It is quite common, in today’s world, to develop a task-oriented mindset in order to navigate the many to-dos of our personal and professional lives. While a task-oriented mind might help us evaluate, prioritize and apply existing and known solutions to problems, it may also limit us from opening up to the expansive realm of new and creative possibilities in our lives. Can we be true innovators with a primarily concrete, task-oriented mind? Furthermore, is it possible for us to develop a multi-faceted capacity to be both task-focused and radically creative? And how might the phenomenon the experts call, “the illusion of multitasking,” impact this ambitious goal?
Biology dictates that the way we experience the world is strongly influenced by what “we already know of the world”. Our worldview is formed by life experiences, our families’ teachings, personal study, travels, and formal education. With the proliferation of screens in most of our lives, our worldview is also impacted by the constant stream of information, app interactions, and social media content. Everything we take in affects our perception of reality, both in overwhelming and valuable ways. The information we take in from the world, some by choice and some by chance, inevitably ranges from positive, joyful, negative, tragic throughout the span of a lifetime. The sum of these experiences help us adapt, to varying degrees, to the world and it’s uncertain surprises. Driven by our worldview and our experience-informed realities, our response to life events is typically automatic, very quick, based on habits or preconceptions. In that sense, it’s more of a reaction than a response.
Given these truths, how might we become happier, more creative and better decision makers in this complex world – responders rather than reactors? How might we leverage our patterns and worldview to enhance our lives instead of as unconscious drivers in our lives?
In our times, it appears that we live in the overactivation of the two brain systems underpinning the so-called “DOING-MODE mind”: the THREAT-AVOIDANCE system, by means of the fight-fight-freeze response, triggers us to act against anything that we perceive as a threat, and the so call ACHIEVING brain system, that works for our survival as well, triggers actions to achieve results ( winning competitions, improving our abilities to perform , obtaining more to make our lives safer and more comfortable, being recognized by others and so on). The DOING-MODE is a need and has a wonderful influence on our tendency to improve our lives, to motivate actions. Troubles may arise in presence of a chronic overactivation of these systems, that then begin to stimulate each other, consuming a lot of brain energy, naturally narrowing our sight and looping on the same thoughts mechanisms and behaviors, while we are expected to be creative!
Bringing awareness in our lives means mainly focusing on re-balancing our brain systems, reducing distress and promoting physical and psychological health. More specifically, we need the integration of the “being mode” inside our active and full lives. This means creating the needed space for new possibilities to arise even in the middle of a storm. Instead of the one-way reaction of fight-flight-freeze mode, other approaches exist that can be explored by the awareness and can make the difference in many situations. Paul Gilbert correlates meditation practice with the cultivation of the third brain system, called SOOTHING-AND-CONTENTMENT system. Balance, health and happiness are strictly related to the way these three brain systems work together and integrate with each other. When the three systems are balanced, we can experience fear without being overwhelmed by the emotion, we can have goals without being identified with one way to achieve them, we can stay in the not-knowing state and being receptive of what the uncertainty has to offer, instead of being focused on how to fix it. Can our thinking be really free under the conditions we have described here above?
The identification with the thought creates a story, influences our perceptions, activates a selective attention, as we become more sensitive to what is coherent with the story and exclude the rest.
The mind shapes our world, and the mind itself is shaped by our inclinations. Shaping appears to be the key-word. Shaping means modeling, transforming, operating on something that is flexible enough. The shape of the mind is as fixed as our habits and, moment by moment, can be either our prison or the way to our freedom. In each moment stands a precious, unique opportunity for our life, as innovators and as human beings.
Katiuscia Berretta: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Certified Teacher by the Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts – Medical School. Experienced teacher of Organizational Mindfulness and its applications on health promotion, engagement and productivity, leadership development and innovation. Former member of the Neuroleadership Institute and Certified in “The foundation of Neuroleadership”. Tony Buzan Licensed teacher of Mind Mapping and teacher of Applied Innovation. Former employee at IBM where she worked for 16 years Katiuscia has been has been operating in the R&D workload automation area and, before that, as a Research Assistant at the Department of Mathematics – University of Rome “Tor Vergata”. She is certified in UX foundations by Career Foundry and in Insight Innovation – Leading for Creativity by IDEO (Tim Brown). Katiuscia is an experienced practitioner of Yoga and Insight Meditation and regularly attends seminars and silent meditation retreats. In her activities, Katiuscia integrates together technical and scientific expertise with a long time practice. In cooperation with Centro Italiano Studi Mindfulness by Mondomindful, she offers a secure guide for positioning mindfulness and innovation pathways in companies and organizations.
Vicki Flaherty: Vicki Flaherty, Ph.D. was part of IBM’s Leadership Development team. She helped IBM executives lead with clarity, intention, and authenticity and her passion is awakening humanity in the workplace. She led the mindfulness movement at IBM and helped IBMers lead with resilience. As an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, her career is about helping people succeed through design of onboarding, mentoring, career development, leadership, and talent programs. Vicki has been an IBM Corporate Service Corps alumnus, an IBM Certified Consultant, and a member of IBM’s Coaching Community of Practice. She is a leadership facilitator and coach, speaks at global events about success, and she blogs about leadership. Traveling with her husband Jim, running and gardening are key ways she recharges and creates focus, and she finds great joy in yoga, reading inspirational books, journaling and writing, especially poetry. You can reach her at: LinkedIn and Twitter. You can follow her at her Leading with Intention blog or via the Mindfulness series on IBM’s Jobs blog.