I’ve recently completed a course in mindfulness. It was all about the individual, the personal self, but for me the organisational parallel was significant.
Because mindfulness is all about being in the present moment. The now.
Now. A place that many organisations, and the people within them, don’t often play.
Caught between the future and the past, the present sometimes doesn’t get a look in.
Instead, we oscillate between yesterday and tomorrow.
Organisations have plans. Missions and visions. A strategy, designed to take us somewhere at some upcoming point. PowerPoint slides with a bullet pointed future. Agendas for the next meeting, minutes from the last.
We have archives and filing cabinets, stuff kept just in case. Last year’s employee engagement survey. Old marketing material from campaigns gone by. Personnel files from employees long since left. Archives stuffed full with ancient files filled with ancient paper. The way we have always done it around here. Remnants of the past. Ghosts.
Last year’s achievements, next year’s SMART objectives. Past, future.
There is a value in recognising your past and appreciating where you have come from. There is equally a need to look forward, plan how to get there, and communicate the journey along the way.
But there is also a value in right now. Today. This minute. The now thing in mindfulness means leaving the past where it is, and not polluting the present with it. But instead we go to meetings, loaded up with our own agendas, judgements and opinions, full of our very own we’ve tried that and we’ve always done it like this.
And when we are physically present, we aren’t always right there, right now. Completely present in the moment. Culturally, many organisations are operating at full speed. Urgency, everywhere. Back to back all day, lunch at the desk, get it done by COB, coffee on the run. One eye on the clock, the iPhone, the email. Addicted to busy.
What mindfulness has taught me is the power of pausing, breathing and being more aware of the moment. Not personally, but with the people I work with, in the place that I spend my day. Noticing what’s going on, how people are feeling, what is happening under the surface.
Because often do we really spend time talking to the people who work with us, for us, about how they feel right now? What’s going on for them, beyond the superficial, transactional hi how are yous and have a nice weekends? How often do we really just stop, check in, take note? Instead of rushing through the commute, the meeting, the day, the week.
As my colleagues would confirm, I’m often heard saying that we are, where we are. There’s no point lamenting how we got to the present, as long as we learn along the way. Don’t look backwards because we aren’t going that way. And just like we can’t change the past, we also can’t predict the future with any real accuracy. We can only really influence this moment.
So make it a good one.