How Practicing Mindfulness Can Help in Your Career

Have you ever wondered what Mindfulness can do for you? Do you have some questions about how you can maximize mindfulness in your life and career?

Today’s blog in our mindfulness series is a perfect place to start. Learn about what mindfulness is and what mindfulness can do for you from Vicki Flaherty, who leads mindfulness initiatives across IBM.

The Mindfulness series is a collection of suggested mindfulness approaches written by mindfulness expert in IBM and useful for creating greater awareness in your life and work.

By Vicki Flaherty

What is mindfulness?

Vicki Flaherty

In a word, to me mindfulness means ‘awareness’. Being aware and awake to what is happening in the present moment. It’s about building our capacity to not get lost ruminating about the past or anticipating the future. Reflection upon one’s experiences and visualizing our futures is important – however, key is being intentional about when we’re focused on doing that. So often we run on auto-pilot – mindfulness is when we are conscious of what we are thinking, doing, and how we are feeling.

I learned that awareness happens on three levels: 1) self, 2) others, and 3) surroundings or situation; to get to levels 2 and 3 requires mastering level 1. Mindfulness/awareness is the foundation of great leadership. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, with meditation being one, shown through extensive research to have profound effects. You can also build practices and activities into your daily life that support being more mindful.

How mindfulness has helped me personally

As I grew in my practice, I became more present. I fully experience what’s happening around me more often. This has resulted in better quality work that does not have to be redone, in using my time more effectively (because I try to single task, which means I don’t’ have to keep taking time to refocus on a task), in making clearer decisions, in being intentional about my priorities and how I spend my time, in how I communicate and the impact I have with my words and tone, in enjoying my work and life more.

Why mindfulness is important to your career

Success in your career has a lot to do with relationships – the relationships you have with your peers, your partners, or your clients. And to be in relationship requires that you show up, that you fully engage. Mindfulness enables us to do that. Imagine if just one time per day you were really with the person whom you’re engaged with, not texting or responding to email or a chat – but really seeing them, appreciating how they feel, seeing things from their perspective.

Effective mindfulness techniques you can use

I am not a regular meditator. In the early days of launching the Mindfulness@IBM community, I completed a 10-week program where I meditated 20 minutes a day every day. It was an astounding way to gain insight into how my mind works – it never shuts off, when it speaks for my ego it can be really loud, with practice I can manage where it goes. I’ve focused on building mindfulness into my daily activities and through small every day practices. My three top ways of enhancing my level of mindfulness include:

  1. Taking time at the start of (almost) every day to read something inspiring and/or journal about it.
  2. Throughout the day checking in on my posture – ensuring I am open and relaxed. Using the time between meetings as a trigger.
  3. Breathing to relax – calm my nerves, focus my attention, fall asleep.

What research says about mindfulness

One of the most exciting things to me about the research on mindfulness is the discovery that our brains have ‘neuroplasticity’ – the idea that we can actually change the structure of our brain by changing our behavior. There was a time when the standard belief was that our brains became fixed at some point in adulthood. Now we know you can change and grow your brain over your entire lifetime. Habits wire our brains a certain way.  Just like we can build our muscles by lifting weights and working out, we can build our brain capacity by practicing certain behaviors consistently.

We hope you find these suggested mindfulness approaches useful for creating greater awareness in your life and work. Please feel free to add a comment below to let us know how you have got on. For more on working and living more mindfully, visit our mindfulness series.

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Vicki Flaherty is the Global Mindfulness@IBM Leader and helps IBMers lead with clarity, intention, and authenticity. You’ll find her on LinkedIn and Twitter and over at her Leading with Intention blog.

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