High-performing organizations invite people to bring their “whole selves” to work. That means all their passion, personality, joy, excitement and creativity. It also means their grief and fears. These “dark” emotions are as much a part of life as happiness is. We all lose loved ones. Marriages end. We battle serious illnesses. We worry about our children and our ability to support them. Sometimes we lose hope that things will get better. Some people respond by bottling and burying their sadness and fear, especially at work. That’s what John Wayne would do, right? It feels productive, but over time these trapped feelings can lead to anxiety, depression and disease.
Mindfulness has been getting a lot of people’s attention lately. That’s good, because mindfulness is about paying attention. It’s the intentional practice of living in the present, aware of what is happening around you and inside you. Focusing on being alert sounds easy—like drinking a cup of coffee—but it’s not. Studies show people spend almost half their time doing one thing while thinking about something else. Typically we obsess about events long past or problems that have not happened yet.
Your brain loves to make life easy. So it hard-wires your frequent actions and thoughts into habits. That saves you time when performing everyday routines. But it makes it difficult to replace habits you know aren’t helpful, like overreacting in certain situations or fighting every change.
“Stop and smell the roses” is more than a good reminder. It’s good science. Our brains use more neurons to detect negative experiences than positive, and install them into long-term memory much more quickly. The reason? Evolution. In an interview with The Atlantic, Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist, explains it was vital for early humans to learn from dangers such as predators or storms. You could go a few days without a positive event like finding food or mating, he says, but if you did not avoid the predator, you died today. Over thousands of years, that “negativity bias” was hard-wired into our genes.
Some FISH! Phil-osophy thoughts from our own Phil Strand, co-author of FISH! Tales and Schools of FISH!: In the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and his friend Sallah open a tomb containing the Ark. Peering into the darkness, Jones throws a torch into the tomb, revealing thousands of poisonous snakes. Jones and [...]