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How much of your day do you spend mind wandering?  How engaged are you in meetings?  According to research completed by two Harvard psychologists in 2010  we spend 47% of our time mind wandering and 70% of leaders admitted to being regularly inattentive in meetings.

Last month I attended ‘Search Inside Yourself’, a Google programme brought about from an original Google leader, Chade-Meng Tan who bought in a mindfulness expert and neuroscientist to create a programme focused on well-being and sustained high performance leadership in the workplace. SIY is one of the most popular courses at Google & after being immersed for a couple of days in the foundations I can see why. And Google isn’t the only company doing flips over mindfulness – it’s very much en vogue with forward thinking companies adding training to their wellness programmes to increase employee engagement.

But what is mindfulness really about and without a fancy training scheme at work can you start doing it?  Here’s my key outtakes from SIY and simple techniques you can try from your couch to your desk.

The Brain.

Contrary to what was thought previously our brains are like plastic and their neuroplasticity means they are shaped by what we consistently do. For example studies on London black cabbies have shown their brains have increased in size after having had to memorise the London streets. It’s also been proven by many neuroscientists including Richie Davidson that when practicing mindfulness the grey matter/ cortical thickness in many key areas of the brain increases in size and has also been associated with the decrease in the activity of our ‘monkey minds’ (where we swing directionless from thought to thought).

person on cliff meditating

So when you start practicing mindfulness what are the benefits? Try less stress and panic moments. More clarity, focus and resilience plus it’s also been shown to improve our creativity. It’s a win win basically.

Emotional Intelligence

Another buzz topic we discussed was our ‘EQ’ and the  connection between our emotions and decision making. More often than not we believe we are making rational pragmatic decisions but our emotions are working us. Growing our awareness as to when this is happening means we can beging to make active choices vs reactive based on our emotion. Tying into this is having an awareness of what is happening in our body as we experience certain emotions for example I am angry vs I am having the sensation of anger in my body. And while the concept of ‘self-management’ may sound overly dull it does have benefits. Here’s an exercise in self management we learnt for when we can feel ourselves experiencing an unwanted emotions.

Stop (the secret pause). Breathe (this is under my skin). Notice (my jaw is tight etc). Reflect (what’s really going on for me and who I’m speaking with here?).  Response (what’s an appropriate way to respond).

Throughout the workshop we also practiced active listening to really engaged in what perfect strangers were saying. Many participants new to this concept were impressed with how much more of the conversation they retained and the greater connection felt with their partner.

Leadership

When discussing leadership the standout point for me was the research revealed in The Harvard Business Review in 2013 which demonstrated that people who show warmth first then competence are much more likely to succeed as leaders. The importance of compassion was also highlighted as being more sustainable than empathy which results in burn out. Compassion does not mean avoiding confrontation but rather leveraging strengths of wisdom & clarity to arrive at a conclusion for the greater good.

Exercises to try out:

You can put these into practice at work or home right away but first a quick note: Mindfulness is not about emptying your mind to nothing at all. That’s even tricky for the monks! Think of it as having a breather from the monkey mind and simply observing thoughts without judgement or attachment.

  1. Just look at your hand for 30 seconds. When you notice judgements arising let them go.
  2. Set yourself triggers for mindful moments while doing everyday things. Brushing your teeth, driving the car, riding in an elevator. Slow down the ongoing stream of internal dialogue and spend time noticing things you’d never normally notice about the activity.
  3. Here’s a 2min guided meditation from the SIY team to get you started or if you have just ten minutes try this body scan for an ‘insular’ workout.laptop
  4. For those who enjoy putting pen to paper giving yourself 5-10 minutes to write. Use these prompts to get you going. a) What I’m surprised about in my life is… b) A challenge I’m working with is… c) What I value is…

4. Check out this 2 min explanation on meditation and how it helps with your creativity.

5. With a colleague or partner pick a topic. While you listen they speak for 2 minutes – no interrupting. Be fully engaged giving them your full attention (see how Richard Branson does this) and once they’ve finished say back here’s what I heard you say. If you want to challenge yourself even more you could try ‘here’s what I heard you feel’. Then reverse the exercise.

Further mindfulness and meditation resources

Here’s an excellent free online mindfulness course recommended by the SIY team or for a simple start download the renowned Headspace app. I had a excellent experience learning meditation last year with Emma at One Meditation in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs and I can highly recommend the benefits of feeling more calm and centered from my practice.

The top ten from Tony Robbins. Go on. Unleash.

Now fully committed to the world of self development it felt like a rite of passage to attend  ‘Unleash the Power Within’with Tony Robbins. Coming down from my workshop high here are some of my key take aways on how to lead a fulfilling life according to Tony.

  1. The F word. There are two primary fears all humans share – we fear we’re not good enough and we won’t be loved.  My thought – massive double whammy ouch when someone we love rejects us.
  2. Core without a Swiss ball. We have 6 core needs which drive each of us. The four primal needs are certainty, uncertainty, significance and connection. The two spiritual needs are growth and contribution. The skill lies in finding a sustainable way to fulfill your needs giving you more pleasure than pain. If you have time check out one of his most watched you tubes.
  3. Get your sneaks on.Your physiology is key to change & a Tony seminar means getting over yourself, jumping and dancing like you’re back at a rave circa ‘98. Reason behind it: motion creates emotion. Dancing to 80s & 90s remixes creates positive neural pathways so your clever mind associates positive energy around your new focus.
  4. Who are you? Your identity is formed from a combo of your beliefs and values which we learn from the world around us as we grow up. Beliefs are feelings of absolute certainty. They’re either global beliefs ‘Life is xxx, People are xxx’. Or rules e.g  In order to feel happy I need to have a calorie free gelato every day.  Values are emotional states we believe are important to experience or avoid. E.g. I love snowboarding because it gives me a sense of adventure but if I’m fearing failure you won’t see me attempting a 360 anytime soon.
  5. Yes, I fire walked. And damn, it was cool! Probably the most infamous part of Tony’s seminar is a walk across burning hot coals. Tony fully preps you by changing your state (no not hypnotizing!) so by that the time I saw the coals laying before me  I was so pumped, full of energy from 5000 people cheering & hooting,  I thought I was actually Wonder Woman and stormed across. I’m not gonna lie, you feel pretty empowered afterwards. And the pedicure was still in tact.

wonderw

 

 

 

 

A pity I didn’t have this outfit on hand to walk across the hot coals.

  1. Hold up! We all have awesome useful beliefs and then really dud ones. Your limiting beliefs hold you back from achieving what you really want. Identify those and replace them with resourceful positive beliefs (a coach is very handy here). Why hang onto something that is not helpful? If you want to hear how Tony did it, call me. It was intense but worked.
  2. The past does not equal the future unless you live there. Period.
  3. Find a model. No, not a Victoria Secret model (unless you want to be one). Surrounding yourself with people who already have the results you want rubs off on you, you learn how they are where they are. Replicate it.
  4. Focus = results.I’m a big fan of this. What you focus on is what you feel, receive and deliver so without a clear and compelling vision of what you want and a plan to get you there life will happen at you not for you.
  5. Thank YOU! You can’t be fearful and grateful at the same time.  Taking time each day to be grateful for what you have (as opposed to what is missing) becomes a habit and gratitude is a key connector between humans so it’s a worthwhile investment of time! I’m going to try this for 90 days. I’ll report back.

Ok, so old mate Tony is not for everyone but I don’t think you could go and not get something out of it – I felt it was completely worth my time and money PLUS I have so much content (stand by!). You just have to get over yourself, get outside your comfort zone,  be ready to face some fears and come out on the other side a raver with a new enthusiasm for whats ahead.

“Whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in life” Tony Robbins. tony robbins

If you don’t know who Tony Robbins is, here’s quick bio: Motivational speaker – performed over 30,000 hours of speaking/ coaching and worked around the world with over 3 million people. From this exposure he has an incredible insight into human behaviour and his success rate in creating change for people has given him access to some of the worlds most talented. His energy and enthusiasm for life is incredibly infectious and yes, while he is cross selling and up-selling like no tomorrow, I buy his authenticity for wanting to help people lead more fulfilling lives. He’s worth millions but still trooping around the globe. Not bad for 54 years old I say. 

The Art of Procrastination

Ok, I’ll admit it. I have been putting off starting my first blog effort for a good while. Before I started I HAD to clean the bath, cook the latest gluten dairy free cupcakes, do a 90 min yogaglo class, quick pedi, consume a few cocktails to discuss blogging and I definitely needed to polish my silver!

So why do we procrastinate? We claim busyness, laziness or exhaustion but usually I find there’s something more behind it. To start with, you need to be clear on what the outcome is you want and why. Let’s say you have a tropical holiday coming up, you want to lose a few kgs to complete your poolside look but you’d also love it to stay off permanently. You know how to do it but you still consistently sabotage your efforts. “It’s raining or I’m far too tired for the gym, the extra helping of lasagne/ choccie mousse was too good to say no to and as for finding time to make a kale rainbow leafy salad, are you kidding me?”

I believe we come up with our brilliant avoidance strategies because at some level we associate more pain with giving up the opportunity for a sleep in or extra lasagne than the necessity of giving those things up and the eventual pleasure of losing those extra kgs. We’re focused on short term rather than long term gain. That wee voice says “Oh but you’ll probably just put it all back on so may as well wade into a second helping of brownie right now”. And Boom! Back to square one.

Eventually the holiday is one week out and we’re in desperate mode. So we go on a crazy leafy, juice detox and the weight potentially drops off (as our time in the bathroom goes up). Unfortunately the quick fix doesn’t last because we’re still making neuro associations of pain in our brain with giving up our ‘yummy’ food in exchange for watery lettuce drinks. So as soon as the detox is done helloooo hot chips.

The good news is we can condition our minds, bodies and emotions to link pain or pleasure to whatever we choose which will in turn change our behaviours. To really make a long term difference in this case we have to link pain to eating excessive bad food and lack of exercise and replace it with the pleasure of eating food that nourishes us and an exercise routine which gives us the result we want. Or in my case get real on the pain around not starting the blog, the opportunities I might miss out on and associate the pleasure of being able to write this each week and what I will gain from it. Heck even if it’s just mum and I reading it today, I’m happy with that if it gets me to where I want to be.

If you’re procrastinating ask yourself these questions:
Why am I procrastinating about this? What pain have I linked to taking this action in the past? E.g. It’s such hard work. I feel I don’t have time to squeeze in exercise.

What pleasure have I gained from indulging in this choice? E.g Instant gratification of delicious brownies, or staying true to your ‘story’ about having no willpower.

What will it cost me if I don’t change now/ in 6 months/ 5 years/ 10 years? How will it make me feel? What will I tell myself? I will be unhappy with how I look. I will probably have health problems down the track.

Finally make a big list of everything you will gain from taking this action right now. And remember keep it emotionally charged as that’s what motivates us the most. E.g. I’ll gain the feeling of being in control of my health and body. I’ll be able to feel great in my swimmers & maybe even ditch the ‘moo moo’ cover up.