Mindfulness has grown radically in popularity over the course of the past decade. Many business leaders are using mindfulness practice to improve their own abilities and achieve remarkable things at their companies.
A number of examples come to mind, such as Aetna, a healthcare insurance provider whose mindfulness program has enabled employees to reduce stress levels, improve quality of sleep, and add more than 62 minutes of productivity to each week. Not only that, the average healthcare costs for employees in the mindfulness program were significantly less than the people who did not participate. Intel, likewise, has helped its employees boost creativity and increase focus with mindfulness training, as has Keurig Green Mountain, which also reported lower levels of injury among factory workers due to a pre-shift mindfulness session.
While these examples illustrate the benefits of creating company-wide mindfulness programs, business leaders themselves can benefit immensely from increasing their use of mindfulness techniques. Some of these benefits include:
Better focus and improved listening.
Executives have many details on their mind each day, and these distractions can pull their focus in numerous directions simultaneously. As a result, some executives find it difficult to stay in the moment, especially when communicating with other people. When communication breaks down, companies can run into trouble. However, mindfulness is all about staying in the moment.
With mindfulness practice, leaders can learn how to stay present and focused on what is happening, thereby becoming better listeners and communicators. Through mindfulness, leaders gain the presence of mind to take in new information, process it without distraction, and ultimately make decisions consistent with the values of the company. Becoming less reactionary means greater focus on the things that really matter.
The ability to let go when needed.
One of the biggest struggles for executives is finding a healthy balance between their work and their personal lives. Too often, individuals let themselves become overwhelmed and end up taking their work home with them. Sometimes, this process leads to increased productivity, but more often it means dwelling on an unfortunate event that cannot be changed.
Meditation is all about letting go of attachments. This does not mean pretending attachment does not exist, but rather checking in with attachments and realizing when it is futile to explore them further. When leaders begin to master this skill, they can better discriminate between what can be changed and what cannot, or rather, what deserves attention and what does not. As a result, they become more clear-headed and present at both work and home, which leads to a better balance.
Better overall health.
The fact that Aetna employees participating in the company’s mindfulness program spent less on healthcare is not surprising. One of the biggest drivers of health issues is stress, which can lead to high blood pressure and a range of other problems. Mindfulness help individuals handle their stress more effectively so that they feel calmer over the course of the day.
In addition, mindfulness helps build resiliency so that people react more productively when things go wrong. Instead of becoming overwhelmed and frozen by indecision, mindfulness helps leaders step back and assess how best to move forward in a calm, organized manner.
Another benefit of mindfulness is that it encourages people to listen to their own bodies. Since leaders can have an extraordinary number of commitments, they sometimes will ignore signs of exhaustion that can end up complicating health conditions. Mindfulness encourages people to pay attention to their bodies and take better care of themselves.
A renewed sense of curiosity.
Part of learning to meditate is embracing whatever arises, either within ourselves or from the outside world. Individuals focus on rediscovering the world around them and removing all of the labels and categories they formerly used to organize their surroundings. While this can sound scary and overwhelming, people tend to find it liberating.
Leaders can use this newfound perspective to bring greater curiosity to their work, whether that means exploring a solution that they would not have previously considered or being more open to suggestions from employees. Curiosity helps keep people grounded in the present moment and can also help reveal paths for a company that will help distinguish it from the competition.
Practice helps create new habits.
Executives may shy away from mindfulness practice because it seems like a significant time commitment. While practice does take time, individuals often begin to see how much of their day they spend worrying or planning in unproductive ways. Through mindfulness practice, individuals learn how to center themselves when they start to lose focus.
Even through just a couple of deep, intentional breaths, executives can help regain a strong sense of the present and get out of unproductive thought patterns. When this practice becomes a habit, individuals often start to feel like they have more time than they ever have before because they are spending less of it in unproductive mindsets.