I went to see Ruby Wax and Alastair Campbell at the RSA event “How to tame your mind” just recently. The title of the event alluded to the general concept of “mindfulness”, which I’ve studied and practised over the years in order to be better at my job as a business consultant and musician. The event was particularly targeted towards the use of mindfulness to address issues of mental health, especially depression, a topic which is becoming a bigger issue in 21st Century society, just when we seem to be moving towards a position of conquering many of the world’s most limiting diseases. Some years back I met Professor Susan Greenfield who spoke convincingly on the part which neuroscience may play in dealing with depression in the 21st Century. It turns out that Ruby and Susan are acquainted. Small world, as I am connected to Susan via Professor Trevor Jones, who I had the great privilege to work for at the Wellcome Foundation, a truly great company that gave space to people to learn, grow and love their work long before we invented ‘three letter acronyms’ such as CSR, EFS, CBT, NLP and so on. Perhaps this example comes from an age that time has forgotten.
Firstly some statistics:
- One in four people will experience mental health problems at some point in their lives.
- The NHS spends more tackling the problem than cardiovascular disease and cancer combined.
- The World Health Organisation estimates that by 2030, depression will be the leading cause of the global burden of disease.
- There is absolutely no doubt that mental ill health will happen either to us, or someone we love – so why on earth are we still so afraid to open up and talk about it?
Here’s some things to do regarding mindfulness:
- Find some time every day to ‘put distance’ between you and ‘your conversation with yourself’. It’s what NLP masters call ‘3rd position’ or detachment. It’s what my MBA students would call ‘being a reflective practitioner’.
- We are confounded by our ‘busyiness in business’. Being busy feels good and it gives us no time to think. Yet, a mindful approach to business may help us focus on the things that bring us success, fulfilment and so on. Our lives are full of distractions – social media, smart phones, security codes and so on – it’s what I called ‘thin-slicing’ in my question to Alastair and Ruby. More that ever we need time to focus on what matters most.
- Whilst it’s good to think, the real killer is rumination. This is where we spend ours focusing and reviewing our mistakes / foibles etc. If something goes wrong in life, review it, learn from it and move on. My wife has this down to a tee on the odd occasions when things go wrong in business and I commence the cycle of endless analysis. I am firmly but politely told to shut up and move on! 🙂
- The ‘myth of happiness’ as outlined by the book “The Secret” is debunked in a hilarious way by Wax in her book, yet the fundamentals are simple. Find something to do that aligns with your skills, beliefs and values. Or, in the words of George Michael “Enjoy What You Do”. Easy to say, harder to do, although I guess I’ve had a pretty good go at this in my career. I’ll be writing more happiness and work in a few weeks time.
Here’s the full video of the event, including the question I asked about ‘thin slicing’ our lives around 36 minutes in:
Those of you that know me will be aware that I juggle all sorts of things into a 24 hour period and tend to live live as fully as it is possible. As a musician I also know the value of solitude and focus – a side of me that is less well known. It’s important to have some kind of anchor to the ground if you live a pressured life and I have found some ways to attend to the mindfulness that Ruby and Alastair mention. There are always many more ways to learn and I recommend their books.
I met Ruby and Alastair at the end of the session. I presented Ruby with a copy of “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and Alastair with a copy of “The Music of Business“, books which feature material on getting relationships right and the related ideas of flow and emotional intelligence.
About the Blogger: Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching. Contact via firstname.lastname@example.org