It’s one thing to practice mindfulness on the cushion, but bringing the practice alive on the job—handling conflict, managing tasks, expressing our creativity and much more—that’s where the fun begins.
Here are five simple approaches for applying mindfulness at work:
1. Stabilize your attention
Too often on the job we find ourselves distracted, unfocused, even frenzied—which can prove distressing for ourselves and others. In mindfulness training, we learn to bring our attention to our immediate experience— showing up fully engaged and available. By permitting our attention to rest in the present moment, we can learn to attend to our work rather than speed past it.
In your next meeting, observe and make note of how often your attention wanders. Then, in a future meeting, try to escort your attention to the present moment and remain vigilantly alert. Take note of how it affects the meeting: What was different? How did your colleagues respond?
2. Express “natural confidence”
Mindfulness training teaches many things, but one of the very first discoveries is how uncomfortable we can be just sitting still. While such discomfort may appear problematic, in fact, the discomfort is an invitation to consider a fundamental question: Can we be comfortable in our own skin? Exploring this discomfort is key to mindfulness practice, revealing how we can be at ease with ourselves—cultivating a natural confidence in being who we are, where we are completely.
Write down two or three things you find irritating. They can be as simple as waiting in line for a cup of coffee or more demanding like dealing with an annoying vendor. Explore being deliberately at ease during these moments. What gets in the way? What becomes apparent? What’s the root of the irritation?
Exploring the discomfort we feel just sitting still allows us to cultivate confidence in everything we do.
3. Use mindsets as lenses
People frame the workplace from many perspectives: The financial vantage point of a CFO; the customer’s need for prompt service; the sales manager’s passion for closing a deal. Too often such perspectives can become rigid mindsets, and we find ourselves “arguing” with our work and pushing a point, rather than offering insight. The agility of mindfulness permits us to explore various viewpoints, so we can shift, arrange, and blend views in order to get a complete picture and skillfully shape workplace circumstances.
When approaching a difficult workplace conversation, first make a case for your opponent’s view: Write down their perspectives, arguments, and goals. Make this exercise a routine of knowing and listening to your colleagues’ points of view before resolving conflicts and problems.
4. Strengthen emotional regulation
With sustained practice, mindfulness has been shown to offer effective levers for regulating emotions, and to help build an array of social intelligence skills like empathetic accuracy, social attunement, and agile listening—all important for maintaining healthy interpersonal dynamics at work.
When debriefing an emotionally charged workplace experience—whether rewarding or discouraging—describe in writing each party’s emotional stance. Describe how these emotions impacted others. What were you and others seeking emotionally?
5. Foster well-being
We all want well-being at work—both for ourselves and our colleagues—but it can often appear out of reach. Too often “toxicity” poses as “standard operating procedure.” Nourishing trust, candor, openness, respect, and a range of other healthy human values can be a simple matter of noticing workplace health and affiliating with it.
Describe where you feel your workplace and colleagues are demonstrating healthy and inspiring work practices. Agree on what is distinguishing such health and who is responsible. Map out a plan, in writing, for more deliberately supporting these colleagues and practices.