On Being Mindful in the Workplace

By Alvin

We live and interact with people on a daily basis. At work or at school, we often have to collaborate with others, be it working with a partner or in teams. As a result, clashes in viewpoints or working styles may arise. 

Once, I was shocked to realize that I had become very competitive – in the midst of a clash in opinions – even when there was not a need to. This happened when I was working on a project with my colleague. We had to brainstorm ideas and organize some activities for a company event. However, my colleague rejected each and every of my ideas which made me really fed up. This ignited the competitive streak in me, I was bent on suggesting better ideas to prove that I am superior to him and his concepts and thinking were not as logical as mine. I became more and more insistent that he should follow my ideas. 

The more competitive I was, the more self-focused I became. And this led to a neglect of my other administrative duties and responsibilities. Furthermore, being irritated by the whole episode, I even complained about the matter to my friend. At the end of the day, not only did I not feel better about myself and the situation, the project did not end well. The outcome was a working relationship turned sour. 

One day on my way to work, as I was listening to Jen Chen Buddhism Dharma Teacher, Reverend Chen Ming-An’s talk from a CD, something he said struck me: 

As Buddhist disciples, while we have good intentions in wanting to contribute and help out at the Buddhist Centre, sometimes these good thoughts turn into frustrations when we do not get to see our expected results from our contributions or when the outcomes do not match our expectations.

For example, not getting any acknowledgement or recognition after we felt that we were a big help to others or others disagreeing with our comments which we deemed as valuable advice. 

His sharing gave me a wake up call! When I first started working in my company, my goals were to learn as much as I can, to have a positive attitude towards work and my colleagues. Yet when I felt that I was not getting any recognition from my colleagues, I became increasingly competitive and unknowingly, my actions at work manifested in a different direction from my original goals. 

Reflecting on that incident, I was too caught up in my own thinking and ideas. I lost my self-awareness, felt trapped to my thoughts and habits, and turned into an ultra competitive person. And yet, at that moment, I had thought that it was the right thing to do! 

From this experience, I realised that it is very important to be aware of our own thoughts. As a very apt phrase from Reverend Chen’s book shares: 

We always measure others’ attitudes or how others treat us, but we never see ourselves as clearly.”

When we lose our inner compass, we might think that we are on the right track – even when we are not. Given, we should be more mindful, and never underestimate even the smallest inner thought!