We’re all familiar with the term, and most of us know it has something to do with meditation. We know we’re “supposed to” meditate, yet most of us don’t.
I was in that camp. In some ways I still am. I don’t “meditate” as much as I’d like. I’m a mindful person, though, and experience the benefits of mindfulness daily.
So what’s the difference?
Meditation is an act. While there are many types, all involve training the mind to achieve a heightened state of consciousness.
Mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious and aware. It means having a present state focus and connection with your thoughts, feelings, and body. Mindfulness can be honed in thousands of ways, ranging from focusing on your breath, actively listening to a piece of music, or nature walks where you absorb every sight, sound, smell, and bodily sensation.
It would be disingenuous of me to tell you to meditate everyday, though I can say that honing a sense of mindfulness has helped me immensely. I’m more positive, grateful, present-state focused, and happier all around.
As a Career Counselor to high-achieving college students, though, I’ve found another benefit – career satisfaction.
Here are just a few of the benefits I’ve discovered.
Improved Emotional Centeredness and Control
“Dan”, a rising star in higher education, started meditating every night to fall asleep. Two months in, he noticed the benefits crept over to his work life.
A self-described “hot-tempered” person, Dan was able to step back and (almost) observe his frustrations – as if he was watching someone else. Dan’s daily practice has also helped with creative thinking and conflict resolution skills.
He’s currently interviewing for executive-level jobs, and cites mindfulness as key to his improved mindset.
Dan’s not alone. Ray Dalio, CEO of Bridgewater associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, cites mindfulness as fundamental to his own success.
“I attribute it meditation—partially because of the creativity, partly because of the centeredness… you can be calm and analytical… Being “centered” is that state in which your emotions are not hijacking you. The ability to think clearly, put things in their right place and have perspective”
Which brings me to my next benefit: performance.
Present State Focus and Performance
Every day, we’re bombarded with thousands of emails, text messages, news, and social media notifications competing for our attention. Being fully present provides you with an advantage over distracted colleagues.
One major study found a significant correlation between mindfulness and the ability to achieve “flow”– a state of heightened concentration, focus, and performance. Participants who reported a stronger sense of mindfulness also scored higher in attentional control, emotional control, and goal setting.
I’ve found cultivating a sense of mindfulness has helped me achieve a greater clarity of thought. I’ve been able to think about issues deeper, analyze situations more objectively, and make more thoughtful decisions.
Tapping Power of Unconscious Mind to Enhance Creativity
As I continue to “declutter my mind”, my ability to generate ideas during my down time has improved.
There’s a reason for that.
Our unconscious mind comprises mental processes that are inaccessible to our consciousness, but highly influential to our judgments, feelings, and behaviors. For most of us, our feelings and decisions are bi-products of our unconscious mind, rather than logical conclusions.
When you’re able to detach from your own swirling thoughts, fears, and anxieties, you become more in tune with your unconscious mind. This can have powerful effects.
Have you ever struggled with a problem for hours on end and figured out the answer some time later in your “off time”.
That’s your unconscious. It’s working when we’re not, and its powers heighten the more we’re able to tap into our own consciousness.
When I’m stuck on a problem, I’ll often go for a hike, walk my dogs, cook, or spend time with my 1-year old daughter. Hours later, I have a solution or, at the very least, a new perspective.
Greater Connection to What You Truly Want
One of the greatest benefits of mindfulness is something we all strive for: career satisfaction. Cultivating a sense of mindfulness allows you to step away from your rational mind and tune into your emotionality and intuition. In doing so, you gain a holistic self-perspective few are able to get.
A few years back, I had an offer to take a job that offered a significant pay bump and administrative perks, but didn’t “feel right”. I envisioned the specifics of the opportunity: the office itself, responsibilities, people I’d be working with, etc. Whenever I started thinking about my immediate coworkers or company President, I felt my body tense. I took this as a sign to do more research, and learned that there was a high-rate of turnover in my prospective area due to leadership issues.
I made the difficult decision to turn down the offer. I’m quite thankful I did, as the person who accepted the job left just one year later on bad terms…
So how do you get started with your own mindfulness practice?
Pick something that allows you to focus on the task at hand, and do it for 10 minutes a day. Slowly add other tasks that allow you to hone your concentration, and increase the amount of time you dedicate to practicing mindfulness.