Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

“You should really try to be LESS mindful. Your clients and co-workers will appreciate it.”

I’m guessing you haven’t heard this before because most people will tell you the opposite is true.

They’ll say, “You should practice being more mindful, research says this…”

‘This’ makes me cringe.

Today I’ll explain why being mindful is bad advice for most small businesses. And I’ll show you a simple way you can get the same benefits mindfulness offers without any of the negatives.

First, let’s define mindfulness.

According to Merriam-Webster:

Mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

Now let’s think about why Fortune 500 companies might want to promote mindfulness in the workplace?

Companies like Goldman Sachs, Intel Corps, Aetna, General Mills, and Google have all jumped on the mindfulness bandwagon. But why?

The Wall Street Journal asked David Gelles, author of the book Mindful at Work to explain:

There are a few reasons … [mindfulness programs] became popular now. First is that, unlike 10 years ago, we now really have an enormous body of research that points to the practical and measurable benefits of mindfulness practice — study after study shows that mindfulness makes people less stressed, more productive and maybe even healthier, and maybe even happier too. It’s backed by a lot of science.

The second reason is that across the country there’s a loosening up of social mores right now and things like yoga and meditation just are not as foreign or as taboo as they once were. Yoga has become extremely popular. This is maybe one reason that mindfulness is particularly popular in places like Silicon Valley, but you even see it happening here on Wall Street. Goldman Sachs Group, Blackrock, Bank of America have all started their own programs.

And finally, the pace of our workdays and our reliance on this always-on culture has made mindfulness more needed than ever before. The degree to which everyone is so hyperconnected and so addicted to their smartphones and email has gotten many people to a place where mindfulness is a really welcome antidote to this incessant communications culture.

While these are all compelling reasons to start practicing mindfulness, let me give you some even more compelling reasons why big companies should push mindfulness on their employees.

Forbes did its own investigation and found:

More than one-quarter of Aetna’s workforce of 50,000 has participated in at least one mindfulness class, and those who have report, on average, a 28% reduction in their stress levels, a 20% improvement in sleep quality and a 19% reduction in pain. They also become more effective on the job, gaining an average of 62 minutes per week of productivity, each which Aetna estimates is worth $3,000 per employee per year. Plus, Aetna found that the annual healthcare costs of employees that participated in the program were an average of $2,000 lower than their counterparts!

Imagine that, Aetna, a company of 50,000 employees found that mindfulness training saves them an average of $5,000 per employee, per year. Assuming every employee in the company participates in at least one mindfulness class, that’s an average savings of $250,000,000 per year.

Do you think other big companies are going to follow suit?

‘OK, remind me again why this is bad?’

‘I thought reducing employee stress, increasing employee productivity, and reducing the company’s healthcare costs, were all good things?’

The answer is, yes.

I can’t argue these are bad, but they’re really only beneficial for larger companies.

If you’re a small business, you won’t see savings in the millions per year by implementing mindfulness training.

Your costs will be less and therefore the savings should scale down. But you still need to factor in the opportunity costs that big businesses can offset that you can’t.

Big companies benefit from trends like mindfulness because they shave costs that add more money to their already huge bottom lines. When employees experience less stress and more happiness in the workplace, they become more productive (read: they become better at toeing the line).

For small business owners, the goal should not be to get your employees doing the wrong jobs more effectively. You should be trying to cultivate an environment where Big Ideas are born.

All it takes is one Big Idea to double, triple, sometimes even quadruple your business’ bottom line. It could be a winning sales letter, a winning product idea, whatever.

But I’d argue that most Big Ideas won’t be conceived when your employees are being mindful. Rather, they’ll be conceived when your employees are beingmindless.

When do you get your best ideas?

  • In the shower?
  • Driving to work?
  • At the gym?
  • Going for a run?
  • Going for a walk?

When you’re daydreaming are you in a state of conscious awareness? No.

Don’t take my word for it. Neuroscientists have been studying the benefits of mindlessness and exercise, specifically, for years.

About three decades of research in neuroscience have identified a robust link between aerobic exercise and subsequent cognitive clarity, says Karen Postal, president of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology, and to many in this field the most exciting recent finding in this area is that of neurogenesis. Not so many years ago, the brightest minds in neuroscience thought that our brains got a set amount of neurons, and that by adulthood, no new neurons would be birthed. But this turned out not to be true. Studies in animal models have shown that new neurons are produced in the brain throughout the lifespan, and, so far, only one activity is known to trigger the birth of those new neurons: vigorous aerobic exercise. That’s it. That’s the only trigger that we know about.

We know going for a run or doing any type of vigorous aerobic exercise will result in a physiological change in how our brains process information, helping us make better decisions and think more clearly.

But what are some other benefits to practicing mindlessness?

In a 2013 article a trio of psychologists in the Journal Frontiers in Psychology argued this:

We mind wander, by choice or by accident, because it produces tangible reward when measured against goals and aspirations that are personally meaningful. Having to reread a line of text three times because our attention has drifted away matters very little if that attention shift has allowed us to access a key insight, a precious memory or make sense of a troubling event. Pausing to reflect in the middle of telling a story is inconsequential if that pause allows us to retrieve a distant memory that makes the story more evocative and compelling. Losing a couple of minutes because we drove past our off ramp is a minor inconvenience if the attention lapse allowed us to finally understand why the boss was so upset by something we said in last week’s meeting. Arriving home from the store without the eggs that necessitated the trip is a mere annoyance when weighed against coming to a decision to ask for a raise, leave a job, or go back to school.

You can see why telling someone, especially a creative, to be more mindful at work is bad advice.

Tony Robbins likes to say, “You can’t feel fear or anger while feeling gratitude at the same time.”

In his 1976 book The Joy of Running, author Monte Davis said something similar about mindlessness, “It’s hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time.”

If you want a proven strategy that will reduce stress in your employees, increase productivity on the tasks that shape your bottom line, and increase overall company health, start by promoting deliberate mindlessness, not dissuading it.

And if you really want to help your team, buy them all a new pair of running shoes 😉

Nick Papple
Managing Editor
The Daily Brief

#NOWYOUKNOW

What a Leader Must Do

By James Whitehurst, CEO, Red Hat

A leader’s role is to create an environment where people can do their best work, and not to tell them what to do and monitor how they are doing it. The point of an open organization is to relax the constraints of management to create the environment in which your team can do their best work. And what is most important is to cascade this philosophy through every manager in the organization. You have to have a deep belief that your team will come up with a better solution than any individual, including yourself. If you think you have the better answer and just go through the motions, it will never work.

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How People with High IQs Think (Practical Examples)

You don’t have to be the Einstein of our generation to be successful. But in some companies and institutions, IQ has a tendency to correlate to qualities they value, hence the kind of people they seek and want to work with. IQ tests directly measure your ability to correctly identify patterns and logic problems under a time limit.

Those skills have a significant correlation to other skills that we value in a 21st century, post-industrial economy. It correlates with the ability learn complex concepts, learn to think critically, learn to identify opportunities etc.

IQ is probably overrated today. We place way to much value on IQ, and take it as being far more meaningful than it is.

These are two practical examples (from Calvin and Raffaele) of how people with high 1Qs think (from a social, intellectual, and practical point of view). How they perceive everyday interactions and situations. They originally shared these experiences on reddit.

1. Calvin Chopra, An inquisitive autodidact

I tested about 4 months back; my IQ was 150. My Myers Briggs Test Type (MBTI) is INTJ and I am 17 years old.

Socially: It is pretty screwed up. I can’t get along with kids in my school or other people around me. Also, it is an INTJ characteristic that people perceive me as arrogant; in fact I am very humble. I tend to be the silent one. I don’t talk much and sometimes I am shy.

I don’t talk to people in my age group, but instead have friends who are older than me. I also don’t believe in small talk; I don’t want people calling me unless it is extremely important and I think a real conversation is better any day.

However, When I am with like-minded people or in a place where I can discuss  ideas, I am good socially and I consider myself to be an ambivert contrary to the MBTI test. I am swift then. Also, I am good at reading people’s expressions and know what they are thinking about, but sometimes I don’t even know that they are listening to me.

I despise smartphones, any and every form of communication. I don’t use my smartphone quite a lot and I might switch to a feature phone. Also, I permanently deleted my facebook account after joining Quora. I don’t keep up with my old buddies.

Intellectually: At an early age, I discovered that I was passionate about robotics and computers. Also I am a voracious reader. I read, think and talk about subjects ranging from Neuroscience to metaphysics.

I am good at school now. I love to be intellectually engaged. I have a hard time doing dull work, but I motivate myself and do work well. As for music, I find solace in classical works of Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky and the likes.

The dark side of this intellectual prowess is that I sometimes have to deal with analysis paralysis and I tend to over-plan things. I think and worry a lot, sometimes. Other times I get lost in my imagination; when I am inactive I tend to do thought experiments and try to analyze or build things in my mind.

Creativity: My mind has an inclination towards abstraction; I would study the fundamental nature of something, make assumptions and inferences and would try to build an abstract model. I would then try to use that model. That is why I love robotics.

I love to work on abstract stuff; I would do stuff with Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning and then use these domains to develop robots. Abstraction and Application, I work on these constantly.

Practicality: I was a strong idealist earlier; now I believe that practicality and idealism should go hand in hand. With my idealistic mind, I made many mistakes. I learnt from those mistakes and take my decisions wisely now.

I analyze the situations I am in, anticipate outcomes and know what will be beneficial for me. I do not have the Dunning Kruger effect, I know what I am good at, I know what I am bad at and I know that I don’t know much.

Procrastination: If I don’t have a plan, I will procrastinate, a lot. I need to make a plan a night before. That is the only way I can be productive. I don’t really need to be motivated to do something; having a purpose is enough. The next best thing would be a plan.

Although I don’t follow a plan rigidly but I keep working on things till bed time. I constantly make day logs and edit my plan, and I have a good work ethic. I am a non-conformist and brutally rational. I do not care about what others think about me, but I do not harm them either. If my apathy harms them, then I am in a dilemma.

[Note: Whatever I am or whatever I think, I do not attribute it to my IQ. Whatever I have achieved is by devoting time and effort in order to enhance my skills.

I believe regardless whether your IQ is 100 or 140, you can achieve solely by practicing and improving your skills; a priori intelligence is just because of genes and environment. You can be anything you want.

Also, People cannot be compared; there might be millions of people intelligent than you, millions dumber than you. If you want to get ahead embrace who you are. Be unique, do something only you can and discover your real potential.]

2. Raffaele Tranquillini, 16-year old student, programmer

Sorry for my English, my native language is Italian and actually I am 16 year old, so still learning. Even if I am not 160 or more, I have taken a few reliable IQ tests in the past and obtained scores between 145 and 150 in all. I’ll try to give a detailed answer to this question.

Notice: additional factors may influence this answer. I am an INTP on MBTI personality scale and I’m left handed (I’m not sure, but this may influence)

Childhood: in short, I was a strange child. At the kindergarden I used to look always behind the computers to see how cables were connected; I learnt reading and writing when I was three, and my kindergarten nannies remember me that I was extremely lively (too lively, sincerely), very good at puzzles that were designed for elder children, and that I used to talk always about things like gizmos, mechanical systems, possible projects using windmills and things like that.

In addition, I was not extroverted and not very friendly to my mates and teachers (that I now love for accepting me for how strange I was even when, often, I was completely crazy). At the primary school, the situation was different.

I got bullied very very often both from schoolmates and teachers, that, in a school of the peripheral area of a city, hated me because I was smarter than other children.

They used to put the blame on me for everything that happened in my class, they lied to my parents about things that, for they, I did (they were serious things, so my parents didn’t believe me) because they were just envious, exactly like my classmates.

Now I don’t like children and I hate everything related to the period of primary school, because it remembers me all that bullying of teachers and classmates.

The only positive aspects is that this experience taught me not only to respect everyone and avoid bullying, but to be always as generous and correct as possible with other people in order to avoid they made the same bad experiences.

Social skills: they were quite poor, but in the time with my very analytic behaviour I learned how the “society algorithm” works, and I am in some things even more able than normal people, because I don’t do anything in a spontaneous way in social occasions, and instead I know how to simulate well an emotion or another. However, there are still many points where this “algorithm” I learned doesn’t work, and that translates in social difficulties.

Everyday life: the main difference is that I see patterns everywhere. Patterns and algorithms. In addition, I am usually really fast in thinking logically, and when I speak I usually try in my head in 1/10 of second 4-5 different sentences and choose the best one (something not the best for that situation, though).

Then often I figure out many different solutions in a very short time to a problem, including the solution that I think will be the wrong one but the one that the others will choose, and I can’t explain the right one.

Often people tell me that my solution is wrong and I am stubborn, but I know it is correct, and after hours they will notice I was right. In addition, I always talk very very fast to keep up with my thoughts.

Other aspects of social life: I often feel alone among the people. I am between them, but I feel separated by a wall that isolates me on a place that is just physically near the people around me. They don’t understand me. They misunderstand me (in a bad way).

I feel as I had some sort of veil that doesn’t let me interact with them. And nobody believes me if I try to explain that. (This is one of the the many symptoms of Asperger’s I have… But I’m almost sure it’s also the IQ)

Interests: my mind is very good in some directions and very wrak in others. For instance, I am not good at maths (high school maths is IMO boring and I don’t want to study it) except for the very small part of it involving logical thinking.

I am very good at writing, but my main, obsessive hobby is programming. I love it, and I am programmer since I was 8. I love it because it’s good to use my logic. I’ve always been very bad at sport. Especially, I have never had coordination. I love quiet places, and I need to walk alone in quiet places for some kilometers every day to relax.

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