In Conversational Capacity I explained why mindful awareness is such an important aspect of remaining purpose-driven and learning-focused under pressure:
“Since deliberately balancing candor and curiosity requires you communicate more mindfully, activities such as meditation, yoga, or meditative running that strengthen our awareness are powerful ways to increase your competence. My recommendation is this: If you don’t have a regular mindfulness practice, start one. If you do have one, keep it up. “Mindful Awareness Practices,” or MAPS as they’re called, help sharpen your capacity for self-awareness. And since you can’t manage a reflex if you’re unaware of it, developing a part of your mind that is able to watch your behavior in the moment is essential.
Embracing Your “Observer Self”
Mindfulness practice does just this. It cultivates your “observer self,” that part of your mind that pays attention to how your mind is working. This is a vital competence in difficult circumstances. When one part of your mind is busy on the dance floor of thought—thinking, analyzing, reacting, drifting, etc.—another part of your mind is watching it do so from a mental balcony. The more you’re able to stay on the balcony and observe your reactions on the dance floor, the more informed choices at your disposal for mindfully managing those reactions.
Imagine two people sitting in a meeting in which their need to minimize is triggered. One has a well-developed observer self and is able to recognize the reaction and take appropriate action. “I feel the need keep my mouth shut and play it safe, but I am going to override that reaction and raise my hand.” The other person, lacking that mindfulness, just shuts down, unaware they’re even doing so.”
Impacting Your Performance
Research now shows that even short bursts of practice can have a demonstrable impact on our performance. “Research conducted at INSEAD and The Wharton School, and published in Psychological Science, found that even short-term mindfulness meditative practice of about 15 minutes can help you make wiser choices when making decisions,” writes Douglas LaBier, director of the Center for Progressive Development. “In mindfulness meditation, you build awareness of the present moment and try to let go of other thoughts that intrude and distract.”
For more on the link between conversational capacity, effective leadership, and mindful awareness check out this post by Nina Cherry and I: Mindful Leadership & Conversational Capacity.
And to read Douglas Labier’s excellent overview of the research about the benefits of even short-term mindfulness practice click here