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Mindfulness and Conscious Awareness

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Have you ever been driving for a while then suddenly realize that you have not really paid attention and can’t remember driving, or even know how you got to where you are right now? It happens to everyone, at least once or twice a year, or maybe more. The reason this happens is that although you may think you are in control and aware of everything you are doing all the time, you really are not. Our brain let’s our subconscious take over whenever necessary, so that we can focus on other things. Should the need arise where the conscious mind needs to take over, within a split second, the active part of your brain takes over and handles things.

Can you imagine how difficult it would be if we had to be consciously aware of everything that we were doing? Like just simply walking? We would have to think about each step, what muscles to use, how far of a step, how to properly plant our foot. Just too much to think about all at one time. So, what happens is that our subconscious takes over for us to handle things that it has learned to do through repetition. Just like a child who learns how to walk, after a few falls and figuring out what works and what doesn’t, before too long, the child no longer needs to concentrate on what to do just to be able to walk. The brain has figured it out and takes over without the need for active participation from the conscious mind.

Sometimes over analyzing or spending too much time thinking something through could become a problem also. For example; a professional golfer is better off just letting his or her subconscious handle how to swing to hit the ball properly, because if they start thinking too much about it, they start to change the normal behavior of their movements and will cause their muscle and subconscious memory to not just follow through as previously learned.

I’m sure you are now wondering where we are going with all of this. I visit with a lot of different people during my workshops and business coaching sessions.  Every time I do present a program, I make it a point to try and change it up a bit to avoid looking like or sounding like a mindless robot who is on autopilot. I’m sure you know what I mean. It is kind of like these tele-marketing calls you get from a charity you never heard of who sound like they are reading from a script. You usually just hang up and tell them no, please take me off your list.

I make it a point to stay engaged and watch the responses and reactions from the people who I am speaking to so that I can adjust or modify if necessary.

Sometimes, I’ve had this happen, I may be talking to a business owner, they are looking directly at me, then jump up and tell someone to handle something for them that has absolutely nothing to do with our discussion. At that point I can tell my client was not actively engaged in our discussion.

This also happens when a service technician goes out to a customer’s home or business and instead of actively engaging in conversations with the customer, the tech is so programmed subconsciously because it is the same routine every day, they never actually converse, they make assumptions and act as if there is no one else around. The only reason this happens, is that it has become routine and repeated thousands of times and they are not actively participating, just going through the motions while their conscious brain is somewhere else.

Even when it comes to making sales calls, sometimes a sales representative has done so well memorizing ever word in the demonstration that there is no room for questions or interruptions. Eventually the sales pitch becomes just that, a sales pitch, not an active conversation.

On occasion a customer may disengage after a quote is presented because they may be in shock because they never expected anything like this. Instead of listening to the technician or salesperson, they are too busy freaking out, trying to figure out a solution to this dilemma and disengaging. I recommend re-engaging their brain and bring up things that divert the thinking process from a fight or flee panic mode to something that is pleasant. For example, you could mention how impressed you are with the kitchen cabinets or ask what breed of dog they have. Anything would work, just bring them back to reality and present them with a financing solution or a menu of options.

Even managers who are speaking to employees do not engage in conversations. I experienced this several times as I was sitting in company meetings that were held prior to my presentation. The business owner or manager begins the meeting by talking about some issues they are having and starts telling everyone this better stop or else, with absolutely no exchange of ideas, no options for feedback or anything else from the team, just nothing but negativity towards the employees. I could tell they have been through similar meetings before and totally disengaged mentally when the negativity started.

Should you find the need to counsel an employee for not following rules, causing a problem with a customer or other issue. It is important that the manager asks questions about the circumstances and environment that led up to the infraction. Instead of screaming at the individual hoping that they understand you are upset, causing nothing but having them shut down and not listen, then disengage.

Lack of conscious awareness is even a reason a lot of accidents occur, just stepping down from a ladder should not be a difficult task, yet people get hurt every day because they were not thinking about what they were doing and just went to autopilot. This is the biggest reason pilots must go through a checklist before taking off, they do not want the pilots to rely on the subconscious and just going through the motions without thinking. Even when they have done this thousands of times, they are forced to be aware of what is happening as if it were the first time they ever did it.  In fact, some of the safety videos that I’ve seen or have shown, have real life accidents that sometimes look horrific and people are upset over the graphic scenes. However, when it was shown that way, being very graphic, the viewers’ brain was instantly engaged and that scene was put into a part of their memory that would instantly bring it out whenever a situation arose that may have reminded that individual of the horrific scene in the video. Naturally that person starts thinking about what they are doing and becomes consciously aware of what is going on because they do not want a scenario that causes them to have an accident like the one they saw in the video.

Mindfulness of what you are doing and saying takes some practice and focus. Be aware of what you are doing, how you are doing it and what you are saying is sometimes very difficult to do because we have become lazy in our thinking processes and just let memory and trained behavior take over for us. When engaging with others, think about what you are saying, look for responses that ensure they are listening and pay attention to your surroundings, it will keep you from becoming a mindless robot on autopilot.

Frank Besednjak

Posted In: ACCA Now, Management

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