Opposites attract

It’s not easy being a mindful MBA. You’re supposed to be collaborative, yet ambitious. Analytical, but also compassionate. Both strategic and flexible. Present, and also visionary. It’s a lot to even contemplate, let alone try to be. I’m stressed out just thinking about it, and that’s the opposite of the point, right?

So, I’ve got some advice for you, and I only had to go to the other side of the planet to get it.

At the moment, I’m in the midst of an incredible stint of mindfulness-related travel in Asia. Vietnam, to be exact. I know, I know! It’s amazing. (photos on the ‘Gram!). This morning, we were led in a guided meditation by one of our group leaders, and one of the messages really stuck with me. In short, the meditation encouraged us to keep “a wakeful mind, and a softened heart.” And of course, I immediately thought of y’all.

What better way to try to maintain the nearly impossible balance between all the yins and yangs listed above than to cultivate a mind that is present, aware, and fully tuned-in, with the ability to see the differing opinions of your classmates or colleagues, the challenges of your workload, the moments of doubt you’re bound to have, through the lens of compassion — for them, and for yourself.

In other words, turn the dial both on your brain and your heart all the way up, and watch how their work can actually be complementary.

Just in case you’re thinking this sounds like a nice fairy tale, take a walk with me though this example:

You’re sitting in class or a meeting, and someone shares a comment that makes your mind immediately fill with anywhere from 1 to 100 counterarguments. You’re present, paying attention, and your mind saw all the holes right away. Bravo! You’re a genius. So, then what happens?

Scenario A: You do whatever the appropriate thing is to reserve the right to speak next, and you launch into a diatribe, knocking through your brilliant points in rapid succession. The original speaker feels bad, you feel like a rockstar, but after about a second, that starts to fade. You either start craving your next adrenaline hit to make you feel justified, or you beat yourself up for overdoing it.

Or maybe instead…

Scenario B: You take a breath. You notice you’re pretty riled up over what was just said. You’ve got some potentially valid points to share that could enhance the quality or productivity of the conversation. But, you also realize that the person who just spoke up did so from their personal vantage point. Right or wrong, good or bad, it looks different to them than it does to you. It’s a matter of perspective, and if you want to change theirs, you need to start where they are. So, you begin to make your point, but from a place of openness, not defensiveness. You don’t need to be angry to be emphatic. In fact, you’re probably more likely to be heard if you aren’t, which is helpful because being heard is kind of a necessary ingredient towards being powerful.

Oh, you didn’t know this was about power?

In business, it’s always about power. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. Power is worth exactly what you do with it. Earn it through compassionate listening balanced with articulate and thoughtful contributions, and an awareness that you are always talking to a person on the other side of any conversation, negotiation, debate, or flat-out fight.

Once you have earned that power, endeavor every day to continue to use it for good…as you see it, of course. ;-)

Photo credit: Matthew Henry

This post was originally published on MindfulMBA on August 30, 2017.