Pausing, Lojong, and Leadership

September 11th, 2016   •   Articles, Blog, Leadership, Mindful leadership, Personal mastery   •   Comments Off on Pausing, Lojong, and Leadership   

by Kate Harper
lillysI was recently introduced to lojong, a centuries-old Buddhist practice for training the mind in compassion. As Pema Chodron describes it, lojong contains “fifty-nine pithy slogans that remind us how to awaken our hearts.” The slogans point to practical instructions for ways to awaken amidst the beauty and difficulty of the world.

I was struck by lojong’s use of pithy sayings as invitations (or exhortations) to practice a different way of engaging with what is right in front of us. And that made me think, this is what we created with Pause, Inspired Mastery’s book and card set of 52 practices for leaders.

Concise practices and pithy quotes that cultivate presence

Hang on for a minute. Before you think I’ve gone crazy, I am not comparing Pause to lojong as an important spiritual text. I’m not saying Pause is the path to enlightenment. And yet, Pause is a set of concise practices, with pithy quotes, that invite a different way of engaging with what is right in front of us. The Pause practices open possibility, expand awareness, and cultivate presence. In pausing and inviting a new perspective, we access our natural resourcefulness and open-heartedness.

I often reach for Pause when I’ve got my knickers in a twist. Feeling frustrated with my ability to help a client get unstuck? Pick a practice at random.

Practice 5: Stay in the Game

A hero is no braver than the ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer. — Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Ahh. I breathe. I relax. I get back in the game.

Less stress, more impact

Lojong also reminds me to use Pause in a conscious and dedicated way. I pick a practice for the week and apply it several times a day. I choose a signal – e.g. when the phone rings or before I begin a meeting, to remind myself to practice. This week I picked practice 27.

Practice 27: Turn Problems in to Assets

If you fall in the mud puddle, check your pockets for fish. — Anonymous

As I take a moment to practice I feel less stressed and more resourceful. I have a greater ability to do my work well. Isn’t that what we all want? Less stress and more impact.

If you already have Pause, take it out and pick a practice for this week (or day). Or try on one from the free sample pdf. Choose a signal as a reminder. Work with what is right in front of you, in the moment. No extra time required. Be dedicated, deliberate, and compassionate with yourself.

If you’d like to learn more about lojong, there is a wonderful short article by Pema Chodron at the Lions Roar website. Learn more or order a copy of the Pause book and cards here.

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Think Bigger

August 4th, 2015   •   Articles, Blog, Leadership, Mindful leadership, Personal mastery, Practice to go   •   Comments Off on Think Bigger   

by Jen Sellers

Yellow FlowerOne way to think bigger is to question the thoughts you’re having. Questioning your thoughts requires you to know what they are. Knowing what they are requires self-awareness. And self-awareness requires practice.

Notice Any Thoughts

Begin by just noticing any thoughts you’re having, any time you can. You might take a few minutes, a few hours, or a few days to practice this step. Notice whether each thought that you become aware of evokes a positive, a negative, or a neutral feeling in your body and your psyche. Just this much may lead you to insights.

Listen to this practice here:

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Don’t Believe Everything You Think

August 3rd, 2015   •   Articles, Blog, Leadership, Mindful leadership, Personal mastery   •   Comments Off on Don’t Believe Everything You Think   

by Jen Sellers

orangesky

Mindful Leadership

“Mindfulness” and “mindful leadership” are buzzwords in business today, but they are concepts that people have practiced for thousands of years. And self-awareness – a form of mindfulness – is one of the basic components of emotional intelligence, a suite of traits that is more and more valued in the workplace.

The components of mindfulness are simple. It is present-moment awareness without judging something good or bad. Any time a leader looks at something with an open, curious mind, he or she is practicing mindfulness. A flurry of studies shows that even short-term mindfulness practices can bring many, many benefits, including increased physical health, emotional health, focus, and memory; and decreased stress, depression, and hostility.

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Nine Breath Mind Clearing

June 1st, 2015   •   Articles, Blog, Leadership, Mindful leadership, Personal mastery, Practice to go   •   Comments Off on Nine Breath Mind Clearing   

by Jen Sellers

BowRiverAndMtnHere’s a Mindful Leadership practice for you – a nine-breath mind-clearing exercise. Use it between activities, as you leave one activity behind and prepare for the next, for example, between email and a meeting, between one phone call and another, between a conversation and working on a project.

You can be sitting or standing, and as you gain experience with it, you can even be moving from place to place. This practice takes only a few minutes to learn and a few seconds to do. Listen to the exercise here.

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Curator of the Good and Useful

May 14th, 2015   •   Articles, Blog, Leadership, Mindful leadership, Personal mastery   •   Comments Off on Curator of the Good and Useful   

by Kate Harper

curateMy client had a tough decision – go on the last business trip before retirement with a very special colleague or stay put and keep an eye on a very high profile project.

“Choose your answer,” I coached him. “Now imagine it is 10 minutes from now. How do you feel? Now move forward 10 months. How do you feel? How about 10 years from now?”

He got his answer. “Great tool,” he said.

“It’s not mine. I stole it from Suzy Welch.”

“Fantastic. I’ve never had an original thought, but I’m great at recognizing them.”

That got me thinking. I’ve always been in awe of people who create something – those with a message, philosophy, or good and useful tool. I’m sheepish that everything I have to offer has been learned from someone else. My client’s words stopped me short. What if the eye for something good and useful is a talent? Indeed one of my gifts is the ability to find, absorb, and share things that are genuinely helpful to my clients. I hereby claim my gift. I am a curator of helpful perspectives, practices, and tools.

Please join me for my first curated exhibition: one perspective, one practice, and one tool.

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Trendy or Timeless?

April 2nd, 2015   •   Articles, Blog, Leadership, Mindful leadership, Personal mastery   •   Comments Off on Trendy or Timeless?   

by Kate Harper

Years ago, I was told to just be present. What? What the heck does that mean? Mindfulness – being present to what is happening in the moment with openness, curiosity, and compassion – is an ancient practice garnering a lot of buzz in leadership circles.

Trendy and Timeless JacketsIs mindfulness this season’s polka dotted coat or a Chanel jacket? Our vote is for Chanel. From the beginning, we at Inspired Mastery have supported our clients to bring mindfulness to everyday circumstances. One of Jen’s clients, Lucianne Walkowicz, a stellar astronomer and TED Fellow shares her experience (excerpted from her blog post Be There Then):

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A Word About Acceptance

November 24th, 2014   •   Articles, Blog, Leadership, Mindful leadership, Personal mastery   •   Comments Off on A Word About Acceptance   

by Jen Sellers

Path and Butte

Accept what is and your role in creating it, and you become empowered to create something different. – Alan Seale

In a Mindful Leadership seminar I conducted a couple of weeks ago at a bank in Phoenix, the word acceptance came up as an aspect of mindfulness. It had me thinking about what acceptance is and what acceptance isn’t, especially when it comes to our own leadership mastery. These are my brief thoughts.

What it is:

  • Seeing clearly what is here, not what we wish were here, hope will be here, or even expect to be here
  • An attitude of meeting a situation as it is without fighting it or pushing against it
  • The ability to feel whatever emotions are arising without letting them take over
  • A practice in equanimity

What it isn’t:

  • Saying “Whatever!” with an air of frustration and despair
  • The idea that “It’s all good.” It is often not good, but it is
  • Giving in
  • Giving up

What does acceptance mean to you? We’d love to hear from you!

Stopping the Anxiety Drain

August 14th, 2014   •   Articles, Blog, Leadership, Mindful leadership, Personal mastery   •   Comments Off on Stopping the Anxiety Drain   

by Jen Sellers

PeytoLakeMy client Xavier had a niggling problem. As a senior leader and member of the personnel development team, he fosters the growth of individuals across the organization, including recommending transfers to grow new leaders and advance careers. Yet, if too many of his best people go to other locations, the performance of his division could be compromised.

Xavier only had a glimmer that this nagging issue was subtly draining him. We talked it through and he developed a plan which included prioritizing the most essential people at his site, looking at who could replace them from other sites, and preparing a time of overlap. When we were finished, I asked him what had been important in our discussion, and he said, “I turned a worry into action.”

In our next session, Xavier described how he dealt with another concern, the latest obstacle in a difficult plant start-up. Without realizing it, he had again turned worry into action.

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Receiving the Gift of Feedback

June 3rd, 2014   •   Articles, Blog, Leadership, Personal mastery   •   Comments Off on Receiving the Gift of Feedback   

by Kate Harper

feedbackcycle“How many of you regularly ask for feedback?” One hand out of 10 is raised. The rest of the group looks stricken. These leaders are voluntarily here for a class on receiving feedback and still the topic is uncomfortable.

What makes receiving feedback so difficult? “The process strikes at the tension between two core human needs—the need to learn and grow, and the need to be accepted just the way you are,” say Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone, in their Harvard Business Review article, Find the Coaching in Criticism.

Intellectually we understand the value of feedback – it helps us gauge if we are being effective and see inside our blind spots. No company would bring a product to market without getting customer input. Yet when the product is our self, even the thought of someone else’s helpful suggestion can trigger a strong defensive reaction.

Think back to the last time you received unsolicited feedback. Did you want to argue? Run away? Or were you temporarily frozen in place? Perhaps it was a combination: I can’t punch my boss so I’ll just say nothing. Our brain interprets feedback as a threat. The threat causes anxiety which triggers a defense – fight, flight or freeze.

This is a very basic protective mechanism. Even the most enlightened among us will get triggered. So what can you do? One way to receive feedback more easily is understand what triggers you, recognize your physical and emotional reaction, and engage the larger self by asking, “How do I choose to respond?”

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Get Outta Here!

April 8th, 2014   •   Articles, Blog, Leadership, Personal mastery   •   Comments Off on Get Outta Here!   

by Jen Sellers

benchWow. Think of how much time you spend inside, disconnected from the natural world. I say this not to discourage you or disparage you, but to encourage you to reflect.

For example, it’s about 65 degrees outside and gorgeous here in Tucson. I just opened my window. That’s because I reflected for a moment on how much time I spend inside. And then I thought, “Okay, I work from home, for crying out loud – why couldn’t I go sit on a bench in the yard?” So that’s where I am now, a mesquite tree shading my laptop screen. That’s the power of internal reflection. It changes external actions.

There are a bunch of reasons to get outside, as we all know.

I feel more alive just sitting out here. I feel more clear-headed, more connected to myself, and more in my body. Several varieties of birds are singing, the trees are waving gently in a slight breeze, and a small neighbor girl is doing outside chores with her Mom.  I am more connected to the world.

When I walk the dog every morning and evening, my body moves, which benefits my mind and my spirit. The left-right motion is good for my brain. If I pay attention, I see patterns of beauty and sometimes patterns of pain. Both connect me with the world outside myself. As I let my mind go, ideas come to me and problems sometimes solve themselves. Wisdom seems to find me. I have more vitality, not only physically, but also emotionally and intellectually.

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