What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness and Presence?

These is lots of buzz these days about being more mindful, of living in the present moment. Through my own experience I know when I am present, and I also know when my presence is hijacked by some past programming, old fear, worry, or an emotional outbreak. Yet when I experience presence and am practicing my mindfulness techniques, the rewards and benefits are unmatched by anything else.

We have reached the limits of the old management paradigm at work, the one that has been able to engage only 31% of our employees in America (Gallop Polls). That means that with all the studies, books, and leadership training programs on how to make work and workers more productive we still have almost 70% of our workforce unengaged with their work, and many are actively disengaged, spreading toxins within our organizations. The way we have been doing what’s called “leadership” at work simply is falling way too short. We need to expand and evolve the definition of leadership, and I have found the way to do just that is by practicing mindfulness in all aspects of my life – including my leadership roles.

Research shows that having an intense focus on a particular task — rather than thinking you can effectively ‘multitask,’ can make you much more productive and effective at work. We have been discovering that being mindful, or focusing in our attention to one thing in front of us, leads to significantly higher productivity, creativity, successful completion of projects, and a greater sense of accomplishment.

We don’t teach mindfulness practices in schools, so a conscious leader’s greatest gift to his/her people is for them to stay in the present moment as often as possible, and to offer teaching mindfulness techniques and daily practices at work. When we as leaders are more self-aware of what’s going on inside and outside of us, we can offer such higher degrees of insight, support, trust and wisdom to our people, which leads to more engagement, stronger teams, authentic communication and better results.

Companies large and small have realized the power and positive results of mindfulness training for their employees. Some of the companies that do this already include Apple, Boeing, Deutsche Bank, Facebook, Ford, General Mills, Google LA Lakers, P&G, Starbucks, Target, Toyota and Xerox. Leaders who are expanding their self-awareness are leading the way to also increase the levels of mindfulness for themselves and their people.

Mindfulness and being present doesn’t need to be just sitting on a cushion and meditating. It’s really about pausing and reflecting and thinking about what is going on right now – either who or what is right before you needing your highest and best attention, or on how you are thinking and feeling internally. If we are mentally and/or emotionally “not-present,” we default into our conditioned, reactive modes, and too often create more harm than good. When we are mindful we can engage with the people and tasks at hand with more skillful means and positive outcomes.

Being mindful, which brings us to into presence, results in:

– Better solutions appearing

– Struggles dissipating

– Overcoming obstacles

– Increased clarity

– Confront negative energies realistically

– Communicate authentically and effectively

– Safe and trusting relationships and teams

– Higher sense of peace, fulfillment and appreciation.

I see a day when more leaders live in states of presence, and they are able to foster such with the people they touch. I see those leaders’ organizations achieving engagement levels double, triple than those current. I see organizations of more mindful, present people achieving heights of productivity, profitability and fulfillment that significantly out-perform their competitors. I see such positive effects when people, leaders work on themselves to truly evolve. That’s the world and the places of work I want to live in. We have a way to change, and mindfulness practices are a fundamental factor in if/how we move forward.

What are you doing for your own well-being, your own self-improvement, your own authentic leadership development? I encourage you to investigate mindfulness, and if you have any questions connect with me directly: info@kevinrafferty.com.

Conscious leaders become more self-aware.

Self-awareness expands mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the gateway to presence.

Presence is our greatest power.

5 Mindfulness Tip for Authentic Leaders

Mindfulness = Presence = Awareness

Mindfulness is the gateway to presence: the state of being and living in the present moment. Mindfulness, or being mindful, is being aware of your present moment. You are not judging, reflecting, or thinking. You are simply observing the moment – this present moment in which you find yourself.

Mindfulness involves bringing our awareness back from the past or the future into the present moment. By residing more frequently in the present moment, we can begin to see both the inner and outer aspects of our reality. While reflecting internally, we can see that our mind is continually chattering with commentary, judgments, and random thoughts. By noticing that our mind is continually active, we have the ability to observe carefully those thoughts, seeing them for what they are without aversion or judgment. Be aware of the voices in your head—the conditioned thought processes that run 24/7/365 ad infinitum.

When we practice mindfulness, we can realize that “thoughts are just thoughts.” We are free to release a thought just by letting it go. We realize that the thought may not be based in reality, an absolute truth, or even be one with which we agree. Thus, we are free to observe life without being caught in commentary and mind chatter. We may hear the many voices or messages speaking to us within our mind. It is important to be aware that the messages we hear during “thinking” may not be accurate or helpful, but rather may be translations of, or departures from, truth or someone else’s truth altogether.

I have found these following five ways to be more mindful in my day-to-day living. These tips will help you develop your mindfulness-muscles. The better and easier you can drop into being mindful, the more the present moment will offer you its deeper benefits.

  1. The easiest way to become mindful or present is by paying attention to your breath. If we can continue to come back to our breath, which always is occurring in the here and now, we will be drawn immediately into the present. Moments are like breaths. Each breath is replaced by the next breath. You are there with no other purpose other than being awake and aware of that moment. If you start by being aware of your breath, and letting go of all other thoughts at that moment, your mind and body chatter decreases. Compare our moments, breaths, to the ocean and the waves. They continue to come and disappear, to be followed by another and another and another. They come; they disappear. You will also dissipate any stress that has built up in your body just by focusing on your breath.
  2. Have a physical object to remind you to become present right now. Something that you have assigned meaning to, such as a bracelet, ring, or an object you have on your tabletop or in a pocket that just seeing or touching it is like your own personal ‘alarm-clock’ to remember to be present.
  3. Pay attention to your thoughts. Sit quietly and just observe your thoughts and any feelings they arouse. See your thoughts coming into your awareness as if they were clouds passing overhead, moving from left to right, and then out of range. Just be aware of all the random thoughts popping into your minds-eye, and do not judge or mentally comment on any of them. Just observe, and over time you see these thoughts will slow down or diminish as your awareness expands.
  4. When you are sitting, either at your desk or even while eating, simply slow down and pay deep attention to what your body is experiencing at that moment. Notice any sensations, discomforts, or temperature variations. Notice what’s coming through your senses, to scents, tastes, sounds, to the textures, and to what is received via your eyes. Just pay attention to all of it without judgement. Try to be like a child with a ‘curiosity mindset,’ just witness what you are experiencing.
  5. Get into nature. One of the fastest ways to collect yourself and be more mindful and present is to get outside. Take a walk, sit on an outdoors bench, look at a beautiful scene, and listen to the sounds of nature. Any way you can connect to nature do so, and you will find a quick way to just stop, pause, and be open to what is happening right before you in the here and now.

Any activity done mindfully is a form of meditation, and mindfulness is possible practically all the time. All that is required is that we become the observer of our thoughts and feelings. It is almost like stepping just outside yourself enough to be able to turn your attention back around to see your thoughts and feelings without reaction or criticism. When we can take a moment and observe ourselves having a thought, then we are in the present moment. When present and mindful, we can choose to look at our past thoughts differently in the here-and-now. We may also choose to change the way we are anticipating the future by changing our thoughts about it right now. We have all the power, not our thoughts, and the only power we ever have is right here and now, with us, in this very moment.

Mindfulness is an activity that can be done at any time. It does not require sitting, or any special process, but rather it is done by bringing the mind to focus on what is happening in the present moment, while simply noticing the mind’s usual “commentary.” Mindfulness is becoming aware of the sensations in our bodies, of the sounds around us, or sensing the presence of others close by. We can also be mindful of our mind’s chatter. Once we notice our thoughts, we can choose to stop identifying with them and their judgments and perceptions. We can choose to think another thought and if that does not serve us, choose again, and again.

The benefits of mindfulness are infinite. As we more closely monitor our thinking, we can find that happiness is not exclusively a quality brought about by a change in outer circumstances, but rather our happiness often starts with loosening and releasing attachment to our thoughts, predispositions, and scripts, thereby releasing automatic reactions toward pleasant and unpleasant situations or feelings. Mindfulness, presence, leads us easily to choose happiness in any moment desired. And when we find ourselves in more positive states we are also more insightful, creative, adaptive, open, compassionate, empathetic, and easily connected to others and things around us.

Presence is the condition where we know truth, right from wrong, and what to do or not to do. Presence is the power of creation, of manifestation, of successful problem-solving and conflict resolution. Presence causes ALL transformations.

Invite the stillness of presence into your life. Allow yourself time to access the higher power we all possess and have access to whenever we become mindful. 

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence.

When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

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Presence – What Exactly Is It and Why Is It Important

The second facet of Authentic Leadership is grounded in presence, in living more in the present moment.  As you deepen and expand your levels of self-awareness, a most common side effect is that you are seeing things more clearly, more broadly, less ego-centrically, and are able to spend more and more time in honest self-reflection. This type of inner-work demands that you center more and more of your attention and consciousness onto the matter that is top of mind; this then manifests itself as presence, or present-moment awareness.

Presence is the ability to have your full awareness in the present moment. All your mental, emotional, and spiritual faculties are focused on what is happening to you in the here and now. Being present means being completely aware of all that’s occurring in and around you, right now. It means you’re not in denial, you’re not pretending, you’re not emotionally hijacked, and you’re not avoiding. When you are grounded in the present – feeling your feelings, listening to your body, aware of what your five senses are sensing, and expressing your ideas – you are present.

What does being present really mean? It means being here, completely here, right this moment, right now. It means that this now is all there is. There is no tomorrow or even a yesterday or a later today. Now is all that exists. When we harness the power of the present moment, we have our full awareness on the task at hand – on the person, people or thing right in front of us. At the heart of presence is realizing that this instant in time is unlike any you’ve experienced before or will experience again. The now is here, and that’s all there is.

Being present allows your mind to be at rest because there is nowhere else to go and nothing else to do. There is no past to haunt you or pull you backward. And there is no future to wish for or fantasies to maintain. Being present is truly the demonstration of “this is as good as it gets,” because nothing is real except this very moment. And now that that moment is gone, there is only this moment, and then the next moment. Time passes, but as you remain present, you remain in the eternal state of now.

The past and future are illusions. The past is over and leaves us with stories and interpretations of what we think happened. The future hasn’t happened yet, though often will deliver anxiety, worry and fear as we make up potential scenarios that most likely won’t happen. While your past can inform you and your future can inspire you, the moment of choice exists in the here and now. By relinquishing your obsession with the past and your fantasies about the future, you can tap into the power of the present, and feel the forces of wisdom, insight, compassion, empathy and love that reside inside of you.

I developed the Authentic Guidance System graphic below to serve as my dashboard for my own awareness. It helps me see where my present state of mind is at any time, and then if I find I am in the left or right shaded sections, I can quickly and easily bring my awareness back into present-moment states. I may not be able to jump right from fear to joy immediately, but as I focus my attention, conscious awareness onto what present-moment state that will better serve me, I literally find that I can bring that desired state of mind into my present fairly quickly, and stay there for as long as I choose.

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Author of the book “The Power of Now” Eckhart Tolle adds, “The questions may arise, ‘Would there be anything left to strive for when you are so present in the now? Wouldn’t you become passive in that state?’ Many meaningless activities may fall away, but the state of presence is the only state in which creative energy is available to you. When your fulfillment and sense of self are no longer dependent on the future outcome, or being anchored to some unpleasant past event, joy flows into whatever you do. You do what you do because the action itself is fulfilling.”

Whatever you do or create in a state of presence is of high quality. This is because it is not a means to an end, and so a loving care flows into your doing. Your passion flows more fully. Your ability to see what is truly happening and to resolve problems increase significantly. Your ability to connect with others, create trust and meaningful conversations enhances your relationships. You are more open to what is before you, and you can then help others work through issues more effortlessly and productively. You not only are better at doing what is needed, you create better outcomes – all while deepening your enjoyment factor more than ever before.

In the state of presence you are your highest and best Authentic Self! When you are your Authentic Self, you can be the highest and best Authentic Leader you desire. The times we live in are demanding better leadership, and the best leaders are becoming more self-aware and living and working more from the power of the present moment. I encourage all of us to amp our levels and capacities for presence!

Present Yourself the Present of Presence, and your life is enriched, enlightened and enlivened in ways that allow you to be the best version of the highest vision you have for yourself!

What Others Say About the Importance of Developing Self-Awareness!

The unexamined life is not worth living. – Socrates

To find yourself, think for yourself. – Socrates

Increasing awareness is the aim of all human life. – Ken Wilbur

By becoming self-aware, you gain ownership of reality; in becoming real, you become the master of both inner and outer life. – Deepak Chopra

In the long run, digging for truth has always proved not only more interesting but more profitable than digging for gold. – George Harrison

Self-awareness involves deep personal honesty. It comes from asking and answering hard questions. Self-awareness is our capacity to stand apart from ourselves and examine our thinking, our motives, our history, our scripts, our actions, and our habits and tendencies. – Stephen Covey

No one man can, for any considerable time, wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which is the true one. – Nathaniel Hawthorne

To contact the deeper truth of who we are, we must engage in some activity or practice that questions what we assume to be true about ourselves. – A. H. Almaas

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. – Marcel Proust

And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself? – Rumi

All of us have to seek in our own way to make our own selves more noble and to realize our own true worth. – Albert Schweitzer

Delve within; within is the fountain of good, and it is always ready to bubble up, if you always delve. – Marcus Aurelius

Getting in touch with your true self must be your first priority. – Tom Hopkins

He who knows others is learned; He who knows himself is wise. – Lao Tzu

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell. – Buddha

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. – Lao Tzu

Knowing who you are, rather than trying to be someone else, is essential to fulfilling your purpose. – Eileen Flanagan

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom – Aristotle

My true relationship is with myself – all others are simply mirrors of it. – Shakti Gawain

Not till we are completely lost or turned around do we begin to find ourselves. – Henry David Thoreau

Once I know who I’m not, then I’ll know who I am. – Alanis Morissette

One of the basic laws of human existence is: find yourself, know yourself, and be yourself. – Norman Vincent Peale

The guru is in you. – Yogani

The hardest battle you’re ever going to fight is the battle to be just you. – Leo Buscaglia

The more conscious you become, the more aware you become of how unconscious you’ve been. – Patricia Sun

To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are. – Bruce Lee

To know one-self is enlightenment. – Lao Tzu

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. – Carl Jung

Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others. – Buddha

You are the Michelangelo of your own life. The David that you are sculpting is you. And you do it with your thoughts. – Joe Vitale

You cannot tread the Path before you become the Path yourself. – Zen saying

This above all, to thine own self be true. – William Shakespeare

More on Increasing Your Self-Awareness

Building from my last blog, to dive a bit deeper into ways to increase your own self-awareness, I’d like to offer some tips on a few key aspects that worked for me in my own journey of awakening and that I have used to successfully coach clients to wake up – along with key insights from others who also have been on the same journey throughout time.

Contemplation, Observation & Study

Often the first and easiest step comes when you realize where you are, who you have become, what work you are doing, and/or how your relationship(s) aren’t offering you satisfaction, happiness, fulfillment or meaning any longer. You sense internal restlessness. Something about your life is tugging, rubbing, and not feeling right. You may have all your material needs met and more, yet with all your worldly successes, you do not seem as happy as you thought you would be by now or do not feel as fulfilled as you earlier had hoped. Maybe you feel stuck, afraid, or lost. You may find that you are questioning your sanity, because everything is going just as planned, yet something is missing.

Contemplation, observation and study allow you to take stock of where you are, to begin to address any uneasiness you are experiencing. You look at your career, your relationships, and your life. Be more open to honest reflection. Maybe you buy a book or begin reading the ones others have been reading and recommending. You may attend personal or professional growth seminars to obtain new knowledge. You may have deeper discussions with friends, spouses, siblings, or parents. You begin to ask a lot of questions and continue looking for answers, and slowly your awareness expands. This phase may seem to go in cycles where new information comes in waves and you are overwhelmed with information. You start and stop and repeat the cycle, possibly many times, maybe for the rest of your life, because it is an integral part of any intention to expand your self-awareness. Journaling here is very helpful, for it allows you to deepen the conversation you are having with yourself, and allows you to note progress along your path. I recommend you get more comfortable with yourself in the self.

Assessing Limiting Beliefs

I think the most important aspect of “waking-up” is to take a hard, deep, real, honest look at your entire belief system. As I stated in my book Wake Up, Get Real, Be Happy-Becoming Your Authentic Self . . .

“Beliefs drive our lives. Many beliefs are instilled while we are growing up. We have beliefs about life in general that allow us to experience safety, efficiency, and predictability. We have beliefs about people, society, and organizations. Some beliefs affect the way we see situations, ideas, and information. Most of the time, we do not realize that our beliefs drive our day-to-day activities and thoughts, but they always are there. The automatic tapes are running constantly in the back of our minds. Beliefs are the stories that run in the background of our minds. What are your old stories telling you, and how accurately do they match your current understanding of the world and your place in it? Listen to how negative your initial thoughts or reactions are, and see which belief may have triggered it.

“Some beliefs are limiting or negative-based. These beliefs limit our ability to succeed. They might be conscious or subconscious, true or false, and we typically have a few that do all the damage. They act like brakes on our ability to progress through life. Although we make progress, they can pull us back at any moment. We may base our entire lives on these beliefs. They were made while we were young or without the faculties, experience, and facts necessary to interpret events realistically. They are at the core of self-image, decision-making, and motivation systems, and they carry forward into adulthood. Past beliefs are not always true, yet they often have strangleholds on us unless we can be objective about them. Our challenge is to see that limiting beliefs are not the truth. We have an opportunity to consciously choose our truth, and then we can lead our lives with awareness, personal power, and authenticity. We can lead the lives we choose to lead, and let the old imposter be no more.“

Getting out of the vicious cycle of limiting beliefs requires us to do the following:

  1. Identify the beliefs.
  2. Eliminate them, consciously and continuously.
  3. Replace them with beliefs that allow us to be and do anything we desire.

“It can be a lifelong battle, but it is one that we can win! We have to challenge them consciously whenever they show up. We must reject any thoughts of limitations, and replacing them with a positive stream of thinking starves them and forces them to wither and die. Self-help guru Jim Rohn says, ‘You cannot take a mild approach to the weeds in your mental garden. You have got to hate the weeds enough to kill them. Weeds are not something you handle; weeds are something you need to decimate.’”

The following topics are addressed more in my book and can offer initial guidance into these very important topics that expand and deepen one’s self-awareness:

Personal Assessments

Understanding the Ego & Assessing Fear Patterns

Gratitude

Forgiveness

Intimacy, Vulnerability & Shame Work

If any of these topics resonate more with you, take that as a sign and follow it, do some research, use the internet to connect with others working within that area and open yourself up to new insights.

Other programs exist that also enhance your journey inward, and we will be talking more about these over time:

Emotional Healing

Releasing Attachments

Group Work

Physical Practices

Many are also tapping into experts who can offer personal coaching in this prime area of awakening to your authentic self. You may want to consider hiring a coach –  someone who you really resonate with, who has expertise in this area, and who can offer you a process that your intuition can lean in to and trust. Many are finding that by hiring a coach they speed up their personal development, and find beneficial short-cuts that may have taken years to discover on their own. The first 15 years of my awakening journey were primarily solo, mainly because I didn’t know about coaching, and because I was protecting my own fears and insecurities about others finding out about what I was doing. I have hired numerous coaches, each having some specific specialty that I felt I needed at the time, and I am so much better for it. I hope you too will consider adding a coach to your toolkit for your own awakening!

So much to cover, so little space in this blog, yet my hope is to trigger something within you that will help you awaken more, be open more to self-reflection and self-assessment, and ultimately to self-realization!

I found this quote very helpful:

“What got me here won’t get me there!”

 

Increasing Your Self-Awareness: Meditation & Mindfulness

Building on the last blog, I want to offer you some tips on ways to improve, increase and expand your self-awareness. As you develop and deepen your own practice of self-awareness, your level of consciousness will grow, and allow you to experience more joy and purpose beyond your daily tasks and responsibilities. Expanded self-awareness frees you from repetitive painful, negative thoughts and feelings, and in doing so opens you up to become so much more than who you have been.

The list below reflects what I have personally utilized to help me and my clients in some way achieve more meaningful and life-affirming levels of personal perception. While briefly noted here, each topic offers its own journey of exploration, reflection, healing realizations, releasing of old patterns, and allows space for new ways of thinking and being to take positive hold. In this blog I will expand on the first two. The others we will take up in future posts.

  1. Meditation

Meditation helps quiet the mind, reduces the voices in your head, and helps one be present and open for anything that may come to mind. Meditation comes to us primarily from Eastern philosophers and religions. Meditation is a natural process of withdrawing attention from external conditions and directing it inward to a chosen focus of concentration. It can be practiced in various ways, but

typically, people have a certain meditative practice that they follow regularly. Do this for at least

thirty days before evaluating the results. When you acquire proficiency in meditation, you may wish to

extend the sessions by sitting longer in a conscious, calm state until you feel peaceful and fulfilled. The key is to take the peace and good feelings from your meditation into your daily life. Cultivate cheerfulness and optimism. Be emotionally stable.

The primary purpose of meditation practice is to elicit clear states of consciousness and to facilitate progressive, authentic, personal and spiritual growth. The following basic procedure is easy to learn and practice:

  1. Meditate once or twice every day.
  2. Sit upright in a comfortable chair. It is all right to sit cross-legged if this is convenient. Hold the head up and direct your attention to the front and higher regions of the brain.
  3. Inhale and exhale once or twice to relax. Remain still for a few moments until you feel centered. Be aware of your natural breathing rhythm.
  4. When inhalation occurs naturally, some people choose to speak mentally a chosen word, such as God, peace, joy, or any pleasant word or mantra that resonates. When exhalation occurs, again mentally, speak the word. Feel that the sound of the chosen word is blossoming in your mind or your field of awareness. Do this without effort and without anxiety about results.
  5. When a state of conscious, calm awareness is experienced, discontinue listening to the word. Be still, letting the meditative calm persist for several minutes until you feel inclined to conclude the practice session.

The Harvard Business Review recently published an article showing academic research citing the benefits of meditation, which are: builds resilience; increases emotional intelligence; enhances creativity, improves relationships; increases focus. All of these contribute to being a more effective, conscious leader. Other beneficial side-benefits of regular meditation practice have been widely reported in a variety of secular news magazines and newspapers. These can include stress reduction, strengthening of the body’s immune system, better organized thought processes, improved powers of concentration, enhanced powers of memory, refinement and enlivening of the nervous system, awakening of regenerative energies, slowing of biologic aging processes, development of the capacities of the brain to process perceptions and states of consciousness, and orderly functioning of the body’s organs, glands, and systems.

  1. Mindfulness & Presence

Mindfulness = Presence = Awareness.

Mindfulness, or being mindful, is being aware of your present moment. You are not judging, reflecting, or thinking. You are simply observing the moment in which you find yourself.

Mindfulness involves bringing our awareness back from the past or the future into the present. By residing in the present moment, we can see the inner and outer aspects of reality. While reflecting, we can see that the mind is continually chattering with commentary, judgments, and random thoughts. By noticing that the mind is continually active, we can observe those thoughts, seeing them for what they are without aversion or judgment. Be aware of the voices in your head and the conditioned thought processes that run 24-7-365.

The past is past, and the future has not occurred, so all we have is the present moment. Life is a series of present moments, and in each moment, we can choose to give ourselves the present of presence. When we practice mindfulness, we realize that “thoughts are just thoughts.” We are free to release a thought by letting it go. We realize that the thought may not be based in reality, be an absolute truth, or be one that we agree with. We are free to observe life without being caught in the commentary and mind chatter. We may hear the voices or messages speaking to us within our mind. It is important to be aware that the messages we hear during “thinking” may not be accurate or helpful but may be translations of, or departures from, someone else’s truth.

The easiest way to become mindful is to pay attention to your breath. If you can come back to your breath, you will be drawn immediately into the present. Moments are like breaths. Each breath is replaced by the next breath. You are there with no other purpose than being awake and aware of that moment. If you become aware of your breath and let go of all other thoughts, you know that it comes and goes. Compare your moments and breaths to the waves in the ocean. They come and disappear and

are followed by another and another and another. They come; they disappear.

Mindfulness can be done anytime. It does not require sitting or any special process. It is done by bringing the mind to focus on what is happening in the present moment while noticing the mind’s “commentary.” Mindfulness is becoming aware of the sensations in your body, the sounds around you, or the presence of others close by. You can be mindful of your mind’s chatter. Once you notice your thoughts, you can choose to stop identifying with them and their judgments and perceptions. You can choose to think another thought, and if that one does not serve you, choose again. Any activity done mindfully is a form of meditation, and mindfulness is possible all the time. Become the observer of your thoughts and feelings. It is like stepping outside yourself and turning your attention back around to see your thoughts and feelings without reaction or criticism. When you observe yourself having a thought, you are in the present moment.

We are not our thoughts. Thoughts by themselves are not good or bad; it’s how we label them. Thoughts can take us away from the here and now. If we are hanging onto past thoughts or worrying about the future, we are a prisoner of our thoughts. Our power will always be in the here and now. We cannot go back and fix a past result, and we cannot leap into the future. When present and mindful, we can choose to look at our past thoughts differently. We may choose to change the way we anticipate the future by changing our thoughts about it now. We have the power, not our thoughts, and the only we can exercise our power is in this present moment.

These are other modalities to tap into to boost self-awareness:

  1. Assessing Limiting Beliefs
  2. Understanding the Ego & Assessing Fear Patterns
  3. Contemplation & Observation
  4. Study
  5. Emotional Healing
  6. Gratitude
  7. Forgiveness
  8. Releasing Attachments
  9. Coaching
  10. Group Work
  11. Assessments
  12. Physical Practices
  13. Vulnerability

This list is a great beginning to the journey of a lifetime, to you reconnecting with your Authentic Self. We will continue to explore these pathways and others and I welcome your input, experiences and insights.

For more information check out Chapters 3, 4 & 11 in my book Wake Up, Get Real, Be Happy – Becoming Your Authentic Self, or email me!

Personal Perception – The First Step to Becoming an Authentic Leader

The first of twelve facets in being an authentic leader is developing your Personal Perception, or self-awareness. Many thought leaders conclude that the cornerstone of becoming a better leader is having the open-mindedness to self-reflect, self-assess, and to open oneself up to new information, ideas, concepts, processes and viewpoints that may alter the way one thinks and lives. From Peter Drucker to Warren Bennis, Jim Collins, Marshall Goldsmith and John Maxwell, and more recently from Daniel Pink, Seth Godin, Simon Sinek and Daniel Goleman, the consensus is that being open to honest self-assessment, and increasing one’s self-awareness quotient is preeminent to growing as a human being and developing our leadership capacities.

Self-awareness is having a clear perception of your make-up as a human being. This includes being cognizant of and knowing your values, passions, strengths, weaknesses, as well as being aware of your thoughts, beliefs, motivations, and emotions. Self-awareness is having the open-mindedness to better understand how people perceive you, and being aware of your attitude and your responses to them moment to moment. Self-awareness is a healthy combination of being cognizant of what is going on inside and outside yourself.

When we are not self-aware the focus of our thoughts and behaviors is driven by our own conditioned, repetitive, reflexive, thoughts and behaviors. Our own ‘self’ is the center of the universe, and our selfish, self-centered, narcissistic mindset is focused inward to our own survival, protection, advancement or gratification. Sleep-walking, ‘unconsciousness’, ego-centrism, insensitivity, delusion, indifference, defensiveness, being controlling, bullying, and being grandiose are ways to describe us when we are not self-aware.

So let’s take a look at what it means to be “self-aware.” People who have more self-awareness have processes to:

– Be reflective. They have ways to quiet their minds, to simply think for themselves. They take time to take in situations, things, experiences, people and to let a bigger perspective make itself known. They are able to look honestly at their own and others performance, see what works and honor that, and be open to change where needed.

– Inquire within. They take time to allow inner insights, wisdom, questions, and ideas to naturally form. They play with those thoughts without judging or dismissing them. They ask themselves what do they think and feel, and allow space and time for the new to make itself seen.

– Assess themselves honestly. They are open to taking stock objectively of their strengths and weaknesses. They willingly utilize assessment tools and evaluations like Strengthfinder 2.0, Birkman, 16 PF, Myers Briggs, Spiral Dynamics, EQi, and others to learn more about their natural aptitudes. They are typically life-long learners, and seek to improve and grow by opening themselves up to new concepts.

– Tap into their intuition. Whether you call it your inner feeling, gut instinct, conscience or inner voice, self-aware people more easily access this source, and have learned to listen to it and act upon it. This goes along with quieting the mind-chatter long enough to ‘hear’ from within. These people often can step ‘outside-the-box’ and make choices others are too afraid to make.

– Have higher levels of what’s termed “emotional Intelligence.” Intra-personal and inter-personal skills such as self-regard, self-responsibility, empathy, compassion and accountability are more prevalent in self-aware people, and they use these skills to build healthier and lasting relationships. Higher EQ leads to increased trust, communication, collaboration and higher performance, and luckily for us, can be developed if one chooses to put in the effort.

– Live in state of self-reference. Rather than follow others, these people know their core values, live their root passions, and have a clear, compelling purpose to their life, their work and their relationships. They have developed their own unique authenticity, and courageously go about their days bringing this highest and best Self to every encounter.

– Become self-actualized.  The benefits of self-awareness are best stated by the man who coined the term ‘self-actualization’ – Abraham Maslow, “What a man can be, he must be.” We may call this need self-actualization. It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming. People here experience humility and harmony, and seek to help others with their own development.

– Achieve self-realization.  The act of achieving the full development of your abilities and talents, realizing the fulfillment of the possibilities of one’s character or personality is a rare state of awareness. Success is replaced with significance, and work is looked at as an avocation rather than a job or career path.

– Experience unity-consciousness. While rare, some reach a state where they get a heightened sense of being connected to everything, and that level of awareness helps them see the connection of everything at the expense of nothing.

As you look at the above aspects of self-awareness, do your own assessment of where you are. Ego will often jump in quickly and give ourselves much more credit than when we do a deeper dive into what real, what’s true within ourselves. This is not a time for self-diminishment, judging, shaming or blaming. Self-aware people get to be so because they do less tearing themselves down and more looking for the truth and seeing the gap between where they really are and where their higher self would like them to be. Self-aware people are so because they have worked at it a long time, and know that life is about this type of journey rather than some end game.

We will continue to explore self-awareness in future blogs. For now just sit with yourself, see where you are, and decide where you’d like to improve, grow and advance. Begin to see how expanding your personal perception will benefit you and those in your life!

How to Make 2016 Your Best Year Yet!

As a coach, the greatest gift I can give my clients is to listen deeply to what they are saying, and to offer back questions that are designed for them to take in, and to go deeper within themselves. The best way to help someone is to help them see their own truth, and then build on what they desire from that vantage point.

I have assembled a line of questions* that have worked so well for me and my clients in the area of re-tuning a vision, re-setting goals, and re-energizing your purpose. These are offered to you to use as tools to help you on your own path, either for personal or professional reasons. I suggest you give yourself ample quiet time to allow for best reflecting, and have a journal where you can note the key wisdoms that percolate up from within. Focus in on the questions that speak to you most. Read the questions out loud to allow resonance to build within. Have no intentions other than giving yourself permission to dream and feel what arises, and then put them out in front of your field of vision. When we make seen the unseen, the creative urges kick in, and the process of manifestation begins.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” is one of Albert Einstein’s famous quotes. Imagination is the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality. Allowing ourselves to dream is the first step in creation, indeed everything man-made has started in our imagination. At years end is a good time to tap in to the creative power of your imagination by allowing the following questions to assist you in setting your course for 2016 and beyond. Enjoy this part of your journey!

         “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.”
Carl Sagan

Q: What is my vision, my dream, of my future?

Q: Who do I want to BE?

Q: What do I want to DO?

Q: What do I want to HAVE?

Q: Who am I?

Q: Why am I here?

Q: What do I seek or want out of life?

Q: What does life want from me?

Q: What do I really want?

Q: What am I seeking?

Q: Who am I trying to become?

Q: What is my purpose?

Q: What do I think would make me happier, healthier, experience more well-being?

Q: What insights have I gained about myself?

Q: Do I have a sense of a life that I want to lead, a feeling of what I am meant to do or are supposed to do?

Q: What difference do I want to make in the world?

Q: What would I do or create if I knew I could not fail?

Q: What do I think I am best qualified to do?

Q: What am I most proud of having accomplished?

Q: What am I doing that no longer fulfills you? Am I ready to let that go?

Q: What am I most passionate about?

Q: Do I know what drives me, what my core values are?

Q: What changes in my work do I have to make to live by my values?

Q: What changes in my personal relationships do I need to make to live by my values?

Q: What strategies can I become more aware of to facilitate my continued learning and navigating in the world?

Q: Am I ready to do what it takes to realize my highest and best vision for myself, my family, my organization?

“The quickest way to realize your future is to create it!” – Steven Covey

“Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and the strength, use it to create.” ― Maria Montessori

 

* Questions included from my book “Wake Up, Get Real, Be Happy – Becoming Your Authentic Self”

Wisdom From the Dying

I was made aware a few years back of Bronnie Ware’s work with palliative care patients, who are those who had gone home to die. She was able to ask them some big-life questions at that most significant stage in their lives, and came away with some very important findings for the rest of us. She questioned them about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, and found a few common themes that surfaced again and again.

Here are Bronnie’s most common five regrets of the dying:

  1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.

  1. “I wish I didn’t work so hard.”

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

  1. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

  1. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

  1. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

“People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them,” states Bonnie.

For me the key lessons here are:

– Reconnect with your own authenticity. Living life through other people’s beliefs, to strive to meet others’ expectations at the expense of your own dreams is such a waste, and creates too much pain.

– Connect with those who matter to you with openness, honesty, vulnerability – allow them to see the real you, and allow them to love you in deeper, more meaningful ways.

– Don’t wait until you are on your deathbed to realize what is truly important.

– Work is important, but it’s not the most important. Be aware of priorities (health, family, growth), and find ways to balance what’s important as your life journey unfolds.

– Live your life well in the here and now.

Life at its essence is all about choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, and choose honestly. Choose authenticity, joy, connection, meaning and happiness.

The 12 Facets of Authentic Leadership: A Look Ahead to 2016

A new year brings new things into focus for me. Over the past few years I have felt my next book brewing inside me, getting ready to pop. The writing process I use collects various concepts together, then I see where they want to collect, and then begin to put things into prospective chapters as the initial draft takes shape. As I did that, what became evident is that my life and leadership journey have weaved through twelve distinct phases /stages, and I can look at each one individually or as a collective. My publicist, Lisa, suggested I use this blog as a starter for this new blossoming incarnation, and since there are twelve months in a year, it makes so much sense to take each facet and spend more time becoming intimately familiar over each upcoming month in 2016.

I invite you to look at these twelve as doorways into the same house. You are the house, as both a person and as a leader. These twelve doors open into rooms that make up who you are, are aspects of you, and what you have to offer. When our doors are open, and are openly connected and expressed, your authentic self, with your own unique authentic leadership style, is revealed. Life is always more rich, full, joyful and meaningful when we come to it as our authentic self. As an authentic leader you are much more effective in helping others realize who they are, are adept at creating safe spaces where trust gets built, and foster cultures of highly aligned and engaged human beings working toward outcomes from which all stakeholders can benefit.

  1. Personal Perception. Self-awareness is the cornerstone to living consciously, intentionally, authentically. How do we wake up, access, assess, and get real with ourselves first? How can we move beyond the bounds of ego-centric living and see the deeper layers of who we are?
  2. Presence. How do we stay more in the present moment, more mindful, and not allow our thoughts and emotions to hijack us back into the past we can’t change, or thrust us into the future that hasn’t happened yet?
  3. Past Presumptions. Our beliefs, fears, shadow drive so much of our life. Have we taken time to self-reflect on the current validity and truth of what has been programmed into us from past experience in the light of our current levels of maturity, awareness and reality?
  4. Principles. Values, virtues drive our motivations, our character and our behaviors. Are you aware of your core values, which virtues you adhere to, and how you express them in your daily life? Does your team, organization have defined and live by their core values?
  5. Passion. Most people think passion is something we do to get enjoyment. Consider for a moment that you, your whole being, when fully alive and expressed as your authentic self, is passion manifest. What would life be like if you felt more alive, connected and fulfilled?
  6. Purpose. Do you have a sense of what your life has been and is all about? Do you feel compelled to follow a certain way? Is a vocation calling you? Life lived with purpose, on purpose, offers infinite levels of joy, fulfilment, connection and prosperity.
  7. Perspective. When we lift our sights above the moment-to-moment, day-by-day reactivity, quiet our thoughts, and set new desires and intentions for life lived better, a new vision develops. When we can see more clearly and in ways that others obtain great benefit too, our authentic leadership has a healthy compass by which to engage others and allows for deeper, more effective and prosperous activity.
  8. People. When we expand our own levels of consciousness about ourselves, we can effectively translate that wisdom into how we see, interact and lead others. Understanding human nature is a huge component to being an authentic leader. Knowing what makes people tick, how they can communicate and relate to each other in more effective ways is such a powerful way to express how much you care.
  9. Process. Life is all about systems interacting with each other. Patterns of thought, mechanics of motion, flow of energy-things-people, rules and regulations and more compose the almost infinite systems that run our lives. As we enhance our abilities to see beyond what’s right in front of us, when we can get ‘above the trees’ so to speak and see how people and systems intertwine, we can begin to conceive new alternatives that are more healthy, productive and sustainable.
  10. Power. When more than one of us comes together within atmospheres of trust, safety, caring and connection, people are given the opportunity for their own personal and professional growth and expansion. As your people connect to their own unique aspects of authenticity, they will be so much more effective at problem-solving and conflict-resolution, working collaboratively and meeting/exceeding expectations.
  11. Prosperity & Proliferation. As authentic leaders, how can we help all our stakeholders benefit from their interaction with us, our team, and our organizations? How can we help spread the healthy, sustainable aspects of doing business ‘for good’ while enjoying the fruits of such?
  12. Peace. People everywhere share the same desires: to live life in peace, contentment, and well-being, with happiness, joy and connection with others. Authentic leaders know this and keep these outcomes top-of-mind as they interact with people and make decisions that affect stakeholders.

I hope we can all share insights, wisdom and stories around these facets of being an authentic person and an authentic leader as 2016 unfolds. Look for more deeper-dives into each facet as 2016 unfolds. As always, your thoughts, comments and experiences are welcome!

Here’s to making 2016 a year of meaning, well-being, growth and authenticity!

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