Last week we wrote about mindfulness in the workplace. This week I want to look at mindfulness in one specific workplace – our own. Setting up a business is difficult and can be all-consuming. This can make it very difficult to put into practice everything that we advocate to others. More than half of small businesses fail within the first five years so we need to be constantly aware and alert to possible dangers and opportunities. This can be sometimes difficult to approach in a mindful way.

Being present:
Mindfulness teaches us to become aware of our experience in the present moment, rather than dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. However, this is not entirely possible when running a business. We must learn lessons from the past and plan for the future.

Being mindful doesn’t mean that we need to be constantly living in the moment, ignoring the past or future. What it does mean is that we make a conscious choice about what and when to think about and reflect upon.

I often describe this as holding things loosely. This means making a plan without being too rigid – it means knowing that all plans are provisional and being flexible to changes beyond our control.
We can also be mindful of the present as we are mindful of the future. For example, we might notice physical sensations in the body in the present moment as we reflect on our plans for the future. There is a big difference between consciously, mindfully reflecting and anxiously, mindlessly ruminating. We need to be able to differentiate between the two.

Reflecting on the past can be an important strategy in business for learning what works and what doesn’t. However, it is also important to recognise when this is a fruitful reflection and when it becomes stuck. And this requires being present.

Mindfulness teaches us to observe our experience without judgement. However, decision-making is all about making judgements. The difficulty comes in learning to make ‘non-judgemental judgements’. This is particularly important when things go wrong. Perhaps we receive negative feedback, Making a non-judgemental judgement means being able to say ‘that was bad’ rather than ‘I am bad.’ It means not over-identifying with success or failure. It also means distinguishing between a good decision and a good outcome. Over the last year we have had setbacks and successes and it can be all too easy to be carried away with either of these. Instead, it is important to try and stay grounded and remind ourselves of why we are doing this in the first place.

Time management:
On numerous occasions, people who are close to me have asked me why I don’t practice what i preach. I tell people about the importance of taking time out, taking breaks and doing activities that are nourishing. Yet I often find myself leaving the office after a 12 hour day, and working a seven day week! Does that make me a hypocrite? Possibly. Or maybe it makes me human. At present, my mindfulness practice is about knowing my own tendencies and working with them. Sometimes this means recognising that I need to stop working and go to the gym, sometimes it means stopping for a ten minute meditation rather than continuing to stare at a computer screen. Sometimes it means asking a colleague to take over and lead a class on my behalf so that I can be a participant. Sometimes it means realising how lucky I am to have colleagues who can step in when I need them!

Relationships with colleagues:
In 2015 I began regularly working with colleagues for the first time. This was a massive change and has involved a lot of letting go. However, having people around me who share my vision and values can be a huge privilege. Where we can, we meditate together. The aim is that we will do this every morning before we begin our working day. It doesn’t always happen!

Other people can be a great source of joy and a source of stress. It involves communication and mis-communication. When there is a lot of work to do or during times of change, it is easy to get irritated with one another. Fortunately one thing that Mindful Therapies does really well is talk. No matter how fraught things get, we are always able to talk through any mis-understandings and move on, stronger and more connected than ever.

Start from where you are:
I have been teaching mindfulness for eight years and I have been practicing meditation regularly for nearly ten years. People often assume that this means that I don’t get stressed or angry! People who know me well know that this is far from the truth! It can be easy to become self critical. What kind of mindfulness trainer can I be if I am getting stressed when the printer doesn’t work? Then I remember – I am human! We all get stressed from time to time and this is normal. The key is to observe my responses with self-kindness and self-compassion.

This blog is just a reflection of my own experience, which constantly changes. And we all respond differently to the challenges that we face. I still feel like a bit of a novice in both mindfulness and business – and I think I always will be. And that is probably a good thing!