Because of my work helping leaders who lead big, complex projects with multiple stakeholders, I have become increasingly interested in mindfulness as a helpful tool to improve and bolster the mental state, the leader’s most valuable asset.
I first began my own mindfulness practice decades ago, but it lapsed and I didn’t begin it again until my son, Gabe, took an interest in meditation just a few years back. Since that time, I have been using mindfulness as a way to create increased clarity, calm agitation, and continuously raise my own performance as my consulting practice grows and expands.
Leaders regularly find themselves in the thick of fast moving action, where their response is a chief influencer on what courses of action are chosen and how decisions are made. Their ability to stay active in the midst of flurry, keep people focused on productive behavior, and stay tuned to priorities will often make or break their ability to lead effectively. Mindfulness builds the basic skill required for all of these, focus.
By continuously bringing your mind back to a specific anchor, you figuratively building the mental muscle (and literally wiring the synapses) that help you stay focused. In fact, many will tell you that mindfulness is not about the equanimity you achieve during a particular session. That is a side benefit when it happens. Instead, it is the process of bringing your mind back to its focus over and over again that is central.
In other words, it is not the one-pointedness you are able to achieve, but the repetition that comes from over and over again shifting your attention from distraction to your chosen point of focus. That is the real benefit of regular practice.
There is a mistaken belief that if you practice mindfulness day in and day out, you will enjoy a powerful calm from each session that imparts mental composure on the rest of your day. That may be true sometimes, depending upon the day and the circumstances. But, because you do not control life’s circumstances, you cannot count on it.
What you can count on is developing your ability to stay clear no matter what happens, and to develop your ability to focus without relying on worry, angst or emotional turbulence to get you there. You are building your capacity to channel your attention on what matters most even as distractions mount.