Following 20 years of obsessive doing in advertising with 10 years of obsessive being as a yoga and mindfulness coach I now work on the synthesis of being and doing.
Along with a clear sense of purpose and direction this provides the foundation for what I like to call Welldoing.
Kant said ‘to do is to be’, Nietszche said ‘to be is to do’ or was it the other way round? Does it matter?
A common phrase with yoga teachers is ‘we are human beings not human doings’ and with social activists ‘we are what we do’. I have observed an enduring battle between these two distinct and stubborn tribes that I refer to as the Beings and the Doers. The Beings believe is the power of stillness and presence, the Doers want to create and build.
We also find this in the modern organisation where the overwhelming stress of doing work is placated with well-being ‘strategies’ of making it all better with massage vouchers and apples in meeting rooms. This lack of integrated thinking can also be seen in the organisational tension between profit-driven goals and purpose-driven values. Purpose-driven companies are often more profitable than profit-driven companies.
"Companies devoted to a larger purpose than just maximizing profits for its shareholders – companies like Whole Foods, JetBlue and Southwest Airlines outperformed S&P 500 firms by a ratio of 9:1." Dr Dina Evan
‘Soft skills’ more often than not produce ‘hard results’. Interestingly we find the same impact ratio from London School of Economics:
“The return on investment of investing in a work-based health promotion and well-being programme can be 9 to 1 through reduced absenteeism and presenteeism (lost productivity while at work)."
The best doing comes from being well. There’s growing evidence that this is true. The website ActionforHappiness.org states:
Most people think that if they become successful, then they’ll be happy. But recent discoveries in psychology and neuroscience show that this formula is backward: happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we’re positive, our brains are more motivated, engaged, creative, energetic, resilient, and productive.
(Source: S. Lyubomirsky, Psychological Bulletin)
In many organisations employee well-being may be the biggest untapped source of performance and competitive advantage.
My personal epiphany came when I read that the goal of ‘Getting Things Done’, David Allen’s masterpiece on the art of stress-free productivity was ‘to have a mind like water’ – something more often found in a book on yoga, mindfulness and being. Does inner stillness have a place in being creative, productive and successful? I think so. And there is neurological evidence of why it does.
When we are stressed our brain switches off the pre-frontal cortex which helps us make good decisions. The inner clarity that comes from reduced stress, better organisation and improved well-being means you can think better by giving you more access to the pre-frontal cortex.
By cultivating mindfulness through breathing, clarity through organisation and direction through a sense of purpose we can all flourish at work and at home.
Imagine the successful organisation of the future with a clear sense of higher purpose delivered effectively, and highly profitably, by a team of motivated and happy workers. Now who wouldn’t want that.
There’s no need to be embarrassed about mindfulness and meditation. At a recent corporate event in Belgium, more participants signed up to mindfulness training than to all the other health and fitness sessions combined. The promise of a quiet mind is an increasingly attractive one in our distracted lives. So why not lobby for mindfulness training at your organisation today? You may be surprised by how many people sign up!
(This post first appeared on HowToMakeADifference.co.uk)