3 Steps to Cultivate Resilience in Difficult Times by Janice Marturano

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3 Steps to Cultivate Resilience in Difficult Times by Janice Marturano

The toll of CoVid19 on our physical and mental health has led to a veritable avalanche of calls to ‘cultivate resilience’. We know we are feeling worn out and we are grasping for a ‘tool’ or ‘technique’ that will make us better able to get through the day. Of course, there are those who look for, and find,  yet another app that is supposed to help, or another color-coded priority process that claims to be the answer. But, aren’t those things just more distractions that add to an already too-long ‘to do’ list?

What if the answer is much simpler and requires no technology? What if the actual way to begin to cultivate resilience is through an act of kindness?

Let me explain.

When we are moving through our lives at warp speed, it is easy to ignore the signals from our own body and our own wisdom. The signals that tell us that something is missing, or something is wrong. Instead, we forge ahead, ignoring what is here and draining all reserves until we find ourselves so depleted that we are unable to do anything more than go through the motions of our lives. If this sounds true for you, you are not alone. Most of the professionals I work with would agree that they have many days where it feels as if they are living on autopilot.

The good news is that you can learn to listen again to those signals, and when you do, you are likely to feel a pull toward an act of kindness toward yourself. If you are ready to explore this possibility, try these 3 simple steps:

  1. Find 5-10 minutes to sit comfortably in a quiet place. Allow your eyes to close and bring your attention to the sensations in your body.
  2. What do you notice? Do you feel warm, cool, tired? Are you noticing any areas of discomfort? If your attention wanders away, bring it back. Let your body sensations take center stage. Listen.
  3. When you are ready, ask yourself this question: what act of kindness is called for today? Be patient and listen for the answer to arise from your inherent wisdom.

Now for the hard part…having the courage to act on what you learned. Perhaps you noticed a deep tiredness and the action is to learn to say ‘no’ to some requests, or to go to bed earlier.

Or, perhaps you noticed tightness in your neck or lower back and the act of kindness that arose was to let go of something in your life that is not nourishing you.

Each time you choose to practice with this reflection, you make room for looking at what drains your energy, and you take a positive action to build back the life you want to live. You can begin to bloom again!


Is Your Story-Telling Derailing Your Career? Two Mindful Steps To Get Back On Track

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Is Your Story-Telling Derailing Your Career? Two Mindful Steps To Get Back On Track

Near the end of his life, it has been reported that Mark Twain was asked to look back and offer an assessment. He noted that ‘my life has been one tragedy after another but thankfully, most never happened’. If you stop for a few moments and consider this observation, you might also note the many times you told yourself a story that something terrible was going to happen, but it never did.

We are creative beings and so we can imagine many outcomes or scenarios. Our minds can write full-length feature films and we can become certain that the worst is going to happen. Or we can limit our potential by telling ourselves that we will certainly fail, or not be good enough. Too many careers stall before they need to, solely because of the stories we create in our mind.

I’m not talking about full assessments that look at all possibilities. I’m talking about the much more common assessment that only looks at all the things that might go wrong, or that might make something challenging, often with little or no facts to support those conclusions. These are the thoughts that can keep you from soaring, or reaching your full potential.

Here is a simple approach to cultivating a more skillful approach to moments when your own thoughts may be holding you back:

1. Write down the thought that seems to be holding you back or cultivating anxiousness or fear, and then read it aloud. What do you notice?

2. Now, intentionally choose to hold the thought with some spaciousness and note that ‘this may or may not be true’. There is no need to push the thought aside or try to bury it. Just hold it lightly. In the spaciousness you have created around these thoughts, they begin to loosen their grip. How do you want to meet those words now? What is the skillful choice to live your best life?

This simple practice takes just a few moments but it can be a powerful way to interrupt the thinking that has limited your career and your life.

Did You Put On A Mask Long Before CoVid19?

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Did You Put On A Mask Long Before CoVid19?

In 2020, the word ‘mask’ has taken on some new meanings. It can be divisive, patriotic, germ-fighting, or even a ‘fashion statement’. But long before masks took on today’s meanings, ‘wearing a mask’ meant you were not fully showing up as yourself.

You might wear a mask to hide your true feelings, or what you believe are your weaknesses. You might wear a mask to ‘fit in’ or to ‘get ahead’. Some wear masks to carry on the façade that they always know the answer. The problem is that masks are not real, and what they are hiding does not stay out of sight. Instead, wearing a mask is a kind of self-delusion, it weighs you down, and it hides from you what is often an undiscovered strength or a source of pride.

Let’s look at an example. In a recent mindful leadership workshop, one of my clients shared that he often feels as though ‘I am wearing someone else’s clothes’. When I asked him what part of him does not show up, he said ‘my vulnerability’. And he then proceeded to explain how tiring it was to continue leading in this way. He felt like an impostor.

Vulnerability is a common reason for donning a mask. Rather than seeing your vulnerability as a leadership strength, you see it as something to keep out of sight. What if you change your perspective and look at vulnerability another way? When you, as a leader, show your vulnerability, you invite others into the decision. You make room for others to feel empowered.

You also show your strength by modeling that it is OK to not have all the answers, to be uncertain, or to need help. All of those vulnerabilities are part of being your most authentic self. It allows you to show up fully, to connect to others more deeply and it invites others to grow.

So, rather than putting on another mask today, take a risk and be who you really are!

When You Are Feeling ‘Untethered’, Try This Mindfulness Grounding Practice

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You awaken with a sense of uneasiness, you notice tightness in your neck or a persistent sense of impending trouble. With so much change and uncertainty all around us, you can begin to feel as though you are just going through the motions of living, just floating through life un-tethered, rather than really living it. In these times, it is very important that you find a way to return to a place of feeling grounded. It is from this place that you are most likely to see things clearly and make conscious choices about your work and your personal life. Try this simple practice each morning, or any time when the swirl of life begins to carry you away from your best self:

Step 1: Find a comfortable place to sit. Settle into the chair fully, allowing your body to feel supported.

Step 2: Bring your attention to the soles of your feet. Gently press down and release, noticing the touch-points between your soles and the floor. Without moving your feet, notice any sensations-warmth, coolness, slight pressure from the weight of your legs, etc.

Step 3: Move your attention to scan your entire body, paying special attention to the ways your body is being supported and the touch-points between the chair and your body. Take your time with this scan.

Step 4: Any time that your mind wanders or becomes distracted, redirect your attention to your body sensations. Allow your body sensations to bring you back to this moment, grounded to the present moment. Do you feel more centered? Present?

This simple practice is very powerful because it is based on the fact that you can only notice your body sensations when you are in the present moment. When you intentionally focus on the feelings of being grounded, to the floor and the chair, the practice brings you back to the only place where you can affect change or make conscious choices to live your best life…the present.

Do You Know The 6 Simple Mindfulness Steps To Make Meetings More Useful?

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Another day filled with back to back virtual meetings, no breaks in sight. With all those meetings, your productivity must be through the roof, right? Or are you among the vast majority of professionals who believe that there are too many meetings and very little actually gets accomplished in many of them?

The most common meeting complaints we hear from our clients at the Institute for Mindful Leadership are:

a) no one is listening, they are all on their phones or other apps on their laptops,

b) the same people monopolize the meetings,

c) people often talk over one another which feels disrespectful,

d) too many people are in the meeting because the culture has trust or communication issues, and

e) in an effort to make everyone happy, the decisions sink to the lowest common denominator which is often not the best solution.

If any of those characterizations feel familiar, a few mindful meeting steps can really make a difference. Try them out with the next meeting you lead and see what happens.

Mindful Meeting Steps (these work best for up to 10 people in a one hour meeting but you can modify the steps to fit the specifics of each group once you get used to them):

Send the topic out in advance with a friendly note stating that you invite everyone to come to the meeting with their best thoughts and ideas.
Ask everyone to close their laptops and put away their phones for the duration of the meeting (virtual meetings-put away all electronics not needed for the connection to the meeting)…no glancing at them during the meeting.

Begin the meeting with a minute or two of quiet to let everyone “catch their breath” and bring their attention to this topic.

Use 2 minute monologues-go around the table and give each person 2 minutes, uninterrupted, to share their thoughts-no questions or judgments during the monologues. When one person is done, move on to the next person. When everyone has had a chance to share their monologue, the group can begin to ask questions and discuss.

10 minutes before the end of a meeting, invite everyone to pause and reflect on the following questions: what did I hear?, what questions/thoughts do I still have? Invite brief final comments and questions, if any.

End with a summary of the decisions and/or next steps.
These steps invite all to participate in a way that is respectful and open. It levels the playing field and gives each person the time to speak without worrying about who is going to interrupt. Try it for yourself, what do you notice?