We’re all familiar with the term, and most of us know it has something to do with meditation. We know we’re supposed to meditate, yet most of us don’t.
I was in that camp. In fact – in some ways I still am. I don’t formally “meditate” nearly as much as I’d like. I consider myself a mindful person, though, and experience the bi-products of mindfulness daily.
So what’s the difference?
Meditation is an act. A specific practice done in a specific way. There are all types, but they all involve training the mind and/or inducing a state of heightened consciousness.
Mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious and aware. It means having a present state focus and connection with your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. Mindfulness can be honed in thousands of ways, ranging from focusing on your breath, actively listening to a piece of music, or walking in nature while paying attention to every sight, sound, smell, and bodily sensation.
It would be disingenuous of me to try to sell you on picking up a daily meditation practice (perhaps in a year or two) but I can preach first-hand on the benefits of mindfulness. As you’ve likely heard, mindfulness helps you feel more grateful, joyful and connected to others and your environment.
As great as that all is, I’ve found another highly practical benefit of mindfulness.
It helps your Career. A lot.
Here are just a few of the Career benefits I’ve discovered.
Improved Emotional Centeredness and Control
One of my clients, “Dan”, a rising star in Higher Education, started using meditation exercises to help him fall asleep. He noticed the benefits immediately crept over to his work life.
A self-described “hot-tempered” person, Dan was able to step back and almost observe his frustrations – as if he was observing someone else. Dan’s daily mindfulness practice has also helped him think more creatively, work with difficult co-workers more effectively, and maintain a calm presence no matter the situation.
Dan’s not alone. In fact, Ray Dalio, CEO of Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, cites mindfulness as fundamental to his own success.
“I attribute it to meditation—partially because of the creativity, partly because of the centeredness… you can be calm and analytical and approach them almost, I imagine, like a Ninja sees things coming at him.. Being “centered” is that state in which your emotions are not hijacking you. The ability to think clearly, put things in their right place and have perspective”
Present state focus and performance
Which brings me to my next benefit: performance.
Every day, we’re bombarded with thousands of email, text messages, news, and social media notifications competing for our limited attention. Being in the moment, nearly every important moment provides you with an advantage over distracted colleagues.
The increased focus also leads to greater clarity of thought – effects that have helped me communicate more effectively, both writing and orally.
Tapping power of unconscious mind to enhance creativity
I’ve noticed that as I continue to “declutter my mind” through mindfulness practices, my ability to generate ideas during my down time has improved significantly.
There’s a reason for that.
Our unconscious mind comprises mental processes that are inaccessible to our consciousness, but highly influential to our judgments, feelings, and behaviors. For most of us, our feelings and decisions are bi-products of our unconscious mind, rather than truly logical conclusions.
When you’re able to detach from your own swirling thoughts, fears, and anxieties, however, you become more in tune with your unconscious mind – which can have powerful effects.
Have you ever struggled with a problem for hours on end, then, later that night, figured out the answer?
That’s your unconscious mind. It works when we’re not, and its powers heighten the more we’re able to tap into our consciousness.
When I’m stuck on a problem, I’ll simply go for a hike, walk my dogs, cook, or spend time with my one-year old daughter. Hours later, I usually have a solution or at the very least perspective I didn’t have prior.
Don’t believe me? Pick a daily mindfulness practice, and take note of your performance two weeks later…
Greater connection to what you truly want
One of the greatest benefits of mindfulness is something we all strive for: career satisfaction. In my experience, cultivating a sense of mindfulness eventually allows you to step away from your rational mind and tune into your emotionality and intuition – providing you with a holistic self-perspective few are able to obtain.
A few years back, I had an offer to take a job that offered a significant pay bump and administrative perks, but didn’t feel right. I envisioned the specifics of the opportunity: the office itself, responsibilities, people I’d be working with, etc. When I started thinking about my immediate coworkers and company president, I felt my body tense. I took this as a sign to do more research and learned that there was a high-rate of turnover in my perspective area.
I made the difficult decision to turn down the offer. I’m quite thankful I did, as the person who accepted the job left just one year later on bad terms…
So how do you get started with your own mindfulness practice?
Simply pick something that allows you to focus on the task at hand, and do it for 10 minutes a day. Slowly add other tasks that allow you to hone your concentration, and increase the amount of time you dedicate to mindful practices.
These are just a few benefits of Career Mindfulness. What benefits has cultivating a sense of mindfulness had on your career?
Mike O’Connor is the Director of Career Discovery and the Education Career Community at Williams College, where he helps many of the country’s best liberal arts students find meaningful work. In addition, he recently started his own website, Wake Up, Be Awesome, Go to Sleep, as a means to help more people find purposeful vocations. Find out more about Mike and his work at www.wakeupbeawesomegotosleep.com.
Image courtesy of Start Up Stock Photos.