One part of my work is teaching people about personality and mindfulness. When I go into teach a class about personality, I like to start the day asking everyone in the room to give me their personal weather forecast. I want everyone to start thinking about where are they at the current moment, not necessarily about what happened earlier or what is coming later in the day or week, but what are they experiencing right now. It is difficult to make meaningful changes in your life if you are not able to identify what is going on with you at the moment. When you can name what you are experiencing, you can then take mindful steps to create action and change that are meaningful and have a true impact on your life and your role as a a leader.
I love when people are honest about where they are at the moment. I have seen some amazing community support and personal breakthroughs when someone is able to articulate that they life is currently a tornado and they fear a hurricane is coming. They are aware that their feelings and emotions are all over the place and range from fear to anger to sadness. The people at that table immediately turn to that individual and demonstrate compassionate empathy by saying things like, “That sounds rough, I’m so sorry you are going through that. Would it be helpful if I take over the meeting for you later in the day?” This is before they even learn about how their individual personality types influence how they deal with conflicts, emotions, and interactions that pop up throughout the day.
Sometimes, just naming what we are feeling in the moment takes away it’s power. When something hurts us or angers us, as Viktor Frankl says, “there is a space. In that space lies or freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and happiness.” When we encounter pain we have a space to assign meaning to it. If you are able to take a pause and choose to respond in a way that assigns purpose and opportunity to your experience, your response can turn that tornado or thunderstorm into a single event, and recognize that the sun will come out again. The key is recognizing when the stimulus arises and intentionally taking time to investigate the space and opportunities before you respond.
If you are like me, you are reading this and thinking, “Yeah but the tornado still destroyed me in the moment. It was still painful.” Yes, life is filled with ups and downs. It isn’t always fair, and there are times that it can hurt. However, when we wallow in the hurt and focus only on what caused it, I find that I struggle to move beyond the hurt. For me, mindfulness has become an invaluable tool for dealing with the storms that come my way. Mindfulness helps you to develop high-resolution perception. High resolution perception allows me to see the tornado just as an incident on the radar. It allows me to recognize when the tornado is coming. For me, I know when the little cloud in the sky is gearing up to become a tornado when my neck starts hurting, my stomach starts churning, and I start clenching my jaw. As Chade-Meng Tan said in Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace), “the way to develop high-resolution perception is to apply mindfulness to the body.” When I recognize that my body is signaling me to be mindful, I purposefully take a pause in that space between stimulus and response to be intentional about my response.
Creating a mindfulness practice is very helpful in nurturing the space between stimulus and response. Mindfulness helps to foster emotional intelligence, as well as emotional and physical health. Similar to maintaining your physical health, developing a mindfulness practice before an event can limit the severity of the tornado. You can become a superhero within your own life who is able to calm the storm through mindfulness techniques. There are many books and apps that can help you with developing your own mindfulness practice. Personally, I enjoyed Chade-Meng Tan’s Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace). He provides excellent information on how his program began at Google and the success they have had, as well as interesting research and personal experiences with developing a mindfulness practice.
I have several mindfulness practices that I use based on the day and where I am. What is important is to find what works for you and devote a block of time to that practices. I have found it invaluable to maintaining health, as well as fostering innovation and happiness in my life and career. My regular mindfulness practice is in the morning. I am a Christian, so I begin my day by reading Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. This centers me and guides my thoughts. Find something that helps you to guide your thoughts and intentions. I also incorporate mindfulness into my morning run and yoga practice. While this sounds like it can take a lot of time, in reality it is only about an hour. I have found, and spoken to many other people who have shared similar experiences, that if I don’t take the time for my mindfulness practice, I am less productive and find myself wasting time on meaningless tasks or problems that aren’t really problems. Being a holistic leader means taking care of yourself and your people. Developing a mindfulness practice and being aware of your personal weather forecast not only helps you, but it also creates space for your coworkers and staff to do the same. You can help share the sunny forecast with your mindfulness practice.