The role of mindfulness in peak mental performance

By William Seidman

I continue to be impressed by leadership coach David Rock’s book “Your Brain at Work.”  He makes the point, reinforced with data, that “peak mental performance requires both “knowing your brain and the ability to observe brain processes occurring.” 

Rock uses a theater metaphor:  think of actors as conscious information, the audience members as subconscious awareness (memories, habits) and the director – a very important role –  who stands outside experience and makes decisions about how the actors (your conscious information) will respond. This “director” is your executive function.

Socrates and many of history’s great teachers and philosophers have recommended self-awareness and self-examination, another way to think about the “director.”  

Kevin Ochsner, who directs the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at Columbia University, puts it this way: “Self-awareness is the capacity to step outside your own skin and look at yourself with as close to an objective eye as you possibly can. In many cases it means having a third-person perspective on yourself:  imagine seeing yourself through the eyes of another individual.”

Mindfulness is another term for this, and its importance to effective leadership can’t be overstated.


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