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Mind over…manager? How meditation can help your career

On a recent morning commute, in the breathless transition from train to bus to office, in the way I sat down at my computer, scrolling through my emails on my iPhone and then seamlessly transitioning to my desktop interface –all without looking up – I realized it might be time to think about becoming a bit more ‘present’ at work.

And that’s not even to mention the irony that, as a recruiter, I was probably immersed in finding one of those ultra-conscious, emotionally aware, strategic, patient, big-thinking leaders that are so in demand.

In fact, you might not be seeing it on resumes just yet, but I am certain the next big ‘career skill’ will be this: meditation. Or, as the execs in Silicon Valley are calling it (according to this Wired.com article), “neural hacking.” Or as I’m learning to appreciate it: a new (but very old) way to“embrace the chaos” that is our technological, high-pressure and fast-paced lives.

Pause.

See… it feels good, right??

Enlightenment Engineers exposes how self-improvement practices like “energy management”and “quiet contemplation” are quickly becoming the new caffeine at outfits like Google, Twitter and Facebook (all of whom have integrated meditative practices into their company culture). And I’m not talking about a poorly attended lunchtime yoga class, either. This is serious contemplative business. To date, “more than a thousand Googlers have been through [meditation] training. Another 400 or so are on the waiting list.”

The real question is what’s with all the new-age nonsense? Well, perhaps best said by one Google employee: “My old coping strategy—the bourbon and cheeseburger method—wasn’t working.” Turns out the Valley’s new taste for meditation has nothing to do with incense and those certain ‘green crops’ commonly associated with BC and mind odysseys; “It’s all about getting ahead.” Career-wise, that is.

That’s right; executives are buying-in to meditative practices and reshaping them “to fit the Valley’s goal-oriented, data-driven, largely atheistic culture.” And, they want a return on their investment, too. Quoting a noted mediation teacher in San Francisco: “All the woo-woo mystical stuff, that’s really retrograde. This is about training the brain and stirring up the chemical soup inside.”

So what are the benefits of sitting lotus in your office, in your manager’s office or in those brief but annoying periods when everyone is still scrambling to your 11am meeting?

Mindfulness practices can help you:

  • Avoid technological burnout
  • Unlock creative thought (innovation)
  • Sharpen focus
  • Regulate emotions (Emotional Intelligence)
  • Learn to handle failure and success

“Power down, power up and power forward.”

As it turns out, meditation as a tool for personal and professional success had already soft launched in Vancouver. Back in March, at this year’s SXSW, Vancouver’s Lululemon royalty, Chip and Shannon Wilson, unveiled their newest lifestyle venture, Whil, an entrepreneurial quest to mainstream meditative practices from West 4thto Wall Street. The Wilsons’ describe Whil as:

…a powerful tool for living in the most data-intensive era in the history of humankind: a meditation technique that not only conveniently fits into our busy, hyper-connected lives but enables us to live those lives with more control, more productivity, more creativity, more serenity and more joy than most of us had thought possible.

Theirs is a 60-second practice, focused around mindfulness and intentionality and the power of those practices to super-charge tiny goals, minute commitments, practiced over and over again for big results. In the Valley, on the other hand, we’re talking about full-scale courses, lunch sessions, conferences and heavily backed employee-training programs designed to optimize performance, balance relationships and produce money-making results. Maybe a foreshadowing of what’s next for Vancouver?

Personally, I’ve been taking ‘pause’ and I like it. When I rush into work, I try and see and experience what kind of day my co-workers might be having. When I’m challenged, I try to step back and see the problem from a different angle. Most of all, I love helping my clients ying meet their perfect yang – and I think all the good karma I’ve been working up with my own neural-cleansing habits might be helping.

If you’re interested in starting your own mindfulness practice, here are a few suggestions for the best place to start:

Tell us: Have you ever meditated? How do you release stress? What helps focus your mind at work? We’d love to know!