internal experiences, and outputs action which is controlled and decisive.
It Brings Awareness
Mindfulness is about being aware of everything in the given moment. ‘Everything’ seems like a lot and even sounds like it has a hint of chaos to it. I mean, how do you observe everything without having a feeling about each thing, and then having an opinion, and going into a worthless thought-train? The answer lies in focussing on the word ‘aware’, instead of ‘everything’ in that first sentence. Being aware is to acknowledge. Just notice all there is – both outside and inside of you – and just stop noticing. As you develop this habit of observing things in and out of you, without having the need to define them or think about them in any manner, is when you’ll see your focus narrowing down to things that are actually important. By that logic, only by letting information flood, you can have clarity on what comes first and foremost. Don’t ignore, don’t label, just perceive!
It Brings Coherence
Key moments for leaders include being put on the spot and having to make decisions quickly and firmly. What you want, how you can get it and what you tell your team members to get it has to be clear and in a logical, easy-to-digest sequence in your head. But more often than not, it appears as a jumble of possibilities, and it gets more and more confusing as you keep thinking about it. Mindfulness helps you to stop, breathe and have clarity on both internal signals of your gut feeling and external indicators such as market analytics and advice to correctly balance them and arrive at something simple, sweet and effective.
It Brings Creativity
The number one antidote to stagnation is creativity. Mindfulness brings new meaning to creativity. It’s about doing something novel, based on the intelligent insight that can bring additional value to an activity. New means risky. That’s why our brain tends to form blueprints of things: this is how task A is done, and this is how task B is done. But mindfulness breaks these “cognitive schemas” or blueprints and makes connections you did not allow yourself to make before. It’s the equivalent of being able to use a hammer for something other than driving in a nail; it depends on your understanding of what a hammer can do and how it can fulfil your needs. Abstain from labelling and doing things mindlessly according to previous patterns. Pay attention to what you are doing right now, and how you are going about it, and a host of new ideas on how else to go about it is sure to show you the way ahead with clarity.
Impact on Leadership
A research study conducted with over 100 leaders in different economic settings showed that mindfulness helps leaders overcome two kinds of dualities in the workplace. The first one is the tradeoff between being assertive and directive versus being collaborative and supportive. Leaders become sensitive to the level of authority they use and balance it by essentially communicating “I have got your back”. They also balance well between short-term and long-term execution. Mindfulness helps in re-realizing priorities and gives the confidence to achieve multiple targets over time.
A Garrison Institute survey reveals that 71 per cent of leaders feel distracted from the present task they are engaging in “some” to “most” of the time. Leaders complain about feeling that their mind is too cluttered, and focus gets wasted instead of bringing home competent results.
Q- Do you want to feel bombarded and overcome by information in key make-it-or-break-it moments?
Mindfulness as a tool has become indispensable because of what can be called the economy of attention. Economy of attention is the realization that one only has so much attention and effortful energy with them, so it has to be allocated cost-effectively, just like money or other resources. It sounds paradoxical, but expanding awareness with the help of mindfulness actually helps in making this economy much more efficient.
An HBR Article reviews a study which found that top performers in investment banking did not choose between having a strategy based on gut feeling and one based on data analytics. True awareness and applying the knowledge gained from such awareness comes from paying attention to all such indicators: such performers respond to their feelings of cautiousness or risk-taking and balance it with what they know about the state of the market.
Such cases remind us that there is no one absolute strategy that we can crack and implement again and again forever to get infinite results. Mindfulness and clarity are how a leader can always accommodate new information and innovatively move the team on a definite path ahead.
Q- Do you want to master smoothly rolling with the punches by knowing what to focus on in the present?
Immediately Applicable Steps You Can Take
- Don’t jump into answering or doing something as a response. Cultivate stopping, clearing your mind and observing your own thoughts to enjoy a clearer grasp on how to move forward.
- When you identify your own anxiety or doubts, follow the train of thought to completion instead of suppressing it. Where is it coming from? What do you think is the origin of your feelings? By exploring that, you can maybe resolve your doubts.
- When you are going to make a decision you feel would have a large impact factor, consider what sources of information you are consulting and how you can diversify it. If one source is your experience, then a good second source would be market data, and a third good source after that would be your colleagues’ experiences, and so on.
Coach Vikram – Executive Presence and Leadership Career Coach
By helping leaders develop their executive presence in 21 hours, Vikram helps them stand out, build market dominance, and transform into star leaders!