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Marek Struszczyk

Co-Founder ManagerUp

Last modified: September 6th, 2023

Great leadership is more than just managing your employees. In fact, it is arguably, first and foremost, more about how you manage yourself. And one surefire way to manage yourself better – and indirectly your employees – is by being more mindful. But what is mindfulness, you might ask?

The answer can be both simple and profound at the same time.

Mindfulness in a Nutshell: A Mindfulness Overview in 60 Seconds!

  • Mindfulness is like a mental workout for your brain, helping you manage stress and increase your focus.
  • It’s all about being aware of the present moment and accepting thoughts, feelings, and surroundings without judgment.
  • Mindfulness has its roots in ancient Eastern philosophies but has been adapted to fit into our modern Western culture.
  • Four key elements of mindfulness are being in the present moment, being non-judgmental, accepting experiences, and observing your thoughts and feelings.
  • Practicing mindfulness in your professional life can bring lots of benefits: It helps build resilience and mental strength, it enhances your brain function, it encourages a more positive and supportive mindset, it improves leadership skills.
  • Meditation is a key way to practice mindfulness, but it’s not the only way – you can also incorporate mindfulness into daily activities, prayer, conscious eating, and even career exploration.

Let’s dig in further…

I. What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a powerful mental workout that enhances your brain and increases your capacity to cope with daily stressors and emotional upheavals.

But beyond that, mindfulness also enhances cognitive abilities, fosters authentic leadership, improves communication and relationships with others.

When you practice mindfulness, you focus on being aware of the present moment. You learn to stop dwelling on the past and worrying about the future. You learn to intentionally focus on what is happening right now, both internally (thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations) and externally (surroundings, environment), with an attitude of openness and acceptance.

Most importantly, mindfulness helps you see the events of your life without bias or judgment. It allows you to simply experience your emotions as well as your mistakes, including the emotions and mistakes of others. You will learn to accept mistakes without associating any negative feelings with them.

Mindfulness will liberate you from small-mindedness and will stimulate you to cultivate a loving attitude towards yourself and the people around you. Mindfulness should be practiced regularly (best daily) to fully enjoy its benefits.

What does mindfulness symbolize: The Chinese symbol for mindfulness and its interpretation

Allow me to digress a little and take a look at what mindfulness means in the Chinese language. Not only will it help us understand some of the elements we will look at going forward, but it will also help understand the larger meaning of mindfulness.

Interestingly, the Chinese character for mindfulness (below) consists of two different symbols. The upper symbol represents “now”, and the lower symbol represents the “heart.”

The Chinese character for mindfulness

The literal translation of the Chinese symbol is “bring your heart to now.”

For me, however, I interpret the character a little differently. When I look closely at the upper symbol, it looks like a roof, shelter, or protection. While for me, the lower symbol, the heart, symbolizes our emotions. So, I translate the symbol as the “protection of our emotions.”

I feel, whether you use the literal or my own interpretation, it really helps us to visualize what mindfulness represents. Being present in the now while also focused and being aware of ourselves and our emotions.

II. Unravelling the Origins of Mindfulness

Imagine a practice that began in ancient Eastern traditions, slowly spreading its influence across time and geographical boundaries, until it became a universal phenomenon cherished by Western culture. That’s the journey of mindfulness—an ancient art now embraced by people worldwide.

Eastern Origins of Mindfulness:

Mindfulness traces its origins back to ancient Eastern philosophies and spiritual practices, particularly in the Buddhist tradition. Over two millennia ago, Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, introduced the concept of mindfulness as a path to enlightenment and self-awareness. He taught his followers to be fully present in each moment, observing their thoughts, emotions, and sensations without attachment or judgment.

The term “mindfulness” derives from the Pali word “sati” and the Sanskrit word “smṛti,” both of which refer to the practice of awareness and recollection. Mindfulness started with meditation practices like Vipassana. People who do Vipassana meditation observe how everything in life is impermanent. By doing this, they gain a better understanding of themselves and the world.

The Journey to the West:

Through the spreading of trade routes and cultural exchange, mindfulness gradually found its way to the West. However, it was in the late 20th century that mindfulness truly gained momentum and grew in popularity. Influential teachers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer in the field, introduced mindfulness in a secular context, free from religious connotations. Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, which brought mindfulness to clinical and therapeutic settings.

Mindfulness Meets Western Culture:

What makes mindfulness so well-suited to Western culture? Mindfulness is universal because it deals with common human experiences like stress, anxiety, and the search for well-being and meaning. It doesn’t need any particular belief or cultural background to work. Instead, it provides practical tools to help us cope with the challenges of modern life.

In Western culture, which often emphasizes productivity, achievement, and multitasking, mindfulness provides a counterbalance—an opportunity to slow down, be present, and cultivate self-awareness. As the pace of life quickens, we realize the importance of making time for stillness and self-reflection.

A Modern-Day Essential:

In today’s busy world, mindfulness is a must-have. It provides a peaceful escape from the chaos and adapts well to different cultures. It has become popular in the West and is embraced by people from all backgrounds.

The blending of Eastern wisdom with Western culture has made mindfulness a powerful tool for self-awareness and personal growth. It shows how diverse cultures can coexist and share the pursuit of well-being and wisdom. As mindfulness spreads, it continues to enrich our lives.

III. The Essence of Mindfulness: ManagerUp’s CALM Approach

Business professionals often grapple with maintaining focus, making clear decisions, and cultivating a positive mindset. At ManagerUp, we’ve developed a distinctive and impactful strategy to address these challenges, rooted in the foundational pillars of mindfulness. 

Our approach, the CALM principle, embodies four core components: Cultivating Present Awareness, Acting as a spectator, Looking without bias, and Minimizing resistance.

By integrating mindfulness and fostering a mindset of growth and positivity, ManagerUp’s CALM concept empowers you to navigate the uncharted waters of the business realm with confidence and determination. Let’s take a deeper look at each of the core pillars of the CALM principle.

C: Cultivating the Now

(Practicing mindfulness means being aware of the present moment.)

In today’s digital age, distractions have become an intrinsic part of our daily routine. The pervasive presence of smartphones and social media platforms means that our attention is constantly divided. 

Even beyond the digital realm, our minds have a propensity to wander, often reflecting on past events or preemptively considering future implications. In a professional context, this constant mental shifting can hinder productivity and clarity.

Mindfulness offers a solution to this modern challenge. By anchoring our attention to the present, mindfulness counters our natural tendencies to let our minds drift, enabling a more focused and engaged approach to our daily tasks.

Our Objective: To cultivate a heightened sense of present awareness:

  • No distractions:  This entails regulating our interaction with digital devices, specifically smartphones, and periodically distancing oneself from social media. The aim is to ensure that technology is a tool, not a distraction.
  • Live in the present: Addressing our tendencies to dwell on the past or excessively plan for the future is crucial. While reflection and foresight are valuable, they must not come at the expense of the present.
  • Fully Engage with the task: It’s imperative that when a task is undertaken, it receives undivided attention. This not only improves the quality of the work but also the quality of the experience.

Mindfulness, in the professional context, revolves around this active engagement in the present moment. It requires a concerted effort to align one’s cognitive and emotional faculties with the task or discussion at hand. 

By doing so, one can optimize productivity and enhance the overall quality of work. Adopting such a practice can lead to a more balanced and fulfilling professional journey, with distractions taking a backseat to purposeful action.

A: Acting as an Observer 

(Mindfulness means observing your thoughts and feelings without becoming entangled in them.)

In today’s dynamic professional landscape, many of our decisions are impulsively shaped by fleeting emotions rather than concrete facts. This impulsivity often stems from a lack of self-awareness concerning our ingrained behavioral patterns, biases, and triggers. This can sometimes skew our perspective, leading to decisions that may not be in our best interest.

By harnessing the power of mindfulness, we can change this dynamic, as it equips us to approach situations with heightened self-awareness, grounding our reactions in objectivity rather than impulse.

Our Objective: To act as impartial observers, fully recognizing and understanding experiences without succumbing to inherent biases:

  • Enhance Self-awareness: This involves recognizing and understanding one’s own patterns, biases, preconceived notions, and triggers.
  • Seek External Insights: Regularly soliciting feedback from colleagues can offer valuable perspectives on one’s conduct and decision-making processes.
  • Observe and Reflect: Paying attention to the actions and decisions of others can provide mirror-like insights into our behavior and choices.

Mindfulness encourages us to deeply assess our thoughts and emotions, allowing us to observe them without being overwhelmed. Central to this is the ‘Current Moment Awareness,’ underscoring the significance of staying engaged in the present. 

This not only refines our decision-making process but also bolsters overall work performance. In the realm of business, adopting an observer’s perspective by mentally distancing oneself from immediate reactions paves the way for more balanced responses. 

L: Looking Without Bias

(Mindfulness signifies seeing life’s events without bias or judgment.)

Quick decision-making is often necessary in the business world, bringing our inherent biases and preconceived notions to the forefront. And ultimately, recognizing or understanding the emotions and intentions of others becomes a challenge. Common pitfalls include favoring or discriminating against an employee due to past experiences or placing undue emphasis on the individual rather than the content.

Embracing the essence of mindfulness, as indicated by the ‘L’ in CALM, allows professionals to discern events without judgment or bias, ensuring that decisions are rooted in factual understanding. 

Our Objective: To fully acknowledge experiences without resistance and proactively approach situations with a growth-oriented mindset:

  • Make bias-free decisions: Ensuring decisions and interactions remain free from the influence of past experiences or preconceived notions. 
  • Practice Thoughtful Responses: Prioritizing thoughtful deliberation over knee-jerk reactions to situations and decisions. 
  • Adopt the Beginner’s Mind: Approaching situations with a fresh, untainted perspective, ensuring unbiased judgments. 
  • Listen Actively and Unbiasedly: Prioritizing genuine understanding of perspectives by setting aside preconceptions and biases.

Mindfulness serves as a beacon, guiding individuals towards a present-focused, balanced approach free from undue influences. 

By consistently practicing this neutral perspective, professionals can navigate the complexities of their roles with enhanced clarity, ensuring that decisions are made from a place of genuine insight and equanimity.

M: Mastering Acceptance 

(Mindfulness encourages acceptance of both positive and challenging experiences without resisting or suppressing them.)

Confronted by daunting obstacles, our inherent response is frequently one of resistance or suppression. This behavior, particularly towards negative experiences, amplifies our stress and anxiety. Such resistance not only exacerbates our emotional strain but can also prolong our distress, impeding our capacity for resilience.

Objective-minded professionals understand the importance of addressing this dilemma. At the core of their strategy lies mindfulness, embodied by the ‘M’ in CALM. This principle emphasizes diminishing resistance and wholeheartedly acknowledging both uplifting and challenging experiences without trying to suppress them.

Our Objective: To navigate these challenges, professionals should aspire to:

  • Embrace Emotional Authenticity: This entails acknowledging and articulating one’s feelings without restraint. 
  • Cultivate Optimistic Perspectives: Viewing challenges through a positive lens, focusing on solutions and growth opportunities. 
  • Initiate Constructive Actions: Taking intentional and forward-looking measures to enhance and rectify situations.

Accepting challenges doesn’t signify defeat but rather underscores the need for proactive responses. By adopting this perspective, professionals can view obstacles as opportunities, fostering a growth mindset and navigating the uncertainties of the business landscape with assuredness and strategy.

This approach cultivates resilience, adaptability, and a mindset of growth—attributes pivotal for triumph in the business realm.

It’s noteworthy that ManagerUp introduces the CALM framework as a manifestation of mindfulness. As established previously, studies highlight the calming and restorative effects of integrating mindfulness into daily life, benefiting both psychological and physiological well-being. Importantly, these advantages accumulate over time, making regular and sustained practice the key to reaping the full rewards of mindfulness.

IV. Why is Mindfulness the Game-changer in Today’s Business

In an increasingly volatile business environment, mindfulness might just be the strategic tool organizations need to secure a thriving future in the 21st-century business world. Mindfulness, traditionally a personal development tool, has found its place in the business world, yielding a range of benefits for organizations, and shaping a positive and thriving workplace environment.

First and foremost, it nurtures a culture of innovation by creating an atmosphere where ideas can freely flow. By fostering psychological safety, it encourages individuals to share their innovative thoughts, leading to novel solutions that give the company a competitive edge.

Mindfulness plays a significant role in boosting productivity among employees. Through its practices, it enhances focus and decision-making abilities, mitigating distractions and leading to improved cognitive performance. As a result, employees engaged in mindfulness exhibit higher productivity levels, translating to high-quality output.

By promoting self-awareness and empathy, mindfulness helps employees forge deeper connections with their work and colleagues. This emotional investment leads to higher job satisfaction, motivation and, consequently, a reduction in turnover rates.

Undoubtedly, mindfulness serves as an effective tool for stress management, which in turn reduces absenteeism due to health-related issues. Regular mindfulness practice empowers employees to manage workplace stress effectively, lowering the risk of stress-related illnesses and subsequent absenteeism.

Lastly, integrating mindfulness into an organization’s culture can have a positive impact on its reputation. Companies that embrace mindfulness are often perceived as progressive and caring, making them attractive to potential employees and customers alike. This fosters a positive company culture and solidifies the company’s position in the market.

Implementation of Mindfulness

Incorporating mindfulness in a business context requires a thoughtful and strategic approach. From training programs and mindfulness workshops to the creation of meditation rooms and daily mindfulness practices, a commitment to fostering a mindful culture is paramount.

V. The Impact of Mindfulness on Business Professionals

Mindfulness empowers professionals with resilience, enhanced cognitive abilities, compassionate leadership, and a positive work environment, enabling them to navigate challenges with composure and embrace their visionary selves.

The combination of these four key mindfulness pillars leads to a range of transformative benefits for business professionals:

1. Through mindfulness you build resilience embracing challenges with inner strength

Through mindfulness, you gain the mental strength to navigate through tough times with composure and adaptability. When challenges arise, you don’t lose your cool. Instead, you bounce back from setbacks and maintain a positive outlook even during turbulent times.

Embracing mindfulness empowers you to build resilience, allowing you to face challenges head-on and emerge stronger and more composed. It’s like having an ally that helps you thrive amidst life’s various demands.

2. Mindfulness enhances your brain and increases your capacity to cope with stress

How many times have you overreacted to a stressful situation at work or at home? Or how many times has your family paid the price for a stressful day at the office? Before I discovered mindfulness, it happened to me many times.

Every time you are confronted with a stressor, your capacity to bear adversity is tested. If the pressure or the negative events are very intense and/or your capacity to cope with the discomfort is low, then the result is an overreaction. That’s why we tend to lose our nerve just before leaving the office or at home when we are physically and mentally exhausted and our ability to cope with stress is at its lowest.

It has been scientifically proven that by practicing mindfulness exercises you can modify your brain. Helping to improve the way you respond to upsetting situations, be it in your professional or private life. Mindfulness makes you mentally stronger.

Scientific studies have demonstrated that mindfulness practices significantly reduce stress levels. By staying present and letting go of worries, professionals can manage stress more effectively and maintain emotional equilibrium.

3. Mindfulness sharpens your mind unleashing your cognitive superpowers.

Let’s talk about the true powerhouse of success—cognition! We all want sharper problem-solving skills and increased creativity, right? Well, guess what? Mindfulness can make that happen!

Picture this: You’re fully present, focused, and in tune with yourself. That’s mindfulness working its magic! With present moment awareness and self-awareness, your cognition levels shoot through the roof!

Professionals like us can optimize our cognitive abilities with mindfulness. We become like superheroes, tackling complex problems with ease and unleashing our creativity to the max!

4. Mindfulness stimulates you to cultivate a loving attitude towards yourself and the people around you

It’s a well-known fact that nobody is perfect. That means everybody you work with has imperfections, you, your boss, your colleagues and your employees are all far from perfection.

Instead of focusing on our imperfections though, a good leader will focus on the strengths of their co-workers.

In a similar vein, you should also avoid comparing yourself to other people. To do so has a harmful effect on your self-esteem and self-confidence. You need to see yourself and other people around you in a friendly, loving way. This will not only improve the atmosphere in your team but also its productivity.

Another thing that can lower self-esteem is anxiety. Mindfulness actually helps to fight anxiety. Anxiety in the workplace can be difficult to manage. It is a negative emotion that increases worry and fear. Being anxious can make you unhappy and lead you to see yourself and the world through a negative lens. By fighting anxiety, mindfulness stimulates a more loving and supportive state of mind.

Mindfulness is a love-creating machine.

Mindfulness fosters empathy and non-reactive observation of emotions, nurturing emotional intelligence. By understanding their own emotions and those of others, professionals can build stronger relationships and cultivate a positive work environment.

5. Mindfulness elevates your leadership embracing your inner visionary

Ready to take your leadership game to the next level? Buckle up because mindfulness is here to elevate your leadership skills and make you a visionary leader!

Imagine for a moment: You’re a mindful leader, grounded in the present, and fully attuned to your team’s needs. With mindfulness, you can embrace your inner visionary and lead with clarity and purpose.

Through mindfulness, you gain the mental strength to navigate leadership challenges with composure and adaptability. As a mindful leader, you accept hurdles without resistance, bouncing back from setbacks with renewed determination.

Embracing mindfulness empowers you to build resilience as a leader, tackling obstacles head-on, and emerging stronger and more composed. Your team will admire your unwavering presence, fostering a positive work environment.

VI. Do you need to meditate to practice mindfulness?

Meditation is considered one of the key mindfulness techniques, and it plays a central role in cultivating mindfulness. While mindfulness includes various practices and approaches, meditation is often regarded as the cornerstone and primary means to develop mindfulness skills.

Let’s elaborate on why meditation is considered the key mindfulness technique:

1. Cultivating Awareness: Meditation is a practice where you take time to focus your mind and become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. By concentrating on something specific, like your breath, you learn to observe these thoughts and emotions without getting too caught up in them. It’s like watching clouds passing by in the sky without holding onto them. This non-reactive observation helps you understand yourself better and be more present in the moment. With regular meditation, you develop a deeper understanding of your inner experiences, leading to a calmer and more centered mind in daily life.

2. Enhancing Attention and Focus: When you meditate, especially with practices like Focused Attention Meditation, you train your mind to stay focused on one thing. As you keep bringing your attention back to your meditation object, like your breath, you get better at concentrating and ignoring distractions. This improved focus also spills over into your everyday tasks, making you more productive and efficient in your work. By practicing meditation regularly, you can sharpen your mind and stay more attentive to the things that matter most in your business and personal life.

3. Encouraging Non-Judgmental Awareness: Through meditation, you learn to be open-minded and accepting of your thoughts and experiences. Instead of saying if they are good or bad, you simply notice them without getting all tangled up in judgments. This non-judgmental attitude helps you be more understanding and kind to yourself, allowing you to see things as they are without being too hard on yourself. With this newfound awareness, you can approach challenges and decisions with a clearer and more balanced perspective, fostering personal growth and emotional well-being.

4. Stimulating Acceptance. Meditation helps us accept ourselves and our experiences. It teaches us to watch our thoughts and feelings without judging them. We learn that everything changes, and it’s okay to face struggles. By being kind to ourselves, we can embrace our vulnerabilities and be okay with not being perfect. We stop identifying too much with our thoughts and emotions. With mindfulness, we become open to all experiences and less resistant to pain. This practice helps us let go of inner conflicts. Regular meditation brings peace, strength, and a positive outlook, accepting life as it comes, good and bad.

VII. Beyond Meditation: Embracing Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Mindfulness meditation is important, but it’s just one part of a bigger picture. Mindfulness can be integrated into all aspects of life, beyond just meditation.

Mindfulness is about being aware of our experiences without judgment, which helps us interact better with the world around us.

Integrating mindfulness into daily activities

At its core, mindfulness is about fully engaging in the present moment. It’s not limited to specific activities but can be applied to everyday tasks like walking, cooking, or talking. By immersing ourselves in the task, noticing details, and savoring the experience, we practice mindfulness.

Prayer as a vehicle for mindfulness

One powerful avenue for integrating mindfulness into our daily life is through prayer. It allows us to pause, reflect, and connect with something greater than ourselves. By focusing on the words, feelings, and sensations of prayer, we can cultivate mindfulness and enrich our spiritual experiences.

A bite of mindfulness: Conscious eating

Expanding mindfulness to our eating habits can significantly enhance our relationship with food. By slowing down and paying attention to our meals, we can savor each bite and fully experience the process of eating. This involves noticing the colors, smells, textures, and flavors of our food, as well as listening to our body’s hunger and fullness cues. By practicing mindful eating, we can enjoy our food more and develop healthier eating habits, becoming more aware of what and when we eat. Each meal becomes a chance to practice mindfulness and appreciate the nourishment we receive.

Transforming career exploration into a mindfulness exercise

Start by setting aside some quiet time for introspection. As you sit in a comfortable position, take a few deep breaths to center yourself. Then, allow your mind to consider your career aspirations. Instead of attempting to force thoughts or solutions, simply observe what thoughts or feelings emerge as you contemplate your career path. You might consider questions such as “What activities make me lose track of time?” or “When do I feel most fulfilled professionally?”.

As different career paths or options come to mind, pay attention to your emotional reactions. Do you feel excited, anxious, indifferent, or overwhelmed? Practicing mindfulness in this way can provide valuable insight into what career paths might align with your values and interests.

VIII. Conclusion: Mindfulness – Your Secret to Better Business Decisions

Unleash the power of mindfulness in your professional life! By being fully present and accepting of thoughts and emotions without judgment, you can build resilience, enhance brain function, and improve leadership skills.

Mindfulness offers numerous benefits, from reducing stress to fostering a positive and supportive mindset. Embrace meditation and integrate mindfulness into daily activities to savor each moment and achieve personal growth. Experience the transformative impact of mindfulness on your decision-making, relationships, and overall well-being.


One Response

  1. Brie Mathews says:

    Wonderful article. I have myself been trying to be more mindful and I find that a lot of the times, I can’t be because I am too stressed out. The ironic thing is that I know it will reduce stress if I get through it and make it a habit. I agree completely about acting according to your own moral values. For me, I am very traditional so my husband and kids come first. I do struggle at times being a working mom, however. It would seem they kind of have a conflict there. Any advice for me?

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