Mindfulness at #SHRM17 - An interview with Marissa Afton


If you suggest to Marissa Afton that she has beautiful red curly hair, she’s likely to give you a quizzical look. There is no denying she’s got some curls but she doesn’t consider herself a redhead.

Perhaps being a redhead is a state of mind. 

Mindfulness - that’s also a state of mind.

Ms. Afton has been practicing mindfulness since she was in college, and she’s been an advocate ever since. Her presentation, Training the Mind to Enhance Individual and Organizational Performance, is occurring on Wednesday, June 21 at 10:00 am.

When I read Ms. Afton’s summary description on the SHRM website, I knew I had to attend.

Wandering Mind

Can’t Pay Attention

Lack of Focus

It’s like when I read the bible…certain words sometimes pop out at me and I know it is meant for me! You see, Ms. Afton is speaking of my son! J HA!

Alas, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree…and while Ms. Afton’s session is geared towards the workplace, I read her words and knew her insights would help me!

I called Ms. Afton to interview her for this post and learned that, indeed, the information she is presenting will help participants in not just their work but their personal lives.

On any given day, we are overwhelmed with information whether we are driving, at work, spending time with our family or friends, etc. Shoot, some of us are overwhelmed when we try not to be such as when we hole up in our bedrooms with a good book, when we garden or enjoy a tasty beverage in the sun. For us, even when we try to be off, we’re on.

It’s exhausting!

Ms. Afton knows that our attention is under siege, and years ago when she was in college, she realized her coursework would suffer if she couldn’t improve her focus, her attention, her emotions and, accordingly, her logical and critical thinking. She started practicing mindfulness. Whether it was through meditation, deliberate focus or simply by slowing down and breathing, she practiced…and here she is today, Director and Senior Consultant for Potential Project, and gearing up to speak at SHRM17!

Lucky us!

Ms. Afton encourages us to consider mindfulness as going to a mental gym. We need to build our mental muscle, so to speak. Only then can we can build our potential to think clearly.

Her session will provide the participants a simple approach to train and develop their mindfulness muscles. She promises it’s not difficult but she cautions that like any exercise, it’s only as good as what we put into it. It’s not magic, she assures us, but it is magical when we realize we are capable of being fully present, being open and aware, and fully in control of our judgment, our emotions, our focus, etc.

Taking mindfulness from the individual level to an organizational level is also on Ms. Afton’s agenda. She’ll offer her expertise and insights into how we, as HR professionals and leaders, can encourage and enable mindfulness in the workplace. Whether it be through organizational structure, role and responsibilities, or performance expectations, we have the potential to positively influence the philosophy and culture at work. Ms. Afton will share examples and suggestions that we can immediately begin using to better encourage mindfulness at work and, subsequently improve productivity, performance and job satisfaction.

Ms. Afton is a first time presenter for SHRM17 but she’s not new to the stage, so to speak. She’s presented at other conferences and her role as a consultant puts her in front of an audience every week. Speaking with her during our interview leaves me no doubt she’s captivating, engaging, funny and very knowledgeable in her field. I encourage you to make the most of your Wednesday in New Orleans and attend her session immediately after the general session.

Ms. Afton can be found on Linked In and Twitterconnect with her!

Like me, she’s going to be a first timer to New Orleans and, like me, she’s looking forward to some great food. She’s not attending the entire conference but will be there on Tuesday and Wednesday. May I suggest you seek her out, ask her if she’s had some good creole, and, just for fun, ask her why she doesn’t consider herself a redhead.


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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