If you’ve been reading my newsletters for any amount of time, you may notice a recurring theme. I have written about several different topics. Something that comes up in a lot of them is the importance of choosing your mindset. In order to make positive changes in just about any aspect of your life, your business, or your career; it starts with the right mindset. Here are some examples:
- Building a Positive Culture = first you must decide that this is important to your business, READ MORE
- Staff Leadership = this requires a leader who thinks about and genuinely cares about their staff, READ THIS or THIS
- Effective Communication = starts with making it a priority for everyone in your company, READ
- Problem Solving, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Self-Care, the list goes on and on!!
Today I want to talk about the power you have to create a mindset that will take you where you want to go.
So often in life things get busy and we just move along from one day to the next, handling all the things. It’s so easy to do! An article from Forbes on Brand Success states that we are exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 ad messages every day. In addition, experts estimate that we have between 35 and 55 thoughts per minute. So every second or two we have a new thought rushing through our mind. Think about that for a second!
With all these messages coming at us and all these thoughts we’re experiencing, it’s hard to be focused and intentional. It’s much easier to go with the flow and simply react to what is happening around us.
Intentionality is defined as the act of being deliberate or purposeful. A good way to understand intentionality is to consider what the opposite looks like. Perhaps you have experienced a leader, coach or teacher who goes about their role in a way that seems almost accidental or unconscious.
- The leader runs the department or business, but they don’t think much about how they do it or why. They just think about the bottom line or the outcomes.
- The coach leads the practices, but doesn’t make adjustments based on the strengths of the individuals or the characteristics of the team.
- A teacher might be teaching the same curriculum they have taught for 20-years, not considering the need to change as society evolves or as the needs of their students change.
The unintentional leader (or coach or teacher) leads from a point of status. Things are done a certain way because they are the boss, and so apparently they know best. In my observations, this is an example of ego getting in the way. Decisions are being made based on the leader’s ego rather than what’s best for the organization, the business, or the people involved.
The intentional leader has a markedly different mindset. They make decisions based on what is best for the company or organization, even if it’s not necessarily what is immediately best for them personally. When making decisions the intentional leader considers the impact that it will have on the clients and staff. Additionally, this leader is keenly aware of what is going on in the community, the country or the world, and how those factors impact their decisions and the perception of those decisions.
As stated above, an intentional leader considers how their actions affect others. But really, it’s more than that. It’s making the decision to be considerate of others; that the leader isn’t better or superior just because of their position. This comes from a leader’s mindset.
A selfless leader sees everyone on their team as having the ability to contribute to the success of the business. They seek input from those at all levels of the organization. They see the power in the team as whole, rather than the power created by their leadership.
Selfless leaders realize that by helping staff succeed they are supporting the company, and in turn probably reaching their own goals. To help staff succeed the selfless leader:
- Supports each individual in the way they need to be supported.
- Creates an environment where staff enjoy their jobs and respect the company.
- Learns about the goals of their team members and helps support achieving them.
Intentionality and Selflessness are two key components to being a great leader. The question is, if those are not things that come naturally, how do you get to that point? That’s where mindfulness comes in.
Here is a definition of mindfulness that I like. It comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn: “The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding experience moment-by-moment.” This is a great definition when it’s all together, but it’s also interesting to look at it in chunks. Breaking it down helps us understand the value of mindfulness for leaders.
- awareness emerges – The leader doesn’t have all the answers. (No one does.)
- through paying attention on purpose – By taking the time to thoughtfully observe, we learn.
- in the present moment – The leader is fully engaged in the current situation, not what’s coming next or whatever happened before.
- non-judgmentally – There are no preconceived notions clouding our thoughts, we take things at face value.
With all of the messages and thoughts we have going through our brains all day, it’s not easy to remain aware, present and non-judgmental. We have to work at it. Just like you practice cooking or yoga or Portuguese, mindfulness takes practice.
The good news is that you can practice anytime and anywhere. Here are 5 super simple activities for practicing mindfulness.
- 4-7-8 breathing: Breathe in for a count of 4. Hold for a count of 7. Exhale for a count of 8. Repeat 5 times.
- Mantra Meditation: Find a quiet place. Choose a word or phrase you would like to focus on (such as “peace” or “I am present”). Close your eyes. Take deep breaths and repeat your word or phrase (out loud or in your mind) with each breath. If your mind wanders, notice it and draw your thoughts back to your word or phrase. Practice for a minute or two.
- Mindful Eating: While eating, pay particular attention to all of your senses. How does the food look? How does it smell? How does your body/mouth react to the smell? How does it feel when you put it in your mouth? How does it change as you chew it? Chew twice as long as you normally would. How does that experience feel? Practice this for the first few bites of your meal or snack.
- Nature Walk: You don’t have to be in the woods to observe nature all around you. Even in a city there is weather and wind, clouds, birds, bugs, smells and more. Take a few minutes each day to observe nature. This can happen while you walk from your car into your office building or by taking a fresh air break. Simply take the time to notice the natural world.
- Body Scan: Start at your toes. Wiggle them. Spread them wide. Flex and release. Move to your whole foot. Do the same. Work your way up your body. Moving, rotating, flexing and releasing each body part or muscle group. Finish with a few deep breaths. This can be done at your desk or anywhere.
Practicing mindfulness helps train our brain to stay present when we might otherwise want to be reactionary. It allows us to be intentional in our thoughts. Through mindfulness we decide how we feel about things and how we react.
The kind of leader you are should be a conscious decision, not something left to happenstance. What kind of leader do you want to be?
Want to explore mindful leadership? Email me at email@example.com to schedule a free 30-minute discovery call to find out how you can Calm the Chaos by choosing your mindset!
Kim is a mom, wife, lover of being active and the outdoors,
and helper of nonprofits, small businesses and leaders.