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Institute Director Janice Marturano, Author at Institute for Mindful Leadership

How You Can Stop Living In A State Of Constant Distraction

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‘Is it really June? It feels like April. I think I missed a couple of months!’

‘Is it 2020? I feel as though I graduated just last year but it was 5 years ago. Where did those years go??’

If these statements feel familiar, you are not alone. When I am teaching a Mindful Leadership workshop or retreat, these types of statements are commonplace among the professionals. Some go even further and speak about a sense of missing a decade or more. So, what is happening? Why are we missing our lives?

The short answer is mismanaged distractions. Distractions come from external sources and internal sources, and they are wearing out our body and our brain. External distractions grow exponentially each year. They come in the form of computers, smartphones, tablets and watches. And they come in the form of a plethora of apps and social media options. And that is just the technology. Distractions come from external demands of people as well. Family needs, workplace assignments and social interactions pile on the distractions as well.

Internal distractions, such as our ‘to-do’ list, worries, plans, and ruminations also distract us. Even when we are trying to pay attention to the moment, all these distractions pull us right out of the room! We are rarely present for our lives. And when we are not present, we are living on autopilot, and the moments slip away unnoticed.

It is possible, however, to meet the moments of our lives with focus, clarity and compassion. But to do so, we must train our minds to be present. This training in mindfulness and mindful leadership teaches us to notice when our mind is becoming distracted, and redirect it to the present. It teaches us to more consistently listen to our own wisdom so we can make conscious choices rather than be on autopilot. And one of the greatest powers of mindful leadership training is that it teaches us that our connection to others is strongest when we are present.

Presence is felt by others. In today’s world, we all need to recognize the power of this presence to help us authentically connect, to deeply listen and to heal.

Navigating Historic Times To Live Your Best Life. A 3-Step Mindfulness Examination

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You are truly living through a time that will be an indelible part of history, whether it is the history of your community, your business or your family. Is the new ‘normal’ that is emerging a unique opportunity for you to live your best life?

Right now, you can use some of the enforced stopping of ‘stay at home’ orders and the quiet isolation of social distancing, to reflect on the roles you are playing. What roles did you play before the pandemic? What have you learned during this historic global interruption of the everyday? Most importantly, what changes do you want to initiate in the new ‘normal’?

This is a golden opportunity right now to look closely at what is here in your life. Let’s take each question one-by-one and explore it with some mindful journaling:

1. What roles did I play before the pandemic?

Make a list of all the roles you played before the pandemic hit your community. Try to be exhaustive with your list. Did you include things like mentor, best friend, committee member, etc? Now highlight the roles that were significantly impacted by the pandemic. Read through your list slowly, noticing any sensations that arise in your body. Put a check mark next to roles that are fulfilling and a minus next to roles that are depleting.

2. What are the most important lessons I have learned about myself during the pandemic?

Here are a few questions to get you started. What do I miss? What do I not miss at all? What has been surprising? What did I learn about true connections? What did I learn about my courage, flexibility or strength? (Answer only those that feel relevant to you and be sure to add your own questions.)

Write the lessons down without editing.

3.When I imagine my best life, what does it look like?

To help you with this step, review the answers to step 1 and step 2. Once again it is important to refrain from editing yourself. Just write what arises.

What do you want to change or initiate to live your very best life-at work, at home, and in your community? With some added self-awareness comes your opportunity to create or modify your place in history. What change is right here at your fingertips?

Now, today, choose take one step that moves you on that path. It need not be monumental. One small step is all it takes to change the dance!

Do You Know How To Find Inspiration? A 4-Step Mindfulness Reflection

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Do You Know How To Find Inspiration? A 4-Step Mindfulness Reflection

Stop for a moment and ask yourself this question: ‘When was the last time I felt inspired’? Really inspired, not just interested. If you were inspired by something or someone, it would cause you to stop, to feel and to shift in some way. Sometimes those feelings go all the way to our core. And usually, those shifts affect our behavior, our relationships, and our career.
Inspiration is powerful. Who doesn’t love the feeling of being inspired? And who doesn’t want to be the source of inspiration for someone else? And yet, it is increasingly rare.
Did you stop and ask yourself the question above? If so, you probably had to go pretty far back in your memory to recall a moment when you felt inspired. Take a little time now to call it to mind again and, as you do, see if you can notice the ripple effect of that moment. Are you also noticing any sensations or emotions arising in your body-warmth, tingling, openness, excitement. This is the power of inspiration.
Now, explore a bit more. What specific elements of that moment do you recognize? Was there a courageous act or an act of amazing generosity? Was there an incredible discovery requiring out-of-the-box thinking?

Can you begin to find places to put those elements into your work and home life?
Today, more than ever, our society needs inspirational leaders. And you have the capacity to become one. It all begins with understanding what inspires you, and then finding small ways to bring that into your life. An inspired person lives with greater purpose and optimism. When you feel inspired, all those around you will notice it.
Here is a summary of the reflection steps to explore to bring more inspiration into your life and the lives of others:

When was the last time you felt ‘inspired’? (remember:not just interested, inspired)
What sensations and emotions do you notice as you bring that time to mind?
What were the specific elements of that time that inspired you (courage, generosity, risk-taking, etc)?
How can you bring more of those elements into your life-at work and at home?

Try this reflection a few times. What do you discover? Inspirational acts need not be monumental. Small steps can change the dance!
Be well
Janice

3 Mindfulness Pauses That Can Stop Your Runaway Mind

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3 Mindfulness Pauses That Can Stop Your Runaway Mind

What does your runaway mind look like? Is it the worrying mind that shows up at 3am? Or the ‘to-do’ list that never stops growing? Perhaps it is the mind filled with anxious thoughts about your work or your family or your very survival in the midst of today’s unprecedented health and economic threats.
Whichever runaway mind plagues your day, its effects are detrimental. When your mind is incessantly busy, it can trigger a ‘fight or flight’ reaction to everyday moments. And that reactivity shows up in ways that does not support you or those around you. Rather than bringing your best self to these moments, you react with impatience, poor decision-making, anger, forgetfulness, exhaustion or sadness. These reactions are understandable but we can begin to meet the stresses of the day more skillfully with some 3 mindful leadership practices. I call these practices Purposeful Pauses.

Start your day from a place of clarity. Rather than beginning your day by reacting to the alarm by jumping out of bed and indulging your runaway brain from the moment you awaken, try being intentional about the start of your day. Check in with how your body is feeling as you head to the shower-are you still tired, well-rested, achy? And check in with your mind-are you already rehearsing for a meeting before you even get to the shower? Instead, bring your attention to the physical sensations of awakening and getting ready for the day. Let your mind and body feel connected and grounded. When you are ready, see if you can form an intention for the day. What is truly important for you to attend to today?

Stop at midday to reassess. It is important to stop at midday to reassess and to reconnect with your body and mind. When we are in fight or flight mode, reacting to the mind’s runaway train of thoughts, we are likely to begin to live on autopilot. So, at lunchtime, even if you have only 10 minutes, stop and reassess. Unplug from all technology and sit quietly or go for a short walk. How are you doing with your intention for the day. If needed, make some modifications to reset your course.

Transition from work to home by setting boundaries. Leaders often have a hard time setting boundaries so being very intentional about the transition from work to home can be very helpful in getting them set. Whether you work from home or you commute, make the transition from work to personal time clear and routine. Turn off the computer, stay away from the desk, drive home without listening to voicemails, or whatever makes sense for you. Defining a transition helps you to take the needed break so your body and mind get a chance to relax and reset. These boundaries are at the heart of maintaining your resilience.

Practice with these 3 Purposeful Pauses each day to train the runaway brain to be more focused, clear and compassionate.

Leaders, During Times Like These ‘You Must Do The Thing You Think You Cannot Do’

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Leaders, During Times Like These ‘You Must Do The Thing You Think You Cannot Do’

Many years ago, I came across this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt and ever since it has been an integral part of my internal debates about what I can and cannot do. Eleanor pulled no punches. She clearly stated that we ‘must’ do the very thing that we have decided we cannot do. In my own life, when I have heeded her advice, the growth and discoveries have been more than worth the risk.

Our mind can be incredibly limiting in its thoughts. Even when inspirational ideas arise, they can be quickly smothered by the relentless stories we tell ourselves about potential failure or embarrassment or risk. We think we cannot so we do not try.

As our self-isolation continues, and we begin to truly live into our new normal, leadership will be tested. The old playbook no longer will have any relevance for most businesses, at least in the short term. And, for most businesses, they may be completely reshaped, whether they are prepared for it or not. So it is a time to think way outside the box and to notice when that doubting mind arises reflexively to say it cannot be done. At those times, we can pause and question the source of the doubts. What is the driver of that stream of thinking? What if we simply put aside the doubts for a while and work the problem a little longer? Can we find a new way if we are straight-forward like Eleanor and simply approach the possible solution to the challenge as simply something you must do?

If you would like another way to try this saying out in your life, start with a reflection about your own professional path. It, too, may be impacted in unforeseen ways by this virus. Take a few moments to reflect on your career and the possible next steps. Is there something that you think you cannot do? In the spaciousness of some quiet time at home this week, can you imagine what it would look like if you did it anyway? Disruption in your life and in your work has the potential to be the catalyst that lets you see your true capabilities.