As I enjoy the beauty of the lake on which our family cottage is situated, I have made it my goal during this year’s annual vacation to practice a deeper quality of mindfulness than I have known before. You need no special training to be more aware of your surroundings, your thoughts, and the simple tasks performed throughout the day. However, it does require a desire and a commitment to explore those parts of your mind that get jammed-up during the ebb and flow of daily life.
It is important for leaders to bring awareness to a new level. For over 20 years I was an instructor of choral and instrumental groups. It was unimaginable that we would begin to rehearse before we had first tuned our instruments. The degree to which we effectively lead our organizations and our people depends upon how ‘in tune’ we are – with our organization, our people, and particularly with ourselves. And yet, a majority of leaders rarely take time to ‘sharpen the saw’, as the late Stephen Covey  phrased it in his bestselling book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The emphasis today is on working harder, putting in more hours, and driving people and programs. It’s interesting to note that while this is the norm, few take the time to reflect deeply as to how effective all of this activity is.
Awareness changes everything. Awareness, or my preferred term, mindfulness, must become a ‘way of being’ for ultimate success. The first step in mindfulness is for leaders to kindle for themselves a clear vision of what they want for themselves, for their people, and for their organizations. The level of thinking required to achieve this takes time – and society has done a great job of convincing us that beyond the annual strategic planning session, we don’t need to take planned time daily, or at least weekly, to ‘put things right’ in our mind!
The Puritan ethic has left a legacy of guilt, especially among high achievers, when time is taken to simply be – however, without a purposeful approach to life and work, we are doomed to mediocrity.
Practicing mindfulness is easier than one might first imagine. It begins by simply paying attention – to everything, the little things that you do almost mindlessly each day.  Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of, Full Catastrophe Living, and an expert in the practice of mindfulness states, “The richness of present-moment experience is the richness of life itself. Too often we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we “know” prevent us from seeing things as they really are.” A dangerous practice in today’s competitive marketplace!
As you start to pay attention to where your mind is from moment to moment throughout the day, chances are you’ll begin to connect how often your thoughts are centered in things that have already transpired, or are going to take place next week, next month, or in six months. You may spend considerable amounts of your time and energies ruminating on past hurts or regrets or in anticipating, worrying and fantasizing about the future – just how productive is that?
It’s time that we get serious about our thinking, and put ourselves on a daily plan of mindfulness that will give us the edge, sought by so many in life and in business, and that will truly give us the results we desire.