Have you had the experience of arriving to a destination and not remembering how you got there? Or suddenly realizing that you’ve just driven past your exit? Frequently, we get transported by our thoughts to another place and lose all track of time. We zone out. And sadly, unintentionally, we tune out without awareness or triggers for when to tune back in. At work, we can miss nonverbal signals during key negotiations, nuances in how something is said or clues about how a decision might go. When leaders acknowledge a wandering, undisciplined mind, they often seek ways to cultivate greater mindfulness.
What is mindfulness? Jon Kabat-Zinn defines it as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Shapiro and Carlson describe it as “an awareness that arises through intentionally attending in an open, accepting, and discerning way to whatever is arising in the present moment.” We would add that it’s staying genuinely curious about all that’s happening around us.
Some leaders experiment with emptying their minds and meditation. They seek ways to build their capacity to focus and see clearly. Yet, mindfulness doesn’t happen naturally. Leaders who are on the mindfulness journey have to work at it. They practice and with practice, they get better at focusing over time.
Mindful leaders learn and use tools to observe the impact of their “presence” on others. Over time they measure and manage their practices so they can:
– pay attention to the present moment
– recognize their feelings and emotions
– manage their reactions
– participate in each moment intentionally
Innolect recently launched an equine-assisted learning program focused on building leadership mindfulness: Discover Your Horse Power. As learning partners, horses reflect leader’s present states and provide immediate feedback as a platform for learning and change.