Photo of James Donald.

Journeys of the mind

09 May 2014

In any professional career, the journey is punctuated with successes and failures. How we deal with the inevitable disappointments and wrong-turns is something we are judged on by our colleagues and professional peers.

So is it possible to adapt our responses using mindfulness to help chart a smoother course through some of the rocky patches?

Crawford School of Public Policy PhD Scholar James Donald argues mindfulness is an important tool in the skills for surviving and thriving through difficult work situations.

“My research is on how people deal with setbacks and failure in the workplace, for example, missing out on promotion or getting a negative performance review,” Donald said.

“There are two ways people go: avoidance strategies, which are emotional strategies, and learning strategies.

“The research is looking at resilience and how people cope with the ups and downs, but especially the downs. Do mindfulness-based skills assist people cope more effectively?

“My hypothesis is that mindfulness-based skills help people take a learning approach, to be more flexible and move between both strategies rather than getting stuck in responses that aren’t helpful, like going home to a bottle of wine as a way of avoiding the issue.”

As part of his research, Donald is running three half-day workshops in August, which are open to PhD and higher degree by research students, as well as working-age professionals more generally. Participants will be introduced to mindfulness and encouraged to incorporate mindfulness into their everyday lives.

The sessions will include face-to-face work and some technology-based responses so participants can chart the impact of mindfulness on their responses to work stress and in life more generally.

“The training is focussed on two things: using mindfulness skills to cope better with stress, and in persisting with the things in life that matter to us, even when it gets difficult,” he said.

Donald ran a half-day course in April for PhD students to explain the science behind mindfulness and how it works, as well as giving students the opportunity to try a simple mindfulness technique.

To speak to James about being involved in the three half-day workshops, contact him at

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Updated:  26 April 2024/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team