Lately, there has been quite a bit of controversy about the use of mindfulness training in the corporate world. Are mindfulness programs just a way of making workers more stress-tolerant and thus more easily exploited? This is a question I discuss with the authors of the new book, The Mindfulness Edge, in the audio below.
To give you the quick answer, if your goal is to exploit workers, having a mindfulness program is probably a poor investment. Mindfulness encourages people to consider how their work reflects to their values. This often leads them to change jobs if it doesn’t.
The book’s co-author, Tim Gard, is a neuroscientist who I became friendly with while I was doing research for my book, Secular Meditation. The book’s first author, Matt Tenney, has experience working with businesses and universities in leadership development.
As comes out in the discussion, the author’s emphasis is not on mindfulness for stress reduction but on the use of mindfulness for making better decisions. The idea is to use mindfulness to get out of habitual and stereotyped thinking in order to come us with fresh ideas to transform the organization. Although the emphasis in the book is on business, the lessons apply just as much to leadership of non-profit organizations.
Interestingly, Matt reveals in the book that he first became interested in mindfulness while serving a five-year term in military prison. He writes:
About six months after beginning mindfulness training, I noticed something that took me by surprise. I was standing and waiting in a yard at the consolidated brig in Miramar, California. I was looking at a drop of dew on a blade of grass. The sun reflected through the dew drop in such a way that was absolutely brilliant. I was filled with joy.
A few moments later, it dawned on me that I was experiencing happiness like that almost all the time. I realized that I was more generally happy right there in military prison, with nothing, than I had ever been in my life.
The ability to make a mental shift to love life even in challenging circumstances is one of the great contributions that mindfulness can make. Fortunately, it does not require believing in myths. It does require training and practice, and I hope that mindfulness training will be increasingly available not just to an elite but by everyone.