"There are four big obstacles leaders encounter when trying to learn mindfulness."by
This is an interview with Martin Boroson, a mindfulness thinker, writer, speaker and coach. He has developed a technique called One-Moment Meditation® to help executives use mindfulness throughout their daily work lives. Martin will be speaking at Mind & Matter 2017, the Mindfulness at Work conference, which is taking place in Central London on April 27th - 28th 2017!
Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: You talk about the importance of leaders taking time to reflect on their 'true feelings.' How does someone inexperienced in this area know when they have finally hit on their true feelings?
Martin Boroson, mindfulness speaker/author: Many leaders believe they must ‘soldier on’ in spite of their feelings, or that feelings are somehow the enemy of clear-thinking or good decision-making.
But increasingly, leaders are realizing that having good emotional intelligence skills—including a sophisticated awareness of feelings—is essential to long-term high performance.
Whether you want to improve your emotional intelligence skills, get in touch with your ‘true’ feelings, or simply get to know yourself better, the first thing to do is pause.
But don’t just pause what you’re doing—also pause what you’re thinking. The idea is to create a little space in your mind. Then, in that space, simply ask yourself what you’re feeling. Ask this without judgement—when it comes to feelings, there is no right or wrong. Then simply notice what answer comes.
The next step is to give this feeling a simple name, such as ‘anxious’, ‘stressed’, or ‘hopeful’. If you notice even a small sense of relief in your body—often this feels as if you’re ‘landing’—this a good sign that you have identified a ‘true’ or at least a ‘truer’ feeling. It is a bit like coming home. Sometimes you will have to wait for this sense of landing, but sometimes it happens immediately.
It’s possible that nothing comes—and that’s okay. Give it time. It’s also possible that what you notice is that you actually feel out of touch with your feelings. But this is itself a feeling—the feeling of ‘feeling out of touch with my feelings’—and is perfectly valid.
If you have a bit more time, or you want to take this to the next level, then after that first round, do it again. Or consider, after that first round, asking yourself what you’re really feeling, and see if you get a different answer.
This very simple technique has been proven to be effective at helping people reduce stress and anxiety. It also helps leaders become more sophisticated about their mindset, make better choices, “get a grip” on difficult feelings, avoid major disagreements, and relate better to their teams.
Because this exercise is so useful—particularly for leaders—in my online courses we sometimes spend a whole week helping people master it.
Please remember, however, that feelings, by their nature, are always changing—they are always ‘in the moment’. So don’t get fixed on any particular feeling or decide that whatever you felt then should be what you feel now.
Finding your ‘true’ feelings is a lifelong process, but is also momentary—it is something that must be renewed moment by moment.
Doing this simple exercise can help you let go of deep patterns from the past that are holding you back—enabling to spot true emergence—the new opportunity that is always offered by the present.
Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: One of your tweets is "Being present in the moment means more than just being—it is also about doing." Can you explain this? Some new mindfulness practitioners may be confused as they have been told being mindfulness is simply about 'being' in the moment.
Martin Boroson, mindfulness speaker/author: Because so many people spend most of their time preoccupied with ‘doing’, many mindfulness teachers focus on what seems to be the opposite: ‘being’.
The problem with this perspective is that it suggests we can only find a peaceful state of mind when we are far removed from ordinary life, e.g. on top of a mountain. In other words, meditation and mindfulness get portrayed as ‘spa’ experiences—as if they were only about chilling out.
From that perspective, ‘doing’ starts to seem like the enemy. Yet, for the most part, leaders are doers. So, it’s no wonder that many leaders don’t realize how useful mindfulness can be in the workplace, or don’t understand how valuable meditation can be to their very dynamic lives.
I believe, however, that we must embrace being and doing—or stillness and activity—for the ultimate resourcefulness is only found when you can find the peace of being in the midst of doing. Ultimately, they are not incompatible.
The most important thing to remember, particularly if you want to introduce mindfulness into the workplace, is that the experience of ‘being in the moment’ is actually very dynamic. Although, when you are in the moment, you are relaxed, you are also awake, engaged, and ready for anything.
Mindfulness is not just about sitting still, calming down, or checking out. It is about learning be adaptive, resilient, and able to respond appropriately to what is happening. At times, this might mean moving very quickly. Mindfulness helps you do what you really need to do—and do it well.
Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What things do you think most hold leaders back from progressing in mindfulness?
Martin Boroson, mindfulness speaker/author: In my experience, there are four big obstacles leaders encounter when trying to learn mindfulness.
The first obstacle is time: they are busy people, and believe mindfulness needs a lot of time, so they don’t get around to it
The second obstacle is place: they think it needs a special place, i.e. a place that is already peaceful, which is very unlike their everyday environments. The consequences of these mistaken beliefs is that leaders don’t realize they can grab a moment of meditation wherever they are, whenever they need it. The training and coaching I offer starts by helping people get over those two obstacles.
The third obstacle is a mistaken belief: leaders think that mindfulness is only about slowing down or ‘checking out’. Because of this, leaders fail to realize how valuable mindfulness can be for high performance.
The fourth obstacle is that people set the bar way too high: they believe that mindfulness should give them laser-focus or make them eternally blissful. Well, these are indeed possible, but many periods of meditation and mindfulness simply lower your stress level a little. Keep in mind, however, even a small, temporary reduction in stress can have a huge positive effect on the thing you do next, and thus, the rest of your day.
In general, the training I have developed is both encouraging and empowering—they are designed to help people leap over these four obstacles. You can do these techniques anytime, anywhere. They don’t take long.
You start with small successes and build positive new habits and mindsets based on these, but the exercises are not stepping stones to long periods of meditation—they are complete in themselves.
Our data is showing that by addressing these obstacles, our methodologies are having a significant impact on all areas of performance.
For me, the key idea is this: whenever you make a choice—in any moment—to do a mindfulness exercise, no matter how short it is, no matter where you are, no matter what effect it has, this choice is enormously valuable, in and of itself. Just by making that choice, you have changed your mindset.
Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Give us a brief overview of your One-Moment Meditation® technique and how people can do it right now.
Martin Boroson, mindfulness speaker/author: The One-Moment Meditation® method starts by showing you how to do just one minute of meditation per day. Because a minute is so seemingly short you use a timer, and take it seriously.
The point is to keep this exercise to a minute, so that you really learn that you can make a powerful change in your state of mind quickly. In other words, you learn that your mindset is in your control.
Then we help you apply and insert that minute directly into situations where it can be most effective, as needed. In this way, people are seeing dramatic benefits quickly, and this creates positive reinforcements which then encourage new habits.
And once people have mastered the minute, we don’t make it longer—we make it shorter, until you can reset your mindset in just a moment. Taking a moment—and experiencing the power of truly being in the moment—becomes a way of life.
If you want to get started now, download our free mobile app or look at my short cartoon, How to Meditate in a Moment, both at www.onemomentcompany.com.
Jamie Lawrence is Insights Director at Wagestream, a financial wellbeing app that makes money less stressful for people in work. Founded by a group of leading financial charities, Wagestream's mission is driven by their social charter: everything they build must improve financial wellbeing. Jamie was previously Managing Editor of HRZone,...