Boost Your Productivity And, Incidentally, Your HappinessAUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
About 10 years ago I made the worst financial decision of my life. I invested 25,000€ in a company that went bankrupt a few months later (Ouch! it still hurts.) Although it seemed like a pretty rational decision at the time (not without risk), the fact is that it was not rational at all. I took that decision in a moment of euphoria, just after winning almost 2,000€ with a similar investment.
Have you ever regretted a decision you made in a moment of anger? Or in a moment of panic? Even in a moment of extreme happiness? It turns out that a high percentage of our bad decisions—not only financial decisions, but also about things as important as our future, careers and relationships— are taken within a non-optimal emotional state.
We are emotional beings. Emotions govern us in many situations and that can be devastating sometimes. When we are dominated by emotions, the rationale is overshadowed and we forget the rules, ignore procedures, cease to be thorough and make mistakes.
So any tool or system that allows you to better manage your emotions will be an invaluable help to make better decisions in those moments when the waters are not calm.
That is the reason that in the practice of martial arts, mental preparation is just as important as physical training. At the time of the fight, you need not only your skills; you need to keep calm in order to use those skills in the best possible way.
Studies show that if you spend regularly five minutes a day to focus only on your breathing—feeling the air in and out, in a completely calm situation—, you will increase your attention span, you will decrease your stress level and you will make it harder that external events take you out of your happiness zone. This is the basis of mindfulness. When you pay attention to your senses, your brain eliminates the noise that distracts you (thoughts, emotions, etc.) and the circuits that allows your mind adrift are activated.
Breathing-style meditation is widely used in training elite military forces in order to learn to control the moments of panic and increase the attention span. Other studies have shown that this technique also helps you to be more creative and productive, while happier.
According to Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and Focus, the practice of mindfulness settles the foundations of meta-awareness, that is, the ability to observe our mental processes, rather than being swept by them.
No way this is about being extremely rational or killing emotions. Emotions make life worth living and make us human. It is about using them conveniently, getting carried away when needed, but without letting them hijack and direct our behavior.
More and more companies are realizing that managing the employees’ stress is critical to maintaining high standards of productivity and creativity, and although many executives are still reluctant to this kind of activities, meditation and other forms of well being are being gradually introduced in corporations.
Call it what you want—meditation, reflection, mindfulness, introspection, etc.—but the fact of devoting time to think about yourself and know yourself better will not only help you better manage your emotions and make better decisions, but also to be happier. Exploring thoroughly your inner will take you to discover your strengths and weaknesses, to understand and accept yourself.