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In today’s numbers-driven world, scientific evidence is often the most effective way to convince an individual or organization to give mindfulness a try. But even if it is the science that gets them in the door—as was definitely the case with our founding at Google—it’s almost always subjective personal experience that makes people realize, “Wow. This mindfulness stuff really works.”

In this blog post, we talk to two alumni of our advanced mindfulness training program, SIY Engage, about how personal experience has figured into their own mindfulness journeys.

As the CEO of a credit union in New Jersey, Leo Ardine says that, today, he always meditates before making a major business decision: “Sometimes I just need a centering action, like taking a breath. If I have to make a big decision and have that luxury, I’ll put it off until I’ve had a moment to get centered. My team is also getting more used to my pauses, deep breathing and folded hands in meetings.”

Many would be concerned that taking extra time to make an important decision—and to meditate, of all things—could make them appear weak or indecisive. But Leo doesn’t hesitate to say that practicing mindfulness at work has improved his decision-making ability. He says it has allowed him to make tough decisions based on the facts instead of clouded perception.

“Most people in my position, especially if they’re tenured, they make decisions based on gut. And gut can get in the way—we all have triggers. That’s what SIYLI has meant to me. It helped me know that I can take a pause and then actually have a choice,” he says.

Seattle preschool founder and consulting entrepreneur Renee Metty says that applying mindfulness at work has shifted how she approaches networking. Previously, she pursued meetings based on the opportunities or connections she thought someone could offer, but it would backfire.

“I used to sit and talk to someone, and my eyes would wander,” Renee says. “I was in the middle of a conversation wondering, ‘Who am I missing out on?’” But at the same time, she remembers feeling insecure when she did find herself face to face with someone in a position of power. “If I knew you were president of a company, I wouldn’t say as much,” Renee explains.

Realizing this led her to start a new practice during the Engage program to stay fully connected with the person to whom she’s speaking, even if she doesn’t know who they are or if they can help her. Rather than asking, “Am I meeting the right person?” she now puts the priority on connecting with whomever is in front of her.

It’s paid off. In addition to inviting more meaningful connection, her new practice has helped Renee trust in her own abilities. Today, she feels more confident in her intelligence and ability to offer something to any conversation.

Like anyone who has been attracted to SIYLI, Renee still puts a lot of emphasis on the data behind mindfulness. In her own work, she often shares data from SIYLI programs showing their impact on program participants and the neuroscience of mindfulness.

“But what actually happens in your life?” Renee asks. Once you develop self awareness, “What do you see in yourself and then choose to do differently?”

That’s the core question behind applying mindfulness at work and in life. And one that needs both objective data and subjective experience to be answered.

Applications are open now for Engage 2017. Read more about our advanced program and how participants deepen their practices and learn ways to become mindfulness leaders through Engage.