Mindfulness is a hot topic and it’s showing no signs of declining in popularity. Businesses worldwide are seeing the benefits that simple, mindfulness-based practices can have on their employees’ wellbeing, and the ways it can improve workplace culture. To discuss how business and individuals can benefit from mindfulness, we invited EU alumna Rosa Navarro to talk to students.
Rosa graduated from EU Business School with a BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) in 1993. She is the founder of Mindfulness Barcelona, a company that offers tailored mindfulness training to corporate clients. She is also a partner of “BforB Spain”, an international networking and referral marketing organization.
Creating Resonant Leaders
Rosa began her presentation by introducing the concept of the “resonant leader”. Resonance is the ability to synchronize with others. Consequently, a resonant leader is an individual that leverages emotional intelligence to help direct a group of people towards a set of goals through inspiration and positive feelings.
The first trait that resonant leaders require, according to Rosa, is awareness of their feelings, which is also called meta-awareness in neuroscience. The second, which follows from and is supported by the first, is awareness of others’ feelings.
Meta-Awareness and Mindfulness
To illustrate how mindfulness can help cultivate both these skills, Rosa suggested an exercise. She told the attendees to think about a song they know and like very well and run it through their minds for fifteen seconds. She then said that she would pick three people from the group to sing it out loud.
As you can probably imagine, there was some panic among the audience. Rosa quickly said that she was only joking. She was using this exercise to illustrate how mindfulness works. She described how meta-awareness refers to the ability to be aware of three aspects of experience: thoughts, emotions and physical sensations.
She asked attendees to identify how they reacted. She told them to pay attention to three specific areas: thought, emotion and physical sensation. In the vast majority of cases, Rosa explained, people would not be able to accurately recount how they felt or what physical sensations they experienced.
The ability to recognize these three facets of experience is fundamental to the skill of resonant leadership. Recognition allows leaders to understand how they are relating to a situation on a personal level. And when they do this, they gain fuller autonomy over their reactions and can create strategies that aren’t colored by personal biases.
Attentional Stability and Mental Calm
Rosa went on to talk about two more key skills that resonant leaders require, both of which are developed through the continuous practice of mindfulness. Attentional stability, more crudely defined as concentration, is the ability to focus consistently. It is essential for meta-awareness because it makes it possible to maintain steady awareness of thoughts, feelings and physical sensations for extended periods of time.
Mental calm is equally important. Rosa used the analogy of the monkey mind, which jumps between various stimuli in a scattered way. Without a calm mind, attentional stability is virtually impossible to achieve. If you have ever struggled to manage multiple tasks and felt that your mind is overloaded with information, you have likely experienced this phenomenon.
Understanding the Survival Mindset
It is common for people to operate from a survival mindset. In stressful situations, the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for the fight-flight-freeze response, hijacks the nervous system and triggers a reaction that is disproportionate to the environmental stimuli that caused it.
At times of real danger, this survival mindset is essential. But when it is the base-line – the everyday operating mode – it creates problems, particularly when dealing with other people and developing effective strategies. It is not uncommon in the corporate world for people to function from a low-level survival mindset all the time.
Rosa pivoted from her explanation of the survival mindset to talk about one of its most common negative effects – the inability to listen properly. The capacity to actively listen, that is, to listen with full attention, is an essential skill for resonant leaders.
With a full mind, one that is operating in survival mode and unaware of how thoughts, emotions and sensations are shaping the way it interprets a situation, active listening becomes incredibly difficult.
Creating a Foundation for Strategic Thinking
You may be wondering how mindfulness, and the skills of attentional stability, mental calm and active listening, relate to strategic thinking. After covering the points outlined above, Rosa moved onto the topic of divergent thinking.
Mindfulness enables leaders to see which mental models and patterns they are applying to their work. When they do this, they are in a much better position to challenge assumptions and think in a more creative, free-flowing – or divergent – way.
Rosa quoted Steve Jobs, who had a very similar philosophy: “If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things–that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before.”
Rosa finished by talking about the all-important issue of resilience. Resilience is the ability to deal with setbacks and obstacles in a healthy and productive way.
Because mindfulness creates mental space around negative thoughts and reactions, particularly those triggered by adverse situations, it has the capacity to boost resilience.
Mindfulness makes it possible to adopt different perspectives about a situation and formulate creative ways to deal with it. This simply isn’t possible when operating from a survival mindset.
Pursue Your Business Vision at EU Business School
The corporate space is often defined primarily by competition and chronic busyness. However, if you feel inspired by Rosa Navarro’s mindfulness-based approach, then a career in business could be for you. Perhaps you see yourself working for a mission-driven company? Or at the head of your own startup?
A degree from EU Business School will provide you with all the skills and practical experience you need to thrive in your chosen field, along with access to some of the world’s leading business thinkers.
We offer a wide range of options, including Bachelor’s, Master’s and MBA programs. We also have campuses located in the leading European business hubs of Barcelona, Geneva, Montreux and Munich, as well as online.