“Your intention sets the stage for what is possible” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Last week my spouse Kevin and I participated in a Mindfulness Retreat* in the Beaver Valley, a UNESCO-designated biosphere in Ontario. It was held in a village in the Niagara Escarpment, where there is an abundance of hiking trails, rivers, farmland and a natural environment for flora and fauna to thrive.
While I know the many health benefits of a regular mindfulness meditation practice – better sleep, increased energy, clarity of thought, etc – I am one of those people who struggle to sit still and establishing a formal meditation practice has always seemed daunting.
Being on the retreat reminded me that you don’t have to sit on a meditation cushion for hours to experience the benefits of being still, paying attention, and resetting your focus. You can start by simply pausing wherever you are, taking a few deep breaths at your desk, standing and stretching mindfully, or simply going for a walk to change your perspective.
The key is to pay attention and be deliberate about what you are trying to cultivate. In other words, what is it you want to grow?
I left the retreat energized and full of new ideas about how mindfulness techniques can support leaders who want to develop their skillset or are struggling with a difficult transition. Whether it is a new role, a change in direction, or a personal challenge, being deliberate about what you are trying to grow is an important first step.
Like a muscle, what you practice grows stronger.
It may be that you want to practice being patient with a colleague, or to spend more time listening and less time talking. Or you may want to be more mindful of how you prioritize daily tasks. Words are less important than being deliberate about your intention for growth.
Here’s an example of how it works:
One of the leaders I coach has been struggling in a new role where she does not feel valued. She progressed quickly from a technical expert to a senior leader and the transition hasn’t gone as easily as she had hoped. She gets frustrated with discussions at the senior leadership table, where she doesn’t feel her point of view is taken seriously. She also has a hard time containing negative reactions and her peers are starting to notice. When we last met, she was starting to question her future direction.
I invited her to take a pause, breathe deeply, and consider three questions:
- What is your intention?
- What do you notice?
- Who do you want to BE as a leader?
In the silence that followed, I asked her to write down whatever came to mind. During that five-minute reflection, she shifted from being agitated and reactive to being optimistic and hopeful. She reported feeling lighter and ready to take a different stance the next time she has an opportunity to be the kind of leader she wants to become. She is committed to taking a pause the next time she feels a reaction, paying attention, and reminding herself of her intention.
To learn more about how to grow your mindfulness muscle, check out Dr. Shauna Shapiro’s TedTalk: The Power of Mindfulness: What you Practice Grows Stronger below.
To talk to a coach about mindfulness at work or for other recommended mindfulness resources, contact us at email@example.com.
* The Mindfulness Retreat* was a fundraiser for Protect Talisman Land Association, a group that is dedicated to ensuring the Escarpment lands continue to remain green and natural. It was hosted by Dr. Michele Chaban and Stephanie Needham, and food was provided by the generous owners of the Kimberley General Store. To learn more about the Mindfulness studies developed by Dr. Michele Chaban, go to the Mindfulness Program at UofT’s Continuing Studies.
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Thank you for taking the time to read and reflect. I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading and what you want to grow.