Early Career

A Tool You Need Right Now: Mindfulness Can Help Work Performance

If talk of “mindfulness” makes you think of quiet meditation on a mountaintop, incense and candles, or healing crystals, think again. The practice of mindfulness – or being present in the moment – is increasingly common in corporate settings. Even a Harvard Business Review article touted mindfulness as a way to increase effectiveness at work.

If you want to increase mental clarity, develop essential leadership skills and remove the annoying distractions that keep you from focusing on what really matters at work, it may be time to try mindfulness.

During Forté’s Women Lead Webinar in April, “Be Present: Mindfulness for Work and Life,” Shannon Demko – certified mindfulness instructor and founder of The Mindful MBA – explained what mindfulness is, how to do it, and how it can lead to success at work.

What mindfulness is

Mindfulness has many definitions. Shannon said there is a “common perception that it means checking out of the world, but it is the opposite.” She likes how Jon Kabat-Zinn, a world-renowned mindfulness leader, defines mindfulness: “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

Shannon explained that the objective of mindfulness is “to be present; to develop an ability to connect to discomfort in a new way; to observe and not be overcome; and make intentional choices.” In a world with endless distractions, it is easy to check out of behavior or activities that make us uncomfortable.

Mindfulness “helps us understand what is going on within us, even if it is uncomfortable, and how to make choices that will help us face challenges and not be distracted by them,” Shannon explained.

Even if stress is only imagined and not real, the body can react physiologically and negatively affect metabolism, circulation and inflammation. According to Shannon, “mindfulness brings our mind to the present moment instead of where the brain tells us we need to be, and so our bodies are where they need to be, too.”

How to practice mindfulness

Shannon demystified that practice of mindfulness by describing it as “similar to any other kind of workout you might do – in the gym, for example.” Mindfulness can be practiced through meditation and breathwork or mindful activities such as yoga, walking or running.

To practice mindfulness, three things are necessary:

  • Attention
  • Intention
  • Breath

“We always have these materials with us, and we can tap into them at any time to get results,” Shannon explained.

Good news for busy professionals: meditation does not have to take up a large chunk of time. Meditating for as few as three minutes can make a difference, and Shannon cited a Carnegie Mellon study that has found that 25 minutes of meditation for three consecutive days has a measurable impact on performance.

How mindfulness can help at work

So what does mindfulness have to do with business success?

Shannon believes that it can lead to increased patience, sharper listening and decision-making abilities, and mental clarity, and its benefits extend to clients, co-workers, friends and family. Multi-tasking – the antithesis of mindfulness because the “brain is moving from topic to topic,” Shannon says – makes people less effective in their work. Additionally, “research has shown that you are increasing gray matter in your brain by coming back to the present.”

Perhaps most importantly, mindfulness allows people to stay calm during challenging moments, which is a key trait for leaders. As Shannon noted, “Leaders who lose it when the going gets rough are not going to be leaders for long. Making decisions calmly is power.”

Mindfulness takes practice, but the rewards can be immense both personally and professionally.

Experience the full benefit of Shannon Demko’s presentation by watching the webinar today. A full library of previous Forté webinars are available to Premium Access Pass members. For $100/year, Access Pass members receive exclusive invitations to Women Lead webinars.  If your company is a Forté sponsor you may be entitled to free access pass.  Check our sponsors to see if your organization is a partner.  Access Pass members also have exclusive use of the Forté Job Center; you can browse positions and post your resumé to be seen by leading companies seeking top talent.

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