How’s your performance these days?
Be that at work, at study, at play or the gym, performance isn’t a strict set of criteria that can be used to measure ourselves against others, despite the want and need of some people to do exactly that.
Instead, we prefer to think of performance as something that we can use to personally measure ourselves and use as a benchmark over time to measure how well, or unwell, we might be doing at whatever it is that we’re doing.
And this is key because of performance peaks and troughs. In fact, we need the troughs to have something to work towards, so we shouldn’t spend too much time, if any, berating ourselves for a dip in measurable performance.
What then, if we want to improve our performance? Sure, we can wing it, going from day to day with a vague plan of attack on how to get that promotion or pay rise, achieve that grade or boss it at that 10km. We’re not judging anyone who favours the suck it and see approach. But what if we want to know where we are, where we want to get to and how to get there?
Taking proactive steps to improve our performance is important for getting ahead in life. Particularly so, making the effort to quiet our minds, and be a bit more present, rather than allowing our mind to wander, fantasize and eventually become worn out.
And one of the best ways to do this? Mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
It’s perhaps better to answer with what mindfulness isn’t. Mindfulness isn’t sitting crossed legged on the top of a mountain, eyes closed with a mind emptied of all thoughts. Or rather, it doesn’t have to be. It can of course be exactly that, but that tends to be either the stock photo view of mindfulness (a bit like the ubiquitous laughing woman with salad) or real-life but for well-practised Buddhist monks.
Instead, for most of us, mindfulness means focusing our thoughts and awareness on the present moment, whilst “calmly acknowledging and accepting our feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations” as they happen.
It’s a moment of calm, in the middle of all the chaos.
One search online, in your app store or at a local book shop, and you’ll find numerous resources that will guide you through mindfulness and remind you that as each thought flows into your mind as you practice, you should acknowledge it and allow it to pass on.
Mindfulness has been proven to help manage conditions such as anxiety and panic disorder and, it turns out, can help improve our performance, both mentally and as a knock-on effect, physically…
How Mindfulness Helps to Improve Performance
Many of us go through our daily tasks whilst not paying attention. And as we all know, when we’re not paying attention, our brains go into robot mode which can lead to mistakes, frustration, poor productivity, miscommunication and the resulting anxiety.
This behaviour is unhelpful in many ways, least of all for productivity. But regular mindfulness practice can help us end this unproductive behaviour. Here’s how…
Mindfulness Allows for Focus
Do you know that feeling of overwhelm? When your mind swims because you’re going through your mental to-do list and it’s all a bit too much. Add in the ping of your inbox, the colleague standing at your desk asking questions and the kid’s homework project and it all becomes one big problem.
In the end, nothing gets done, despite your best intentions.
Regular mindfulness practise encourages us to focus on one task at a time, and that’s a winner for productivity. Because it’s far better to do one thing well, than multiple things at below-par levels of acceptance.
Mindfulness Helps us Decompress
Following on from multitasking that distracts from performance, burnout is also performance destroying. Mindfulness helps us better deal with stress helping to avoid fatigue and burnout.
Taking time out for a ten-minute practice at points during the day helps to reset the mind resulting in more clarity and less brain fog. And ultimately, this will lead to better performance at work or with your studies, leaving more room for better performance outside of these areas, such as exercise performance.
The science says so too, with numerous studies concluding that mindfulness can help to enhance performance and reduce burnout among athletes.
Mindfulness Encourages Thoughts of the Here and Now
Overwhelm doesn’t just contribute to mental fog. It can allow the mind to wander off into negative territories where we envisage negative things, and these become so big, we manifest them to be true.
Imposter syndrome, where we fear we’ll be ‘busted’ for being utterly useless in everything we do, also rears its unwelcome head.
Mindfulness discourages these thoughts from snowballing and becoming our perceived reality and gathers these wandering thoughts, allowing us to refocus on the present.
So if your performance is on your mind, then perhaps resetting your mind with mindfulness could be the solution you need.