How to apply mindfulness to your business
Expansion & Improvement
A greater focus on mental health is helping many of us to take better care of our personal wellbeing. But how can these positive changes in our attitudes to mindfulness and wellbeing be included in our approach to business? And what are the benefits of doing this?
David Boosey explains the value of mindfulness in the workplace and how reducing time-pressures and stress helps us boost our creativity.
What does mindfulness mean in a business context?
Mindfulness helps you to focus your thoughts, step back, and remove that tendency to make knee-jerk reactions based on instinct instead of rational thought.
From a business perspective, the key benefit of mindfulness is making better decisions – both for yourself and for your employees. That ability to be calmer and more rational has benefits for any owner-manager.
In his book, The Chimp Paradox, Professor Steve Peters talks about humans having two brains – the human brain and the chimpanzee brain. The chimpanzee brain reacts to all the external stimuli around you and the human brain carries out the rational decision-making. When we’re pressurised or anxious, we tend to only listen to the chimp brain, and often what the chimp part tells us to do is not the most sensible or productive thing to do.
Mindfulness is one tool for controlling those innate reactions and making your decision-making more sound and sensible.
Practising mindfulness in your day-to-day life
Mindfulness forces you to spend a period of time in silent contemplation, usually through meditation or any kind of regular contemplative activity that works for you. The chimp brain hates this silence because there’s no stimulus, so it begins to create an avalanche of thoughts and ideas.
The key is to develop the ability to deal with and process those chimp instincts, put them aside and use your rational human brain to get some real insights. When you’re working flat out, you can miss what’s triggering your worries, stresses and mental health issues, and how these triggers make you act in a certain way.
A classic example of this kind of transference is having a minor domestic argument about something mundane like loading the dishwasher the wrong way. The perceived error with the dishwasher is the trigger but, when you drill down into it, the dishwasher isn’t the cause of the argument – you’re probably just stressed or worried about a much more serious issue.
Conquering the chimp brain in the workplace
Transference can really damage a relationship – both in your personal life, and when dealing with customers and employees in the workplace.
If you react with your chimp brain when you're doing business, and you’re not acting rationally, that could be damaging and can end up breaking down your relationships. You need to have that mindfulness in place, rather than losing control and ‘going off’.
You need to listen actively, overcome your issues and find out what the client actually wants. If you don’t do this, you can deliver the wrong solutions or carry out the work in the wrong way, and that will cause problems further down the line. Training yourself to do this can improve your relationships with your key stakeholders.
How I discovered mindfulness as a useful life tool
As far as my own personal journey – I didn’t know that this process of training your mind was called mindfulness at first. What I did know was that there was a lack of happiness or contentment for me at this point in my life, so I was open to finding out about mindfulness.
I tried lots of different avenues at first to resolve the issues I was experiencing, and my first interaction was going to a yoga class. The class was OK, but the final 10 or 15 minutes was just lying down, pausing and having that period of silence. And I loved that! I needed that break and the consistency of doing this on a regular basis.
Trying out yoga and mindfulness allowed me to realise all sorts of things and how I could go about my life differently.
Embracing the key concepts behind mindfulness
People can still be slightly dismissive of mindfulness. It can come across as something new age, or religious, or strange, which is a shame.
You’ve got to be on board with the basic concepts of mindfulness if you’re going to make a success of practising these new approaches. More and more people are exploring meditation and the benefits of it, and it’s becoming a more accepted approach to leading a good life. If you want a light-hearted introduction to some of these ideas, the comedian and writer, Lee Mack, has a podcast called ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Buddah’ that records his and a close friend’s journey into meditation and mindfulness.
We’ve all seen how anxiety and pressure can affect people in the workplace, especially now in the modern digital world. There are so many things vying for your attention during the day, and so much data flying around. You can very easily get lost in all these menial tasks that seem important at the time – more important than breathing, sometimes. But if you did just stop to breathe for five minutes you may think ‘Do I really need to do this?’
We can lose our ability to plan our lives sensibly and end up without enough time to fit in all the tasks we set ourselves. Mindfulness can really help with this. That’s the point where you can get creative and find the space in the day to do these things.
Putting mindfulness into action
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be about pure meditation. You can go for walks in nature, or try yoga – you can find your mindfulness in many places and in many mundane tasks. It could even be brushing your teeth, if it’s a period of time to think and consider what’s going on in your life.
Your key relationships these days can end up being with your phone, your laptop and your TV. That’s dangerous, because you’re building a relationship with technology, not with the people around you, or your customers or your staff.
To overcome this, you need to remove the devices, the data and the notifications. Focusing on mindfulness can be a very powerful tool for refocusing your attention in the right place.
Here are a few ideas for kick-starting mindfulness in your business:
- Try mindfulness yourself – to make mindfulness work across the organisation, you have to be on board with it yourself, as the owner. Try it, learn from it and find out how it can help you in your everyday life and business life.
- Communicate the benefits – tell your employees what mindfulness is, the key benefits of putting mindfulness into practice and some key ways they can get involved. Maybe even offer yoga or meditation classes for your employees.
- Talk about the soft things – make sure your conversations aren’t just focused on business. Ask your staff how they are, how their day is going and how they’re feeling in general. Focusing on these real, human emotions can be really beneficial.
- Find more time to do things – think through the tasks in your to-do list and get the right approach. Then you won’t have to rush a project or task and feel under pressure. Managing your time and not taking on more than you can handle is so important.
- Have a formal practise and discipline – however you find your mindfulness, you need to stick to it. Focus on the healthy benefits and make mindfulness a key part of your routine, so it becomes a positive habit for you and your team.
Starting your mindfulness journey
Mindfulness has to become a pattern and something that becomes a natural part of your day – like going to the gym. But you also need to not beat yourself over the head about it if you don’t do it. It’s about finding a healthy balance.
In my opinion, the people who are shown as role models for entrepreneurs often have an unachievable lifestyle. Generally society measures success in the wrong way.
Success should be based on the happiness and enjoyment in life, not on the accumulation of money and a lack of sleep. Making a profit and your mental health are two co-dependent things – and both need to be nurtured in the right way.
At Haines Watts London, we aim to help owners cope with the pressures and forge a path that’s good for their wellbeing and also good for their business. We can be your go-to person for advice and build on that relationship to help you maximise your capabilities.
My aim is always to find out what’s keeping you awake at night and to help you remove some of these worries. If we can remove some of the pressure and stress, you can focus better on your wellbeing and on the success of the business – that’s the ideal goal for any owner-manager.
If you’d like to know more about wellbeing and mindfulness in the workplace, get in touch with us for a chat.