Being conscious at work can feel like going to cardio after years of being a couch potato. It’s not always faster, but it’s more sustainable for your performance and the business you work for. And let’s clarify what we mean by conscious – it’s more than being aware (i.e. knowing), it’s being awake and aware.
Making conscious decisions means being mindful of where you are emotionally as well as of your surroundings. It means making self-aware choices based on your needs and professional objectives and being present and clear-minded, even when under pressure. That’s why conscious awareness will reflect in your performance, your relationship with teammates, and your overall well-being.
The good news is that there are certain things you can practice so that you make better, conscious decisions – and act upon them.
- Start with an honest (self) talk. You can learn to be more present when making decisions based on your needs. Be honest: do you feel that your work is aligned with your need for growth? Do you feel like you’re growing to be the person and professional you’ve always wanted to be? Do you find meaning in your work? Your job has a greater impact and serves your need for purpose in life? Do you feel cared for and do you care for others? Are your personal needs acknowledged and are you seen and recognized as a whole person? Are you recognising and seeing others fully around you?
Yeah, we know – not easy to answer honestly to all of the questions. It takes time to get to know yourself and find out what you want to do and be. It also takes courage and time to find a place that values the same things as you do. Heck, sometimes you find the place and it does not pay your bills. But being consciously aware of your needs and personal goals, as an individual and a professional, is as important for your mental health as water is for fish. Alive fish anyways.
Now go ahead and name those needs. What do growth, meaning and care mean to you? Are you happy where you are? If yes, great, keep going! If not, is there something you could pitch to your manager? Is there something you can do to bring more of you at work?
- Notice your body sensations and feelings. Yeah, those that manifest viscerally. When the time comes and you have to decide, pay attention to what arouses in your body. What and how does it feel? Do you feel warm inside? Does your stomach hurt? Do your feet feel cold with dread?
We look at the term Emotional Self-Awareness as the ability to understand one’s emotions and their effect on performance. Your body is always talking to you, maybe it’s time to put down those AirPods and listen to it. Your feelings manifest viscerally, and your ability to acknowledge and respect what your gut is telling you will serve you a long way. A 3-minute body scan can help you find out where you’re standing.
- Be consciously present. Sometimes there are so many things to do and we get so absorbed that we lose our sense of self, leaving things and feelings unnoticed. Workplaces can be full of distractions and it’s part of your job to stay centered and fight the mental and physical noisiness that crowd your workday.
The first step in limiting distractions is to be aware of them. Name them, write them down on a list. Paint them if that fancies you. The second step is planning how to fight them: know what triggers them, have a strategy prepared. If it is phone notifications – use the Don’t disturb mode. If it’s the email – set specific time slots when you check it. Focus and prioritize. A clear, unfogged mind will create space for mindful and healthy decision-making. So make a conscious choice about how distracted you’ll allow yourself to be today.
And not only today. Each day from now on. It’s ok to start small – maybe the first step for you would be a pair of noise-canceling headphones and hiding in a quiet corner for an hour to write that important mail. You start wherever it feels feasible for you and you increment on that. Just like cardio, you start small and get to strenuous exercises in time.
Learning to be aware and present in the workplace can be a challenge, but it sure is a commitment to be true to your needs and respect your gut feeling. So let your body speak and your emotions manifest. It will take you to good places.