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 financial, political and wellbeing challenges.
Whichever runaway mind plagues your day and your night, 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 do 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. And later, perhaps in the middle of the night, you find yourself wondering ‘why did I say that?’ or ‘why didn’t I handle that better?’. Your reactivity is understandable, but you can begin to meet the stresses of the day more skillfully with these 3 mindful leadership practices. I call these practices Purposeful Pauses and they are an integral part of the Mindful Leadership training that I have taught around the world.
- 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? This Purposeful Pauses only takes a few minutes but it can set up the entire day.
- Stop at midday to reassess. It is important to stop at midday to reassess and to reconnect with your body and mind. When you are in fight or flight mode, reacting to the mind’s runaway train of thoughts, and to your body’s continuous busyness, you often begin to slip into living on autopilot. You run around putting out fires but you rarely are really present for these moments of your life. It is important to step off of autopilot and reinhabit your life more fully. So, at lunchtime, even if you have only 10 minutes, stop and reassess. Unplug from all technology and just eat your lunch. Nourish yourself. Then, if possible, 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 and, as a result, it begins to feel as if they are working 24/7. And, in fact, if you don’t learn to set some boundaries, you may actually be working 24/7. This is exhausting, and it is not sustainable. Learning to be very intentional about the transition from work to home can help you set boundaries and cultivate the space you need to be at your best. Whether you work from home or you commute, make the transition from work to personal time clear and routine. Turn off the computer and stay away from the desk if you work from home, or drive home without listening to voicemails or trying to read texts, or take whatever steps make sense for you. Defining a transition helps you to take the needed break between work and home so your body and mind get the signals that it is time to relax and let work go for now. 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.