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Article Archives - Page 2 of 17 - Institute for Mindful Leadership

3 Mindfulness Pauses That Can Stop Your Runaway Mind

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3 Mindfulness Pauses That Can Stop Your Runaway Mind

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 health and economic threats.
Whichever runaway mind plagues your day, 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 does 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. These reactions are understandable but we can begin to meet the stresses of the day more skillfully with some 3 mindful leadership practices. I call these practices Purposeful Pauses.

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?

Stop at midday to reassess. It is important to stop at midday to reassess and to reconnect with your body and mind. When we are in fight or flight mode, reacting to the mind’s runaway train of thoughts, we are likely to begin to live on autopilot. So, at lunchtime, even if you have only 10 minutes, stop and reassess. Unplug from all technology and 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 so being very intentional about the transition from work to home can be very helpful in getting them set. Whether you work from home or you commute, make the transition from work to personal time clear and routine. Turn off the computer, stay away from the desk, drive home without listening to voicemails, or whatever makes sense for you. Defining a transition helps you to take the needed break so your body and mind get a chance to relax and reset. 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.

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.