The Mindful TMF: The Beginner’s Mind, Trust One’s Self, and the Non-Striving TMF

About LMK’s Mindful TMF Series

Your palms are sweaty. Your pulse races when you hear the news. You’d do anything for a few more hours to prepare and you might work all night. It’s TMF inspection day and now it’s too late to make a meaningful change.

At LMK Clinical Research Consulting, we know the toll TMF stress can take on your team and your health. TMF stress damages the fabric of your team, erodes job performance, stokes burnout, and ultimately endangers the health of the TMF. But, beyond addressing resourcing and TMF training concerns, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) can be an indispensable tool for fighting TMF stress and disharmony.

LMK’s TMF Mindfulness Series gives practical advice, allowing you to incorporate the seven pillars of mindfulness into your TMF processes. Click here to read our last post in the Mindfulness Series introducing the mindfulness concepts of non-judging and patience to the TMF.

The Beginner’s Mind

Do you remember the last time curiosity inspired you to try something new? This natural relationship between a beginner’s curiosity and openness to new experiences gives us another fundamental pillar of mindfulness: the beginner’s mind. Kabat-Zinn describes the beginner’s mind as “a lovely orientation to bring to the present moment… this moment is always fresh, always new”. Achieving this orientation to the present, however, can be challenging, as most of us “…bring so many ideas and attitudes and desires to every moment that we can’t allow ourselves much of the time to see things as if for the first time”.

To reassess the TMF with a beginner’s mind one must return to a first-day mindset. Ask your team, “If you could start our TMF over from scratch, what would you do differently?” In taking the time to solicit honest feedback for everyone, both experienced and inexperienced, a new beginner’s perspective can be gained by all. From this new perspective, previously unconsidered possibilities and solutions will become clear.  Certainly, valuable skills are built overtime, but skills are only one component of mastery. As professionals, we build a narrow band of competency through routine but our comfort in the familiar can close us off to new experiences and growth. Regardless of our level of experience, rejecting preconceptions and embracing a world of possibilities is the start of TMF innovation and success.

The Foundation of Trust

When frustrated by the failure of trust in a relationship, it is natural to fixate on the flaws of others. The principles of MSBR, however, remind us that in order to trust others, we must first learn to trust ourselves. A busy and overwhelmed mind seeking peace through MSBR will struggle with barriers of self-doubt. Self-doubt causes us to question our intuition, agency, and authority and forms a barrier between our minds and the present.  The most effective weapon against self-doubt is self-trust. This kind of trust means discovering and having faith in your own goodness and worthiness. Without this trust in our own goodness, we are blind to the goodness of others, and our relationships will forever suffer.

The implications of damaged trust on your TMF are not abstract. Take a moment to map out all of the places where trust between team members supports your TMF processes. You’ll undoubtedly find that trust, and the relationships trust enables, silently underpin most processes. The inability of your TMF team to trust one another, therefore, is as much of an emergency as any compliance failure. A team can simply not meet the standards of regulators without trusting one another. Healthy TMF processes provide individuals the means to recognize the goodness in their coworkers, while a healthy TMF culture empowers TMF stakeholders to have confidence in their own unique voice.  The intersection of self-trust and trust of the team leads to the TMF harmony we all desire.

Being, Not Trying: Non-Striving

We work hard at our jobs in the pursuit of a better life.  We embark on TMF QC initiatives in the pursuit of a healthier TMF. We constantly desire greater control of our lives and our jobs so that we can secure more favorable results. But when our relationships, personal lives, businesses, and institutions are ruled by ever-loftier goals, fatigue and exhaustion can set in. While constant improvement is laudable, the endless preoccupation with an end product can also corrupt the processes essential to living a healthy life.  The pillar of mindfulness, non-striving, asks us to let go of this fixation on this end result.

The non-striving mind, instead of going somewhere, is fully oriented to the present. But how can a TMF or the clinical trial succeed without a desire to go anywhere? From a Western point of view, the non-striving mind is the opposite of productivity—something only yogis and monks have the luxury of. But, the reality of non-striving is more nuanced than sleeping in and letting emails pile up in your inbox. The non-striving mind is an internal practice. It is recognition that a mind overly fixated on hopes and dreams will never find peace in the present.  MSBR challenges us to find peace in the present and trust that our goals will be realized in their own time.  For the clinical professional managing a TMF, the pillar of non-striving is a call for work-life balance. Neglecting physical and emotional health for the sake of achieving career success is not the path to TMF health, nor is raw productivity the only way to measure the value of a clinical professional.

Be sure to watch for our next post detailing how the principles of acceptance and letting go can help you overcome your greatest TMF challenges.