Mindfulness and Motivation

Mindfulness and Motivation

Recently, I’ve become somewhat of a mindfulness junky; I’m telling you this so you understand my biases and can adjust your interpretation of this blog accordingly. Mindfulness has become a bit of a hot topic, with large companies including Google and LinkedIn teaching mindfulness techniques to their employees. A New York Times opinion piece warned against this practice, stating that mindfulness is bad for motivation. Another opinion piece on Psychology Today discussed what the author thought were methodological flaws in the study the NYT article was based on. While I’m not a scientist, I thought I’d give my take on the benefits of mindfulness to motivation.

Mindfulness is, in the simplest terms, being aware of the present moment. Most of us have a constant buzzing in our minds, about things we’ve done or need to do; mindfulness seeks to quiet that buzzing by focusing on immediate sensations, like the feeling of your breath entering and exiting your body. There’s a ton of studies showing that mindfulness reduces stress, increases your sense of well-being, and even improves overall health. It is funny, though, to think it would increase motivation; after all, mindfulness is about being present, and motivation makes us want to do things now for the future. How can the two be compatible?

The answer lies in awareness. When you are in a state of mindfulness, you can experience emotions without judging them, and more importantly, without judging yourself. This allows you to register discomfort, and, over time, you can determine what the source of that discomfort is. When the same negative thoughts or emotions keep coming up during your mindfulness practice, it’s a sign that you need a change. Discomfort leading to change is what motivation is all about, and what’s better, it’s the kind of motivation that’s the most powerful. Intrinsic motivation, where you want to make a change because it’s best for you, is much more motivating than doing something because you expect a reward. Mindfulness can help you pinpoint what’s best for you.

That’s what it did for me, anyway. Before mindfulness, if something was bothering me, I’d just push it aside; I had to focus on making ends meet, and that meant not feeling through my negative emotions. After I started practicing mindfulness, I realized the nagging feeling I’d been shoving away was one of non-fulfillment; I had to make a change. I did, and went from doing customer service related drudgery to writing professionally, and I couldn’t be happier about my choice. It can work for you, too.

At Talent Bureau, we have motivational speakers who will inspire the people in your organization to take action. You might not think that has a lot to do with mindfulness, but in many ways it does; when a speaker is telling an amazing story, it can have a magical effect; you become entranced, fully engrossed in the narrative. This full-on feeling of another’s experience is kind of like mindfulness; you feel the emotions fully, and those that resonate compel you to take action. Breathe in, breathe out, and step forward.