I was super excited to attend a program this week which was born at Google – Search Inside Yourself. It has been, and still is, one of the most popular leadership programs at Google so much so that they have set up a permanent camp separately and are offering the program externally around the globe. It is a leadership program based on the principles of mindfulness. This is like pig in poo territory for me. I LOVE this shit. For years I have been wanting to merge my hippy yoga stuff with my leadership development stuff. Seems like Google also had the same idea. Back it up with the neuroscience (I am turning into a science nerd with this research) and it is like a match made in heaven.
The concept that as leaders, hell as co-workers and colleagues, we have a large sphere of influence. I would actually stretch that as human beings, we daily come into contact with people. Unless of course if you are a yogi deep in the mountains or a hermit than my guess is most of us are interacting each day with people. Even if we are not, we are interacting with ourselves. Sometimes that later can be more painful than the former truth be told.
The basis for the program is by developing mindfulness, we can become more self aware. By being more self aware, we can relate better with ourselves (by self regulation) and with others (compassionate leadership in Google speak). For yogis this may be likened to the yama’s and niyama’s. Common sense you might say, but let me ask you, when was the last time you found yourself angry, upset, saying something you didn’t mean, anxious, obsessing over something or even just worrying? Perhaps you are not the worrying kind, but that colleague you can’t quite connect with, or you are not getting the best out of yourself or the people around you, maybe you don’t even realise the opportunities that are passing you up each day. You get my point. None of us are immune to this kind of thing as we are all human.
It has become an age where we are constantly connected, a device in each hand (and soon to be one on your wrist) with back to back meetings or tasks or jobs to do. We are bombarded daily with news, events, marketing – whether we choose to or not, our minds are conditioned to be full. We have the tv going, the music blaring, as we read, scan, we immerse ourselves in information. And thats before we even get to work. Then add in the emails, meetings, schedules and agendas. We are busy and full and actually we quite like it as it makes us feel worthy and contributing and successful. The truth is, we fill up so we can avoid. Avoid the space, the stillness or even the silence. We keep ourselves distracted intentionally. How boring if we didn’t!
This is where mindfulness comes in. It is taking a full mind and placing our attention onto on task. Not multi tasking (which guess what, has been proven to be less effective than single tasking) or thinking about your shopping list in your yoga class, or planning your weekend while your loved one replays their day, or even thinking about whether you should steam or fry the veggies you are cutting. Being mindful takes us into the present moment and paying attention to whats going on both in the outside world but importantly on the inside world. We start to pay attention to what we are doing, or to the subtleties of the body. The more we pay attention to the inside world, the more we notice shifts and changes as they hold a host of information.
We practice mindful listening with our colleagues and our friends – paying attention to what they are saying not thinking about what we think about what they are saying or what we want to say next. Mindfulness creates presence and less need to be busy. Our mind becomes less full. Sounds weird, or scary even right? Well the best thing you can do is to give it a go. Next time you are in a conversation, practice mindful listening. Really and truly just focusing on what the other person is saying. Not thinking of what you are going to say next, not forming an opinion of what it might be they are saying, but simply listening. Try it at work, at home with your kids with the guy from the conner store. Doesn’t matter who, but simply practice mindfully listening and being totally present with them. You might be surprised with what you might find. You might find you are just a little less mind full.