What Is Their Secret? Hint: It’s Probably Mindfulness!

“Don’t compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to the person you were yesterday.”

That’s some of the best advice I’ve ever heard. But I have to admit that it’s awfully difficult sometimes to live up to it, and I am sure you can relate.

As human beings, it is completely natural for us to compare ourselves to other people. It is not necessarily an unhealthy practice. However, it often results in us measuring our perceived failures against the successes others have experienced, which is always a losing game.

Nevertheless, you may find yourself comparing yourself to others as you navigate your leadership role and that’s okay. It’s just important to remember that you are on your own path and it is your journey, no one else’s. Also, the people you compare yourself to have struggles and challenges that you know nothing about. So, it’s not really a fair comparison, is it?

Here’s something I’ve learned that might help you if you simply cannot resist comparing yourself to other leaders: If someone seems to have a “magical” ability to stay present, aware and sharp in their leadership role, it’s probably because they practice mindfulness. They are not superior to you, necessarily, or even more gifted at leadership. Rather, they have simply found the value in taking time for contemplation and being fully present.

“I Tried Mindfulness and It Doesn’t Work!”

It’s common for me to encounter leaders who believe in the value of mindfulness in a theoretical sense, but most have trouble putting it to work in their own lives. They honestly admit that they “can’t” meditate, or that whatever they try in terms of a mindfulness practice does not work. So, what’s going on with them? Is it possible that some people are just not capable of mindfulness?

This can be incredibly frustrating for leaders who want to reach a new level of performance and impact, but they still feel stuck. They see their peers making great strides after committing themselves to their self-awareness and mindfulness practices. And yet, mindfulness remains a complete mystery to some people. For some leaders, it’s worse – it seems like a complete waste of time.

Here’s what I know about mindfulness, from my own experience:

  • It’s not easy. Certainly, some people make it appear easy, but it will probably take time to develop a practice that works – and that’s okay. It’s normal and is to be expected whenever we try to implement anything new in our lives. 
  • It can work for anyone provided you are open to it. I have met some individuals who openly shared that they find it difficult to be mindful. Often, these are the individuals for whom mindfulness can provide the greatest, most game-changing benefits, but it starts by being willing to try something new.
  • It’s not just about meditation. Yes, meditation is a terrific way to practice being mindful, but mindfulness can be practiced anywhere at any time. In fact, the goal of any mindfulness practice should be the ability to engage mindfulness “muscles” even during the tensest, most stressful or anxious moments.
  • There is no such thing as being “good” or “bad” at mindfulness. It’s all about paying attention and improving your awareness. When judgment enters the picture, it’s a signal to remember that there’s a reason they call it a practice!

Practice Makes Present

Speaking of practice, engaging in meditation or any other mindful act just once will probably have little to no impact. Engaging in a mindfulness practice every day for a week will not do a lot, either. But if you sustain your practice consistently, engaging with it daily for several weeks in a row, you are sure to notice changes.

Mindfulness will not be the only cause of those changes as the transformation has to come from your actions.

What mindfulness does is allow you to be more present with your thoughts and emotions. It does not create change, but it helps you create an inner landscape where positive change is easier to manifest. Essentially, a mindfulness practice will generate a greater level of awareness. And once you become aware, you gain the power to make deliberate, positive and transformative changes.

For example, let’s say you are feeling anxious or stressed out on a constant basis. Practicing mindfulness will not reduce stress by itself. But it will make you more aware of the factors that are contributing to your stress and strain. When you are mindful, you have a more enhanced ability to recognize the triggers that lead to stress. You become aware of the specific situations that lead to tension. And when you have this type of awareness, you are gifted with the knowledge of what you have to change in order to build a richer, more fulfilling life of leadership.

When mindfulness “clicks” into place for you and starts to make sense – and I promise it will if you stay consistent in your practice – it will become clear why so many of the leaders you look up to swear by the practice. You will likely notice yourself developing new abilities while enhancing your old ones. And it will be much easier for you to shift behavior and eliminate some bad habits you’ve been carrying around. This is what the world’s most successful and effective leaders understand and you can get to that place of understanding, too.

Making a More Mindful Organization

The benefits of becoming mindful are numerous. Here are just a few things mindfulness can do for you, as a leader:

  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce and protect against health issues such as high blood pressure
  • Alter the brain positively in ways that enhance memory, learning and emotional regulation
  • Teach you to pay attention to the moment at hand
  • Allow you to keep better watch over your emotions and feelings, leading to an enhanced ability to keep them under control
  • Help develop greater awareness of your impact on others
  • Reduce feelings of pressure that are common for leaders like you

As you become a more mindful leader, you will probably stop comparing yourself so much to other leaders. What a relief, right? Instead of all the constant comparing and measuring yourself against others, you will notice a more open, inclusive feeling. What’s more, you are likely to become a lot less selfish as you bring more mindfulness into your life.

Eventually, it will become clear to you that it’s not all about you; it’s about building the desired culture within your organization. A mindful culture, where everyone from the CEO to the newest hire in the mail room understands the power of taking a mindful pause.

Here are a few tips to assist you in fostering a mindful culture within your team and organization:

Set an Example of Mindfulness

As a leader, you set the tone for your people. When they see you becoming more mindful, focused, aware and engaged, they will naturally want to know your secret. Be an example for your people of the benefits of mindfulness, and they will engage in their own practices much more eagerly.

Make Time and Space for Mindfulness

I mean literal, physical space — companies that create spaces within their offices for meditation, yoga and other mindful practices have more engaged, focused, relaxed and productive employees. Creating the space is not enough by itself, though. You must encourage your employees to take advantage of it!

Refresh, Reflect and Integrate

As you travel down the road of progress and productivity, it’s easy to avoid stopping to reflect and refresh. But pausing for mindful reflection in between big projects and deadlines is a great way to encourage employees to check in with their personal, present states. Have your people tune in with their feelings and emotions, and really check in with their internal barometers. These occasionally pauses allow people to catch their breath, re-center themselves in the present and re-engage with their professional passions once again.

Be the Mindful Leader Others Look Up To

There really isn’t a big secret that the world’s most effective leaders share. In fact, many of them are quite open about how mindfulness is the tool that makes them more effective and you can be one of these types of leaders, as well. It is not difficult; it simply requires a commitment to practice. Once you become more self-aware and mindful, your people are sure to follow, which will give your organization a major boost. Before too long, you have a chance to become the one other leaders look up to.

Are you interested in getting on the fast track to a more mindful leadership career? The Grounded Leader webinar series, which is based on my popular presentation, begins in just a week! Self-awareness and mindfulness are major pillars of this presentation, so if you’re looking to gain an edge through a consistent contemplative practice, you don’t want to miss out!

If you are interested in learning more or signing up for the webinar, click here to learn what you need to know to get involved. It’s filling up quickly, so don’t hesitate!

Any questions? Feel free to reach out to me directly. I’m at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca. I can also be reached via telephone at 1.855.871.3374. I look forward to hearing from you!

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