Monday, July 11, 2011


Many Australians can enhance their lives simply by thinking more positively and mindfully, says the renowned international psychologist Professor Ellen J Langer (pictured left) who spoke at the University of Melbourne on 1 June 2011.

Professor Langer was the first woman ever to be tenured in psychology at Harvard University. She has studied the illusion of control, decision making, ageing and mindfulness theory and is the author of more than 200 research articles and 11 books, including Mindfulness and The Power of Mindful Learning. Her latest book is Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility.

The Australian Unity sponsored lecture, Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility, focused on Professor Langer’s research into the causes and consequences of mindlessness and discusses a mindfulness 'cure'.

Langer points out that most of our physical and psychological suffering is the direct or indirect result of mindlessness. She said her research can be summed up as ‘wherever you put the mind, the body will follow.’

‘Most of us are sealed in unlived lives and are unaware of the toll our mindlessness takes on our psychological and physical wellbeing. Our level of effectiveness and a person’s limits are of their own making,’ Professor Langer said.

Australian Unity is to be commended for sponsoring this lecture by one of the world's leading academic experts on the power of mindfulness.

To listen to the lecture select one of three links below:

[Source: Australian Unity media release 16/06/2011 12:00 AM]

Now, on the subject of mindful leadership, here is a link to a video presentation of Professor Langer speaking in Melbourne at the ADC Future Summit 2011 on mindful leadership.

Langer speaks about mindfulness and how uncertainty and awareness affect the quality of our decision-making.

The rationale behind the concept of ‘mindful leadership’ is very simple. If you want to lead others, and want the ‘perks’ of being a leader, then you are obligated to accept that you are under a ‘duty’ - yes, duty - to others to treat them with respect. You cannot do that unless, among other things, you make rationally humane decisions:

·     based on the ‘merits’ and special circumstances of the particular matter before you, and
·     with a ‘clear mind’, which is fully present in the moment, focused on the matter-at-hand, and free from the ‘baggage’ of the past (that is, free from conditioning, presumptions, assumptions, predilections, prejudices, etc) to the extent humanly possible.

I have some difficulties with Professor Langer's exposition of mindfulness, which, by her 'definition', is somewhat akin to creative thinking. Indeed, Langer is sometimes at pains to distinguish - somewhat disingenuously in my respectful opinion - her concept of mindfulness from the Eastern one. I could, and perhaps at some time in the near future will, do a whole blog on that particular matter.

Be that as it may, Langer is at her best when speaking and writing about the 'counterpart' of mindfulness, namely mindlessness. Also, I cannot fault Langer's references to mindfulness as 'the ability to always see things as new and open' [my emphasis]. Yes, a mind must be wide open in order to function freely in thought.

Also, Langer does not appear to disassociate herself from the characteristically Eastern truth that we are always in a state of becoming ... as opposed to being ... and that nothing is fixed. Thus, a mindful leader is careful to avoid rigid systems (especially 'belief-systems') and is adept at changing with the ever changing ... for, as well all know, the only 'constant' in life is change.

When speaking to business leaders and managers I often say, 'Forget about Management by Objectives (MBO). Instead, think in terms of Management by Mindfulness (MBM).' I wonder what Peter Drucker, if he were still alive today, would say about that? (I think I know.)

To download this second talk of Profesor Langer select one of three links below:


  (high data usage)

Download this talk

Flash Video (.flv): 157 MB
MP3 Audio (.mp3): 24 MB
MPEG Video (.m4v): 149 MB
(right-click > save)

[Source: ADC Future Summit 2011]


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