This subject has started coming up in conversations between myself and coaching clients, or usually as a side conversation at the end of a training session. ‘But what if I lose my edge?’ says one man to me at the end of a group training in a slightly hushed voice.
Let’s call him James.
I paused for a moment, not wanting to provide a straight answer. I wanted to enquire as to what was going on in James’s thought patterns around this. The conversation went much like this:
Me: ‘Well, what is your experience’?
James: ‘I’m just enjoying being mindful and I’m wondering if I’ll get too attached to it and lose my edge. I love planning and I’m ambitious!’
We explored more about what he meant by this. Ah, how interesting I thought, he is enjoying being mindful and is almost worried about enjoying his time more because it feels less ‘driven’ or ‘high-pressured’.
‘Is this a habit for you James’, I asked? He looked slightly taken aback but asked, ‘is what a habit’? I replied, ‘feeling like something is wrong if you’re not in a high-pressured/high-reward state’?
He said it was.
Acknowledging and working with our habits is very much part of Mindfulness training. We’re looking to unravel some of the fixed ideas we have about ourselves and others so that we can live life more peacefully.
Mindfulness training teaches us to create and maintain distance from our thoughts so we can choose whether we want to engage with them or not.
This is not just a bit of breathing! This is self-development work and I don’t use the word ‘work’ lightly – I think it requires effort – but oh my, it is worth it!
I notice that many people, particularly men and women in senior positions (but also across organisations) are very driven. It’s something I applaud and acknowledge in my blog on ‘What is it to be a mindful leader?’. Being ambitious is wonderful!
But what about being overly-driven?…This is when things get more difficult.
Many leaders are on the treadmill and they don’t know how to get off. I’ve been there myself and it’s not fun. It’s characterised by not being able to switch off or focus on things very easily. It can result in stress and anxiety – rumination about small things as well as the big ones.
It’s very common.
The conversation continued – I asked James if he was experiencing benefits from the Mindfulness training in general? He said yes and that he was also feeling more relaxed and focussed. Losing his edge was something playing in the back of his mind.
Adrenaline can also be rather addictive so loosening our relationship with it can be helpful in enjoying life more fully.
So does it actually work?
The Science behind Mindfulness training is solid, I talk about it in this video. It allows us to re-wire our brain so we can live more in the moment. But it does take practice. There is no silver bullet here. It’s interesting that many top CEOs are now taking up a practice, including LinkedIn’s own CEO, Jeff Weiner.
It’s common during Mindfulness training for various concerns to surface, which beg the question – is this working?
After a few weeks of doing practice each day, I think that the participant is the best judge of that. Are they reacting less and responding more? What differences do they notice in their behaviour, in their stress levels? Everyone’s experience is different but invariably they are noticing ever increasing perspective and responsiveness, as opposed to reactiveness). They are less stressed and more focussed on their task at hand. It’s often the subtle shifts that have the biggest impact on their lives.
‘So, James, will you lose your edge? I’ll let you be the judge of that’.