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Can 3 Mindful Pauses Halt Your Runaway Mind?

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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,