Uncategorized Archives - Institute for Mindful Leadership

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!

Minding Politics

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It’s that time again: Every four years Americans splash about in a pre-electoral pond to help decide who will lead the country. The campaign process can seem part shouting match, part popularity contest, and part poll driven exercise in polarizing the population. Sometimes it just seems like people throwing rocks to see how big a wave they can make.

What it doesn’t generally seem like is an opportunity to ponder what leadership means, or how we might recognize excellence in it. That’s because excellence in leadership comes from a quiet place, and quiet places don’t feed the news cycle the way contentiousness does.

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