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© Sage Allan Pty Ltd All rights reserved No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise – without the prior written permission of Sage Allan Pty Ltd. Requests to the publisher for permission should be addressed to: Copyright Permission Sage Allan Pty Ltd PO Box 1805 QVB NSW Australia 1230 Or info@sageallan.com.au © Sage Allan Pty Ltd 2011

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Mindfulness in the Workplace ‘Our life is what our thoughts make it.’ Marcus Aurelius Meditations The twentieth century as an industrial and knowledge age was a time of relative stability and steady growth. But as we move rapidly into the twenty-first century and the age of creativity, the disruptive, unpredictable and complex nature of our workplaces will see our working lives encroach even further into our private lives. Our ability to balance work and life is essential for our: • • • • •

business productivity business relationships family and social relationships physical and mental health and wellbeing communities.

When we ask ourselves to balance work and life we are effectively asking ourselves to simultaneously speed up at work and slow down in life, and for many people this is not only difficult, but also stressful in itself. In this chapter, we’ll look at how the principles and practice of mindfulness in the workplace can enable work/life balance. Mindfulness helps us to see things differently and to move from habitual thinking patterns about being stressed and out of control, to new thinking patterns that encourage clarity and calm, taking us to a place where we have mindful control. There are three core areas of application for mindfulness: • mindfulness practice for the overall theoretical framework • mindfulness creativity for adaptation and innovation • mindfulness meditation as a technique for resilience.

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A Mindfulness Practice Mindfulness is an individual being aware of his or her thinking so that he or she can, with calm, recontinual innovation and renewed energy. Beginning a mindfulness practice helps us to: • • • • •

cope with stress deal with change enjoy what we are doing develop choices stop knee-jerk reactions and patterns of thinking.

By utilising a mindfulness practice we learn to: view situations from several perspectives become resilient and adaptive develop see novel information in every situation pay attention to the context in which we are receiving and perceiving information • develop new categories through which new information is understood about a situation in other words, we learn to innovate. • • • • •

The practice of mindfullness is like being in a transparent house - when you are on the ground floor you can look up and see all the way to the roof, each level, each room, every object, every nook and cranny within that house is visible to you. And if every room, nook and cranny represents information about a situation, then when you are in that transparent house that mindful place you have access to all information, at any time. And with access to all information, you also have an understanding that you can choose to use that information whenever you want, rather than being painted into one rigid room, one position, one reactive and habitual mind-set, which is what we would normally apply when not being mindful. So why is being in a mindful place a transparent house - important for work/life balance? If we are out of balance in our work/life we are anxious, time poor, experiencing heightened stress levels, unable to see the wood for the trees; we are in the walled and rigid room, not the mindful transparent house.

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Being mindful about work/life balance helps us to understand what is important to attend to at any given moment in time. It gives us the ability to develop choices and options about the way we work and celebrate life, and in turn to negotiate new work/life options with renewed passion. Mindful Awareness Our Thinking Processes If we become aware of our thinking processes we begin to understand that thinking can be seen as a continuum - at one end is our habitual thinking pattern, and at the other end is clarity of thinking. To practise mindfulness is to encourage clarity of thinking. Selective

Awareness

Critical Judgement

Nurture

Knowledge

Imagination

Perceptions

Resilience

Stereotyped

Inclusive

Rigidity

Flexibility

Routine

Context

Silos

System

Dismissive

Trusting

Scripted

Genuine

Repetitive

Engaged

Off Balance

Centred

The Thinking Continuum Habitual

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Clarity

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This diagram demonstrated the typical traits at each end of the continuum. When we are in habitual thinking mode we approach things that we believe we do well and avoid things that we think we, and others, will reject. Groupthink and our thinking patterns (or mental models) encourage us to remain in our habitual thinking mode. Groupthing is extremely powerful in organisations; it is a continual and subtle censoring of honesty and authenticity in a team or group - a collective voice of judgement that tells people what they should and shouldn’t say, do or think. Much of what drives our imbalance in work/life is driven by groupthink. For example, the need to stay at work late in order to be seen as being productive is created by an unspoken norm or pressure within many organisations, rather than being an instruction from senior management. And the norm is continually recreated through groupthink: “She’s not pulling her weight because she doesn't stay at work late”, is the office gossip, even when in reality the person has completed all their assignments for the day.

Groupthink is extremely powerful in organisations ; it is a continual and subtle censoring of honesty and authenticity in a team or group.

The people within an organisation create the organisation culture, therefore when employees become anxious and uncertain about their workplace and what the future holds, the organisation’s groupthink encourages habitual thinking processes to increase as the need to control becomes more important. Our individual mental models also have an impact. Our mental models are the visual images, assumptions and stories that we carry in our minds about ourselves, others, institutions and every aspect of the world. Mental models are our current reality and they help us to navigate complex environments, yet by their very definition mental models are flawed in some way. Many of us would like to be masters of our own fate, we want to master both work and life - and some of us expect to be a huge success at both. However, “...as years of social psychological research has shown, we are instead products of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We behave in ways that are based on the mindsets [mental models] we have about the situations in which we find ourselves, rather than as a function of who we think we are...The fact that we don’t all behave the same way suggests that we could have choices we are not aware of in any of these situations- even those where we feel locked in...Once we [reframe our mental models] and experience our authentic selves, we may actually become masters of our fate.

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So to change our thinking processes - our mental models - we have two skills available to us: slowing down our thinking so we become aware of our thoughts, and a line of inquiry. How do we become aware of our thoughts? Let’s try a quick exercise. Take five minutes now to jot down the thoughts that come into your mind - phrases, words, feelings - jot down body sensations too - tightness in the stomach, shortness of breath or perhaps a feeling of relaxation. When you have your list, take a moment to categorise the things you have written - are they thoughts about what others might think or say? Are they words or phrases that you may have heard when you were younger? Are they judgement words and where did those words come from? Are they words primarily to do with work or life? How busy is that mind of yours? Which end of the thinking continuum do you find most of yourwords and phrases coming from the habitual thinking or the clarity end of the scale? Which end of the thinking continuum would you like your thinking to come from? The other skill to increase your awareness about your mental models is to hold a line of inquiry. A line of inquiry is holding a conversation with others so that we can share our views and understand our assumptions about the world as we see it, and we then reframe our mental models so that they are not as flawed or distorted. You may wish to organise a series of mindful discussions within your team, organisation, peer group or extended family. This line of inquiry could explore how people are approaching work/life balance and test your assumptions (and other’s) around work/life expectations. When we take a line of inquiry be mindful of the following: “When we cling to our own point of view, we may blind ourselves to our impact on others; if we are too vulnerable to other people’s definitions of our behaviour we can feel undermined...It is easy to see that any interaction between people can have at least two interpretations: spontaneous versus weak, intense versus emotional [busy versus demanding, overworked versus avoidant; balance versus control]...Every idea, person, or object is simultaneously many things depending on the perspective from which it is viewed... [and] we need to remain aware that the number of possible perspectives will never be exhausted.

Calm Mind and Calm Actions Let’s take a moment for another exercise and learn how to calm a busy mind. Get into a sitting position in a chair and take a hold of the sides of the chair. Slowly increase your grip until you are finally gripping on with all your might, hold for a second and then let go. Now recall what it felt like when you held on tight © Sage Allan Pty Ltd 2011

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your body was tense, your hand grip may have ached, your shoulders were probably tense and sore, and when you let go - relief, relaxation, less effort and calmness.

When we are able to develop the capacity to calm our minds and lessen the grip on our thoughts we have more energy to put into mindful action.

The way we grip on to thoughts is like our mighty grip on the chair. You may be gripping on to the thought that you have to be busy in order to be respected within the workplace, or that if you go on a holiday you will be replaced, won’t reach your targets, finish all your projects or that someone else will get the accolades for the big deal that you have been working on.

When we are able to develop the capacity to calm our minds and lessen the grip on our thoughts we have more energy to put into mindful action - action that balances our work and life so we can become more productive and more centred. Calming our minds and creating mindful action is developed through the technique of mindfulness meditation. For many people, meditation is one of those ‘hippie’ things that strange people do - just like yoga was perceived by western culture until just a few years ago. But if we move beyond our preconceived ideas of meditation we can begin to understand that it is simply a technique to familiarise yourself with your mind and your thinking. The benefits of meditation include focus, discipline, an ability to observe your thinking and increase the quality of that thinking, self-awareness, resilience and an ability to see reality. People who have studied meditation over a long period of time recall the ‘bliss’ that they felt at the start of their practice - the calmness, the equilibrium they felt. To centre yourself when problems arise try the following exercise: 1. Shake off the need to react immediately. 2. Move to a sitting or standing position (preferably sitting). 3. Focus on the now and check: How do I feel? What are my thoughts? Observe these feelings and thoughts and let them be. 4. Focus on your breathing - do not force yourself to breathe deeply, simply allow your breathing to proceed as usual. Let your awareness follow your breath deep into your stomach and imagine that your breath is helping to dissolve any tightness or constricted places in your stomach. If you do have a feeling or sensation in your body that is greater than your breathing, bring your attention to it, observe it, label it (itching, burning, © Sage Allan Pty Ltd 2011

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numbness, tingling and so on), breathe in, and then let go of the attention on that feeling, breathe out. Keep coming back to your breath. As you continue, let your shoulders relax and sink. Gradually feel your body sink further into a state of relaxation and balance around your centre. If you have a thought, notice it and let it go. Continue to focus on your breath follow your breath in and out. This simple exercise will help you rebalance and have renewed awareness about what is happening around you. So, how will a calm mind lead to calm action? During times of stress we have a stress response and stress reaction. Mindfulness helps us to get in touch with and control the heightened arousal states (thoughts, feelings and sensations about a situation) that we move into during times of stress. Kabat Zinn, a notable author in the area of mindfulness meditation for stress and pain reduction, writes: “You no longer have to react automatically in the same old way every time your buttons get pushed. You can respond instead out of your greater awareness of what is happening...The capacity to respond mindfully develops each time we experience discomfort...[strong thoughts] during meditation...we just observe them and work at letting them be there as they are, without reacting...In some situations, your feeling threatened may have more to do with your state of mind than with the triggering event itself.

Seeing Things With Clarity Key to balancing work/life is our ability to have choices and confidence in our decision-making processes. A classic experiment from the world of social psychology highlights that if we change our expectations we get more control and also see more things - we have a choice. Our expectations and our judgement of those expectations help us see, but also blind us to the unexpected. More choice can be developed through becoming more mindful and also through increasing our comfort level with uncertainty rather than being fearful of it. Our ability to quieten our judgement about our expectations of success and failure, good and bad, is also critical to our decision-making process. Let’s take an everyday example to explain this concept. Imagine you go to a new restaurant for the first time and the food is good. You may be pleased. If, however, the food is not good you may eat less. So your choice of restaurants has worked in your favour whether you liked the food or not. If you paid attention to the money you wasted when the food was bad you might regret the decision and be less confident in your future decisions. © Sage Allan Pty Ltd 2011

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This is the power of looking at things from a ‘brighter’ point of view as well as checking in and changing our original mental models, expectations and judgements. So, why are these mindfulness principles important in creating work/life balance? To see with clarity means that we become mindful about: • our expectations around work and life, and whether these are hindering the choices that we are able to see that will help us improve that balance • our judgements about the good and bad that is occurring in our work/life and whether these judgements are based on our criteria or someone else’s, and most importantly, • what point of view we use when we look at our decisions about work/life are we only ever seeing the negative point of view or is there a brighter side that we could be viewing? Our clarity of seeing enhances our thinking, which enables us to develop choice and helps us to put better strategies in place around how we want to balance our life with our work. Let’s now look at how creativity and energy are important principles in balancing work with life.

Continual Innovation with Renewed Energy Balancing work/life is not a one-off activity, it is a continual process that requires us to constantly innovate and find new options and difference choices that help us to renew our energy. Do you remember what it is like to learn a new skill or take on a new project at work? Remember the energy, the passion, the creative ways we look at a problem until we work it out? Yet once we complete the project or resolve the problem, the passion dies and the new ideas are no longer needed. Our expectations about the project or skill become set, our judgements assigned, our mental models created, the skill becomes second nature and we adopt attitudes such as ‘Not that project again, I’ve done it so many times I could do it standing on my head’. If we reflect on the process we go through to learn the new skill or tackle the project, we see that there are several stages to our learning. To borrow from a well-known competency learning model we know that to learn something we start from a low awareness point about the skill, idea or new behaviour, in the model this is level one, and we are ‘unconsciously incompetent’. We ultimately move to © Sage Allan Pty Ltd 2011

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a point where we become so competent in the activity that it becomes second nature. This is level four, where we are ‘unconsciously competent’. The classic example used to demonstrate this model is when we learn to drive a car. For those of us that have been driving for many years in our unconsciously competent state, we know there are times when we have arrived at our destination and realised that rather than focusing on the road we had been daydreaming we had the ability to drive on ‘auto pilot’ - we were unconscious to the thinking that enabled us to drive, yet still competent enough to drive. To be mindful about new skills, behaviours, ideas and projects I would propose a and vital stage ‘competently conscious’. By this I mean that we become competent in focusing our consciousness - our thinking processes - on this skill once it is learnt and we become mindful. The full five stages would look like this: 1. Unconsciously Incompetent This is a lack of awareness of the new skill, yet we give it a try anyway. We have a high level of excitement and enthusiasm. 2. Consciously Incompetent At this level we become aware that we do not have the skill yet but we are creative in the way we approach our learning - we try different things to help us master the new skill. 3. Consciously Competent At this level the skill is still new, but mastered, and we are aware of the new skill each time we use it. 4. Unconsciously Competent This skill is now mastered and has become second nature. We can execute the skill on auto ‘pilot’. 5. Competently Conscious We are masters of the skill and have also competently mastered our consciousness about the skill; we practise mindfulness. This fifth stage would mean that we no longer allow our unconscious to take over once we have mastered or become competent at something, but that we take the next step and apply mindfulness to this idea, project, skill or behaviour. The competently conscious approach would ensure that we are competent in reminding ourselves about all levels of learning and that every new idea, project, skill and behaviour requires continual innovation and renewed energy applied to it - just as we did in the early stages of learning the new skill. © Sage Allan Pty Ltd 2011

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By taking a competently conscious and mindful approach to work/life balance we will understand that the process of balancing our work with our life is continual - it never stops. The minute we stop, our thinking processes become habitual, our expectations become set, our judgement of good/bad, success/failure about our work and our life moves us rapidly into imbalance and we are no longer masters of our fate. We have explored how the concept of mindfulness in the workplace can help people to balance work with life. The core concepts to be aware of include: • Our habitual thinking processes are driven by groupthink and mental models. • We need to slow our thinking down to develop a calm mind and calm action. • Developing the opportunity to explore our mental models can occur through mindfulness meditation and a line of inquiry. • We need to question our expectations, judgements and point of view while realising choice in work/life can only be created when we are comfortable with uncertainty. • Our learning processes need to include a ‘competently conscious’ stage so that we remain passionately and creatively mindful. • To maintain balance and create equilibrium in work and life is not a set-and• forget process - it requires continual innovation and renewed energy. By using a mindfulness practice we will become the masters of our work/life fate.

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Endnotes 1 Langer E, 1997, The Power of Mindful Learning, Da Capo USA, p111 2 Langer E, 2005, On Becoming An Artist, Reinventing Yourself Creativity, Ballantine Books USA, p 210 (While the title would suggest that this book would instruct you on how to become an artist, the subject matter is in fact about mindfulness using the becoming an artist experience as the awareness-raising process about how important mindfulness is. I would highly recommend this text to anyone.) 3 Langer E, 2005, On Becoming An Artist, Reinventing Yourself Creativity, Ballantine Books USA, p40 4 Senge P; Scharmer CO; Jaworski J; Flowers B, 2005, Presence, Exploring Profound Change in People, Organisations and Society, Nicholas Brealey Publishing London, p 31 (Senge et alês latest book brings insight to mindfulness from an organisational perspective.) 5 Senge P; Kleiner A; Roberts C, Ross R; Smith B, 2003 edition, The Fifth Discipline Feildbook Strategies and Tools for Building A Learning Organisation, Nicholas Brealey Publishing UK, p 235 (For those that are in management or leadership positions this is a must-have for your professional library. It provides tips and tools to help guide you in your working life. Mindfulness is a key aspect of the tools used by Senge.) 6 Langer E, 2005, On Becoming An Artist, Reinventing Yourself Creativity, Ballantine Books USA, p 230 7 Senge P; Kleiner A; Roberts C, Ross R; Smith B, 2003 edition, The Fifth Discipline Feildbook Strategies and Tools for Building A Learning Organisation, Nicholas Brealey Publishing UK, p 235 8 6 Langer E, 2005, On Becoming An Artist, Reinventing Yourself Creativity, Ballantine Books USA, p 189 9 Senge P; Scharmer CO; Jaworski J; Flowers B, 2005, Presence, Exploring Profound Change in People, Organisations and Society, Nicholas Brealey Publishing London, p 30 10 Sharples B, 2003, Meditation Calming the Mind, Lothian Books Melbourne Australia, p 12 (Contemplative, Mindfulness, Creative and Concentration. It also Š Sage Allan Pty Ltd 2011

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has a number of meditation exercises if you would like to tape them to guide you through your meditation practice.) 11 Kabat Zinn J, 1990, Full Catastrophe Living, Dell Publishing New York, pp 266-7 (explores the stress reduction program that Kabat Zinn runs at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre. The text provides practical tips to help with stress reduction.) 12 Following is a full description of Langerês experiment as described in Langer E, 2005, On Becoming An Artist, Reinventing Yourself Creativity, Ballantine Books USA pp185-6 ‘In an experiment designed by psychologist Dan Simons, participants were shown a videotape of a basketball game and asked to count the number of passes made by one of the teams. In the middle of the game, a person dressed in a gorilla suit quite clearly walks onto the court, stops, and beats his chest...Approximately half of the participants [in the experiment] did not see [the gorilla]. When asked if they had noticed anything unusual during the game, they reported that they had not. When told of the gorilla, they were surprised and had to be shown the tape again...I...showed the videotape to my [university] class to see whether mindful observers were more likely to notice the gorilla. Before we showed the tape, we randomly handed out two sets of written instructions. Half of the participants received instructions that were the same as those Dan gave his research participants, ‘to count the number of passes that are made’. The other half were given instructions on being mindful. We explained that each basketball game is similar to all others in some ways from any other game they may have seen. We asked the participants to notice the ways this game of basketball was both similar to and different from the last basketball game they saw. Most of those who were instructed to be mindful noticed the gorilla, while those who counted passes did not.’ 13 Langer E, 2005, On Becoming An Artist, Reinventing Yourself Creativity, Ballantine Books USA, p 65 14 Langer E, 2005, On Becoming An Artist, Reinventing Yourself Creativity, Ballantine Books USA,, p216 15 There is no one author of this leaning model - for further discussion on the model and other recommended step fives please refer to www.businessballs.com/consciouscompetencelearningmodel.htm

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About the Author Isabella Allan B. Soc. Sci, B. Plan, Grad Dip Conflict Resolution, Grad Cert Management, GAICD, ATCL, Grad Cert Dialogue, Deliberation and Public Engagement (USA), MA (OMD) ((USA). Isabella has extensive experience in facilitation having facilitated community and business forums in Australia, New Zealand and the USA. She holds several tertiary qualifications with the Graduate Certificate in Dialogue, Deliberation and Public Engagement the most relevant for her facilitation work. She is a member of the International Association of Facilitators and is working towards completing her certification with that association in 2011/2012.

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Mindfullness in the Workplace