You’re sitting at your desk reading your emails and you read one, just one email that makes your blood boil. It could be from your boss giving you an unrealistic deadline, or from a colleague dropping a large piece of work on you (that they should have completed) before they go on vacation.
Your natural reaction is to declare war on the sender and make them see how unfair or unreasonable their request is upon you. Your juices are pumping. You’re fuelled with rage. Before you know it, you’ve fired off a curt email that makes you feel satisfied. “That sure told her” you think as you relax back into your chair. As the rage subsides and the adrenaline fuelling your fight stops pumping through your veins, the ensuing result of your action dawns on you. “Why didn’t I just take a moment to breathe, calm down and think about my reply?” you’ll probably think to yourself. Sound familiar?
We are all guilty of it and we’ve all been there. The worst part is, we’ve heard a thousand times that the best way to respond to conflict is to think about it for a while. We make hundreds of decisions everyday about how to react to situations. Notice I said “decisions”? Yes, you decide how to react and respond. Ultimately no one makes you feel any emotion – you choose how to feel. You can choose to feel angry about an email and decide to reply aggressively, or, you can choose to think about why the sender has used their tone and reply in an upbeat manner thus preventing a war of words.
The act of taking a moment to breathe, think and respond is referred to as ‘mindfulness’. It is a practice that has been used by Buddhists for many years and has recently received publicity for its use in helping aid children’s behaviour.
As the world is digitised, practising mindfulness is critical. A tweet sent in anger can be very damaging to both your personal and professional brand – social media is powerful. How often have you read about celebrities deleting tweets because they’ve realised that what they have written is damaging to their brand?
I had the pleasure of meeting Psychiatrist and author, Jeff Brantley recently who is the Founder and Director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program at Duke University’s Center for Integrative Medicine. He is also the author of the popular book Calming Your Anxious Mind. Jeff spoke about using mindfulness techniques in the workplace. As business professionals, we can learn a lot from the techniques used by Buddhists and now children. We lead busy professional and personal lives and these can take their toll on our minds resulting in us becoming tired, stressed and anxious. The pressure of trying to be the best that we can be in all aspects of our lives can sometimes lead us to be that irrational person that sends that email or tweet in anger.
Mindfulness is about being, not doing and I’m encouraging my team to be mindful. To take the time to practice mindfulness techniques which I hope will not only aid them in their personal lives but also when they’re interacting in the office. Indeed, even as teams we can make choices together to do things differently. In this fast paced world, taking the time and space to reflect and think about what we are doing can help us to achieve better outcomes too. Being mindful presents us with opportunities to make choices upon how we react to situations. Why react the same way when you can choose to react differently? I want to start a mindfulness revolution. Are you with me?