"A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind," explain psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert in the journal Science. And according to the psychologists' research, our minds wander often. In their study, participants' reported mind wandering 47 percent of the time.
If a wandering mind leads to something undesirable, what is the antidote?
Author and consultant Matt Tenney says it is mindfulness. Tenney explains in his book, The Mindfulness Edge, that we can rewire our brains through neuroplasticity. If a wandering mind is an unhappy one, then mindfulness can train the mind to focus.
Tenney writes that "mindfulness enhances emotion regulation, attention control, self-awareness, and self-regulation." With the increasing demands and pace of work, these benefits of mindfulness seem to be a pathway to greater results for leaders. Think about it for a moment; if you could demonstrate increased self-regulation in pressure situations, like closing a large deal, you could create a performance edge that would give you a competitive advantage. What person wouldn't want this? What business wouldn't benefit?
The Misconceptions of Mindfulness
In an interview with Tenney he explained to me that mindfulness is not just sitting down to meditate. Mindfulness can be experienced while texting. "If you're aware of your feet on the ground, your thumb touching the phone, and your intention in sending the message," you're practicing mindfulness. It can be integrated into everyday activities: standing in line, doing the dishes, brushing your teeth.
"Mindfulness is simply being aware of your thinking and changing who you are while doing an activity," explains Tenney.
Mindfulness comes from practice. Mindfulness can be found in the busy-ness of life.
When I asked Tenney if mindfulness is a spiritual practice, he replied that it's more psychological in nature. He went on to say that mindfulness helps a person to perform at higher levels. They do so by learning how to turn on their focus and sustain it as long as it's needed.
It turns out that mindfulness is a performance enhancer.
Mindfulness and Management
If mindfulness can boost performance, then it's logical that it would be a valuable practice for today's leaders.
Consider the context of business today. We have 24/7 access to information, email, and each other. We can work anywhere. Companies--small to large--can chase the sun to get work done. It's easier to be "on" with your work than it is to find down time away from its demands.
In Tenney's book, The Mindfulness Edge, he lists benefits for today's managers who have a practice of sustaining their focus:
- Improve business acumen
- Improve emotional and social intelligence
- Become more innovative
- Manage change more effectively
- See opportunities others don't see
- Improve leadership presence
- Live a more fulfilling life
Mindful managers, it seems, benefit both personally and professionally from a practice of mindfulness.
A wandering mind isn't necessarily a sign of ADD or ADHD. Our world is ADD. A wandering mind is an untrained one. Mindfulness is simply an opportunity to be still and be aware of being still in a noisy world.