How Mindful Leadership Can Heal Our World

Mindfulness is at the forefront of the ‘science of the human mind and heart’: it has helped people deal with chronic pain; it has eased the anxiety of veterans dealing with post traumatic stress.

Mindful stress reduction programs are mushrooming in our classrooms and across our companies, but Jon Kabat-Zinn’s message is that it urgently needs to be harnessed in the most ambitious way yet: it needs to challenge the way the world is run and he wants to inject mindfulness into global politics.

Called the godfather of modern mindfulness in a recent piece in The Guardian, he says that: “People are losing their minds. That is what we need to wake up to.”

His current message is that mindfulness could change the world. He “vibrates with an urgent belief that meditation is the ‘radical act of love and sanity’ we need in the age of” [pick your modern woe – political, environmental, health or disaster-related].

Mindfulness is not some wishy washy fad. It works. It is powerful. As the Guardian article points out, if you need proof just ask NBA basketball champions, the Golden State Warriors. Mindfulness is now one of the team’s core values.

Jon’s concerns today echo his words from 1969, “We are approaching a critical unique point in history. We are approaching an ego disaster of major proportions – overpopulation, pollution of every conceivable kind including mental.”

His aim is to help political leaders “maintain a degree of sanity and recognition of the fears and concerns of those who do not see the world the way we do. The temptation is to fall into camps where you dehumanise the other, and no matter what they do, they are wrong, and no matter what we do, we are right.”

“The human mind, when it doesn’t do the work of mindfulness, winds up becoming a prisoner of its myopic perspectives that puts ‘me’ above everything else,” he says. “We are so caught up in the dualistic perspectives of ‘us’ and ‘them’. But ultimately there is no ‘them’. That’s what we need to wake up to.”

We are at a “pivotal moment for our species to come to our senses … mobilising in the mainstream world … the power of mindfulness”.

This is a powerful message and one all leaders and aspiring leaders should take heed of. As I point out in my book, Fierce Reinvention:

The only way we can make a difference and start healing ourselves and our world is to take personal responsibility for our actions, and to live in the now by mindfully and purposefully focusing on the present moment as it unfolds, without dwelling on what we have done or dream of doing. It is up to each and every one of us to step up, take more responsibility and assume a higher level of leadership.

 

 

Nothing Is Forever: Embracing Death Will Help You Become Greater and Happier

I grew up among sickness and death. My father was a veterinary surgeon, and I’d accompany him on farm visits and regularly visit his animal hospital.vet visiting a farmBut I noticed that our relationship with death was different when it came to people. The adults didn’t talk much with us children about the passing of a family member. And when my sister was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of six, we were shunned by many former friends in the community.

Death is taboo, an obsessive morbidity that can’t be healthy for us—or so our culture seems to say. It’s OK to bring it up briefly when someone we know has died, and we recognize grieving, but not for too long. For a few weeks after a loved one dies, we’re offered condolences. We respond with a polite “Thanks,” and then the topic of conversation quickly moves on.

Let’s make impermanence our friend


But death is all around us. By denying aging, death, impermanence and sickness, we set ourselves up for a life of fear and reactivity, and a meanness of spirit. When we do break through the death barrier, we find that we relax into our lives and our place in the universe. We pull back from the acquisitive, busy, controlling mentality that formerly held death and our fear of it at bay. We feel a wave of relief wash over us, and we shift into a more honest and real relationship with ourselves and the people around us. We become more present, more aware and more compassionate.

By denying aging, death, impermanence and sickness, we set ourselves up for a life of fear and reactivity, and a meanness of spirit.

In society, we often measure success by what we own and what we do. So, at a young age, we start to acquire assets: watches, cars, jewellery, property. We also allow our workplace to define us. And we struggle when all this stuff is taken away from us due to happenstance, ill health and ultimately, death. We grieve the loss, and rue how impermanent life is, but these feelings often come too late to give us much comfort.

We’d be far better off making impermanence our friend and death our mentor at a young age, by creating a daily practice of recognizing that nothing is forever. This daily practice could include the following three steps:

  • Reflect on your health and remind yourself that it’s in our nature to become sick.
  • Reflect on your life and remind yourself that it’s in our nature to die.
  • Reflect on what you have and remind yourself that everything will eventually become separated from you.

Instead of being shocked when something departs our world, it’s best that we instead recognize the loss as natural and wish that person, relationship or thing well on its journey.

My father’s gift to me


Wrapped giftMy father was always strongly independent. And yet, as his cancer spread, he became weaker and more reliant on others. Through his realization that he wasn’t in control—and perhaps never had been, in his life—he was giving me the gift of a stronger perception of impermanence while allowing me to connect with and care for him more intimately.

When my father was in the final few weeks of his battle with cancer, he turned to me one morning and asked, “What do other people do?”

“Do you mean other people in your situation?”

He nodded.

“Does it really matter what they do? You need to dance to your own tune and not worry about what is a socially acceptable way to die. It’s your time. There’s no right or wrong way.”

It was hard hearing myself say that. This was my father. This was the toughest man I’d ever met.

“All I ask is that you keep breathing. Relax into this part of your journey and breathe. Don’t let social pressure or fear control your behaviour.”

Life is a series of unknown moments


While it’s useful to create a practice to help us deal with our own death, this is no guarantee of how we’ll face it when the time comes, nor will being prepared necessarily reduce the anguish for those around us or lead us to dying in a serene state.

Life is a series of unknown moments that are strung together by our minds to create a narrative. What’s important to remember is that each and every moment is not only unknown, but unknowable. Our death is but one such moment. Contemplate that, explore the unknown, become comfortable with infinite unknowables, and your fear of death and dying well will diminish. Replace your anxious mind with a curious mind.

Building a strong practice of meditation is particularly helpful for creating a heightened level of comfort with the unknown. In meditation, we release our biases and preconceptions and let every moment arrive abundantly unknown.

Death can teach us so much about living life to its fullest—without delay, without fear and without masks—so do your best to let yourself embrace it.

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This post was first published on The Mindful Word in November 2017.

image: 1. Sterllng College via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)  2. Pixabay

Want to Know the Secret to Being an Extraordinarily Great Leader?

You want to step up, but something always seems to hold you back. Could it be the intensity you bring to achieving your goals? There are ways you can ratchet up your intensity level and achieve extraordinary greatness.

First off, the greater intensity that is required for extraordinary greatness is encapsulated in the mantra: “being fierce.”

In a nutshell, being fierce involves:

  1. coming from a place of truth,
  2. ultimate authenticity, and
  3. being totally present in all that we do and think.

Let’s not forget though that being fierce is not about smashing it, owning it or any other form of faux aggression.

It turns out that consciously seeking and saying the truth involves knowing and working on our weaknesses. Constantly improving and stretching ourselves and our teams is a key element of being fierce and making the shift to extraordinary greatness.

Here’s the secret: extraordinarily great leaders are fierce with the truth. They never let a good story get in the way of telling it as it is. For example, if their business, venture or project is slipping on a deadline they don’t cover this up to the board, investors, or stakeholders. They speak plainly and this empowers their people to do the same. The result is a much more aligned organization that can rally around the problem areas and collectively make that deadline.

And get this: authenticity is Intertwined with fierce truth. We’ve all seen this situation play out: someone in a power role is disingenuous and manipulative with the truth. They may end up getting what they want in the short term, but along the way they lose followers. Inauthentic behaviour is deeply offensive and as humans we disassociate ourselves from it.

The fact is that when we are totally present we are more likely to both be more truthful and to appear more authentic. Again, we’ve all seen this situation play out: you are standing in your manager’s office at work and they aren’t listening to what you are saying. They could be thinking about something important to the business, like achieving the quarter’s looming targets, but you feel that you are being disrespected and made to feel insignificant. It is hard to remain engaged when your manager treats you this way.

But what if you flipped this situation around? Remember how you make your people feel by being fierce with yourself in their presence. Giving them your undivided attention, asking them how they are doing, and watching the beam on their face when they realise that you care about them, as people.

 

Discover more in my new book, Fierce Reinvention: A Guide to Harnessing Your Superpowers for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Success ($11.99 digital, 15.99 print (USD), October 2017) is available from Amazon.

 

 

How to Make the Shift to Extraordinary Greatness

This is Day Thirty in the 30 Days of Reinvention Video Series [#30DaysReinvention].

Form a pathway to journey on and do extraordinary things.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Hey, it’s Rand,

Over the last 30 days, I’ve provided you with the mindset and tools to kickstart your journey of reinventing yourself.

I encourage you to build on this knowledge base and create your own fierce practice.

Exactly how fierce you are, and how much of a reinvention you undertake depends entirely on you

Will you be fierce?

Will you be fiercer?

Will you be your fiercest self?

The intensity level you choose comes from a place deep inside you: it comes from a place of truth; a place of ultimate authenticity; and a place where you are totally present in all that you do and think.

Being fierce is not about smashing it, owning it or any other form of faux aggression.

There is no ferocity in being fierce only truth.

You should consciously seek and say the truth; you should work on and know your weaknesses; and you should constantly improve  and stretch yourself so that you can make the shift to extraordinary greatness.

You don’t need anyone’s permission  to make this shift,  but there are pathways that can ease your way think of these pathways as being signposted by breadcrumbs, or morsels of permission.

These are the small parts of possible that appear in different places; these are the small parts of possible which appear at different times; and they can be easily missed.

You need to be hyper-aware and mindful of them. You need to assemble them like a puzzle, so that, like magic, these seemingly disparate pieces form a pathway on which you can journey and do extraordinary things.

Making the shift to extraordinary involves granting ourselves and others the permission to shift from  doing things in a linear, constrained way.

It involves approaching apparent dead ends with this mentality and the results will be the opening up of new paths of possibility.

I wish you well on your journey of reinvention, and I extend to you an open invitation to engage with me. Keep me up to date on how your life changes and on the incredible things that happen to  you as your progress your practice of being fierce.

How to Meditate More Self-Awareness

This is Day Twenty Nine in the 30 Days of Reinvention Video Series [#30DaysReinvention].

Connect to a mindful awareness of your feelings at both a mental and physical level with this guided meditation.

Meditation Can Make You A Better Leader. Here’s How…

The good news is that meditation can benefit us in three ways:

  1. It can treat depression and reduce stress,
  2. It can raise our happiness set point, and
  3. It can help make us a better leader.

I touch on meditation, mindfulness and the power of living in the now in my new book Fierce Reinvention, which also includes a guided meditation exercise so that you can feel this power first hand.

Think of meditation as the process of substituting your discursive mind with another object of attention, such as your breath, a chant or a sound. It’s that simple.

But beware, meditation is not a form of self-help in who to become or how to be.

Here’s the kicker: meditation is a path of fierceness, reinvention, and wisdom; it is a path to help us discover who we truly are, not who we are expected to be because of some internal or external agenda.

What’s the magic formula?

Meditation requires us to be fierce, because it can be anything but peaceful. In meditation we don’t shut out anything that comes up no matter how uncomfortable we may feel with an emotion, memory, or thought that arrives while we are in this state.

When we meditate we let go of the barriers and walls we have built around us; we stop grasping for things we want and guarding against things we don’t want.

Amazingly, when this happens we come to realize how vulnerable we are; we see vulnerability all around us. And this foundational insight increases our propensity for compassion. And it gets even better because compassion is a gateway to becoming a better leader.

Discover more about meditation, mindfulness and the power of living in the now in my new book, Fierce Reinvention: A Guide to Harnessing Your Superpowers for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Success ($11.99 digital, $15.99 print (USD), October 2017), which is available from Amazon.

How to Change Your Relationship To Negative Feelings

This is Day Twenty Eight in the 30 Days of Reinvention Video Series [#30DaysReinvention].

Empower yourself by creating a space between action and emotion.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Meditation is a powerful way of forming a different relationship to things you are feeling or experiencing.

At first this changed relationship will be true only during meditation, but over time you can extend and expand this relationship into your everyday life.

think of a recent feeling of irritation you had  for somebody or something.

What is your relationship to that feeling?

Are you stuck with that feeling?

Is it replaying over and over in your mind?

This constant replay is a form of reinforcement. Neuroplasticity works both ways: delivering either positive or negative change  to your brain’s neural structure and function.

Can you step back from that feeling?

Start by recognising it, and then deconstruct it into its various elements.

Can you now start to change your thinking about that feeling?

Hold back your initial troubled reaction to it and replace it with a sense of calm, replace it with a sense of spaciousness.

Does this create a space between the act of doing or not doing and your feeling toward it?

Does it help you separate out the action and the emotion it initially gave rise to?

Your aim is to reach a point where you no longer reinforce the negative and instead you link that difficult feeling with the deep well of open, untroubled awareness that exists within yourself,

This leads to a relaxation of the need to react to that negative feeling and immediately disempowers that feeling.

You will find yourself less controlled by such feelings. You’ll find yourself less in fear of being in situations that may give rise to them and therefore less likely to avoid such circumstances.

This is at the heart of being fierce.

When you are more relaxed overall you find yourself being less fatigued, you find yourself being more productive,  you find yourself being more emotionally intelligent and you find yourself making more strategic decisions.

This is at the heart of being a better leader.

Understanding that you can change your brain through your mind you are empowered to transform your life.

How to Breathe in More Resilience

This is Day Twenty Three in the 30 Days of Reinvention Video Series [#30DaysReinvention].

Reduce stress and build resilience through breathing techniques.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Hey, it’s Rand,

The second element in the happiness algorithm is being resilient, and the most effective method to build up resilience is to breathe.

By controlling your breathing patterns you alter your emotions and induce stress reduction.

When I was in the military I trained myself to deal with stress but taking a deep breath

and letting it out slowly.  This would help to reduce my anxiety about a stressful situation

and it also increased my clarity of thought so that I could determine how to deal with a sticky situation in the most effective way.

Extending your inhalation and exhalation for just 10 minutes a day can bring noticeable relaxation.

By engaging in deep abdominal breathing you stimulate your vagus nerve, which acts to calm your stress induced fight or flight response. Breathing deeply into your abdominal chamber involves expanding your diaphragm, which is the muscle that sits lengthwise between your stomach and chest.

Reduce your number of breaths by 50% per minute, long and slow 4 to 5 second in breaths and then 4 to 5 second out breaths. Preferably your exhalations should be slightly longer than your inhalations.

Try it now.

Take a deep breath in, hold and then let it out slowly.

Hold.

Take a deep breath in, hold and let it out slowly.

Hold.

Resume normal breathing.

Try that for a series of 6 cycles over the next week and notice how your body changes: your posture will relax; you will feel more focused.

Want to Exist in the Now, Be Happy and Less Stressed?

As revealed in my new book, Fierce Reinvention, there are three things you can do to increase your ‘now’ time.

Now time is good for you because it raises your happiness levels, helps you to de-stress and decreases the amount of negative chatter in your mind.

So let’s get started:

  1. Minimize the potential for distractions

Perhaps unsurprisingly, you can minimize the potential for distractions by keeping an uncluttered workspace, placing your mobile phone on silent and, while you are wanting to focus, removing any form of email or social notification and abstaining from accessing any form of social media.

  1. Create focus time

No doubt about it, you can create focus time by allocating calendar slots for progressing your prioritized projects and then sticking to them. Within these 90-minute slots make sure to take a 10-minute break mid way to stretch, look at the horizon and breathe in the world around you.

Give the task your full attention and notice when your mind wanders. Acknowledge the intruding thought and gently, but fiercely return your mind to the task at hand.

  1. Build a “now” practice

Wham! There is no end point you are trying to get to when practicing living in the now. It is all about building up to a regular practice of now-related behaviors.

And boom! You’re there: the more you practice being present, in the now, the better you will become at achieving this depth of focus.

The result? You may also start to notice the compulsions to ‘quickly check’ your email or your social media feed become weaker. As your practice grows the intruding thoughts won’t be as loud and they will arrive less often and with less fanfare, and you will easily be able to shuffle them on and stay focused. This indicates that you are positively shifting your behavior and strengthening your ‘now’ practice.

Taken from my new book, Fierce Reinvention: A Guide to Harnessing Your Superpowers for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Success ($11.99 digital, $15.99 print (USD), October 2017) is available from Amazon.

How to Quieten Your Mind

This is Day Eleven in the 30 Days of Reinvention Video Series [#30DaysReinvention].

Build a meditation practice and align your body and mind.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Hey it’s Rand,

Our monkey minds constantly barrage us with negative chatter:

“I’m not good enough”

“She will let me down”

“Who is this guy?”

But by asking yourself, “What do I need to prove?”

And by realising that there is nothing to prove to your inner self, to your observer, you significantly reduce that internal dialogue, that monkey mind chatter and you will begin to convert  the negativity into positive, connective, universal thoughts that transcend the need to prove yourself to others and to society at large.

So much of our time is taken up with distracting thoughts that leave us in a fractured state of mind. Off-task thinking and mind wandering both increase that mindless chatter.

So what can we do to keep ourselves on task and aligned?

The answer is Meditation. It is fantastic for bringing your mind back into focus.

Think of meditation as the practice of aligning mind and body. It is less about switching off all your thinking and more about relaxing with your thoughts: acknowledging them without judgement and letting them pass through you without trying to hold onto them.

Your to-do list will still be there when you finish meditating, but during your meditation practice you need to be fiercely gentle with yourself, noticing thoughts and feelings but not acting on them.

In meditation you will acknowledge a thought and then let it pass through your mind, comfortable that it is something you can take care of after you finish your session.

Shifting from your everyday dream-like wandering to a more focused state, you substitute the chatter of your discursive mind with another, more calming object of attention. This could be your breath, or it could be a chanted mantra.

A meditation practice allows you to see the gap that exists between your everyday narrative, your story, and what manifests once you quiet down all the chatter and achieve relative stillness.