We spend hours being carried away by our thoughts and emotions, exploring, exploiting, confusing and depleting our mind, disposing of the inner self to an autopilot mode…loosing awareness of what our mind is thinking and doing in the present moment. But what if mindfulness could help you capture again that awareness, and gain control over your work life harmony?
First and foremost, what is mindfulness? It’s awareness. It’s about focusing your attention on the now, on your breathing, on your posture, and recognizing your thoughts and emotions internally and externally. Mindfulness allows you to gain self-awareness, and then, to select the way you react and reciprocate in that present moment.
Mindfulness impacts your work life harmony as it allows your mind to respond in the most aligned and congruent manner to your inner self and according to your external environment.
How important is it to be mindful? We spend a 47% average time on mind wandering instead of actually being in the present, according to Killingsworth, 2010; Mindful Leadership Institute, 2010. We have noticed through our coaching experiences and from the literature on mindfulness, that most people are: 1) focused either on the past or on the future, 2) sidetracked and/or preoccupied by work and life daily tasks, 3) acting upon impulses, and 4) quick to assume and to judge.
Hence, our productivity, our attention to different tasks, our performance, our decision-making, our wellbeing, and our happiness are affected.
Sometimes we go through waves of anger, guilt, or bad feelings, which we either block or suppress, without being able to deal with them. Sure enough, they will creep up on us with more intensity and difficulty to manage. What do we do to cope with those waves to sail smoothly?
We will only discuss emotional agility and resilience in the development of mindfulness due to its broad spectrum for the purpose of this article.
We must recognize the pattern of the waves (our inner thoughts) without being pulled into many directions or held back. By recognizing this pattern, we are behaving with emotional agility, the mastery of confronting our complicated challenges in a mindful and compassionate way. One of the tools to develop our emotional agility is ACT: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy developed by Steven Hayes.
Recognize our habitual patterns: by focusing on that same repetitive thought of “I am angry at work,” a thought related to an emotional pattern of reactivity. It is this repetition of the thought that helps us figure out the pattern.
Name that thought: taking that above example of “I am angry at work,” we are ‘am’ –ing the word angry, which is a fixed reaction, making it sound like this is who we are; instead, change it to “I am having the thought of being angry at work.” What is vital here is to name it as a thought that will ‘self-liberate’ but do not disappear. Just think of it as a bubble in water that once it surfaces to the top, it goes “poof”. We get to notice the real feelings by having profound insights to assist us to manage those patterns.
Accept those thoughts: once named, we own the named thoughts and start to identify the emotions. We are also able to notice the thoughts that have caused those emotions and to spot the impulse to respond. Through journaling and discussions, we can become aware of the emotional patterns and triggers to respond mindfully.
Rely on our values: instead of being irrational and acting out on our emotions, we must revisit the area of our core / long-term values of who we are and whom we want and thrive to be; because our emotions are constantly on moving waves whereas our values are steady and strong. Knowing our values guides us to behave with truthfulness and empathy. Therefore, we are able to engage our compassion and to regulate the impulse by tuning in to it to react instead of acting.
Recovering from setbacks in work and life requires mental resilience.
We are all born with various degrees of resilience which can be further developed with some effort in order to deal more smoothly with daily stress- related tasks at work and life.
This is best recommended by SIYLI’s (Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute) three-step method:
Inner Calm: we focus on our self-compassion, gratitude, and goodness within us instead of being caught with our brain’s negativity bias of thoughts and feelings.
Emotional resilience: we should remember that setbacks are not permanent and are based on a specific situation. Hence, in order to deal with different problems, we must try to move from a victim mindset to an empowered one that will allow us to understand our emotions and to know how to respond.
Cognitive resilience: we are able to overcome the effects of the setbacks by understanding what is actually true and what we have to do to find the path to move forward.
Resilience is closely connected to Equanimity, which is to notice our thoughts that come up with complete awareness, without being derailed by our negative responses to love, hate and ego. This way, we become aware of our expectations leading us to respond consciously. Equanimity is best cultivated through the practice of Mindful meditation to stay calm, centered and present.
Mindfulness is a critical skill that will help us to experience emotions and to react to them in an appropriate manner in order to cope well and to bounce back from complicated situations. Thus we can effectively manage our impulses in order to strengthen our wellbeing, our performance, and our communications in relationships to achieve Work and Life Harmony. This can be accomplished by developing emotional agility and resilience to become aware of our thoughts and emotions by naming and accepting them and relying on our core values to act with compassion, integrity and empathy toward ourselves and others.
In our next article of our series on Work Life Harmony, we will continue to uncover mindfulness. Stay tuned to find out more about the practice of mindfulness and reaping its benefits.
Shermeen Zeidan, Certified Master Coach and Rita Farah, Professional Coach