A full mind leads to stresses in many forms.
You might find yourself in a constant state of anxiety or 'fight or flight'. Always on the lookout for 'what's next?' because you know as soon as you clear one issue there are three more to follow. This in turn leads to poor decision making.
You might also find yourself lacking in sleep or generally demotivated about work. And the worst case scenario is illness.
While it may seem that mind fullness is an unavoidable of leadership, there is a better approach to take. Mindfulness. It may sound almost the same as mind fullness but the two states are very different.
Mindfulness is a state of focus. Where you put your attention on the here and now, without judgement and deal with what is, rather than what else.
When you are mindful you make smarter decisions. You are nimble and flexible. You respond to circumstances rather than react to them. And your actions have more impact because you make them with your full attention.
You'll also improve your relationships, in and out of the workplace.
We've got five tips to share that can help you be more mindful. You can hear them on our podcast or you can read them below. Or you can do both. You are, after all, a ninja leader!
1 - Take control of how you feel
Start the day by bringing attention to how you feel. Don't just notice how you feel but take control of how you feel.
This means you don't wake up and throw yourself a pity party or start bothering yourself with all the burdens on your plate.
Instead wake up and take a few moments. Bring awareness to your breath and then set an intention for the day.
It could be an intention to have a great day. It could be an intention to have a positive impact on those you come into contact with. Or to be relaxed or powerful. Or to be relaxed and powerful.
Notice that these are not related to particular situations or challenges. They can be applied to any situation. If it helps, write the intention down in your journal, or on your calendar, or on your desktop.
'I am' statements can be useful for this. I am relaxed. I am powerful. I am calm. I am a positive influence on those around me. I am decisive and effective. Use these to counter any other thoughts that might come up. I'm worn out. I'm stressed. I'm under the pump...
Affirming language does have an impact. Even if you don't believe that, you have nothing to lose by giving it a try.
Then practice opportunities during the day that bring you back to that intention. Without judgement if you've strayed off it. That fact that you notice you've strayed is a form of mindfulness so celebrate accordingly. Become mindful then reset the intention.
2 - Use affirming body language
Yep. Just as affirming language has an impact, so does affirming body language.
Try this now. Stand upright. Bring your shoulders back and put your chest out. Look upwards. Smile and take a deep breath.
Now try to think of something sad.
Two things will happen. Either: a) You'll either smile more broadly as you realise how hard it is to be sad when in such an affirming position, or b) if you do think of something sad, something in your body will slump. Your shoulders will stoop, or your smile will weaken or your breath will become shallow.
Just as you read the body language of others, your mind can read your body language and react or respond accordingly. Think back to the ninja warrior. They'll usually be erect and alert rather than slumped and downward facing (unless the script calls for it of course :-).
3 - Listen intently rather than with intent
Most of us maneuver our way through conversations rather than engage in them fully. We have our own agenda and are really only listening to what's being said to prepare for what we want to say next.
The result is that we don't fully hear what's actually being said so often miss the actual point being made. This may just be a habit. Or it may be an unconscious form of protection from a perceived (in unconscious) threat.
Either way, it doesn't serve us in life and certainly doesn't serve us in leadership.
So here's what a mindful listener does. She listens. She notices the words the other person is using. She notices the language, the body language, the intonation. She doesn't make judgments about them. She just notices them and listens intently. When she notices her own chatter coming in to prep her for a reply, she relaxes and brings her attention back to the other person. She hears their words and their words only. If necessary, she echos them in her mind.
Do this and you'll find yourself just naturally saying what needs to be said when it needs to be said, without the mental prep going on in the background. Very ninja!
You'll find yourself having a deeper understanding and appreciation of what the other person is saying. You'll even find they are appreciative of your attention.
4 - Express kindness to others
To be mindful is to be aware of your surroundings, including the state of those around you. When you notice the wants and needs of another this gives you an opportunity to serve.
Take your attention off all the other issues on your plate and put your attention on making a cup of tea for a team member.
Pause to notice something agreeable and take the time to compliment someone on work well done or sentiments well expressed. Hold the lift. Offer to carry something. Ask someone how their day is going. Write someone a thank you card...
The possibilities are endless.
Keep in mind though that you need to be authentic in your efforts. Actually, if it is truly authentic, it won't seem like an effort. The act itself will be reward enough and will give all your other issues an opportunity to become less important.
5 - Reflect
At the end of the day take some time for reflection. Having started the day noticing how you feel, end the day with some attention on how you conducted yourself.
Not on how you 'performed' or whether you did 'good' or 'bad.' Those are judgments.
Distance yourself from the minutiae and recap how mindful you were during the day. Did you listen intently? Did you use affirming body language? Did you express kindness to others?
It's not an evaluation, it's a review. If you were mindful then celebrate. And if you weren't mindful then celebrate that at least you are thinking about it now.
We had a guest speaker presenting to a leadership group recently who pointed out that the difference between humans and animals is our ability to think about what we think about.
This is such a powerful distinction but most of us waste that skill on self judgment and in expressing disappointment in ourselves.
Because you've been mindful as you read this, no doubt you don't need reminding but, just in case, here are those 5 tips again.
1 - Take control of how you feel
2 - Listen intently
3 - Use affirming body language
4 - Express kindness to others
5 - Reflect daily
Put a checklist on your mirror to bring your awareness to them until they become habitual. If it seems to much to take them all on at once then do them one at a time.
And remember, it's even more fun with a friend. Enlist someone else to be mindful with you so you can support each other and become ninja like together.
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