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 The Lift Effect takes executives on a ride of a lifetime, using a network of people, experiences and processes to lift leadership performance. 

- Clare Goodman

The Lift Effect Blog

Mindfulness; connecting to your senses

”The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character and will. No one is compos sui if he have it not” William James.

Mindfulness has been linked with Buddhism and other religions and yet in recent years science has combined with religion to explore why mindfulness and meditation works. This has been driven by many including the Dalai Lama, who has a fascinating with looking at the science behind the tenets of Buddhism. He has held a number of conferences with hard core Neuroscientists to discuss the connections. Practicing Buddhists have also been asked to be used as guinea pigs by scientists, inviting them to be involved in mainstream experiments using fMRI scanners. The most notable practicing Buddhist was Mathieu Ricard who was involved with many experiments with Richard Davidson. What they discovered was that the practicing Buddhists were able to a) switch their minds from one state to another quickly and b) had a greater capacity for compassion.

“The Dalai Lama has noted that the most powerful influences on the mind come from within our own mind. The findings that, in highly experienced meditators, there is greater activity in the left PFC, therefore happiness is something we can cultivate deliberately through mental training that affects the brain”  The Plastic Mind by Sharon Begley.

What scientists and Buddhists do agree is that your mind can be trained to cultivate more positive emotions.

Default vs Direct Network

What we do know is that there is a default network that we go into when we day dream. We go into the default when we allow our mind to wander. Scientists agree that it is our default so when we give our mind a rest and break from focus on work we will unconsciously go into the default state. It can also be called the narrative or rumination, it can be a useful state to ponder over things that have happened and embed memories and make connections. A recent lecture by Assistant Professor Golnaz Tabibnia from Carnegie Mellon University in the USA states that the default network includes;

  • Thinking about self (medial PFC)
  • Thinking about others thoughts (Dorsal medial PFC)
  • Thinking about others actions (Lateral temporal lobe)

So when you slip into default and start thinking about yourself and start to wonder about what others may be thinking about you, it is quite normal. However it can have a downside. For many of us our rumination leads to catastrophising or a downward spiral. The rumination may start with reliving something that someone said yesterday and then that may trigger another memory which could lead to a threat response.

The direct experience network is when we are aware of our bodily sensations, so our attention is on our senses. When we activate our direct network, we shut off the default network and vice versa. David Rock in his book Your Brain at Work writes:

“When the direct experience network is active several different brain regions become more active. This includes the insula, a region that relates to perceiving bodily sensations. Also activated is the anterior cingulated cortex, a region central the detecting errors and switching your attention. When this direct experience network is activated, you are not thinking intently about the past or the future, other people, or yourself. Rather you are experiencing information that comes to your senses in real time.”

So when the direct experience network is turned on the default quiets down. So if you are walking to a meeting and ruminating that the meeting is going to be bad and you feel yourself getting more stressed then switching to the direct network and feeling the sun on your face, or become aware of your feet on the floor or just breathing can prevent the increasing limbic response and keep you cool under pressure.

Leaders who regularly meditate and practiced mindfulness found that they were;

  • Better control over the default circuit.
  • Better able to regulate emotions
  • Become more aware of their unconscious processes
  • Able to change their attention
  • Improve self control or willpower
  • Have greater cognitive control
  • Reduces stress – including lowers allostatic load (prolonged stress)
  • Increase cortical thickness
  • Benefits higher order cognitive functioning – including working memory and ability to process information.

Mindfulness is becoming more accepted as a ‘power app’ for leaders, a great antidote to our fast moving, complex work lives. Mindfulness is a great way to take care of your mind, to value it and to make sure that it is in good working order when you need it. Most of us are unfortunately not employed for our good looks, but we are employed for our minds. Yet like a neglectful tradie we mistreat our greatest tool, like leaving a valuable saw out in the rain, and yet still expect it to work magnificently when we call upon it.

For those interested there are a number of courses that can help you take the first step into developing mindfulness in your worklife. Contact me on info@lifteffect.com.au for more details.

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Inner vs outer scorecard – which is your dominant approach?

Warren Buffet first coined the concept and asked the question….
“If the world couldn’t see your results, would you rather be thought of as the world’s greatest investor but in reality have the world’s worst record? Or be thought of as the world’s worst investor when you were actually the best?”

It’s an interesting question – for those who respond more to the latter statement, then Buffet would say you are more inner scorecard driven, you have the courage of your convictions to run your own race, measure yourself against your personal best and not get caught up with how others see you. And yet for many of us, the need to be seen by others as being successful drives decisions both at work and at home.

This notion was further expanded by Professor Hitendra of the Personal Leadership Institute, Colombia Business School, New York. His view was that although most great leaders were inner scorecard oriented, there are costs and benefits of being both inner scorecard focused and outer, and perhaps as leaders we should strive to optimise the scorecard.

Advantages of Inner Scorecard;

  • More control over your happiness, as you are not reliant on others
  • Self contained, self belief, self trust
  • Allows you to take a contrarian stand
  • Visionary

Disadvantages of Inner Scorecard;

  • Lonely – standing alone
  • Blind to your own faults
  • Not engaging others to come with you on the journey
  • Lower capacity to empathise to with others

Advantages of Outer Scorecard;

  • More people want to work with you – engaging with others
  • Sense others needs
  • Able to receive feedback and grow
  • Can gain satisfaction from others achieving

Disadvantages of Outer Scorecard;

  • Worried about what people may think
  • Limiting your success by looking for approval from others
  • Not making hard, unpopular but necessary decisions

As leaders, blending the benefits of both, whilst eliminating the costs would optimise your scorecard. So what does your scorecard look like? What would you change about your leadership?

 

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