Anybody want to talk about the elephant in the office mindfulness training room?
You saw the media headlines, you learnt about the research that shows that when your employees practice mindfulness, productivity increases, and healthcare costs decrease, and you watched as the big dogs (Google, Apple, Nike, LinkedIn, Aetna) invested in mindfulness training for employees.
So you took the plunge and adopted your own mindfulness training program.
That’s the good stuff.
Here’s the problem no one really talks about:
How many of your employees share the opinion of Wharton Professor, Organizational Psychologist, and Best Selling Author, Adam Grant, on generic mindfulness practice?
“I just find it dreadfully boring.”
Well, that’s understandable.
Practicing an inherently boring activity without expectation or complaint, works well for those seeking a spiritual discipline.
But it doesn’t work as well for your employees, and it’s not even necessary for them to suffer through boring practices.
And while research shows that the successful and sustained use of even a generic boring form of mindfulness practice reduces stress (Hanley 2014), it does not comment on how it may also reduce participation!
After all, there are many more pleasant ways your employees can choose to destress: taking a long shower, listening to great music, hanging out with good friends…
Why would they choose to torture themselves by spending the longest few minutes they have ever experienced, watching their breath come in and out?
To be more productive at work? I don’t think so.
And that is a huge challenge for you if you want your people to buy into mindfulness practice and remain engaged in it.
So what’s the solution?
How do you build a mindfulness development program that will attract and sustain more participants?
(1) Change the goal.
Start with the “Why?” as author, motivational speaker, and organizational consultant Simon Sinek says.
“Stress reduction” is not the goal to inspire them to action.
And it is the goal that is the fuel to get this “rocket” (mindfulness practice) launched. If the quality of your fuel is poor, you’re not going to get very far.
So replace the uninspiring abstract goal of “stress reduction” with a tangible one that your employees will find exciting, highly desirable, and emotionally fulfilling.
Transform mindfulness training from being simply another wellness item tacked onto their benefits package into a vehicle that will empower them to achieve what is really important to them.
And what’s that?
Well, take off your manager’s hat for a minute.
Let me ask you this:
What would living your Best Possible Life look like if you knew you could count on having the guidance and resources you needed to make that real?
[I’ll pause here for you to just think about that for a moment or two.]
[Did you do it? Well, maybe later, after all, we’re only talking about how you can live your BEST POSSIBLE LIFE!]
If you use mindfulness, in the right way, you can access all the resources you need.
If you want to bring your A game to living your most value fulfilling version of your life, research shows that at the level of your nonconscious mind, you have tremendous untapped resources available to you. (Wilson 2007) (Gallivan 2017) (Fiebelkorn 2018)
What’s the one thing between you and having full access to those resources?
Just the way your brain got wired. (Leahy 2006) (Haynes 2008) (Cavioppo 2014)
To paraphrase best selling author, corporate performance coach, founder of The Inner Game, Tim Gallwey:
Your best possible outcome = Your nonconscious resources - Your brain’s interference.
So, if you could offer your employees a simple, yet powerful and effective way to overcome the one thing between them and living their personal vision of their Best Possible Life…would that make them more likely to buy into mindfulness practice?
(2) Change the practice.
When an employee tells you that mindfulness doesn’t work for them, they’re confusing the cognitive skill of “mindfulness” with the strategy (“mindfulness practice”) for developing that skill.
Mindfulness is an incredibly powerful cognitive skill to have.
When you use mindfulness, whatever is good increases, and whatever is bad decreases.
Mindfulness works for everyone.
The generic form of mindfulness practice that is most commonly taught…
That’s what’s not working for them.
It fails your employees in two ways:
(1) It’s boring.
(2) It misleads them into thinking that unless they can focus without distraction, they are failing.
And those are two good reasons to change the practice.
The practice is only boring because it is disconnected from what matters to your employee.
When you reconnect it to their goal, you add value to it.
Now don’t get nervous at the thought that you are tampering with a laboratory approved form of mindfulness practice.
There is no one form. That’s another misconception.
In the over 3000 (Ospina 2009) studies on the benefits of mindfulness practice, researchers studied participants who practiced many different forms: zazen, vipassana, pranayama, samatha, raja yoga, metta, mantra, and the generic secular form most often used.
What each of these forms had in common were three elements:
(1) You focus your attention upon One Thing.
(2) When your attention wanders, you bring it back to your One Thing.
(3) You do all this without resistance.
And you do need all three elements.
The first two without the third will just improve your concentration.
The third element (do all this without resistance) is what research suggests is absolutely essential to stress reduction. (Lindsay 2017)
Together they develop “mindfulness” which is paying attention, on purpose, without resistance.
And it is mindfulness, not any specific practice, which, depending upon how you focus it, gives you a wide range of benefits.
So, as long as your mindfulness practice includes the three essential elements, you can connect it to what is most important to your employees, and that will increase engagement.
That is a rocket ship that they will be excited to ride!
There’s one more part to a winning mindfulness development program.
If your employees have their own personal and powerful reasons (living their Best Possible Life) for developing mindfulness…
You’ve got the FUEL.
If they have a practice that is directly connected to their goal…
You’ve got the ROCKET.
Now you need to help them sustain their practice.
You need MAINTENANCE, which includes retooling and refueling the rocket once it has been launched.
Research shows us that your employees’ best shot at successfully sustaining their mindfulness practice is by associating with others doing the same thing. (Link 2018)
And we’ve learnt that people who succeed in making life change (like integrating a mindfulness practice into their daily life) do so because they are in a supportive community. (Heatherton 1994)
This is partially thought to be because they see others being successful and it convinces them that they can do the same.
It also provides them with a place to talk about their own progress and the “Progress Principle” motivates them to continue.
“Of all the things that can boost inner work life, the most important is making progress in meaningful work.” (Amabile 2011)
While it is good to have a place in the office where people can do their practice, and an office culture that supports that practice, and while evening or weekly get togethers are great, you have a far more powerful tool in your hand.
Instant access, anywhere, anytime, to resources, support, and coaching on their smart phones.
I’m not just talking about a mindfulness practice app (although that is one component), or a data bank of lectures and articles.
You need an online community where they can connect live, in real time, with like-minded people.
The community is where your employees learn how to navigate, maintain, and refuel their rocket.
In an interactive online coaching community they learn how to integrate mindfulness into their everyday life, which is the end goal for you as a corporation, because ultimately, practicing mindfulness, not mindfulness practice, is what increases your employees engagement and productivity.
And that’s how you build a mindfulness development program to reverse the failure to launch.
And that’s what I’m doing with B-Sync Mindfulness, B-Sync Nation Online Coaching Community, and the B-Sync Mindfulness Launchpad Workshop.
Peter M Fellows is the founder of B-Sync Mindfulness. Connect on LinkedIn.