One Second Ahead: Enhance Your Performance at Work with Mindfulness
A Book Review Written by Jim Arjani, LMFT
Recently, I read an outstanding book on mindfulness, One Second Ahead: Enhance Your Performance at Work with Mindfulness, written by Rasmus Hougaard with Jacqueline Carter and Gillian Coutts. Although I was already knowledgeable about and experienced with meditation, I found this self-help book very useful and informative. It is based on the mindfulness program, The Potential Project, that Hougaards’ consulting organization has delivered to corporate giants including Google, Microsoft, American Express, Nike and hundreds of other companies throughout the world.
Workplace stress impedes productivity and creativity
According to Houggard, today’s workplace, and I would argue life in general, is characterized by pressure, distractions, excessive amounts of information and expectations to be “always on”. These realities of the workplace then make it difficult for people to be productive, creative and maintain work-life balance. Using neuroscience, he shows how our brains are often working against us as we try to accomplish things.
Houggard explains that our mind is often unfocused and unaware. He cites research that our minds are distracted almost 50% of the time. For example, when our smart phone beeps that we have received an email, despite it not being a priority we may feel a strong urge to respond to it immediately. And each time we repeat this process our brain develops a desire for a release of the brain neurotransmitter known as dopamine. This idea is consistent with the training I received on compulsive eating problems, when we feel stress or pain, many people turn to eating because it causes a dopamine release in the brain. The practice of mindfulness offers a path to help minimize the negative consequences of our brain’s problematic tendencies.
Focus on one thing at a time
Mindfulness, defined by Houggard, is when we are both focused and aware. The first part of the book helps you to practice being mindful by consciously choosing to do something and remaining focused on it. If there is a distraction, then you choose to ignore it or if you have determined it’s more important, choose to make it your focus instead. There are great practical ideas that explain specific ways to be more mindful with tasks such as managing email, attending meetings, enhancing communication, improving sleep and increasing creativity.
Develop a new attitude
In Part II, Houggard discusses eight “mental strategies” for more effectively dealing with our “unhelpful neural reaction patterns”. These strategies include:
- beginner’s mind
- letting go
The strategies are valuable in helping you develop the right mindset to get the most out of your mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness starts with a 10 minute daily practice
Then, in Part III, One Second Ahead covers the formal practice of mindfulness — the techniques that train the mind to be more focused and aware. The author begins teaching some simple ways to use the breath and counting to train the mind to be more focused. Readers will also learn to practice “open awareness”; instead of the breath being the anchor, any sensation or thought that comes to awareness can also become the focus of attention. A daily ten-minute practice was recommended. Personally, I have found that having a regular meditation practice can be incredibly helpful and hope you will consider giving it a try. There is also a training app available for download, you can find it by searching for Potential Project in your Google Play or Apple App Store.
About the author:
Jim Arjani, LMFT, is a licensed psychotherapist and the founder of Mountain View Therapy, a group practice in Silicon Valley serving children, teens, and adults dealing with trauma, social anxiety, stress management, and relationship problems. Jim has enjoyed making a difference in his clients’ lives for over fifteen years and continues to be passionate about sharing his knowledge about self-help and personal growth with others.
©2017 Jim Arjani, LMFT.