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Consciousness, Mindlessness and Your Career

by seo on July 14, 2009

Career Mission’s Chief Executive Officer, A. Harrison Barnes talked about the need to bring consciousness and focus to your lives and careers.

Most of us move through life in a state of autopilot. Harrison describes this stage as one where we fail to notice things in our immediate environment, especially things we are not expecting to see. We remain unconscious of the people, places and things around us.

Researchers attribute this to the limited abilities of our brains. Most of our perceptual processing occurs outside of our conscious awareness. We are bombarded with so much information–sound, sights, smells and so forth that our minds cannot possibly process everything we encounter. In order to filter all of this information we use our attention mechanism. Our brain chooses a small amount of the information, to which it shall dedicate conscious perception. The remaining peripheral information in our environment is then ignored, lost and unremembered. We are unintentionally blind to this information since it never reaches our consciousness.

As a result of such limited focus, we end up tuning out many things that could make a giant difference in the ultimate quality of our lives.

Harrison refers to the research of Ellen Langer of Harvard University which talks about mindlessness and its counterpart, mindfulness. Mindlessness is simply our tendency to act on autopilot–without thinking. We do repetitive tasks like tying our shoes in a mindless fashion. We draw a tremendous number of conclusions based on mindless thinking, which ends up affecting our interactions with people and the world. We go through various actions each day and are unable to think through them completely.

Mindfulness on the other hand is following out behavior that made sense at one time and no longer does. Mindful behavior would include noticing new things, being in the present, being sensitive to context and perspective, being rule and routine guided etc. Mindfulness is also visible in the products of our labor. Work that is done with focus and a high degree of awareness is more valuable and generally of a higher quality than work which is completed in a mindless fashion.

Harrison shares his fascination with meditation which he regularly practices and observes that meditation is all about accessing the areas of our mind and life that are largely unconscious to us–those areas that run on autopilot. The idea is to get into a position for post-meditation mindfulness. A goal for our work, too, should be to bring more conscious thought to the work that we are doing. The more conscious we are of our work, the more our work is going to be valued.

A person who is focused on what he is doing is more likely to do a far better job than someone who is not focused. It is important for us to be focused and aware of our surroundings on an ongoing and continual basis.

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