Be mindful about Brexit

In Business

As someone who’s been an outsider to the UK for the last few years, looking in to developments via the online press and my annual Summer visits away from the heat, to the cloud and rain of the Lake District, I have observed the amount of time spent, heated debates and raised passions about this divisive subject. Not a single day passes where the subject is not raised again and again. You can almost hear the battle cry “Once more unto the breach!” Whether you voted “In or Out” you generally did so believing it to be in the best interests for you, those you love and your long-term livelihood. What’s clear since the vote is that the ramifications appear to be a lot less certain and the withdrawal will affect the majority of people in the UK. This uncertainty has caused much trepidation and some cases fear, particularly if your livelihood depends on staying in the county, is dependent on workers from the EU or if you yourself are a non-British EU citizen.

Fear (False Evidence Appearing Real) and uncertainly causes us to worry about the future or worse still, reflect on regrets of the past. For many employees, the full impact of the exit has not yet been realised, leading to speculation. This in-turn leads to a loss of performance and ultimately a loss of productivity.

How so? Well if employees are not focused on the ‘now’, the task at hand or today’s outcomes, then where are their thoughts and how does that effect the employer, co-workers, customers, clients and the community? Who can keep their mind on the task at hand or a plan for the future, when the future is now much less certain?

Mindfulness is basically about being in the NOW, in the present moment and focusing on what is at hand rather than what may or may not happen. The mind is an extremely powerful tool and throughout our life, we are rarely taught how to use it to work with us, rather than against us. The negative thoughts are created by us and we have responsibility for them, nobody slips them into our minds like envelopes through a letterbox hidden below our hairline. Yes, we are influenced by external factors, our parents, friends and colleagues, various belief systems, the press, social media and the TV. However, we need to take responsibility for our thoughts and it is important how we use them, because how we think, determines what we believe and how we act.

Google describes thoughts as ‘emerging because of differences in electrical potential from chemical reactions, transmitted via neurons. Basically thoughts come from triggering computation via electricity produced electrochemically from glucose.’

I prefer a simpler answer: ‘thoughts are electrical pulses of energy’. A thought is just a thought, it’s what we choose to do with it that makes the difference in our lives.

So here is an example how thoughts can get out of control:

I once said to my mother “Isn’t it a lovely day today! Look at the cows over there eating grass.” She then replied “Yes, it’s nice, but look at the rain cloud there (cue daughter straining her eyes to see a cloud, far in the distance). That cloud will have acid rain in it, due to all the cars on the road and the aeroplanes in the sky. What if it then rains on the ground and the plants and the cows eat the grass and then we eat the vegetable and meat and we get cancer because of all of the chemicals in the rain and then people die!”

As extreme as this may sound, this was a real example of a conversation I had with my own mother who was a person that allowed her fears and irrational thoughts to control her.

Mindfulness is about identifying the point at which the mind starts to go off in its own direction, and stopping it from creating a path that you seem powerless to step off. This path has two signposts, future, or past. A majority of our society is future oriented with many of us focusing on our pensions, holidays, meeting our future partners, graduating university and even getting a promotion.

By employing tools to control the mind and direct it in a productive way, this allows the mind to focus on the now. In turn, you can direct the mind to tasks to promote creativity, to identify new opportunities or merely get on and do what should be done today, for better outcomes tomorrow. This increases an individual’s performance, leading to increased productivity, or to increased chances in life over time.

Mindfulness also leads to a healthier mind and heathier body. Those who use Mindfulness techniques are less likely to participate in absenteeism from work, to be unduly angry or remorseful, which is generally a symptom of not being in control of a situation or of not taking action where you can.

Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or in the future, he lives as though he is never going to die, he then dies as if he has never lived. – Dalai Lama

By learning simple Mindfulness techniques as part of a corporate on-boarding process, it becomes part of the corporate culture. Those companies who have a healthy culture, have increased productivity which affects the bottom line in a very positive way.

So what has all this to do with Brexit?

Contrary to being all doom and gloom, Brexit may provide new opportunities for businesses, or force organisations to work better together. It may need the clarity and openness that mindfulness brings to spot such opportunities.

Brexit may help companies refocus on training and apprenticeships, tooling up local workers with modern skills to replace their skilled overseas labour – and in the process helping rebuild and reinvest in their communities.

To spot such opportunities and make them competitive advantages takes a mind focused on what can be done here and now, and that’s real business, and real mindfulness.

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