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Mindful means being in the moment, while proactive means thinking and working ahead. Both are important for your career, but they seem to contradict each other. Can you be mindful and proactive at the same time?
To be mindful and proactive, leaders must create separate space for both activities, says David Shanklin, managing director of culture solutions at CultureIQ, a culture management company.
“Mindfulness is really about focus and awareness of only what’s right in front of you, so not thinking about a million other things in the present or incessantly trying to multitask,” he says. “The trick here is really to be present with the future. When you are intentionally trying to plan, you need to be present with that activity.”
Mindfulness is often misunderstood, says Megan McNealy, author of Reinvent the Wheel: How Top Leaders Leverage Well-Being for Success. “Mindfulness isn’t showing up at work in slippers and meditating at your desk,” she says. “It’s taking the intensity we normally have and using it in the present moment. It’s okay if you want to focus on nature or birds—we could use mindfulness that way, too—but it’s really the intensity of focusing on one thing instead of five others.”
Being mindful as you look ahead is the best way to balance the present and the future. You’re proactive instead of reactive, and it can pay off in many ways.