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Can A Mindful Leadership Purposeful Pause Give You 20/20 Vision?

Why did I do that? Why didn’t I say that? What was I thinking?

If you are like most leaders, these phrases are familiar to you. For example, you recall an earlier conversation or meeting and you immediately see something that you could have done or said that would have resulted in a better outcome, or been more authentic.

Why do you have that 20/20 vision more often in the rear view mirror than in the present moment? And, more importantly, is there a way to get a clearer picture of those connections in the present?

To answer the first question, consider where you most often are when you are rehashing an earlier moment. Are you in your car after work, walking your dog or perhaps in bed at 3 a.m.? At these times, you are less distracted by the everyday noise, and so you can listen more deeply to your inner voice. We all have that inner voice, or gut feeling, that is incredibly important in moments of chaos or high stress. Unfortunately, if we do not take the time to train our mind, those same moments can trigger a “fight or flight” reaction that drowns out our inner wisdom. The higher order, executive functioning of our brain gets overruled by the reactive amygdala part of our brain. Learning to meet those moments is at the heart of mindful leadership training. When you train your mind in this way, you begin to take yourself off an autopilot way of living. You can learn more about that in my earlier post “Are You Living On Autopilot.” For now, however, you can learn to have that 20/20 capability in the moment by practicing with what I call Purposeful Pauses. And they will not add anything to your ‘to-do’ list.

What is a Purposeful Pause?

A purposeful pause is a mini break in the momentum and speed of our mind and our days. Purposeful Pauses give us the space to reset and re-center, and when we do, we’re more likely to make conscious choices about our work and our activities that are productive, creative and compassionate.

A purposeful pause interrupts the fog that gathers when we’re on autopilot, pushing our way through the day. It’s not all that hard to bring about a break in the clouds and when we do, we can gain new perspective on each moment. Try experimenting with these two ideas and see if your days begin to feel a little different, and you begin to see things more clearly:

  1. On your way to your next meeting, walk down the hallway with an intention to notice your experience of walking in those moments. Don’t walk and look at your phone. Instead, focus on the walking…feel your feet on the ground, notice the people, colors, sounds around you. When your mind time travels to your story about the meeting, just bring it back to this moment and pay attention again to the walking itself. Stay in the present moment. How do you arrive at the conference room?
  2. When you are in a conversation, begin by feeling your feet grounded to the floor. Any time you feel the stress levels rising, see if you can bring your attention to the feelings of your feet on the ground for a few seconds, and check in with yourself with this question, ‘What is called for now?’. Take a breath or two and feel yourself grounded before blurting out the first thing that comes to mind. What is the skillful way of responding?

When we use the anchor of our own body sensations to help us be at our best, we are acknowledging the fact that body sensations can only be felt in the present. When we bring our mind’s attention to those sensations, we are bringing our mind back to the present. It is in this moment, when our body and mind are in the present, that we can have access once again to that 20/20 vision.