Mindfulness & resilience: what does it mean?
Mindful leadership, mindful corporate culture, resilience & mindfulness training, MBSR programs, resilience workshops for leaders and employees – you can hear the topics mindfulness and resilience (stands for: resistance) just everywhere. As a coach and business psychologist, I am also on the road with these topics in companies and see it as my sensible task to bring people closer to themselves in order to give them back an awareness and their own inner stability by strengthening their connection with themselves, which they may have lost or which they were never used to feeling out of themselves.
We are used to looking for answers in the outside world.
The mindfulness and resilience movement turns the perspective around: it should again be more about seeking answers from oneself – meaning more intuitively & independently creating one’s own private and professional life. A result of the answer in the external search is the current system of growth and constant goal achievement – we rush one goal after the other and let ourselves thereby be externally controlled and motivated from the outside. Psychologically nothing new, but a very clear behavioristic causal reaction: Stimulus from the outside leads to reaction and thus to a result. But aren’t we humans much more complex than stimulus-reactions?
The difficult thing is that we have been used to it for so many years and also have the goals of security and stability that make it easy for us to simply carry on like this. From many conversations with managers and leaders, my consulting and coaching clients, I know that at some point the achievement of goals only takes one millisecond and the moment is no longer enjoyed because the next goal wants already be achieved. This means that we are only “racing” from one goal to the next? But what for, if we can’t even enjoy the moment of goal achievement, breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate success?
“Racing” needs sense & direction, less goal achievement.
- When was the last time you were really proud of yourself?
- When was the last time you felt powerful and truly in your personal potential?
- When was the last time you knew why you were doing what you are doing and performing your current job and role?
Mindfulness is a method that can help us to be more conscious with ourselves – to get out of our “hamster wheel” for a moment and give us an honest moment with ourselves. Nowadays we decide a lot only with our head and our ratio. Through mindfulness methods we learn to reconnect with our whole body and thus to gain access to our intuition and implicit knowledge. Each of us knows this for sure, a moment in which our feelings give us a clear answer. Some people will call it gut feeling, science calls it intuition. “Intuition can be described as an unconscious formation of judgement, which quickly emerges into consciousness through a mental impulse or a body perception, but whose deeper reasons are not rationally comprehensible (Gigerenzer 2008).”
If we are under stress, i.e. if we race from goal to goal in our hamster wheel, we cannot feel our intuitive impulses, then instinctive impulses such as “fight-and-flight” reactions, e.g. quick results, suppression of needs or elbow mentality, usually take hold.
But, if we practice mindfulness and build in moments of rest into which we listen, then we find out what we really want to decide and what the next right step is – for ourselves and our environment. Then we are in authentic connection with ourselves, our very personal meaning and the values that are important to us and for which we want to stand up. To stand for one’s own sense and values is so much more motivating than a goal that we emulate.
Resilience is the result of a conscious approach to ourselves – even in stormy times.
If we regularly incorporate attentive moments into our private and professional lives and honestly reflect on them ourselves, then a personal development process begins. Then we get out of external control and start leading ourselves again. Little by little we manage to give ourselves answers, to trust in our own knowledge and thus gain more stability and trust in ourselves. Due to the increased self-confidence we can look less for answers outside, but start to find them intuitively within ourselves. These answers result in a clear, meaningful orientation and a strengthened personality. Let us now think of the metaphor of a storm. In what storm do you sometimes feel like? Think of all the challenges and tasks that come at you at the same time.
Especially when our stress level is particularly high, there is a high probability that we will fall out of our own power and balance.
But if we practice mindfulness exercises regularly and consciously reflect ourselves and our scenarios, then we gain more firmness and flexibility in our personality and thus resistance power, i.e. resilience, even for stressful, stormy times. This statement is scientifically proven by the results of various studies on the effects of mindfulness, e.g. Math Janssen et al. (2018), in their paper Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on employees’ mental health: A systematic review*, have compiled the clear result that the strongest results of the studies were seen in reduced emotional exhaustion (a dimension of burnout), stress, psychological stress, depression, anxiety and occupational stress. They also found a significant increase in mindfulness, personal performance (a dimension of burnout), (occupational) self empathy, sleep quality and relaxation.
Learning mindfulness & resilience – when effective & when not?
There are currently many training formats that teach mindfulness & resilience. The danger, which I see in many educational concepts, is the punctual training and the turning away from a personal development process. Because, as described above, one does not become directly attentive or resilient when taking a training session. Mindfulness is 1.) a process with many changes of perspective and reflection steps and 2.) a way to enhance self-awareness, to understand oneself better and to align oneself according to one’s own sense and purpose. This does not happen in training, but in personal development – be it in a process for yourself, as a manager in a team or also as a whole company which wants to live mindfulness as a value in the corporate culture.
Resilience is a result of this process with oneself, which through ups and downs leads to more resistance and trust in oneself.
As Laotse has already said: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”. Everything else emerges on the way itself…
* Source: Math Janssen et al. (2018). Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on employees’ mental health: A systematic review.