Leadership posts

Mindfulness Has Reached the Tipping Point

Posted by Laurie J Cameron

It is 2013, and the science of mindfulness is going mainstream.  We have reached the tipping point.

In 2008, I was walking with a successful entrepreneur in the German Eilenriede forest  when I shared the idea for the next evolution of my work – to bring mindfulness training to the business world as the anecdote for the complexities leaders face. I was betting that learning to be aware, present and focused would increase leader capacity significantly.  My mentor was very encouraging, but accurately wondered about the readiness of the European and North American business environments.

I discovered that mindfulness as a concept, and the skill of returning to the present as a competency, were not easily adopted into leader development. My clients welcomed the integration of some skills such as awareness and reflection into leadership programs and conferences, but I could not yet call it mindfulness in the executive suite.

Interest in mindfulness has finally exploded. The energy is contagious. The time is here to ramp up taking mindful awareness and attention training from the ashrams to the conference room.  Google, Target, General Mills and Facebook have begun the wave of offering mindfulness training to their employees.  Mindful Schools programs are catching on. The wave is growing rapidly.

Why now? There are two key drivers- neuroscience and our 24/7 news and information cycle.  Neuroscientists are learning more about our  brain’s attention system – which is delicate with limited capacity. Our attention is a premium resource. We don’t have an unlimited supply. When we don’t consciously direct our attention, we get lost in thoughts, worries, stress and overwhelm.

Hold the image of the limited capacity of attention next to the context in which we live. The dynamics and speed of the world has changed.  We are receiving tweets, emails, pings, calls, texts and NPR updates in a never-ending stream. Our attention system is being maxed out. Our ability to think clearly, make good decisions and be creative in the moment is impaired when we are in “partial attention mode.”

The idea of an overloaded system makes sense to most of us. The capacity for mindfulness is the anecdote. We can increase this capacity, just like going to the gym or practicing piano. We can learn to return to presence, still the mind, direct attention, and build our brain’s capacity to create. Do you have ways to practice mindfulness throughout your day, or in a special place?  Imagine what we could do in the world if we all cultivated our capacity for mindfulness.

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