By Caitlin Krause
A new calendar year prompts a feeling of open possibility, and a curiosity to discover and realize our greatest potentials, in business and beyond. We’re undoubtedly living in times of rapid change and high demand; times of immense challenge. I certainly feel it– all I need to do is glance at daily news headlines to have a feeling of perspective and urgency.
We want to ensure that the work we’re doing is valued; we want to know that it matters, and matches our own personal goals and resolutions (which, let’s face it, span far beyond the hype and trend of the new year). We strive to maintain a sense of balance, as we navigate this complex world, maintaining focus and resilience, while maximizing our capabilities. In addition, the global corporate culture and increased connectivity require even more flexibility, and broader skill sets that encompass a range of intelligences, including emotional intelligence and empathy.
Instead of feeling daunted, it’s the ideal time for us to invite some mindfulness into the equation. Here we are in a complex, fascinating environment, ripe with opportunity. The field of global mobility and intercultural exchange has never been more exciting– and, there has never been a higher demand for everyone to develop these skills and abilities, across all industries and vocations. It’s a time when adopting a modern, holistic global competency model is imperative– one that embraces a flexible, resilient mindset. Integrating mindfulness values and practices into a model of global competency makes perfect sense, and has significant long-term benefits for career, health, well-being and happiness.
I have a client who travels between five hub cities, located in three separate continents, on a regular basis. In each place, she has a slightly different lifestyle, and varied expectations to fulfill the job requirement. When she discovered the uses mindfulness has in increasing flexibility, resilience, and stress management, she was amazed at the positive impact. Mindfulness, and specifically the methods I’ve developed, can be summed up by 3 A’s: awareness, advancement, and authenticity. I custom-design mindfulness programs that are experiential, practical, and sustainable. By focusing on providing support, engagement, personalization and expertise, individuals can build on the traditional dimensions of the Global Competency Model described by Weinberger (2016) that are already well-recognized in truly diverse intercultural competency programs.
The connection between global competency and mindfulness is clear, and it’s enhanced my own experience. When I first moved overseas to Belgium, I was busy teaching, coaching, and adjusting to the new environment at the same time– plus, setting up a home. I was impatient with myself for struggling with my basic-level French; at the same time, I didn’t yet anticipate the cultural norms that take time to adjust to– everything from taking a ticket as a number to stand in line at the bakery to the fact that all stores are closed on Sundays, which was the one day that I didn’t coach or teach full-time– this was constantly a surprise, and my initial reaction was to look at my own naïveté as a form of failure.
Mindfulness taught me to flip this concept– I embraced my own enhanced awareness, celebrating the foibles that I could then laugh about, convincing myself that someday they will become part of a book (which could be a Bill Bryson spinoff titled: “Bumbling through Belgium”). I began to feel gratitude for my vitality– for the very feeling, uncomfortable at times, that reminds me that I’m alive(!). I felt immensely grateful for the mix of backgrounds and experiences that create the unexpected. I also grew to appreciate that a population is not homogenous, yet we share underlying truths and a certain mutual respect and dignity. These insights are also embedded in mindfulness– an appreciation for what is, in the moment, even as we set-goals and look toward the emerging future.
In a globalised working culture, mindfulness is especially valuable because it gives agency back to the individual. It gave me a better sense of stability, even in situations that were beyond my ability to anticipate and fully control. Because of this, mindfulness also increased my connection capacity in place of fragmentation. In other words, I was able to reach out and connect with others more easily, because I was more self-aware and had developed skills of resiliency. I was confident, not despite my challenges, but because of them. In Stanford researcher Carol Dweck’s seminal book Mindset, she relates this capacity to growth mindset, and it’s all about mindfulness, self-awareness, and embracing the rigor instead of denying or avoiding it.
We live in the midst of a global corporate climate that is rife with burnout, stress and depression. Recent studies cite stress and burnout as the top threat to workplace health, resulting in great losses across all quality measurement areas, including employee work satisfaction, job retention, company culture, and revenue. The rate of burnout continues to increase each year; mindfulness is seen as a top strategy and method to provide burnout prevention. Instead of succumbing to this threatening trend, looking at establishing an environment that promotes the best, most adaptive and advantageous state of well-being is the answer for global leadership.
As a burnout prevention measure, stress reducer, leadership and confidence booster, creativity cultivator, and overall well-being motivator and life enhancer, mindfulness serves as a necessary base layer for a holistic model of leadership, learning and global competency. For me, it’s a lens to look through, and it can be applied to just about everything.
This could be why, when I’m asked to define mindfulness, I call it simply: “a way to be in the world”– with awareness (understanding of surrounding context), advancement (having a sense of purpose), and authenticity (detaching from judgment; focusing on situations while maintaining resilience). I use these three A’s as foundational pillars for designing applications and programs.
Being globally competent involves developing a wide range of capacities– and, the ability to truly reflect on the learning experience and acknowledge the complexity of global systems involves great awareness– including cultural awareness, emotional awareness and self awareness.
I apply this philosophy with many different practical approaches, making it real, personal, holistic, and able to be experienced by each individual in a powerful way. In addition, it reinforces the sense of community, which is perfectly in-line with global mobility dimensions of supporting the whole person in a long-term, reflective approach that encompasses a multitude of lifelong learning facets and personal experiences.
Recognizing our own multi-dimensional natures and experiences, this makes perfect sense, allowing us to build our abilities and reach goals while staying grounded in this complex, inter-connected global landscape. Combining mindfulness and global competency could yield a new, even more powerful concept: mindful global competency. Let’s test it out!
Kicking off the New Year, I have already dedicated myself to several aspirations and goals, many of which are definitely “curiosity-driven” pursuits, all embedded in a framework of mindful global competency. I’ll invite you to try out a few exercises, to test the process for yourself and give it a go. See what it feels like to sit down and write your own answers to the following. Just go with where your reflections take you, in the moment, without over-thinking:
- Awareness: Record something, in a description, that made you happy yesterday. Include as many of the five senses as possible. For example, if you were happy when you went for a hike in the woods, try to describe the temperature, the feel of it, the colors and sights around you, etc. Try to bring yourself back there through the writing.
- Advancing: Write down three attributes that you have that you value in yourself– these could be any quality, from trustworthiness to funny to For each quality, what is a life situation that you have experienced– an “anecdote”– that illustrates it in your life? Feel free to think of examples that have humor. Could you practice by sharing this out loud with someone else? Sometimes, these illustrated moments make for great connection points, yet we deny ourselves the right to “own them” and appreciate them.
- Authentic: Think back to an experience where the time itself was not what you expected in the short term, yet it offered some sort of long-term benefit. Describe the situation in detail, using a “before” perspective (anticipation), a “during” (experience), and an “after” (reflection). What do you appreciate about it now, in hindsight? How do you think it adds some flavor and dimension to your life?
Sometimes, just taking time to record our own reflections and thoughts about these experiences can lend us deeper clarity and insight. For me, building components of writing and storytelling into my mindfulness practice adds an extra layer of appreciation, insight, and what I call “connection capacity”. May it add to your life, too. After all, 2017 is wide open with possibility, and we all want to make the most of that!
Wishing you a wonderful year, filled with surprise and delight, enjoying the ride.
Guest post by Caitlin Krause, Founder & CEO, MindWise.
Caitlin Krause is a creative collaborator with a curiosity-driven mindset. As the founder of MindWise, she’s a writer, storyteller, teacher, speaker, VR designer, artist and leadership specialist. Her passion for active, sustainable, ethically-driven leadership and learning models drives her work.
Empowering personal and organizational change, MindWise’s core “AAA” values are: Aware, Advancing, and Authentic. Caitlin integrates best practices and new discoveries about creativity, neuroscience, mindfulness and technology to promote immersive empathetic experiences on a local and global scale.
Weinberger, A. (2016): The Global Mobility Workbook, print ed., Global People Transitions, Zurich