Becoming More Mindful
In 2012 I’d had enough. Enough of work, enough of London, enough of stressful relationships. Enough, enough, enough. So I packed up, switched off and headed to Asia.
The next few months were centred around mountains, meditation and mindfulness. One of the toughest moments being when I spent 10 fully silent days, in a temple in the Himalayas, seated crossed legged on the floor doing 11 hours of meditation a day.
It was here I started to see more of a shift in how my mind reacts to the world and the environments that surround me. And it was something that I continued to be conscious of seven months later when I came home. So, over the past few years I’ve been a regular at the London Buddhist Centre and a consistent attendee of meditation retreats both in the UK and abroad.
My initial driver was a personal one. It was about how I could become more aware of how I was responding to my life and more mindful of what I needed to do to make sure I was on the best path for me; and the people that surround me. It was my personal journey of change.
Change Management Stress and Mental Health
But I’m a change specialist, with a real passion for managing people through change; and from my experience, it feels like most change management methodologies are missing a trick. They’re so centred on process – impact and mitigation, stakeholders and communications, capabilities and training – that they miss the psychological impact working in challenging, changing environments can have on individuals; both the teams involved in implementing the change and those on the receiving end.
As humans, we are hardwired to resist change. In the workplace, change can often be seen as stressful for both individuals and teams. It doesn’t have to feel this way for employees. Individually, employees may have their own coping mechanisms inside and outside of work. This could be a walk at lunchtime or evening tennis lessons. However, as change practitioners, mindfulness can be a powerful tool we can teach to empower groups of employees. Both to own how they psychologically deal with change and to help them to become more resilient and accepting of it.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindful.org defines mindfulness as ‘the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.’ I see my meditation as the practice that helps me to reach this mindful state – on and off the floor.
In change scenarios, helping people to be ‘not overly reactive or overwhelmed’ is key. Traditionally we do this by listening to employees to understand what their concerns may be; crafting communication messages to align key stakeholders and help mitigate employee concerns, creating the right tools and training to inform, educate and equip people to confidently work in a new way; and celebrating success to show that the changes – and the people making them happen – are working. A very proactive process to instil change.
Traditional processes have merit. But at Lansons, we’re also talking to companies such as Mindfulness at Work, founded by Louise Chester in 2010, and Cubex who offer a corporate CALM programme run by Michael James Wong and a team of audio and cognitive specialists. They are both working with companies – from global banks to local businesses – to give leaders and employees their own personal tools through mindfulness training to improve their own and their employee’s mental health. Their work aims to encourage balance and resilience, build more confidence in periods of change and enhance professional wellbeing.
For me, this is the right move forward in change management, with more focus on mental health. My role as a change practitioner is about understanding the individual ways people move through change and how we can both support and empower them. I believe that the ability to empower people to embrace any change comes from practical support (knowledge), physical support (training) and psychological support (e.g. mindfulness).
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