2 Simple Mindful Leadership Steps To Reset Your Brain’s Negativity Bias

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‘What went well?’ is as important to ask as ‘What went wrong?’

Have you ever noticed that your mind fixates on the answer to ‘What went wrong?’ turning the events over and over in your mind, analyzing and creating better alternatives to your reactions in the moment? The inner critic takes center stage and an event that took only a few moments can paint the entire day as ‘bad’. What is happening?

Neuroscientists explain this phenomenon as our brain’s innate negativity bias. The moments that we experience as unpleasant stick like glue. And the moments that are neutral or that we experience as pleasant are like Teflon and simply bounce off, barely noticed. If you consider the reasons for negativity bias from a survival point of view, it makes sense that those moments would be ones we would want to remember. For example, if eating those pretty red berries made our ancestors sick, the brain would want to embed that memory so we avoid those berries next time. It was a matter of survival.

Today, however, that same negativity bias can make a simple unpleasant conversation into the point of fixation for the entire day, or the memory that keeps us up at night. And with our mind so occupied with the recurring unpleasant memory, we can miss moments of joy and happiness, or make choices that we later see as unwise.

Is there anything we can do about this? Thankfully, the answer is yes. In the practices of Mindful Leadership training, we begin with two simple practices to begin to work with the negativity bias:

  1. Notice that it is happening. Now that you understand what is likely to happen in your thinking, see if you can catch those times when you exaggerate the significance of a single event or comment. For example, when your friend asks you about your day, and you answer it was ‘horrible’, take a pause to look more clearly at the entirety of the day. Was the entire day horrible or was it just that awkward conversation that happened at 10 am? Was the entire day filled with horrible moments? Can you recall a few pleasant moments in the day?
  2. Notice moments of joy. Begin to make a point of identifying pleasant or joyful moments in the day. Look for those simple moments that often go by without us noticing them…a smile from a friend, a delicious piece of fruit, the warmth of the sun. And see if you can take a few moments at the end of the day to ask yourself ‘what went well today?’.

Over time, you are retraining your mind to put difficult moments in the day into perspective, and you are training your mind to give equal notice to those moments that are pleasant, the moments that have the potential to enrich your experience of each day.

Multitasking Destroys Your Ability To Communicate

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Stop for a minute and think back to the last time you were having a conversation with someone in person. Chances are they were also looking at their phone or their laptop, at least periodically. How did that feel?

While at the surface you might say it felt ‘normal’, drop a bit deeper into the question. While you were speaking and your colleague kept glancing away to look at a text, how did it make you feel? Most of us would say ‘I felt disrespected’, or ‘I felt as though what I was saying was unimportant’ to that person. As a leader, is that how you want people to feel when they are speaking with you?

And, what about the efficiency of communication when we are not all completely present for a meeting or a dialog? Is the efficiency and effectiveness of a meeting significantly impaired when everyone at the table is periodically looking at their phone? This kind of multitasking interferes with optimal meeting results in two important ways. First, when our attention is pulled away from the substance of the meeting to look at something on the phone, we miss what is currently being said. Our brain is unable to do two things at once. The result can be seen in the need for clarification after the meeting, or the question that gets asked a second time even though it was answered ten minutes earlier. Second, when there is a topic that requires collaboration and innovation, full attention from everyone is a prerequisite. The strong connections necessary for collaboration and innovation don’t happen when the attention of the team members are split. Failure to connect as a team leads to suboptimal results.

Some simple mindful communication steps can help you communicate more effectively.

1. Put away the phone and close the laptop when you are communicating. And make this a norm for all of your meetings.

2. Take a minute or two to let go of everything that came before this moment when you are about to begin a conversation or a meeting. You can go back to it later but for right now, form the intention to let it go and to be fully present. Sitting quietly or taking a brief walk down a hallway is a good way to prepare.

3. Notice those times when your attention is pulled away by the desire to check your phone or laptop, or by some unrelated topic, and gently bring your attention back to the moment.

Creating an external and internal environment that supports your ability to connect is vital to great communication. Experiment with these simple steps that eliminate some of our daily multitasking habits and see what happens!

Building Your Resilience in 2023 Begins with Sleep

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Building Your Resilience in 2023 Begins with Sleep

As you begin this new year, check in with your body and mind. Are you feeling centered and energized? Or, have you noticed that there is a pernicious weariness that accompanies you each day. You are not just a little sleepy, you are exhausted. It just doesn’t seem possible to fully recharge your batteries, or to ‘bounce back’ after a particularly busy period. If this feels true for you, you are not alone. Feeling exhausted, or losing your resilience, is one of the most common complaints I hear from the busy professionals who attend my workshops and retreats.

And what do you know about how you show up for your life when you aren’t feeling rested? Are you less patient? More likely to make a mistake? Less likely to embody compassion? You simply cannot live well when your body and mind are longing for rest. And when there are many days and weeks of feeling this exhaustion, it depletes your resilience. You are no longer capable of just bouncing back.

The ability to cultivate resilience is a multi-faceted practice, but it all begins with quality sleep. Over decades of working with professionals, I have found that the most common culprits interfering with your sleep can be significantly diminished if you are able to take 3 steps:

  1. Turn off all electronics at least one hour before you go to bed. The light from computers and phones stimulates the brain preventing it from beginning to relax and prepare for sleep.
  2. Leave all electronics outside the bedroom. Trying to sleep with your phone or laptop inches from your head sends the signal that the brain should stay on ‘high alert’ waiting for the next ding or notification icon. This is true even if it is turned off.
  3. When you are in bed, pay attention to the sensations of your breath. When your mind is pulled away from the breath and begins to go over your ‘to do’ list, or begins replaying a conversation, be consistent about letting it go for now, and returning your attention to your breath. Be patient with yourself but keep practicing in this way. You are training your mind to ease into sleep rather than worrying the night away.

These simple mindfulness steps are not easy. You may have conditioned yourself to be connected 24/7 but the toll on your brain and body is not sustainable, and the first place you may notice the effects is in poor sleep. Sleep is when you recharge so you can be at your best-your brain and your cells need this time to cultivate resilience and prepare you for the next day. Be patient with yourself and keep working on these steps until they become your nighttime regime.

Sweet dreams!

Are Peace And Joy Possible In The Midst Of Chaos? A Mindfulness Perspective

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The Power of Peace and Joy

The past few years have been a time of unprecedented turmoil, uncertainty, and fear. Never in our lifetimes have we been confronted by so many challenges at work, at home and in our communities. And yet, we are now embarking on the season that is traditionally spoken about as a time to embody peace and joy. Are these two states of being even possible amid such chaos? Let’s take a closer look at them.

A Closer Look at Peace

In the many years that I have been practicing mindful leadership, I have seen in myself and others that the single biggest barrier to embodying peace is to believe that it is conditioned on something happening or changing. ‘When I get that promotion, I will find peace’, ‘When I find my soulmate, I will find peace’, or ‘When everything goes back to normal, I will find peace’. True peace, however, is a state of being that originates within us. It is a willingness to turn toward and to be with things just as they are.


Peacefulness is a by-product of letting go of wanting to control or change the people or things around us. This is not about giving up or apathy. It is about letting go of the struggle to make the world conform to how we want it to be. When we let go in this way, we find the spaciousness to reflect on what is here, and then to make a conscious choice about the skillful next step. We are expanding our repertoire of how we meet the moments of our lives by seeing what is already here with greater clarity and compassion.

A Closer Look at Joy

In this season, the word ‘joy’ is splattered everywhere we look…greeting cards, store displays and town centers. But what does it really mean? Joy is different from happiness. Happiness is a triggered emotion. It most often is fleeting and arises in response to something external.

Joy, however, arises from an internal peacefulness with who you are, and how you choose to meet the world. Cultivating joy requires us to engage in quiet reflection, noticing our basic humanity and goodness, and it invites us to make wise and compassionate choices about our life, and the lives we influence. Joy is not fleeting; it is a state of being we can strengthen each day. How will you strengthen joy today? Can you engage in an act of self-compassion that recognizes your basic humanity and goodness?


As we near the closing of this difficult year, I wish for you, and those you love, a peaceful and joyous New Year.

Warm regards,


If You Don’t Know How to Set Boundaries, You’ll Lose More Than Just Sleep

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If it was nearly impossible to distinguish work time from personal time before the pandemic, now it truly seems like an unattainable dream. The demands of the new ways we are working, the pulls to care for family and ourselves, and our attempts to stay connected with friends can make the day and night seem like a blur of computer screens and smartphone notifications. Our body and mind begin to feel under siege and, without setting some boundaries, we can feel isolated, exhausted and overwhelmed.

In this complex, rapidly changing world, is it possible to really set some boundaries between work and non-work time? Can we find the courage to put down the demands and distractions so we can recharge and more fully inhabit our life? Before you believe that inner voice reactive answer: ‘there is no way I can change this chaos!’, try this simple experiment in mindful leadership:

1. Transitions between segments in your work schedule

Look for the natural breaks in your scheduled day and create an intentional boundary. Boundaries require intentional, disciplined choices. For example, your 10 am conference ends at 11 am. When you leave that meeting, take a few minutes to stand and stretch at your desk. Take a few deep breaths and exhale with a sigh each time. Invite your mind to let go of the interactions in that meeting and pay attention to how your body feels as you stand up and stretch. These few minutes belong to you. Use them to care for yourself and re-center your mind and body so it is ready for the next segment of your day.

A second example involves making the choice to really nourish yourself during the day. When it is time to have lunch, it is also time to transition away from work. Close the computer, put away your phone and walk mindfully to lunch. Feel your feet on the floor of the hallway and redirect your attention to those steps every time your mind begins to pull you back to work. If you are home with other family members, invite them to join you as you prepare lunch and connect with one another over a meal. If you are at work, invite a colleague to join you.

These short breaks are important ways to help you cultivate resiliency in a hectic schedule. Look for other mindful breaks that support you and make a conscious choice to integrate them into your schedule. For more ideas, see my article on Purposeful Pauses at work:

2. Transitions between tech time and no tech time

Although it may seem strange to even think about it, your smartphone and laptop have off switches. Choose to use them. At some point in your day, at least 1 hour before bed, and ideally more, turn them all off. And keep them out of your bedroom. If you have been relying on them to wake you up in the morning, consider investing in an alarm clock. Having tech right next your head while you are trying to sleep often interferes with deep, restorative sleep because a part of your brain is waiting for the technology to buzz. And a failure to get a good night’s sleep affects your physical and mental health. You are not only feeling tired, lack of high quality sleep affects, among other things, your immune system, memory and creativity.

You take great care to keep the technology recharged. Do the same for yourself by disconnecting from technology for set periods every day. This choice to create a boundary and leave tech behind for a while will allow you to connect to yourself, family, pets or friends. Trying to authentically connect with one eye on a screen is disrespectful and guaranteed to be noticed by others. Think about it, when you are speaking with someone and they keep glancing at their phones, how does it make you feel?

Create a ‘no tech zone’ for your house, and set aside ‘no tech hours’ for your entire family. You may soon find that tech connections are no substitute for human connections.