I still remember when the news broke that my Wall Street employer was going out of business in 2008. It was midnight and we were all working. Working 14 hour days was “normal.” Although I stayed on Wall Street after the crash, I stopped working the long hours. The credit goes to a small habit I had developed since 2005.
I had been practicing daily meditation. After a couple of years of practice, I noticed that the things that used to stress me out didn’t seem so big anymore. I also noticed that I worked less and accomplished more. All of this was due to my 20 minutes a day meditation routine. It ended up creating a new personality trait in me: mindfulness. Mindfulness helped me stay alert and focused on every single activity I was doing.
From my own experience as a former Wall Street executive and now a mindfulness-based therapist for burnout, I assure you that mindfulness helps you tremendously at work. Here’s how.
Think of meditation as your mind’s gym. You sit and notice the physical sensation of your full breath. If a thought comes, you train the mind to notice it, and then return to the breath. The breathing calms you down and helps you stay in the present moment. You stay vigilant about the wandering mind. If you have this practice, you develop a calm alertness that you carry with you throughout the day.
At work, you are bound to be pulled in many directions. If you are mindful, you know which task is your top priority and you learn to stay focused on that task first, and nothing else. Your brain cannot truly multi-task. It is prone to make mistakes when you attempt to juggle. The calm alertness of being mindful helps you to stay on the most important task and to give it your best. The end result? Higher productivity.
Some clients ask me if mindfulness would eliminate their passion to excel. I tell them that it’s quite the contrary. Mindfulness actually increases our drive. When you are mindful, you find your sanctuary within. The turmoil of the rest of the world doesn’t enter you anymore. Eventually, you get the pig picture. You learn more about yourself, your inspiration and drive. You start channeling this sense of purpose through your work. Every deliverable becomes your masterpiece. On the other hand, it is possible that you start realizing that your current job is not your calling. If that’s the case, then you can realign yourself with the career or job that is right for you. Either way, you will find motivation and happiness in what you do.
A side effect of becoming mindful is learning empathy. You start becoming more compassionate towards others, and learn to put yourself in others’ shoes. You also learn to put a moment of stillness between a stressful event and your response to the event. Therefore, a) you don’t have knee-jerk reactions to stress-provoking incidents, b) you take the perspective of others even when they aren’t acting mindfully, and c) you address the crisis objectively.
People like to model good behavior. Therefore, when you are mindful, those around you start becoming mindful. Eventually, your entire workplace would become more pleasant just because you are radiating mindfulness through your interactions.
In summary, mindfulness helps you to stay focused, to produce excellent outcomes, to stay driven, and to become a more compassionate communicator. Clearly, these are all things that eliminate stress in your life and others’ lives. When stress is gone (or at least, reduced), you are bound not to be burnt out anymore. When you are mindful, you do what you love and you love what you do. You find immense joy in your work life. After all, you spend a large part of your day working — why not make it more fun and meaningful?
The author, Ayman Mukerji Househam is a former Wall Street executive, longtime meditator and yogi, clinical social worker and researcher of mindfulness physiology. Her TEDx talk on mindfulness and gut microbes is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEjHOuN5YOs&t=9s]
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