I had a meeting with a client several mornings ago. They operate an office in a building that houses over a hundred diverse departments, all representing the same organization.
In the 5-10 minutes it took me to get from my car to my destination, I was astounded at the number of people who were seemingly unaware of their simple actions, and the subsequent discomfort their thought-to-be-trivial behaviour was causing others.
- The gentleman outside the building door who blew his cigarette smoke in my face.
- The woman who did not say ‘thank you’ when a maintenance women held the door for her.
- The woman in the hallway just outside the daycare using profanity as she bellowed into her cell phone, clearly agitated with her cable service provider.
- The gaggle of giggling office gossips who didn’t have the patience to wait for a man to exit the elevator first, before they got on.
Now, none of these instances were intentional inflictions. There was no evil prime directive to have smoke blown in my face or to thwart our elevator “exiter”. While drawing a line to the assumption may not be far off, these ill-fated actions do not necessarily reflect and mirror their perspective on work ethic. Each of these people could be impeccable employees, lovely people who support any number of reasons as to why they behave the way they do.
However, as I have mentioned before, sometimes good intentions just don’t cut it. Just because we may consider ourselves to be kind and respectful, doesn’t mean we are aware of the impact of our behavior. Thoughtless actions have consequences that are longer lasting than we might assume. These consequences I believe can spark negativity that can alter the emotional well-being of any workplace.
This actually reminds me of a science experiment:
- Take a glass of water and place 25 drops of onion juice into the glass.
- Then fill a second glass of water and take 5 drops of water from the original glass and add them to the second.
- Continue this pattern of reduction until you have reached a glass of water with drops from the previous that no longer taste of onion.
When we aren’t mindful, in life or at work, we have the potential of being that drop of onion water in someone else’s day.
I am a life student of mindfulness. The mere definition leaves me excited to feel alive and has offered me a daily personal focus to navigate through my days.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, mindfulness is:
- The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something
- A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations; used as a therapeutic technique.
The more we guide ourselves to a more mindful way of working and living, the more we eliminate situations of negative emotional distraction. Or when those potential distractions present themselves, having a mindful disposition may allow for a broader scope in understanding the problem and offer ease in dismantling it.
Mindfulness can also be considered the real first step into understanding diversity. By being aware of one another’s identity, we are already building the bridge from diversity to inclusion.
All of us, in and out of the workplace, can gain from focusing a bit more on our mindfulness skills.
Our lives, in a grand scheme of things, are very short. I believe by taking the time to think outside our own boxes we free up room in our brains, our hearts, our souls, even just our daily schedules, to take more time to think of others. By offering a positive impact – even on a stranger’s day – you very well may have just changed the world for the better and not even known it.
“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh