What Does It Mean to Be Mindful?

Mindfulness is a very popular topic in organizations these days. Many companies offer courses in mindfulness and tout its benefits—relaxation, improved focus, better performance.

But the concept of mindfulness can be uncomfortable for some people because it brings to mind sitting cross-legged on a cushion and trying to not think—not exactly activities that are appealing to many corporate executives. Thus, many leaders resist cultivating mindfulness because it seems either unattractive or somehow foreign.

However, this resistance is a big mistake. Our view at Awareness to Action International is that improved performance rests on a foundation of self-awareness. A certain kind of mindfulness is critical for the development of that self-awareness.

Below, I will briefly introduce the six qualities of the mind that are central to this kind of mindfulness, and that also create a base for clear thinking in general. Cultivating these qualities will bring with it the benefits frequently attributed to mindfulness, and much more. Future articles will explore each quality in turn, and give some tips on how to cultivate them, no cushion or crossed-legs required!

Those six qualities are:

1.    Beginner’s Mind. Intellectual humility and the open-mindedness of a beginner rather than the “know-it-all” attitude many of us use to confront new information.

2.    The Focused Mind. The ability to stay focused on the situation at hand—to listen, absorb, and engage rather than give in to the temptation of all the distractions that bombard us.

3.    The Noticing Mind. The ability to observe what is happening inside of and around us without premature judgment.

4.    The Fluid Mind. The ability to both accept our feelings and let go of, rather than hold onto, emotions once they have run their course; as well as the ability to reduce the mental space taken up by trivial matters.

5.    The Discerning Mind. The ability to assess, integrate, and apply our observations and intuitions in practical and logical ways.

6.    The Conducting Mind. The ability to step back and think about our thinking, to recognize which quality of the mind needs to be applied given the circumstances we currently face.

Stay tuned for future articles on each of the six qualities and how to cultivate them in yourself.

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