My Unexpected Journey of Mindfulness

3/26/15
Kaitlyn-Lange

Kaitlyn Lange, Pacific Region Business Development & Marketing Coordinator

Technically a large part of my role at the firm is to develop and implement a regional marketing plan that outlines marketing and business development activities that will lead to new relationships and new work. To accomplish this, one might say it takes a great deal of discipline, patience and gusto. Though there is a joke in the industry that after some time in this role you also walk away with a minor in “cat herding”. On a serious note, my job is dynamic, and I find the opportunity to pursue and win innovative projects to be a stimulating adventure. I really never know what each day will hold. However, with exciting jobs that require coordination and strategy, there also tends to be stress. I know many of you reading this can relate…

In order to combat some of that stress build up, Walter Vernon, our CEO, introduced a ten week (1 hr/wk) mindfulness course, “Engineering a Mindful Mazzetti”. When it was first introduced, I was skeptical. One side of my brain kept thinking, shoot, if you can’t handle some stress maybe engineering isn’t the right industry for you? I know, I know–awful. I was raised to be a hard worker and to speak my mind, those two together can create quite the bucket of stressful situations. So for me, I’m used to being a bit stressed and my habit was to just live with it. However, I did have another side of me saying, what if..? So I decided to download the free app called “Headspace” before the company-wide mindfulness training to give it a go alone before being mindful with others. At first this was hard for me, not because I thought it wasn’t working, but because I hadn’t done it before. Sit down and just be – what a concept. This is probably where the millennial stereotypes tend to be a little true, I am always doing something, even if it’s putting around on my phone. I feel the need to keep moving. Luckily, I also can’t stand quitting so I stuck with it.

I started attending the mindfulness trainings at work—one hour, once a week—hosted by the UCSD Center for Mindfulness. (This is part of a bigger Wellness initiative for Mazzetti employees. Though we’re no Google when it comes to benefits, this is a pretty sweet perk.) Now at the half way mark in the course, I’ve found that what I’m learning is not what I expected.

No, I don’t feel zen all the time.

I am still feisty.

And I still feel stress.

BUT, what I am now, is more aware.

I’m more aware of what triggers my stress and now more able to tell others how they can best work with me. I’m more aware of my free time and actively practicing the art of disconnecting when I’m out of the office – even if it’s so I can give 110% when I’m there. I breathe more in meetings instead of saying the first inappropriate comment that pops in my head. Lastly, we heard a quote in class by Rick Hanson that says, “The mind is like Teflon for positive experiences, and like velcro for negative experiences”. In order to register positive experiences in your emotional memory, you have to give them more attention. I took that lesson to heart and am now taking time to enjoy what’s going right instead of always focusing on what’s going wrong. Mindfulness has taught me that our brains were developed for survival. A change in perspective is required to leverage your positive experiences and productivity in this evolving hectic world . I really believe it has benefited both my relationships and my work productivity.

Apart from learning more about myself, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about my coworkers/second-family. (Let’s face it, we spend a lot of time together—we are a family.) I want to publicly say thank you to all who have participated in the program. I know it may seem small, but when I hear other people share their thoughts and experiences, I feel like I can connect with more people – you seem more relatable to me. Instead of Norm Brown in Seattle being some principal that excels at designing mechanical systems, I now know he loves to enjoy a glass of wine to relax and I can totally relate to that (cheers!).

So what’s the takeaway for you all reading this story? I would offer this: Take a look at your organization and really assess whether your employees have the support to learn, grow and thrive. There are a ton of programs on the market today and research to back up why mindfulness training might be one worth investing in. From a business perspective, mindfulness training can simultaneously bring your employees together and increase productivity through reducing stress, increasing working memory and cognitive flexibility.

From a human perspective, there is nothing more engaging than sharing experiences and stories. By delving into a new journey with your team, sharing stories becomes normalized and normalizing storytelling internally will increase your ability to share stories externally. Sharing your people’s stories–whether it be about their skills, experience or the personality they bring to a team–is really, I believe how you connect with clients and grow your business.

Now that I’ve shared my story, with you, I look forward to hearing yours. Feel free to comment below and/or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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