Below is the second in a series of three posts about leadership best practices. If you missed the first part, you can read it here. Stay tuned for the next and last article at the beginning of May.
It’s remarkable to learn how many highly effective and high-ranking executives have a regular meditation practice, or time for focused awareness. Most of them credit their focused awareness practice with building their ability to focus, to deal with stress, to be present in the moment and to have a broader perspective on issues. Only 15 minutes a day can give you these benefits over time.
Many people find that 15 minutes of focused awareness or meditation are too much to bear at first. The research has good news about this: Just 5 minutes a day of focused awareness can bring you some of the benefits listed above. Of course, 15 minutes is ideal. DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP if you can’t do 15 minutes at first. Do what you can and try to build up your awareness muscle by gradually increasing the duration of the exercise. As Ram Dass says, “The only bad mediation is the one you didn’t do.”
The point of focused awareness is to still your mind a bit, to focus on one object or process (your breath is the most common focal point)and to observe and let go of any thoughts that creep in (and there will be thoughts!). The act of observing and letting go of thoughts, then directing your attention back to the focal point, is the discipline that builds focus and awareness.
To do this, sit up straight in a quiet place and close your eyes. Your back should be straight so your belly area can expand. Scan your body to make sure that you are relaxed in every spot you might hold tension: your shoulders, your face, your stomach, your legs. Take several deep belly breaths, making sure you fill your entire lungs. Now, turn your attention to your breath and observe it. As you pay attention to your breath, count your breaths. An inhale and exhale equals one breath. Count from one to ten and then start over. If you find yourself mindlessly counting past ten, just say to yourself, “Oh well,” return your attention to your breath and start over at number one.
I like to think of focused awareness as the still spot within you that is always available. If you equate your life, with all its drama, concerns and fret, to the surface of the ocean where there are waves, storms and squalls, then focused awareness is a place that is three miles below the surface of the ocean. Here, it is always tranquil. The surface storms do not touch you there.
I teach all of my clients a quick form of focused attention called HeartMath. It is a good way to start your focused awareness session, but is best used as “mini” focused attention sessions during the day. Give us a call at 817-577-7030 if you want to learn more about HeartMath, or visitwww.heartmath.com.
Lastly, give focused awareness a chance. This is not a practice that delivers immediate results. Give it at least eight weeks before you judge it. After eight weeks, you will begin to notice that you don’t react as quickly to trigger situations, that you feel more calm even during stressful situations, and that you see broader perspectives when presented with a problem. You will also begin to look forward to your quiet time as a refuge from the storms of life, a safe place you can go within yourself.
In Part Three of this series, I’ll cover Aerobic Exercise and the Plus Three.
I’m pleased to share with you my latest article about leadership best practices. Because of the length of the material, I’ve created a series of three articles. Stay tuned for the next 2 articles that will come at the end of April and the beginning of May, 2012!
We know that the most highly effective leaders practice a high degree of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment, observing both your own thoughts/feelings and what is going on around you. Mindfulness is important to leaders because they must be aware of both what’s going on inside them (their thoughts, reactions, emotions and moods) and what’s happening outside them in their teams, in their organizations, with their stakeholders and within the larger society. If leaders are unaware of any of these dynamics, they are not able to manage either themselves or their organizations.
How can a leader increase his mindfulness? The research strongly suggests that a daily practice of reflection, practicing quiet attention and regular exercise is one of the best ways to develop your personal and leadership effectiveness. It also helps you manage stress by scheduling brief “time outs” during a hectic day. At Brio Leadership, we suggest a formula called “15/15/15 plus three”. What that means is a daily practice of 15 minutes of reviewing and planning, 15 minutes of focused attention or quiet time and 15 minutes of aerobic exercise, plus three sessions a week of a creative pursuit. Let’s explore each of these.
Reviewing and planning
The first 15 minute segment is reviewing and planning: you review the previous day and plan for the coming day. We suggest that you use a journal for the review. Any notebook will do – sometimes I use an inexpensive wire-bound notebook, other times I buy a handsome journal with blank pages. In your review, think about your day’s activities, thoughts, reactions and feelings and note these two things:
The other 5 minutes are spent looking over your coming day with your calendar in order to set intentions for what you will accomplish. Think of the people you are going to see, the meetings you will attend, the customers you will call, and ask yourself the following questions:
Many of my clients set aside 15-20 minutes at the beginning of their day to review and plan. Your Outlook calendar might look like this:
Note the yellow time segments at the beginning of the work day. You could also set aside 30 minutes at the end of the day, or during your lunch hour. It’s best to pick a time and stick to it every day, so you develop a routine and train your co-workers to respect your private time.
I was once in a corporate office where I had the opportunity to see several employee’s Outlook calendars. They all had 30-minute recurring appointments with themselves each morning for planning. The company had sponsored their attendance at a time management seminar in which they were taught to set aside planning time. It was an accepted practice at this office to spend the first 30 minutes in planning. I strongly recommend making morning planning an accepted practice at your office.
In Part Two of this series, I’ll cover Focused Awareness.
From the desk of