Being Critical is Not the Same as Being Aware

When we let our inner critic take a back seat at work, we can observe more dispassionately, which opens up more possibilities for decision-making and leadership.

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The practice of mindfulness meditation promotes self-awareness and the ability to direct your attention; you can then apply the mindful attention you develop in meditation to life and leadership. The practice begins with concentration and observation. To observe is to notice and examine dispassionately—without judgment or interpretation. Observation demands a form of objectivity often associated with scientific research. Scientists studying aerodynamic phenomena, for example, engage with their object of study without regard to subjective emotions and moods; they approach their study with consistency and make detailed notes about the data they collect. The key to effective observation is detachment—a dispassionate objectivity that unlinks what is observed from meaning. Similarly, mindfulness practice requires that you become an observer of your own self. In order to develop your observer self, you learn to split your attention.

Mentally recall a meeting in which one of your colleagues was passionately promoting his point of view. Picture him leaning forward, his voice pitched in excitement, his skin flushed as he’s adamantly pressing on about his idea. Remember how you deciphered the signs of his intense commitment: voice, posture, pace, facial expression, and word choice. You observed these details and made some conclusions about his commitment,…