I had mindfulness on the mind on the R train during this morning’s commute.
Amidst the high rises and high anxieties of Midtown Manhattan, mindfulness can be a rare, precious and, paradoxically, maligned commodity. Where results and success are demanded so unapologetically, contemplative practice can seem contraindicated for achievement. After all, business is transactional… the interchange of ideas, strategies, products, alliances, agitations, complications, misunderstandings. All these are there, and those with open ears and open eyes might occasionally be inclined to surrender to anxiety or paralysis. Certainly I’ve had a few such moments.
But as Sharon tells us, when we’ve opened ourselves to the possibility of mindfulness, we’ve “opened the door to discernment, compassion, intelligent and empowered choice.”
Mindfulness and action. There can be both.
Today, I had the opportunity to put this to the test. And, of course, it came in the form of an email, as so many challenges do these days. A colleague sent me a relatively innocuous note asking for my approval of a communication due to be released tomorrow. The communication was specific to some recent economic news, and offered perspective and analysis from our head of research. It also happened to represent one piece of a larger, high-value global strategy that I’m charged with crafting and, ultimately, overseeing.
I could have very easily brought a mind full of worry to bear on this specific request… How does this particular communication fit into the global strategy? What is the global strategy, anyway, aside from “getting it done”? Isn’t it my job to come up with that? Wait, didn’t I sort of do that already? In any case, is what we’re saying here, in this thing staring back at me on the screen, accurate? Is it a message we should be sending to our people? This is going to go terribly wrong. They’re all going to laugh at me…
It’s not so hard to go there. And, if we do, what we often find is misguided advice, misunderstandings and, sometimes, hurt feelings. What’s been achieved?
This time, however, instead of entertaining any of that, I saw the email, and I paused. There was a need for my input. It was an important request, but it wasn’t the universe. I took a breath, and marked up the file with only a couple of minor comments. My colleague, knowing me as he does, said in surprise, “Just these? That’s it?!”
Yes, just those changes, that’s it.
I chose mindfulness, and I felt just fine.