Welcome to our new series, MIND OVER MATTER
This month’s question: What does it mean to be mindful at work?
Our new blog series provokes leaders in the conscious business space to share their inner most thoughts on our monthly themes – the good, hard and truthful. This week, we tapped SMARTY blogger, brand strategist, and copy writer Amy Swift Crosby to unpack hers; and no surprise, it led to an eye opening perspective on what it means to be “mindful” at work. Take a look.
What does it really mean to be mindful at work? I find myself stocked with the right self-help books, loaded with the right spiritual podcasts, and well versed in the appropriate vocabulary, but still unsure of how to measure my “mindful” quotient when it comes to work.
Here’s why it might take more than a regular meditation practice to be mindful….
To be mindful is to be conscious and present to whatever is happening in one’s immediate surroundings. For me, an important part of mindfulness is that it also affords me instant access to a pause button – a mechanism to slow the hamster wheel, interrupt the defensive knee-jerk response or over reaction. But in recent years, mindfulness has become more of a buzzword than a state of mind, so much so that I wonder if we need to redefine or reclaim, or at least get at the root of what causes us to lose our minds – and not be mindful - in the first place.
For many of us, our professional reputation or position tells the world who we are and what we value. It’s the most visible representation of our identity, our contribution to society. Even for those who reject titles or job hierarchy, the reality is that we spend 10+ hours each day immersed in our professional talents. Work is no longer a bit player in our lives – it’s a central character.
As a writer and brand strategist who toggles between various teams and cities, I’ve witnessed how quickly my own mind can go from mind“full” (present, curious, open) – to mind“less” (distracted, impatient, irritated)– depending on circumstances or team dynamics.
It’s hard to be mindful when…
We don’t feel respected, heard or seen for what we offer.
We feel undermined or overruled by a colleague.
Doing the right thing isn’t valued.
We feel misunderstood.
We don’t get rightful credit.
Undoubtedly we’ve all experienced one or all of these scenarios. But what they all have in common is something central to mindfulness, which is a little thing called ego. This emotional nerve center is easily wounded by anything tied to our perceptions of value. Our ego fortifies us but it also can inflate aspects of ourselves we’re ‘invested’ in showing the world. It could be a fragile, and (at times) volatile child living inside us. It could also be outsized, reflecting entitlement or demanding more than it gives.
Meditation teacher David Harshada Wagner defines ego work as, “the work of looking at what we identify with, how we see ourselves, and the way these identifications and ideas cripple us and limit our experience of life.” Put differently, truthful words translate to messy work. It’s only natural, then, that introspection that disassembles our structures and beliefs about who we are, pushes buttons. Still, without it, mindfulness has a pretense that’s conditional. We’re full of mindful gestures when it’s easy, when it’s not personal. But how are we when it really matters?
Ideally, being mindful isn’t simply an option available under certain conditions or when the temperature is just right. Mindfulness at work is recognizing when our finger is approaching the trigger of an egoic reaction. It’s acknowledging how closely our self-esteem is linked to our professional contributions – and the vulnerability created by this tension. Mindful is being present to how good something feels, or how bad, or how boring, or how tedious - and not trying to escape those feelings and sensations. Instead, it is observing them. Mindful says – see this, notice that.
To think that mindfulness is a somehow related to continuous bliss would be missing the point. It isn’t. But it does mean being awake to what is. And accepting that it’s hard to be mindful when the ego is at the center of your everything.
Amy Swift Crosby is a brand strategist and copy writer, and the voice behind SMARTY, a blog about the human side of creativity and business.
To read more on humanity at work, find Amy’s work and learn more about her at www.smartypeople.com