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.

Here Are The Only 4 Steps You Need To Practice Mindfulness Meditation

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There is nothing mystical, religious or difficult about learning to practice mindfulness meditation. It is a simple way to train the innate capacities of your brain to pay attention, to see things more clearly and to act with greater compassion. Just as you know you can strengthen innate capacities of your body through training, you can also strengthen innate capacities of your brain through training.

Without training, you can find yourself living your life on autopilot, constantly feeling distracted and overwhelmed. And when that is your reality, you begin to burn out and feel disengaged. Mindfulness meditation helps you to expand your repertoire of how you meet each moment of your life, and it allows you to make more conscious choices about who you are and how you want to be at work and at home. As our world throws more and more challenges your way, don’t you want as much brain capacity as you can get?

So, here it is. And, to make this even easier for you to learn, here are the instructions and a simple training in audio form to get you started. Enjoy!

The 2 Truths We Refuse To Believe: A Mindfulness Perspective Of Today’s Pandemic

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As human beings, we believe we should aspire to be independent and in control. These qualities, we are told from a young age, will ensure a successful and happy life. So, when we find ourselves in today’s pandemic world, where our regular lifestyle is being interrupted in fundamental ways, we feel out of control. And, whether we ever realized it before or not, our global interdependence and connectedness is on full display when we realize that our very existence may depend on the choices being made by others. As much as we want to be in control and independent, it is not possible.

The world is different now…or is it? Is it only now that things are outside of your control? Were you truly an independent professional before the pandemic? Or were those beliefs ‘just thoughts’ which may or may not be true at any one moment in time?

Our ability to see clearly what is actually here is a skill we strengthen through our mindful leadership practices. It is very easy to see what we want to see, what we hope to see or what was here to be seen last month. During this pandemic, we saw those in leadership positions struggle with this skill as they found the projections from the scientists to be so far outside the norm that they just couldn’t or wouldn’t believe it. We also saw citizens who refused to believe that anything could happen to them, or that they could be carriers. They didn’t see clearly what was right in front of them perhaps because it would be inconvenient to do so, or perhaps they were afraid of what it would mean.

We also notice the uneasiness we feel as we begin to make the dramatic changes necessary to respond skillfully to what we now clearly see. It takes great courage to see with clarity and act accordingly. Especially when what we see is that we have no control over the impetus for all the changes we need to make to our life.

The good news is that a recognition that we are not in control, and we are interdependent can be both freeing and comforting.

Let’s take a look at the illusion of control. If you take a moment and honestly reflect on what you really control, you might find that the list is virtually non-existent. And, when you believe you control things, and you hold tightly to that belief, you create a great deal of suffering, for yourself and for others. Instead, why not focus on being prepared for whatever arises? You still set a general direction, but you stay flexible enough to allow you to see what is here, and meet it with clarity, flexibility and compassion.

As for the reality of interdependence, not independence, it is just a reminder that there are no real boundaries or walls. We collectively inhabit our communities and our world. And, as the saying goes, there is ‘strength in numbers’. In the midst of the current viral threat in Italy, the people flung open their windows and sang together. They leave open their windows so the people who live alone hear the noises of others and don’t feel so isolated. In Spain, the residents used social media to choose a time when they would all go to their windows and applaud the efforts of the healthcare workers. This is the power of connectedness. The pandemic virus is a big threat whose spread is outside of any individual’s control. We can each do our part to help, to be prepared and flexible. And we need our collective strength, and our collective compassion, to beat it.

Do You Feel Trapped At Work? 3 Mindfulness Steps Can Move You Forward

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Do You Feel Trapped At Work? 3 Mindfulness Steps Can Move You Forward

One of the most common complaints I hear from workshop participants is “I feel trapped.” And, the often accompanying question, “How did I get here?” This sentiment does not seem tied to organization level or compensation. I have heard these words come from those who are struggling financially or dealing with some difficult work dynamics. But I have also heard them from those who are highly compensated and have what looks like a dream job. Trapped is trapped.

Do you sometimes feel this way? What do you do when these thoughts and feelings arise? It may be tempting to try to push them away, put your head down and keep moving. Or, as one of my favorite students once shared, “I told myself to ‘suck it up, buttercup!’”

We spend an enormous amount of our precious life at work, about 90,000 hours, so trying to push this away and move on may not be the best solution. And, besides, it won’t work. Have you noticed that the sentiments come back? So, then, how do we begin to free ourselves from the trap?

The first step is to notice what has kept us from freeing ourselves in the past. Often we will find that we have become frozen in place. The idea of trying to find a way out of the trap seems like an enormous undertaking so we come up with lots of reasons not to try. Where to start? What if I fail? No one will listen. It is too risky. I should just be grateful. And on and on and on. It begins to become an ever-increasing wall too big to climb and so we don’t. We just try again to push it out of our mind.

What if you change the questions and use a little mindful leadership reflection?

Step 1. Find a quiet space and allow your mind and body to settle into the present moment. Meditating with the breath for a few moments can be helpful.

Step 2. Call to mind your current work experience. Make a list of the elements that are forming the trap that has you in its grasp. Take your time with this reflection and be specific. Write them down.

Step 3. Quietly reflect with this question:What is one small step that can begin to loosen one element? Choose something that is easily doable and small. What do you notice?

Breaking this down into small pieces is the way to move forward. Continue to explore these three steps, making small changes and looking anew at the effects. What is happening to the feeling of “being trapped?”

Like any change in our life, when we think of it as a life changing move, we can become overwhelmed. And when we are overwhelmed, we often freeze. But one small step changes the dance, and one small change has the potential to create a new reality.

Mindful Leadership: Are You Engaged At Work? At Home?

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Mindful Leadership: Are You Engaged At Work? At Home?

What gets you out of bed in the morning? Is it the work you do? Or perhaps the people that work with you? And what about your engagement in things you do outside of work. Do they have the power to make you look forward to the day?

Reflecting on these kind of questions from time to time is an important part of living your best life. They invite you to stop, step off the treadmill of constant busyness and take a good look at where you are and where you want to be.

Everyone’s answers to these reflection questions will be different. But in my experience, they will have a common thread….connection. Some will feel that the work connects them to being of service as, for example, a provider of a product or service that supports others (clients, patients, students, customers). Some will feel a connection to their co-workers as a strong team member or as a mentor to younger co-workers.

Maybe it is simply a paycheck that allows you to connect with something special in your non-work time. One of the Institute’s retreat participants explained how he was able to stay engaged at work, “I work all week so I can have the money I need to sail on the weekends with my family!” His motivation was the ability to connect with those he loved.

Ultimately it is these connections that give meaning to our lives. It is what keeps us interested in what and who is around us, and it keeps us from feeling isolated and alone. There are so many recent studies that find an ever-increasing feeling of disengagement in the workplace, most showing about 2/3 of employees regularly feeling disengaged. It is no coincidence to me that those studies are now being joined by an increase in the number of workers who report feeling isolated at work and at home.

It is easy to point to the reasons why this is so-too much technology, too much busyness, too many distractions. And we have begun to lose sight of the importance of connecting through conversation instead of texts. (You can look more deeply into mindful communication in “Do You Know How To Mindfully Communicate?”). But the most important first step toward living your best life is to do a little exploration of your current life.

Do you feel engaged at work? At home? If not, how are you finding ways to enhance or generate connections? What small steps might be taken to make your workplace more conducive to making those connections? How can you take a small step to enhance a personal connection with a friend or a loved one?

What will make you look forward to getting out of bed tomorrow? And the next day?