As we are amazed by the potential power of AI and disconcerted by how it is going to change our lives, we tend to forget the far greater power of our own brains – supercomputers that can connect 100 trillion bits of information.
Maybe we’d be more aware of the power of our own brains and minds if they didn’t spend so much of their time on autopilot, only semi-aware of what we are actually thinking, feeling and sensing and of why we behave the way we do. While AI will change our lives unpredictably, at a more immediate level we have the power to change our lives for the better by engaging the full potential of our own minds.
Mindfulness is endlessly hyped as a way to switch out of autopilot but is not always taken seriously as a practice that professional people can use to improve their lives. 'Mind Time', a new book from Michael Chaskalson and Megan Reitz, helps to rectify this. Using mindfulness as its foundation it takes a convincing, sophisticated, deep-dive into the how our minds can be the key to unlocking better performance at work, better relationships, healthier and altogether more fulfilling lives.
The authors, both professors at Ashridge Executive Education, Hult International Business School, offer a series of exercises that build curiosity, self-awareness and acceptance, helping us become less reactive and more responsive, and leading to positive benefits in our relationships and our sense of positive purpose. These Mind Time exercises are based on a simple acronym AIM:
Allowing – an attitude of kindness and acceptance.
Inquiry – a curiosity about your present-moment experience.
Meta-awareness – the ability to observe your thoughts, feelings, sensations and impulses as they are happening – seeing them as temporary and not ‘facts’.
As the authors say “Allowing, Inquiry and Meta-awareness help you to gently shape your mind so that the world you experience is richer, warmer and full of exciting possibility.” After first explaining the concept and how to apply it, six individual chapters delve into the value of AIM, and the potential barriers to applying it, in the context of better relationships; happiness; effective work; better health; better work/life balance; and when times are tough.
The Mind Time exercises are based on the authors’ long experience working with executives, on insights from neuroscience – such as how we are all “wired for negativity” – and also crucially on their own research. Where, using several groups of participants on executive programs to monitor the effects of 10 minutes or more of mind time per day, they noted how it improved performance against measures such as resilience, collaboration, agility, empathy, perspective taking, and general mindfulness.
Working with professionals highlighted the barriers that get in the way. Busyness and the over-dominance of short term priorities were commonly cited as reasons participants slipped behind in their Mind Time practice – the very things that makes persevering with the practice important.
The plethora of self-help books in this area may have caused some scepticism. This practical book reminds us that if we want to change our lives, the most effective way to do so is to change the way our mind interprets and responds to everyday events and to our own thoughts and feelings. And the exercises it offers can help us take on this challenge of change.
Mind Time: How 10 Mindful Minutes Can Enhance Your Work, Health and Happiness; Michael Chaskalson and Megan Reitz; published by Harpercollins, May 2018, ISBN 978-0-00-825280-9