The online magazine TheWeek.com posted a piece yesterday titled ‘Anger Room: The new way to blow off steam after work”. It goes on to describe a popular service in a Dallas strip-mall geared towards stressed out and at the end-of-their-rope Americans. Turns out that high-level executives and entrepreneurs as well as frustrated stay-at-home-mom’s are frequent guests in the ‘Anger Room’. And let’s not forget the many who are dealing with relationship issues, totally exasperated with their partners and ready to tear them symbolically to shreds. The customers are not only over-the-top, angry men. You are just as likely to meet desperate women who don’t know what else to do to get relief. Whether or not the process is therapeutic is questionable. All these people are willing to pay $25-$75 for 5-25 minutes of fantasy scenario where they can go berserk with a baseball bat and demolish furniture, TV’s and whatever else is available of donated or dumpster items and placed at their disposal to destroy. If stress and burnout statistics from the corporate world are anything to go by we wouldn’t be surprised to see this concept spread like fury to other cities in America and even globally.
Might there be another way to deal with exactly the same issues? My perspective is that the answer is absolutely YES. So does the leadership at Google that has chosen a much more conscious approach to lowering their employee’s often high levels of stress resulting from the push-to-the-limit culture they are famous for. They have for many years supported one of their very own, a smiling visionary and engineer from Singapore, Chade-Meng Tan, who felt called to share with his co-workers some of the mindfulness practices that had helped him to ward off stress and burnout and be more productive, peaceful and compassionate at work. Mr. Tan put together a mindfulness class that is now one of the most popular of the hundreds of free classes Google offers their employees. The class has been offered for a number of years and is called S.I.Y. for “Search Inside Yourself”. According to a recent New York Times article by Caitlin Kelly more than 1000 Google employees have attended the program and there is always a waiting list for the quarterly classes that accommodate 60 employees’ and run for seven weeks. Many participants maintain that after going through the training they experience higher levels of effectiveness and innovation at work (a requirement to work at Google) and a better quality of life overall.
So what is this mindfulness training anyway? As Mr. Tan said in the beginning of his presentation at the 2012 Wisdom 2,0 Conference last week “take a deep breath and that will calm your mind”. Stress is thought to be a by-product of our fears. Being able to identify the mental habits that bring us into our fear-patterns and replace them with useful and positive mental habits changes everything. In the S.I.Y. classes they teach three steps to obtain just that: attention training, self-knowledge and self-mastery. Mr. Tan also said that we need courage to manage our fears and it surely is trainable. I am a great proponents of the power of courage and it is one of my guiding principles.
To make this simple but powerful mindfulness training available to other companies and their employees as well as to anyone looking for a sustainable and peaceful stress managment versus the destructive and unsustainable ‘Anger Room’ solution, Mr. Tan, the Jolly Good Fellow as he most often refers to himself, has published his first book that is of course called Search Inside Yourself. The book and Mr. Tan’s work at Google are also in support of his passion and life’s purpose to bring world peace to the planet.
I recommend the mindfulness approach to all those who want to cultivate Conscious Leadership at work and live life fully through compassion and happiness as Conscious Leaders.