I recently led a skill-building workshop titled, Integrating Mindfulness into the Practice and Use of Evaluation at the American Evaluation Association national conference in Minneapolis. We went over various mindfulness-based practices and how to use them to inform our work. It was a lot of fun and thanks to those of you who attended. Since then, I have been thinking more about how I can better incorporate my mindfulness practice into my evaluation and other work.
What does mindfulness mean?First off, it’s worth clarifying what the term “mindfulness” means. Mindfulness can be defined as present moment awareness in a non-judgmental way, resulting in an openness to and acceptance of experience. You can practice mindfulness while meditating or while doing everyday activities like eating, walking, or working. Over the last 30 years, mindfulness-based program studies have found a wide range of psychological and health benefits.
Practicing MindfulnessMaintaining a regular meditation practice is not easy. However, it tends to be easier for me to sustain mindfulness when meditating compared with when I am engaged in complex tasks such as program evaluation work or teaching graduate students. For me, one of the primary goals of meditation and other mindfulness practices is to improve the quality of my interactions with others, how I manage and function in the world.
- I mentioned during the workshop that my evaluation work is informed by mindfulness in a similar manner to how I attempt to incorporate it into other aspects of my life. With respect to my evaluation practice, it has helped me by improving or increasing the following: Awareness of my emotional state and how it impacts the way I view and work on a project.
- Noting of cognitive biases that can impact how I design evaluations and interpret findings.
- Noticing when I prematurely come to conclusions or categorizations of things as “good” or “bad.”
- Observing and incorporating insights and intuitions as they present themselves.
- Fully attending to the task or experience at hand and less multi-tasking.
- Bridging the gap between how I should practice evaluation and how I actually practice it.
How could or does a mindfulness practice impact the work you do?Also, I mentioned this during the workshop and in a previous post, I’ve wondered why, after 20 or so years of thinking about it, I finally started to meditate and maintain a daily practice. How did it become a habit for me? Many talk about what to do, different techniques and practices, but there is less of a focus on how to establish a consistent habit. In this video, Making Meditation a Habit, I use the model laid out by James Clear in Atomic Habits to explain how it became a habit for me. What do you think?
“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning.” Louis L’Amour