Uncategorized Archives - Institute for Mindful Leadership

Bringing Mindfulness To Work In 5 Easy Steps With Purposeful Pauses

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Mindfulness training is about learning to be awake for the moments of your life. This sounds easy, but is it? For most of us, our daily lives are so jam-packed with meetings and constant distractions, that we are more often on auto-pilot than awake. We just put our heads down and plow through the day as best as we can.

 
 

When we begin mindfulness training, we usually learn to practice while sitting quietly. This is an important part of the training but it is not enough. We also need to learn to bring our training right into the midst of our day. And the good news is that you can explore this aspect of the training without adding anything on to your ‘to-do’ list. I call this part of the training Purposeful Pauses and it has been an integral part of the Institute for Mindful Leadership’s training for more than 15 years.

 

Purposeful Pauses invite you to notice what is here to be noticed when you intentionally bring your attention to a moment in your day. For example, you notice that you are drinking a cup of coffee-the warmth in your hand, the aroma, the taste on your tongue, etc. Your full attention is on the experience of drinking that cup of coffee. And, it is also about redirecting your attention when it takes off into the future or the past while you are taking a Purposeful Pause. For example, while you are paying attention to your coffee, you notice that your mind starts to worry about tomorrow’s presentation. In that moment when you realize you are no longer paying attention to the experience of drinking your coffee, you redirect your attention back to the taste of the coffee on your tongue, or the warmth of the cup, etc. A Purposeful Pause only takes a couple of minutes but it breaks the autopilot way of living and helps to train your mind to be focused. Each time you redirect your attention, you are building the ‘muscle’ that keeps you focused and present.

These mini-trainings are a continuation of the attention training you experience when you are practicing meditation on your cushion or in your chair. Purposeful Pauses allow you to turn off the autopilot and find some spaciousness in the day to make conscious choices…when you are awake, you are present for your life. When you need to make important choices, you want your full focus to be on the task at hand.

 

Here are a few other examples to get you started:

  1. Choose to start your day rather than letting the day start you-begin each day be noticing the sensations of the breath for a few breaths before jumping out of bed. What is your intention for the day?
  2. Use transitions wisely-choose to drive to and from work without listening to music or phone messages. Just drive-pay attention to what you see, hear, smell and touch. What do you notice about how you arrive?
  3. Nourish yourself-mindfully eat your lunch without looking at your computer screen or phone. How are you taking care of your body’s needs today?
  4. Just walk between meetings-no emails or texts. If you are telecommuting, use the time between meetings to take a few breaths, stand up and stretch or walk down your hallway. In just a few moments, you can let go of the last meeting and feel more centered and ready for the next meeting.
  5. As you turn off your computer for the day, ask yourself What Went Well? We have a tendency to focus on what didn’t go well so we need to be intentional about bringing our attention to what did go well.

After our workshops and retreats, our clients consistently tell us how bringing Purposeful Pauses into their lives makes an immediate difference in how they show up-for their colleagues and for their families. What other Purposeful Pauses can you find? Look closely, where would a break in your day serve you?

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You Can Weather The Storms In Your Mind With Simple Mindfulness Practices

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You awake to the sun streaming through your windows after a good night’s sleep and you begin to get ready for the day. You feel calm and happy. Then, the phone rings with an emergency message from your co-worker that means the likely destruction of the project you have been working on for 6 months. And, your four year old wakes up cranky and slightly feverish which means no preschool and you now need to find alternative care for her. Your heart starts beating louder, and you begin to feel the all-too-familiar panic setting in. Everything seems to switch into hyperdrive with your mind racing for solutions amid the inner critic thoughts that are muddying the waters.

 

Sound familiar? In the blink of an eye, events seem to have the power to flip us from calm to crazy. We lose sight of everything except the immediate, unexpected event. We let ourselves become less of who we are and, as a result, we often don’t make the best decisions at a time when we need to make good decisions. Our mind’s ability to create excessive worry and anxiety hijack our capabilities to be focused, clear and compassionate.

Fortunately, we can begin to interrupt this conditioned behavior with a few simple practices:

  1. Notice that you are beginning to get overwhelmed. Mindfulness training teaches you to pay attention to the way your body experiences stress. Do your neck muscles get tight? Do you clench your jaw? Do you get queasy? These physical sensations are ‘early warning signals’ that tell you that you need to de-escalate so you don’t react badly.
  2. Learn simple mindfulness practices to help you regain a sense of stability. I teach Purposeful Pauses as powerful ways to interrupt the mind’s ability to generate excessive stress, and cloud our ability to see things clearly. Purposeful Pauses can be a simple as feeling the sensations of your breath for a few minutes, or walking down the hall paying attention to the feelings of your feet as you move. Learn more about Purposeful Pauses at the end of this post.
  3. As you begin to feel more centered and calm, take a few moments to challenge some of the thoughts and worries that were arising. How many of them are true? Is the evaluation of ‘disaster’ necessarily true? What is called for now (rather than the reaction you were about to do)?
  4. On an ongoing basis, a good way to meet stress differently is to try to keep things in perspective by ending each day with a journal entry noting 3 things for which you are grateful. Try not to repeat anything and see how many days you can go. I suspect you will be surprised.

3 Courageous Questions To Eliminate Double-Booking Calendars

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It’s Monday morning and you are starting your day by looking at your calendar. As you scan the days ahead, you notice that, once again, you are double-booked. This has become the norm for you and for your organization. How can you be expected to be in two places at one time? And when you make a choice of one meeting over the other, what is the cost of your decision? How much precious time is wasted with explanations about why you can’t attend a meeting, or with chasing down information from the meeting you missed? And how often do you sit in meetings that are boring or irrelevant to your core responsibilities?

 

Is it time for you to ask some hard questions and take the courageous leadership actions needed to challenge the status quo and eliminate some meetings -for you and for your colleagues? If so, start with these three questions:

When you are the organizer of a meeting:

  1. Do you need a meeting? Is it simply a routine meeting that no longer serves its purpose in its current form? Is there a more efficient way to distribute information or gain consensus? Technology, like polling or video messaging, may be a helpful ally here.
  2. Are the right people in each meeting? Too many people create cluttered confusion and make it less likely that the best decisions will be reached. Do you need more than one person from the same department? Are there people in attendance who have historically been invited but really play no active role? Can you disseminate notes to those not needed for a decision?

When you have been invited to a meeting:

 

  1. Why are you attending? Is ego the only reason? Can attendance be delegated to someone who can benefit from learning something you already know? Can you ask if notes can be distributed? Do you have the courage to ‘decline’ the invitation so you can prioritize what is important over ‘what screams the loudest’?

 

Imagine the gift of giving yourself and your colleagues some space by cancelling meetings, or enhancing a meeting’s effectiveness. Take another look at your calendar for the week. Where is one opportunity to eliminate or modify a meeting? Be courageous!

Wait! Are You Sure You Want To Go Back To Normal? A 3 Step Mindfulness Reflection

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All around the world, countries, businesses, schools, and communities are beginning to return to normal. Understandably, there is a great deal of excitement about seeing friends, family, and co-workers. And the idea of a restaurant meal has us all smelling the food already. For those who have been furloughed or terminated, the return to normal means the assurance of a steady paycheck and medical benefits which is, of course, critically important.

This pandemic gave us a front row seat to the reality that many things in life occur without anyone asking you if you want it to happen. You were told where you could go, who you could see, and even where and when you would work. You were taken out of your routine, and it may even be that many of your assumptions about how your life would unfold were being challenged. And all of that is on top of a microscopic invader in your community that threatened your life and the lives of those you love.

So much was changed without your input. It was unsettling and scary. And so, when given the opportunity, you rush to get everything back to as normal as possible.

But, if you stop for a few moments, and pay attention to your own body, mind, and heart, you might also discover something else. You might notice a little tug that is reluctant to return to the old way of doing things. Those feelings might arise from your ability to recall that aspects of ‘normal’ were exhausting. There were people and places and routines that you did not really miss and that you wish would stay away.

Before you race to put it all back just as it was, you may want to spend some time looking carefully at what is here, what nourishes you, what is aligned with your ideals? In short, you might want to answer the question ‘how do I want to be in the world”? I’ve listed below a 3 Step Reflection that may help you deeply listen to your own wisdom:

1. What roles did I play before the pandemic?

Sit quietly for a while and allow your mind and body to settle. When you are ready, make a list of all the roles you played before the pandemic hit your community. Try to be exhaustive with your list. Did you include things like mentor, best friend, committee member, volunteer, etc? Now highlight the roles that were significantly impacted by the pandemic. Read through your list slowly, noticing any sensations that arise in your body. Put a check mark next to roles that are fulfilling and a minus next to roles that are depleting.

2. What are the most important lessons I have learned about myself during the pandemic?

Here are a few questions to get you started. What do I miss? What do I not miss at all? What has been surprising? What did I learn about true connections? What did I learn about my courage, flexibility or strength? (Answer only those that feel relevant to you and be sure to add your own questions.)

Write the lessons down without editing.

3.When I imagine my best life, what does it look like?

To help you with this step, review the answers to step 1 and step 2. Once again it is important to refrain from editing yourself. Just write what arises.

What do you want to change or initiate to live your very best life-at work, at home, and in your community? With some added self-awareness comes your opportunity to create or modify your place in these historic times. What change is right here at your fingertips?

Now, today, choose to take one step that moves you on that path to change. It need not be monumental. One small step is all it takes to change the dance!