In the Workplace

Search Inside Yourself

Google’s own Chade-Meng Tan writes about the groundbreaking mindfulness-based training program—Search Inside Yourself—offered at one of the world's most successful companies.

Illustration by Colin Goh © Search Inside Yourself

“What if people can use contemplative practices to help them succeed in life and at work? In other words, what if contemplative practices can be made beneficial both to people’s careers and to business bottom lines?” 

- Chade-Meng Tan

Search Inside Yourself has been taught at Google since 2007. For many participants, it has been life changing, both at work and in their personal lives. We receive a lot of post-course feedback similar to one that says, “I know this sounds melodramatic, but I really think this course changed my life.” At work, some participants have found new meaning and fulfillment in their jobs (we even had one person reverse her decision to leave Google after taking Search Inside Yourself!), while some have become much better at what they do.

Engineering manager Bill Duane, for example, discovered the importance of giving himself quality time, so he reduced his working hours to four days a week. After he did that, he was promoted. Bill found time to take care of himself and discovered ways to accomplish more while doing less. I asked Bill about the most significant changes he experienced during Search Inside Yourself, and he said he learned to listen a lot better, gain control over his temper, and understand every situation better by, in his words, “learning to discern stories from reality.” All these make him a much more effective manager to the benefit of the people working for him.

For Blaise Pabon, a sales engineer, Search Inside Yourself helped him become much more credible to customers because he is now better at calmly overcoming objections during product demonstrations, he speaks compassionately about competitors, and he is courageous and truthful when telling customers about our products. All these qualities earned him great respect among his customers. One engineer in the class found himself becoming much more creative after Search Inside Yourself. Another engineer told us that two of his most important contributions to his project came after doing mindfulness exercises he learned in Search Inside Yourself.

Not surprisingly, people found Search Inside Yourself to be even more beneficial in their personal lives. Many reported becoming significantly calmer and happier. For example, one participant said, “I have completely changed in the way I react to stressors. I take the time to think through things and empathize with other people’s situations before jumping to conclusions. I love the new me!” Some have found the quality of their marriages improved. Others reported overcoming personal crises with the help of Search Inside Yourself. For example, one person told us, “I experienced personal tragedy—my brother’s death—during the course of  Search Inside Yourself, and [the class] enabled me to manage my grief in a positive way.” One person simply said, “I now see myself and the world through a kinder, more understanding set of eyes.”

(…)

What I find most rewarding is how well Search Inside Yourself has worked for ordinary folks in a corporate setting right here in a modern society. If Search Inside Yourself had worked this well for people from traditionally meditative cultures doing intensive retreats in zendos or something, nobody would be too surprised. But these are ordinary Americans working in a high-stress environment with real lives and families and everything, and still, they can change their lives in just twenty hours of classroom time spread over seven weeks.

Search Inside Yourself works in three steps:

  1. Attention training
  2. Self-knowledge and self-mastery
  3. Creating useful mental habits

Attention Training

Attention is the basis of all higher cognitive and emotional abilities. Therefore, any curriculum for training emotional intelligence has to begin with attention training. The idea is to train attention to create a quality of mind that is calm and clear at the same time. That quality of mind forms the foundation for emotional intelligence.

Self-Knowledge and Self-Mastery

Use your trained attention to create high-resolution perception into your own cognitive and emotive processes. With that, you become able to observe your thought stream and the process of emotion with high clarity, and to do so objectively from a third-person perspective. Once you can do that, you create the type of deep self-knowledge that eventually enables self-mastery.

Creating Useful Mental Habits

Imagine whenever you meet anybody, your habitual, instinctive first thought is, I wish for this person to be happy. Having such habits changes everything at work, because this sincere goodwill is picked up unconsciously by others, and you create the type of trust that leads to highly productive collaborations. Such habits can be volitionally trained.

In creating Search Inside Yourself, we collected some of the best scientific data and gathered some of the best minds on the topic to create a curriculum that is proven to work. You will not want to miss this; it may change your life. Like, seriously.

 

To read more about mindfulness at Google, here on Mindful.org, read Google Searches, @ Mindful Workplaces and Meng's Peace Plan.


Excerpted from Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected path to Achieving Profits, Happiness (and World Peace) by Chade-Meng Tan, reprinted with permission by HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins. Copyright 2012.

For more information about the book, click here. To receive daily quotes from the book during its Search Inside Yourself campaign, visit HarperOne’s Facebook page.