ADAPTED FROM HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW
Leaders across the globe feel that the unprecedented busyness of modern-day leadership makes them more reactive and less proactive. There is a solution to this hardwired, reactionary leadership approach: mindfulness.
Mindfulness can help people create a one-second mental space between an event or stimulus and their response to it.
Research has found that mindfulness training alters our brains and how we engage with ourselves, others, and our work. When practiced and applied, mindfulness fundamentally alters the operating system of the mind. Through repeated mindfulness practice, brain activity is redirected from ancient, reactionary parts of the brain, including the limbic system, to the newest, rational part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex.
In this way mindfulness practice decreases activity in the parts of the brain responsible for fight-or-flight and knee-jerk reactions while increasing activity in the part of the brain responsible for what’s termed our executive functioning.
One second can be the difference between achieving desired results or not. In that one second lies the opportunity to improve the way you decide and direct, the way you engage and lead. That’s an enormous advantage for leaders in fast-paced, high-pressure jobs.
Here are five easily implemented tips to help you become more mindful:
- Practice 10 minutes of mindfulness training each day. Most people find mornings the best time to practice mindfulness, but you can do it any time of day. Try it for four weeks.
- Avoid reading email first thing in the morning. Our minds are generally most focused, creative, and expansive in the morning. This is the time to do focused, strategic work and have important conversations. If you read your email as you get up, your mind will get sidetracked and you’ll begin the slide toward reactive leadership. Making email your first task of the day wastes the opportunity to use your mind at its highest potential.
- Turn off all notifications. The notification alarms on your phone, tablet, and laptop are significant contributors to reactive leadership. They keep you mentally busy and put you under pressure, thereby triggering reactionary responses. They cause damage far more than they add value. Try this: For one week turn off all email notifications on all devices.
- Stop multitasking. It keeps your mind full, busy, and under pressure. It makes you reactive. Try to maintain focus on a single task, and then notice when you find your mind drifting off to another task — a sign that your brain wishes to multitask. When this happens, mentally shut down all the superfluous tasks entering your thoughts while maintaining focus on the task at hand.
Although mindfulness isn’t a magic pill, it will help you more actively select your responses and make calculated choices instead of succumbing to reactionary decisions.