Mindfulness—New Age Fad or Key to 21st Century Success?

Having just returned from the Mindful Leader Summit in Washington, DC, I have lots of hard data suggesting the latter. There was overwhelming agreement from the presenting CEOs, non-profit leaders, scientists, academics, elected officials, lawyers and entrepreneurs, that leaders who are practicing meditation are experiencing the proven benefits of reduced stress, greater clarity of thought, deeper listening, enhanced creativity, self-awareness, more productivity, and even feelings of being a better human being. Too good to be true?

A few striking data points:

  • Accenture claims that “managing attention is the most important factor for business success”
  • 9% of the time, our minds are wandering
  • 280,000 books have the word “mindfulness” in the title on Amazon
  • The number of funded clinical trials looking at the effects of mindful practices on the body went from 0-454 in a few decades
  • The Huffington Post declared 2014: The Year of Mindful Living

Many definitions of mindfulness were offered from the simple: managing your attention, to the more complex: practices that focus on attention, intention, acceptance and compassion. I know that since I began a daily practice of 30 minutes of meditation each morning I’ve noticed that I have a greater attention span and that my patience and empathy for others has risen. I may not be a better human but I feel more humane which is a good thing. Clients to whom I teach mindfulness techniques report similar benefits.

We are in good company with luminaries such as Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Weiner (LinkedIn), Adriana Huffington, John Mackey (Whole Foods), Bill Ford (Ford Motor) and Eileen Fisher — meditators all. As leaders they encourage those around them to do likewise to reap the healthy benefits. I wonder when business foursomes will be meditating together instead of playing golf?!

It’s paradoxical that, at a time in history when we are barraged with texts and tweets and have phones attached to our ears, more and more people are abandoning multi-tasking and training their minds to quiet and focus. Or perhaps this is the most predictable response.   Please share your experiences with mindfulness techniques.

About Elizabeth Olson
Elizabeth Olson is President of Preferred Futures, Inc., a consultancy helping individuals, teams and organizations use collaborative methods for leading change including visioning, strategic thinking and planning, decision-making, leadership development, building partnerships, and learning.

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