Reconnect with Yourself for Well-Being and Effectiveness
Do you use all of your natural capacities and resources at work? I am a firm believer that most people do not. In fact, in my experience people often disconnect from some of the natural capacities of their mind, body, and heart on purpose. While this may seem to make sense in the short-term, in the long run it can lead to lower engagement, less enjoyment, and less effectiveness. It’s important to identify what you are not bringing to work, and learn how to reconnect with it and make it work for you.
1. Focus on your body.
It may seem obvious, but many people are in denial about the body they bring to work. At work, our bodies are often treated as an inconvenient truth. We use them to prop our heads in front of our monitors and to shuttle us around to meetings. And when our bodies rebel due to long hours, lost sleep or bad food, we block them out by popping an aspirin or pouring another cup of coffee. If you take the time to reconnect with your body it is better able to support you when you need it. Your body is a wonderful instrument of self-awareness; by monitoring to your respiration, muscle tension, and the sensations in your chest, you can quickly identify when you are beginning to lose your cool or to get anxious.
2. Train your mind.
What does it mean to reconnect with your mind? Aren’t we living in our minds every moment we’re at work? Yes, this is true, but it’s also the problem. Much of the day is spent immersed in a torrent of information – judgments, ideas, desires, memories, daydreams, predictions and fears. To reconnect with the natural capacities of the mind, it is critical to wade through the maze of thoughts, take a step back, and take stock. What are the themes, the currents, the eddies in your stream of consciousness? Looking objectively and impartially at what’s going on in your mind can reveal biases, assumptions and mental habits – all information you can use f which you to make better decisions.
3. Remember your heart.
It’s sad, but ‘heart’ is another dirty word at work. We like to pretend that our decisions and actions at work are purely rational; emotions have no place in the workplace unless they can be rated from 1 to 5 on an attitude survey. But we all know that the truth is very different. Emotions play a role in every decision we make, no matter where we are. In fact, emotions are a big part of why we work at all – to feel good about ourselves, take care of the ones we love, and earn the respect of our community.
Perhaps the most important and underused capacity of your heart is the ability to understand and have compassion for your fellow human beings. Empathy and compassion are the basis of human connection, and yet compassion is often seen as a weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Compassion helps build trusting relationships and earn understanding, support, and respect.
To begin to reconnect with the natural capacities of your body, mind and heart, try doing these brief mindfulness exercises once a day for a week.
- Body connection: The body check. Bring your awareness to your posture in this moment. What does it tell you about how you feel? Now adjust your posture to one that feels calm, alert and fully present. Scan your body to notice any aches, pains, pressures, or other sensations. What is your body telling you? What can you do to support its wellness right now? Perhaps it’s asking you for a stretch, a glass of water, or a walk. See what you can do to accommodate it.
- Mind connection: The breath check. When you have a few minutes undisturbed, bring your body to stillness and turn your gaze downward. Listen to your breathing. Soon, you will be distracted by your own thoughts, and when you notice that, simply recognize that fact and focus again on your breath.
- Heart connection: The attitude check. Before your next meeting, take a few moments to reflect on what you know about the person or people you will be speaking with next. What do you know about their background? What are their most pressing work goals? When you meet with them, see if you can maintain an attitude of openness, kindness, understanding and appreciation. Observe what happens.
The road to mindfulness is constant. Try doing these exercises once a day for a week – fifteen exercises, for a total time commitment of an hour. Then, consider sharing your experience(s) with me – good, bad or indifferent.
Andy Lee is a partner at Working Mindfully, a firm that offers mindfulness training and mindfulness-based coaching and consulting to organizations. Andy has worked with corporations to assess and develop their leadership talent for over 15 years, both as a talent management executive and an executive coach and consultant. During this time he has also studied and practiced meditation. In 2010 Andy merged his two passions to provide mindfulness-based leadership development services to organizations. Andy holds an MA in Organizational Psychology and a certificate in executive coaching, and has been trained in mindfulness instruction at the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness.