For the last twenty two years I’ve been enabling my clients use mindfulness in the course of their daily lives. Most of them are “big business” people – leaders in big companies and multi-nationals. And most of them tell me regularly, how mindfulness enables them cope with the enormous stresses and strains that are part and parcel of their daily lives.

They are using mindfulness, deploying it in the cut and thrust of everyday life – and it’s making a difference. First of all, they have been taught mindfulness – how to develop it, how to cultivate it and how to enhance it. Of course, mindfulness is being taught the world over, ever since John Kabat Zinn and his team at the University of Massachusetts Medical School developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Therapy (MBSR) – there are eight-week mindfulness-based programs to be found at the click of a mouse.

But there’s a difference between teaching mindfulness and deploying mindfulness in the real-life cut and thrust of corporate life… and it’s a difference that is truly inhibiting the corporate world getting its head around the undoubted benefits of mindfulness. A short story brings this issue into stark reality.

Fourteen years ago, a newly-appointed Country Chief Executive in a multi-national came along to one of my two-day open workshops – he, along with another six “strangers”, sat in a room and learned about mindfulness and how to use it. A couple of years later, he asked me to work with his Senior Leadership Team and I’ve been working with them regularly ever since. To quote my client, mindfulness is “absolutely a key ingredient for our continued success as an organization” so much so that, before a new member joins the Leadership Team, they spend a day with me getting to grips with mindfulness and how to use it.

And this is where the difference between being taught pure mindfulness, as in the traditional eight-week program, and applied mindfulness is most obvious. Over the last two years, five new managers have been promoted to the leadership team. All had already participated in a traditional eight-week program, all had learned pure mindfulness and, without exception, none understood either its significance or how it works on a day-to-day basis.

Let’s deal with the significance of applied mindfulness first. None had understood that, unless we take daily steps to develop and cultivate our mindfulness, we remain normally mindless. Mindfulness is an imperative, it is not a nice to have. Once each understood the science behind both mindlessness and mindfulness, applied mindfulness took on a whole new meaning and importance.

Secondly, each had his or her own take on what pure mindfulness might do for them. Some had found it “interesting” or “nice”, others couldn’t care less, everyone of them could take it or leave it. What they hadn’t understood was that you apply mindfulness – you don’t just practice mindfulness itself. Yes, you could practice mindfulness every day and you could be calmer and happier. But, without direction or purpose, you could be mindfully happy for the rest of your life as you dance around in ever-decreasing circles!

Purposeful mindfulness is about moving forward, focused in the present moment with your goals or purpose in mind. That is the enormous advantage that mindfulness or, more to the point, purposeful mindfulness, offers anyone and everyone striving to not just get through each day but do what they need to do to get to where they want to go. Purposeful mindfulness is mindfulness and goal-setting combined and that means that mindfulness is no longer just a coping mechanism in the face of stress, it is an effortless route to the achievement of anything and everything your heart desires… even in the large corporate world.

My Country Chief Executive client knows where mindfulness can take you and your organization – he is now the President of Global Operations! He knows that when you marry proper goal-setting (a whole other subject!) to mindfulness that you have a combination that doesn’t just achieve grand goals, it makes their achievement enjoyable and fun.

So, back to the key question at the start of this article. Are you teaching mindfulness or are your providing your clients with the mindfulness-based tools that will equip them for the ebbs and flows, highs and lows, achievements and challenges of their ordinary everyday lives? If you’re just teaching mindfulness, you may actually be doing your clients a disservice – at best, they’ll end up coming to the conclusion that they can take it or leave it. If you’re just teaching mindfulness, you’re doing the concept of mindfulness itself a disservice – spreading the false belief that being happy is enough and, as we call know, when happy-clappy comes up against real challenge, it’s exposed for what it is… a nothing.

Purposeful mindfulness is about using your newly-focused mind to meet your ends with the most fun and least effort possible… and it is a joy to behold.

Author's Bio: 

Willie Horton is a consultant business psychologist working in the field of mindfulness-based leadership development since 1996 prior to which he held senior leadership roles in finance and banking. Willie is from Dublin Ireland and lives in the French Alps. He has recently published a free report for coaches – Using Mindfulness-Based Tools to Develop and Measure Mindful Leaders – which is available here: