Mindfulness Interviews - Part Three
Lucy Gower is a coach, consultant and author specializing in developing creative and innovative teams that get results.
Q What is your take/definition of mindfulness?
For me, mindfulness is about paying attention to, and living in the moment. And we are all different. You might meditate for hours, either on your own or in a class or group, you might simply take five minutes away from your desk to ‘think straight’, go for a walk or use a fit bit or an app. I think it is about finding the mindfulness activity that works for you, that you can practice regularly and make habitual and a tool to help you when needed.
Q: In what way do you think some of the myths around mindfulness might prevent organisations from engaging with it?
In my experience, when people hear mindfulness they often think it’s a bit woo woo - something for the spiritual elite. A thing you might do on a retreat where you don’t speak, eat only leaves plucked from live plants and sleep on straw mats.
This image of hippy mindfulness has been part replaced by a new stereotype of a fashionable pursuit for trendy rich people beside a tropical infinity pool in high fashion yoga pants and cropped tops showing off their latest cosmetic surgery.
It’s starting to change. Fitness apps and devices with aids to mindfulness built in are helping to bring the principles of mindfulness to the mainstream.
‘That’s great for Google, but that’s Google. We wouldn’t do that here’
Yet despite the popularity of mindfulness apps and the likes of Google and Walt Disney advocating mindfulness as having a key role in driving creativity and innovation, it’s not been enough (yet) to alter stereotypes and position mindfulness as a strategic business investment for the average individual or organisation.
Q: How might mindfulness benefit organisations?
Until recently mindfulness has not been connected to business skills or productivity.
We used to talk about ‘work life balance’, but that was before we were constantly connected via email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Whatsapp…… and the list goes on. Today I think we are more about ‘work life integration’. In a working life of being constantly ‘on’, just to keep sane we need to be able to relax and let go of things. If something is not working – e.g. your smartphone what’s the first thing you do? Switch it off and switch it on again. This in my opinion applies to human beings too. Mindfulness is your personal reset button.
Being able to relax and reset – even if it is just for a few minutes allows us to regroup, better manage the stress of everyday working life, (which has knock on effects on productivity, as stress often leads to poor health and time off sick) focus on the stuff that is important and develop better working relationships. This in turn results in a working culture with more opportunities for shared understanding, creativity and innovation. And this is good for organisations because all these things add up to deliver better results on the bottom line.
Q: You say in your book that part of innovation is about learning to solve problems and exploring creative solutions for those problems. How might mindfulness support innovation/creativity/problem solving?
Einstein said “Problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created them.”
I often ask people where they have their best ideas. Of the 1000’s of people I have asked only one person has said ‘at their desk’. People tell me they have their best ideas, or develop solutions to problems when they are in the shower, walking the dog, driving, cycling, running and on the toilet. The ideas come when we are relaxed or our brain is on autopilot doing something else and our subconscious continues to chip away at the problems of the day. We even do this in our sleep.
For me, being mindful is about achieving a different mindset, achieving a state of relaxation where ideas or problems can cogitate.
Steven Johnson in his book ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ describes creativity as the ability to put old ideas together in new ways. Innovation is often a slow hunch over time rather than an eureka moment. It’s evolution not revolution. Even the things that are cited as revolution - for example the iPod, changing the way we consume music with 10,000 songs in your pocket - didn’t just happen overnight.
Q: Inspiring others is an important part of the innovation process. How might mindfulness impact on the relationships we have with those around us – whether colleagues or customers?
Being mindful helps connect you to yourself, to tune into and help to understand what you are feeling, this in turn heightens your awareness of your connection to your environment and others.
Mindfulness can help us really focus on one thing at a time. It helps to quieten the everyday noise of trying to do too many things at once. Multi-tasking is a myth. Humans can’t do it. We can do lots of things at the same time, but none of them very well.
Being there in the moment and giving 100% attention and focus to your colleagues or customers and their needs, in my view can only serve to help develop solutions to problems and to strengthen those relationships.
Q Do you practice mindfulness?
For me, my mindful moments are when I am walking. I walk every morning for an hour when my schedule allows. I reflect on the day before, get myself into a relaxed mental space by focusing on my breathing and the pattern of my step on the ground. I focus on what I want to achieve in the day ahead. Sometimes I arrive home and am not quite sure how I got there because my mind was somewhere else.
If I can’t walk for an hour, I take a 5 minute walk at some point in the day. This works so well that when I run whole day workshops I include a walk on the agenda after lunch, to help people shrug off the post lunch carb slump but also to allow time for quiet reflection, with the hope that it’s a technique participants might incorporate into their everyday routine.
The nearest I get to meditation is scuba diving. Under the water (if the conditions are calm) is the most relaxing and beautiful place on earth. When you breathe in, you go up…. And when you breathe out you go down….. Fish swim past going about their business amongst the rock and coral eco systems and as I float above it I just relax and let go.
Mindfulness is different for everyone, it’s not reserved for hippies rediscovering themselves or for those wanting to show off this season’s latest yoga pants. It’s simply taking time out to re-connect to yourself and your environment and to let go. Try scuba diving, join a class, get an app – we’re all different but whatever mindfulness looks like for you, find yours because it will help you live in the moment and also get better results.
For more information and free resources to help your innovation and creativity go to www.lucidity.org.uk