Every year, I teach mindfulness to thousands of corporate workers, senior executives, business owners, and government officials who, by any measure on this planet, are extremely successful people. Most of them have gotten to where they are in their professional lives without a daily mindfulness practice. It’s just as likely that you, too, dear reader, have gotten to wherever you are in your life without practicing mindfulness. Why would successful leaders in business or government want to change their approach now, after it’s been so fruitful? Why should you? What’s different? Why add another thing to what is likely an already overwhelming to-do list? 

I think there is value in stepping into the world of business transformation for a moment and seeing what companies are doing today as a way to draw some parallels to our individual situations. According to Marketsandmarkets.com, a business-to-business research and market intelligence firm, the digital transformation market was expected to grow from $290 billion in 2018 to $665 billion by 2023. Why would companies spend such massive amounts of money transforming their business models? In a word, disruption. It’s not lost on company leaders that corporate survivability, a phrase describing the ability of a company to withstand disruption, crisis, or other factors negatively affecting the business, is declining. An Innosight.com executive briefing titled “Corporate Longevity: Turbulence Ahead for Large Organizations” describes the reduced tenure companies can expect to enjoy on the S&P 500. According to the report, in 1965 companies averaged 33 years listed on the S&P 500. By 1990 the average shrunk to just 20 years. The projection for 2026: 14 years. This is enough of a trend to make credible business leaders pay attention and take steps to ensure their company remains viable and strong. What’s happening? Massive technological change. 

The volume and velocity of change, innovation, information, and disruption companies must manage today has never before been seen on this planet. Recent history is littered with failed companies that did not adjust to the new realities of a rapidly advancing technological world. Remember Blockbuster? Kodak? Radio Shack? Borders bookstores? The message is clear to businesses: if you do not transform to meet the realities of the present, you’ll become a “what not to do” case study at Harvard Business School. 

Here are some of the major innovations and changes companies are currently adapting to or working to incorporate into their business models:

◆ Artificial intelligence

◆ Machine learning

◆ Blockchain technology

◆ Augmented reality

◆ Virtual reality

◆ Cloud computing

◆ 5G

◆ Internet of things

◆ Remote working technology (In 2020 as I write this many people have been working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing companies to adopt this technology quickly.)

◆ Advanced persistent threats in cybersecurity

The list goes on and, therefore, we have a multi-hundred-billion- dollar market opportunity each year in the digital transformation space for professional consulting firms to help usher companies through these transformations, not so businesses merely survive these rapid technological changes but so they thrive within them. 

Do we really think that we, as individuals, are not affected by the changes of the modern world? The volume and velocity of change, information, and disruption we each face is massively different than it was just 20, 10, or even only 5 years ago. Work demands on individuals’ “off” time is significantly higher today causing an increased blurring of work time and family or personal time. There is also a near constant barrage of attempts to hijack our attention in this new “attention economy” in which companies have learned to capture, maintain, and monetize our attention. We face a crisis of complexity and a disaster of distraction. 

If you are honest with yourself, you are probably in the following situation: your work and work-related activities get the bulk of your attention. One or two apps on your phone get another huge helping of attention. A compelling TV series on Netflix gets a nice portion. After all that, your spouse/partner, children, other family members, and friends get what’s left over, and what they get is quite fragmented. How did we get here?

Excerpted from Mindfulness without the Bells and Beads: Unlocking Exceptional Performance, Leadership, and Well-being for Working Professionals, Wiley, available April 20, 2021.


  • Clif Smith

    Americas Mindfulness Leader and Global Mindfulness Network Leader, EY

    Clif Smith, a US Army veteran, former diplomat and intelligence officer, is the author of Mindfulness without the Bells and Beads: Unlocking Exceptional Performance, Leadership, and Well-being (Wiley).  He also serves as Ernst and Young’s (EY) foremost advisor on mindfulness and is an internationally recognized leader for bringing mindfulness into the corporate world.  Clif brings over 25 years of experience leading through high-pressure situations into his teachings and demonstrates the value of adopting mindfulness as a fundamental part of our personal and professional lives.  Following his passion for developing others as a leadership coach and mindfulness teacher, he built EY’s Mindful Leadership program, delivering practical training to over 60,000 EY and client personnel across the globe.  He has a Bachelor of Science in Business Information Systems from Bellevue University and Master of Public Administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

      The views expressed by the author are his own and not necessarily those of Ernst & Young LLP or other members of the global EY organization.