The concept of Mindfulness is finally entering the corporate awareness. Much has been written recently about the scientific evidence of the benefits of Mindfulness for concentration and creativity. General Mills, Apple and Google, among other large, successful corporations are introducing Mindfulness-based initiatives for their employees.
In Be Bulletproof, our guide to being more resilient in the workplace, we cite Mindfulness, as one of the three pillars of resilience at work. And this matters because there is increasing evidence that psychological – or emotional – resilience – is a vital predictor of success in business, possibly more so than IQ.
The corporate world has an obsession with talent as something innate and possessed by the lucky few. But it should be looking at less glamorous attributes such as character and persistence in the face of set-backs.
Consider a recently published paper by social psychologist Angela Duckworth, Deliberate Practice Spells Success: Why Grittier Competitors Triumph at the National Spelling Bee. Duckworth concludes that those competitors with “grit” are more likely to persist in the face of adversity. Grit is a factor of two things: willingness to commit focused effort and ability to recover from setback.
In Be Bulletproof we devote several chapters to practical techniques for cultivating resilience in the face of failures. Harsh criticism, bullying bosses, ostracizing colleagues and mistakes can have a toxic effect, increasing our levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and therefore lowering our reserves of energy and confidence – and even affecting our immune system.
What’s more, neuroscience is telling us more and more about the role of mindfulness in our emotional lives. Neuro-imaging scans of patients suffering chronic pain while practicing Mindfulness techniques show no less activity in the brain areas registering the pain, but they reveal dramatically reduced activity in the areas associated with appraisal, emotion and memory. Put simply, mindfulness does not mean that we feel pain less, but it does mean that we are less upset by it enabling us to be more successful in our professional lives.
Mindfulness works in this way because, when bad things happen, it allows us to move from the first-person intensity of feeling something live and immediate to what psychologist Timothy Wilson refers to as “an observer perspective.” Sports psychologists understand that the only way that we learn from mistakes is to create an environment where we can observe these mistakes in a way that is free from the emotional hurt we associate with them.
Psychologist, Bruno Demichelis, created the Mind Room, while at top Italian soccer club, AC Milan. This is a physical environment that promotes the relaxed and detached mindset that allows elite players to view their mistakes as observers, free from the intensity of feeling that we ordinarily associate with our failure or setbacks.
IQ, vision, charisma, creativity and the various things that we associate with talented leadership are of little benefit if they are not accompanied by emotional stability. The self-awareness that we develop through Mindfulness is a vital part of emotional growth and maturity: the development of character. Mindfulness enables us to steward our emotions to our advantage, this allows us to be better pilots of our lives, more successful leaders and better citizens.
Simon and James Brooke are co-authors of Be Bulletproof: How To Achieve Success In Tough Times At Work. They are also co-directors of Threshold Communications – a global communications company based in the UK.