Stressful meetings, negotiations and complex projects fracture the perspective of many job candidates and executives. If nerves are draining your confidence, there are strategies you can use to succeed.
The impact of acute or chronic stress on the human body is well-documented. While rapid release of cortisol and adrenaline may save your life in an emergency, the continued release of these stress hormones may damage your health—and career opportunities.
Enter the monkey-mind
The monkey-mind is a centuries-old Eastern concept. The term loosely refers to the endlessly chattering, curious, distracting and sometimes fearful self-talk experienced by most humans at some point in life.
In 2012, author Daniel Smith published a memoir entitled, Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety. The book explores the concerns faced by millions of Americans who suffer depression and anxiety disorders.
Simply put, the monkey-mind is a state of distraction, of living in the past, or a future task—anywhere but the present, thoughtful moment. It is a mind too full to be itself.
Why does it matter?
While being mindless seems a negative term, it is a good descriptor for the way most of us live. Rise to work, go from task to task, make phone calls, take meetings—a daily swing through the trees until the next day dawns. It is the automatic living of life until we are stymied by a job loss or other personal emergency. Then what?
Mindfulness is the process of fully cultivating a moment by remaining in the present. In recent years, movements espousing mindful living, like the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, made significant cultural and corporate inroads. Meditation practices and techniques are an important cornerstone of mindful living.
Some of the benefits of mindfulness include:
• Mindfulness practices impact wellness by reducing stress. Results can include lowered blood pressure, management of pain and heart disease, and reduction in gastrointestinal discomfort.
• Working with mindfulness techniques may reduce tendencies toward alcohol or drug abuse, improve the ability to deal with relationship conflict on or off the job, and improve your general quality of life.
• Executives, professionals and others report that mindfulness helps them increase focus, improve memory, reduce distraction, boost creative problem solving, manage complex work pressures and reduce self-imposed career limitations.
How can you incorporate mindfulness into your job search?
Training your mind, to free your mind, allows you to be fully present in the interview chair or other important events in your day and life. While there are apps to help with mindfulness and meditation practices, they can only support the effort you are already making.
Harvard professor of psychology Ellen Langer states, “At the very highest levels of any field—Fortune 50 CEOs, the most impressive artists and musicians, the top athletes, the best teachers and mechanics—you’ll find mindful people, because that’s the only way to get there.”
Consider these points to help yourself cultivate mindfulness:
• Breathe: There are many practices that center on breathwork as a calming method. Investigate and choose one that allows you to use your breath silently and responsively in the face of emotional, physical or interview stress.
• Meditation: Most mindfulness practices incorporate meditation techniques. Experiment and decide what works for you.
• Witness: Mindfulness involves observing sensations, ideas and emotions that arise in your mind and body. Watch, witness and let these qualities go. Repeatedly identifying troubling thought patterns, emotions, and physical feelings allows you to exist outside the grasp of the monkey mind.
• Avoid polarizing your life: Try to move away from black and white thinking. During a job search, curiosity is your help mate. Consider events from multiple perspectives to broaden and invigorate your job search and opportunities. Do not condemn yourself for mistakes you make. Remarks Ms. Langer, “When you’re mindful, mistakes become friends.”
• Be present: Mindfulness means sinking into experience. When you approach an interview mindfully, active listening allows you to fully engage with the interviewer, freeing you from the obvious anxiety of the moment. Author, poet and peace activist Thích Nhất Hạnh notes, “Machine thinking is the opposite of mindfulness.”
• Move beyond balance: By itself, striving for balance creates categories. Mindfulness flows, accepts, notices, and moves forward, allowing you to incorporate, rather than parse. A non-judgmental attitude is essential to accepting and exploiting what could otherwise be perceived as shortcomings in your life and the lives of others.
Mindfulness is tough to register on a resume, yet it resonates in a handshake, an agreement, or a tough decision. The monkey mind leaves you wondering why you said what you did in an interview. It threads its way through your workday, chewing at your confidence and your corporate persona. Practicing mindfulness can help you bring your most important asset to the table during a job interview—you.
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