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Work: Be The Change or Be a Victim of It

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

Written by: Teri Swope, Founder of SwopeLight

A few years ago, during a one-on-one meeting with one of our company’s executives, he said these words “oh, I don’t do that mindfulness stuff. I don’t believe in it.” I’d brought the topic up as a potential solution to helping him get through a challenging experience he was having with a peer. They were at odds over how to achieve some hefty, but necessary, cost reductions due to the loss of a very large client and revenue stream. One of them believed that the only way to achieve the cost reductions quickly enough was to have a layoff. The other believed that the long-term implications of a layoff would have far worse consequences for the business than a few quarters of being in the red. They were both right, by the way. Layoffs are terrible for morale and most definitely have lingering effects, but they produce quick lifts on the compensation line item of a P&L. There is a middle ground, and we managed to find it…but I digress.

I responded to my boss’s comment about mindfulness with “Wait, you don’t believe in paying attention?” Meeting my cue, he immediately clarified by saying he didn’t believe in “all that chanting, humming, mantra, guru stuff.” “Got it” I said. “Let me ask this, do you believe in marriage?” This guy wore his love for his wife on his shirt sleeve so I knew his answer would be a resounding yes. “You guys had a big wedding right?” The evidence was all over his office. “Yes” he replied, “it was very elaborate and very expensive, but I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.” “Same here!” I said. I explained that our wedding was a small gathering in a sunny corner of the dream home we’d purchased 6 months prior. “So, we both got married but the process we employed to get into the marriages were different.” He agreed.

I went on to explain that mindfulness is sort of like marriage. There are a number of ways that you can achieve a state of being married; a church wedding, a small private reception, in a courthouse, in Vegas by Elvis. There are also many different doorways to mindfulness; one conscious breath, a scan of the sensations in your body, or like an elaborate formal wedding, chanting while sitting in the lotus position. Being aware of and intentional about where your attention is, which is exactly what mindfulness is, isn’t something you believe in, it’s something you do. More specifically, it’s something you cultivate. "Ah!" my boss said, "Just like a good marriage". He got it!

Mindfulness lost its esoteric vibe a good while back. But the mysticism of mindfulness still informs the overall perception of the practice, especially in the workplace. Sort of like mainstream media, it seems to dominate and control the narrative. There still lurks a perception that focusing on building mindfulness skills in the workplace is a trade-off for ‘real’ productivity. Sure, more businesses are indulging grassroots efforts by a sprinkling of employees to form meditation groups or mindful discussion groups. Some even take credit for these efforts and promote them as part of the culture they’ve created. But, despite the growing body of scientific evidence promoting the benefits of mindfulness, relatively few in the C-suite are actually endorsing and leading initiatives to train mindfulness in the workplace.

But the seeds of change planted a few decades ago and fertilized by the pandemic are sprouting up all over. If the pandemic can take credit for any positive change, it’s that people are being more reflective about what and how they want to work. Evidenced by The Great Resignation and the exploding r/antiwork subreddit page, many people are no longer willing to accept the old ways of working. If you’re a business bleeding employees right now, you may not agree that this is positive change. But where there is change, there is always opportunity.

Consider this…while the antiwork movement may seem to imply that people literally don’t want to have jobs anymore, maybe what they are really after is a new definition of work. If the current definition of work is a ‘a means to an end’, maybe the new definition of work is a means to fulfillment, purpose, growth and connection. And isn’t the workplace ripe with opportunity for people to achieve these things? After all, creativity and innovation are in our DNA. It’s why we’re here; to connect and create. And what better place to tap into that innate desire than in the workplace. What better place to learn how to focus attention, cultivate connection and unfold our unique divine gifts than in the workplace.


Teri Swope is CEO and Founder of SwopeLight Consulting, a leadership coaching/consulting firm. She has 27+ years of experience developing leaders and organizational cultures.

Her leadership style is inspired by the teachings of Brene Brown, Simon Sinek, Adam Grant, Stephen Covey and many other mindful, heart-led authors and leaders.

“At SwopeLight, we believe there is tremendous untapped potential in organizations; potential for deep human connection, collaboration and innovation. We believe in inspiring leaders to pursue the highest version of themselves. We believe conscious leadership is the key to this inspiration and to accessing an unlimited well of creativity and innovation.”

Teri has a B.B.A in International Management from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She holds leadership certifications from the Inner MBA Program from MindfulNYU - New York University/Sounds True/Wisdom 2.0 as well as The Leadership Challenge program.

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