Over nearly four decades, Ellen Langer’s research on mindfulness has greatly influenced thinking across a range of fields, from behavioral economics to positive psychology. It reveals that by paying attention to what’s going on around us, instead of operating on auto-pilot, we can reduce stress, unlock creativity, and boost performance. Her “counterclockwise” experiments, for example, demonstrated that elderly men could improve their health by simply acting as if it were 20 years earlier. In this interview with senior editor Alison Beard, Langer applies her thinking to leadership and management in an age of increasing chaos.
HBR: Let’s start with the basics. What, exactly, is mindfulness? How do you define it?
Langer: Mindfulness is the process of actively noticing new things. When you do that, it puts you in the present. It makes you more sensitive to context and perspective. It’s the essence of engagement. And it’s energy-begetting, not energy-consuming. The mistake most people make is to assume it’s stressful and exhausting—all this thinking. But what’s stressful is all the mindless negative evaluations we make and the worry that we’ll find problems and not be able to solve them.
We all seek stability. We want to hold things still, thinking that if we do, we can control them. But since everything is always changing, that doesn’t work.
Ellen Langer's work has been and continues to be cutting edge. Her book Mindfulness is a great and easy read on a complex subject. She devoted some of the book to education and thoughts on bringing mindfulness, in a secular way, into learning and teaching.
Mass online meditation lets you zone out in cyberspace The Conversation ... with a meditation session. And Google has been offering its employees “Search Inside Yourself”, a mindfulness meditation course, since 2007.
Focus, clarity, creativity, compassion, and courage. These are the qualities of the mindful leaders. They are also the qualities that give today’s best leaders the resilience to cope with the many challenges coming their way and the resolve to sustain long-term success.
The real point of leverage — which though it sounds simple, many executives never discover — is the ability to think clearly and to focus on the most important opportunities.
It concerns me when we see mindfulness as a "real point of leverage". That diminishes the meditative purpose underlying it and shifts it to a calculative way of thinking. Don't we already have enough of the latter and not enough of the former?
The Conversation is running a series, Class in Australia, to identify, illuminate and debate its many manifestations. Here, Nicholas Biddle outlines how students' low aspirations can lead to poor outcomes…
Professors from universities across the U.S. have all told me the same story. Their students are increasingly portraying feelings of entitlement toward good grades, adjusted deadlines, class perks and special treatment. One professor said a student told him, “I pay your salary, so you have to do what I want.” In the response section to …
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:
I prefer the word engaging. Empowering means something that I give students. Engage has a relational quality to it that is about reciprocity. It fits with the suggested humility and patience. We give without expecting immediate return from the other person. The receiving is in the giving. It is about servant-leadership.
The key is that mindfulness is about being present and improving the quality of life and making the world a better place. It is not directly about corporate bottom lines, although it may indirectly help there. Thinking it is, makes a tool or instrument rather than a way of being and living.
There are some interesting points made in the article. It is more than just walking and talking. It is about getting to know people at a deeper level, what they do on the job, and what that means in their lives.
Project Management Lessons from Meditation Business 2 Community Project Management Lessons from Meditation image Project Management Lessons from Meditation Plenty of prominent technologists, from the late Steve Jobs to Salesforce.com chief Marc...
When we understand mindfulness and meditative practices as strictly instrumental, it is fair to be skeptical. When we see meditation as the practice ground for living life, the two become inseparable. There is a validity in the idea that mindfulness and its practices can become the next fad. That is a real concern. It does not mean that we cannot use it to be better and make the world a better place by being more aware of who we are and what we do.
Become A Mindful Leader: Slow Down To Move Faster Forbes For business leaders, encouraging mindfulness is more than just being tuned in; it's a strategy to improve personal and company-wide performance and productivity, both of which support...
Slowing down, being present, being aware are central. What we need to be cautious of is that mindfulness becomes a technique rather than a way of life which improves quality in the workplace and world.
Guest Post by Rebel Brown Whether you’re a small business owner or an executive of a large corporation, you are leading humans and their minds. The two are inseparable. Did you know that the words man and mind come from the same Sanskrit root?
Ivon Prefontaine's insight:
It is not about leaving a legacy. It is about being on the path.
Mindfulness and being awake to the world are important leadership and followership qualities. It is about quality of life, instead of corporate bottom lines or distant outcomes in school. Being well and mindful allows those things to take care of themselves. We need to be and live in the present.
It is bedtime. I am tucking my children into bed. There is a pleasing calm in the air, as they lie there, snuggled up quietly in anticipation. Bedtimes used to be a frantic battleground, marked by tantrums, sobbing and endless trips to the loo. Thankfully, all that changed the day I started slipping meditation into our bedtime routine."
The meditation is something that is possible at school. We used to say bedtime prayers, which I think of in the same way, and it has not fallen to the wayside. If we help children be thankful, there is considerable benefit. Perhaps, that is part of the problem in the world today. We are not thankful enough and do not express thankfulness.
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