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A funny thing happened to mindfulness. When I read Ellen Langer’s book, some fifteen years ago, it seemed like a pretty straightforward and useful concept. Get off autopilot. Pay attention to what’s going on around you. Pay attention to what you’re doing. Stay flexible.

Langer used the Russian General Mikhail Kutuzov and his victory over Napoleon to demonstrate the key qualities of mindfulness. She said they were:

“(1) creation of new categories; (2) openness to new information; and (3) awareness of more than one perspective.”

That sounds like something you’d want to be. It sounds like a recipe for success. Bill George certainly would agree. He says that “Mindfulness Helps You Become a Better Leader.

But something bad has happened to the mindfulness I remember. Instead of being a simple concept with powerful possibilities it’s become something else. I’m not sure what. Here are some recent articles on mindfulness.

From Kristi Hedges: Are You Mindful or Mindless?
“The concept of mindfulness has found its way into corporate speak, as professionals are encouraged to combat the frenetic pace of work by slowing down, pausing, and being more present. Creativity and learning require an ability to get off the hamster wheel and simply think. This is easier said than done, as we juggle multiple technologies, busy travel schedules, fatigue, and lengthening workdays.”

From the Financial Times: The mind business
“Yoga, meditation, ‘mindfulness’ – why some of the west’s biggest companies are embracing eastern spirituality”

From Dan Hurley: Breathing In vs. Spacing Out
“Is mindfulness always best?”

To get back to the basics, check out Ellen Langer’s site and her recent interview with the Harvard Business Review. For some sensible on-going coverage, I suggest two blogs.

Scott Eblin has a regular blog feature called “Mindful Mondays.” Here’s a recent post titled “Three Things Mindful Leaders Do.”  Louise Altman covers mindfulness on her Intentional Workplace blog. Here’s a recent post titled “Mindfulness Goes Mainstream.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your experience with and thoughts about “mindfulness.”

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