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With the privilege of working with leaders and what makes human beings hum or stall all these years, I’m fascinated with Gratitude as a lead force that greases the wheels for all good things to flow.
Here are nuggets from Gratitude research relevant to health, happiness, human effectiveness, and organizational success. Take a look at these bullets. If we had a pill for this, wow! Of course we don’t start each day intending to have “negative thoughts.” It’s more like a default current inside our brains and out there in cultural norms. Heck, Positive Psychology is still a relatively new movement! So, a proactive Gratitude habit is essential, preventive healthcare and definitely a key ingredient in our new ways for working smart, inspired leadership and sustainable success.
Research on “side effects” of Gratitude (work, organizational context):
higher levels of life satisfaction and optimism
greater energy and connections with other people.
productive and happy people within an organization.
improve one’s physical health and functioning, positive changes in cardiovascular and immune system
reducing stress and consequent related healthcare costs
help one adapt to life’s challenges, reduce resentment and increase acceptance, thus lead to positive organizational outcomes.
What role could Gratitude play in sustaining the health and survival of organizations? It would certainly be good news if these personal benefits of gratitude could in turn increase organizational citizenship behavior in particular, since empirical evidence indicates that citizenship actions within organizations positively influence a number of key organizational outcomes. These include improved work group productivity, enhanced sales team performance, profitability, and operational efficiencies.
In a fascinating longitudinal study, people who expressed gratitude, happiness, and positive emotions in their earlier years were found to live an average of up to ten years longer than their peers who did not express gratitude.
Through conducting highly focused, cutting-edge studies on the nature of gratitude, its causes, and its consequences, we hope to shed important scientific light on this important concept.
People who kept Gratitude journals, or other Gratitude practices ( compared to recording hassles or just neutral life events):
exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week
more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals
higher levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy
more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another
high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life,
better sleep duration and sleep quality
Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families
Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.
more capacity to be empathic and to take the perspective of others. They are rated as more generous and more helpful by people in their social networks
are more likely to acknowledge a belief in the interconnectedness of all life and a commitment to and responsibility to others
place less importance on material goods; less likely to judge their own and others success in terms of possessions accumulated; less envious of others; more likely to share their possessions with others
So, are you interested in any of these “side effects” ? Geez – is this a no brainer incentive to get (or enhance) a Gratitude habit going? Let’s all do it together. In one study these benefits were reported from subjects writing down 5 things per week. That’s it? Imagine 5 minutes per day! Go for it. Let me know if you’d like more specific tools, ideas for a gratitude habit for you or your workplace. I would love to hear your ideas, comments, Q’s.
Note: I wrote the original version of this article back in 2011, and new research, e.g. this example from Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley is even more exciting.
Earlier Research Source links:
I just received this (below) from Susan David, and appreciated her way of talking about "Mindlessness" to help clarify the value of mindfulness. I've been saying that a primary benefit from smart pause practices is to become more aware of what might be "in there trying to run things" and set ourselves up to come from our best potential energy and response-agility. So, I also like Susan's framing of emotional agility.
Excerpt from Susan:
"The term 'mindfulness' has become such a buzzword, especially in business circles, that there’s now a bit of a backlash. Or there is confusion because of the flowery language that sometimes accompanies explanations of it.
That’s why it may be easier to understand what mindfulness is really all about by first looking at its opposite: mindlessness.
Mindlessness so easily leads us down the path of getting hooked. It’s the state of unawareness and autopilot. You’re not really present. Instead you’re relying too heavily on rigid rules or shopworn distinctions that haven’t been thought through.
It’s mindfulness that allows you to notice your uncomfortable feelings and thoughts rather than be entangled in them. When you’re mindful of your anger, you can observe it with greater sensitivity, focus, and emotional clarity, perhaps discovering where the anger is actually coming from. You might even discover that your “anger” is really sadness or fear.
Mindfulness guides us to become more emotionally agile by allowing us to observe the thinker having the thoughts. Simply paying attention brings the self out of the shadows. It creates the space between thought and action that we need to ensure we’re acting with volition, rather than simply out of habit. Emotional agility means having any number of troubling thoughts or emotions and still managing to act in a way that serves how you most want to live. That’s what it means to step out and off the hook."
So, how do we actually DO this? (That's my delicious obsession in the inspired leadership lab work with smart, normal, complex human beings.)
If your default reactions accidentally make emotions (and thoughts) a master to obey or a monster to try to run away from, then what is running you? A great way to for you to take charge of your own energy is to meet your thoughts and emotions without resistance. Nothing to avoid or attach. When we add self-compassion, this relaxes your nervous system and begins to rewire your inner programming and strengthen your mind fitness. And, with practice, you gain mastery of yourself from the inside out, so that you are choosing and creating your (outer) experience for more enjoyment and effectiveness. When you practice being OK with everything inside of yourself, you can show up at work and in your whole life much more able to be OK with everything that happens, every moment. So you get to show up from emotional resilience and response-agility for each interaction, work focus, creative challenges and enjoy (or at least flow well with) the experience!
New Tool; a simple practice to try (or try beginners mind, renew):
Let's call this exercise "Let it ALL Be."
Find a comfortable position where you can be relaxed enough to sit still for a bit, and yet alert enough that you don't fall asleep.
Take a few nice, deep, cleansing/reboot breathes (in through nose, out through mouth).
Be gently curious, scanning your body for sensations and the emotions underneath.
One way of labeling our core emotions: Joyful, Angry, Sad, Scared, Stimulated. There are more nuances of course, but these are five basics to help us name a feeling.
(As I do this right now, I'm aware of a slight lump in throat that might be like a nervousness about all the things I'd like to get done today. If I label this as a core basic emotion - we could call this "scared.")
OK, here's the game-changer moment in this practice :-) - Whatever is there, let it BE. The normal default with uncomfortable emotions is for our conditioned mind to have an "uh oh" reaction, mildly or more. Breathe and lean into absolute non-judging acceptance, allowing and even appreciation for whatever is there to be there. Imagine an energy embracing this coming from no big deal...as if an unconditionally accepting chill-out voice saying things like of course you are a normal human being with all kinds of emotions, and so on.
Consider an emotion simply being energy in motion, like a wave coming up and then dissolving back into an ocean of infinite compassion or just neutral spaciousness. Breathe in and out, patiently, lovingly sitting with whatever comes and goes. No big deal. Nothing to fix or worry about. Nothing wrong. Nothing to pep talk into a better attitude. Just let it all be. Practice being absolutely OK with all of you exactly as you are.
Just hang out there for a while. When you feel a bit more settled, gently open your eyes and hit the play button again.
Let me know how this goes and how it begins to perfume the rest of your day. If you feel a bit triggered later on, you can do a micro-pause, breathe and say something like “Oh, yeah, no big deal” or “It’s OK, I am OK” to yourself. Then hit play again. :-) Over time, this will fuel all kinds of agility for you and your business. [We explore how to fuel that inner-outer resilience in each leader in their own unique ways, but this practice could be a great start- give it a try.] Hmm, a couple days ago I wrote about being there for someone else. Today's invitation is about being there for yourself.
Cheers to Mindful Workplace Month, and all of you just as you are!
Here's Susan's TED talk
I was invited to speak for a human resource society, and while reviewing stats about leadership crisis and workplace culture trends, I had an ahaa moment-- "Oh, we need to Re-Source the humans." :-)
So, how do we renew the smart fuel for people to be able to come from their best potential rather than the default of stress, 87% disengagement and every day distraction?
2) This is a huge topic, with many possible solutions. I'm going to pick one thing for today. Imagine if we could change just one thing, to be a lead domino with game-changing impact across many lives and bottom lines... what might you pick? (I usually say "hit the pause button" or something about inner human operating system upgrades as the root cause to every desired business outcome.)
However, in this moment, I'm noticing kind in the word humankind.
What if we picked that as the one thing? We could be kind.
I was moved by a share (posted by Oleg Vishnepolsky) that led me to find this video of a father who shaves his head to be "just like" his 6-year-old daughter.
This transported me to a moment when my best friend in the whole world, my brother, called me with a trembling voice, telling me that all his hair had just fallen out all at once in the shower. We were at the National Institute of Health, in a miracle-cure clinical trial for his stage-four cancer. I had just found a moment where I could leave him and take a break. I had walked across campus and through a few buildings and up stairways to find this meditation room. I was just about to sit and exhale when my phone rang. I wished I had a jetpack or flying car to reach him (maybe Elon Musk or Google are working on that). With trembling hands I grabbed the shaver a friend had sent “just in case” and did my best to remove the remaining clumps so he could be handsome with his new Bruce Willis look. He died not long after this. We never know when it might be our last chance to be in the moment with someone, do we? Let that be one more real gift to you with this mindfulness stuff.
So, what's all this daddy-daughter, brotherly love have to do with hard core business demands?
It's been said that all business boils down to human relationships.
I’ll let you and the kind of human you want to be decide about the relevance of compassion and commerce.
Sometimes the most important thing for the best possible outcomes is to meditate. Sometimes it’s to be there for someone else.
Playful mindfulness challenge this week:
Be more aware of how you can be there for others. Let the essence of this dad shaving his head inspire you for how you get to show up with your co-workers. It doesn’t need to be that extreme of course! Imagine that kind of empathy and solidarity conveyed somehow. Maybe just how you smile and make eye contact while passing or greeting someone can make an impact. How might you be with others in a way that has them feel less “other“ (like the bald 6 yr old girl) and more included or understood? Everyone has a longing for belonging. Have fun with this!
Well, we might as well finish this off with a song- We Can Be Kind “We can remember that deep down inside we all need the same thing.”
p.s. That's my brother, Stuart in the pic (& baby daughter just before he died). He'd want you to have lots of fun, be good to each other, keep having each other's backs, want everyone to have a great time, go for high-achiever goals at work, then throw a party to celebrate. And he'd definitely want you to go for the good champagne, not the cheap stuff. Cheers.
In the privilege of serving human potential optimization with bright leaders for 20+years, one reaches a fascinating relationship between pause and power.
Consider the master pole vaulter who clears the highest bar and wins the event because of how well he backed up in order to take flight.
Before I get too preachy, um, it's confession time. Earlier today, I was all dressed, lipstick-ready, about to hop in the car (hey, if it's a work-at-home, no video meeting day, it might be yoga pants and no makeup) and checked email to discover two last minute client reschedules. OK, no problem, I'll work on new project X. Then I see an email from my assistant on this project that she's sick.
I've developed a habit where I view a coincidence of schedule changes like this to be an invitation for something to shift. (Having one's own business means there's always more to to do. But, there's real wealth in never being enslaved by a list, and taking advantage of a pause when there's an obvious opening.) Here's a bit of the exchange with a client:
"Last night my wife and I decided to go (...trip), so I need the afternoon to ...Sorry about short notice...I understand if you must debit my time. Keep changing the world."
I wrote back about cancellations and shared that I like to ask, Hmm, what is the invitation here? e.g. to pause even more myself, step back and contemplate true choices, strategic priorities, what's the next right best use of me, and so on. These are relevant for his options and CEO role as well, so I wrote, "Enjoy unplugging and clearing your head and let nature help you with your own pause button and refresh!"
OK, here's my confession.
I found myself scanning social media to help support the October Mindful Workplace Month. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this, but it could fall into what I call psuedo-productivity. There's a default program in me that wants to get busy with tasks (and maybe in you too, and in our culture) that likes short-term checklist accomplishments, helping others, time urgency or other shiny objects. :-) [Psuedo-productivity creeps in when we are busy doing things, clearly not goofing off or lazily lounging, but not really fueling the highest potential, consciously prioritized "big rocks" we could be investing our energy in.]
A funny thing happened on the way to this potential crime scene. I bumped into Scott Shute's post about stopping the glorification of "busy" and how to stop our addictive habits with email. I clicked Like, laughed, and turned my email OFF.
I'm going to leave my email off for the rest of today and recommit to a wise strategic Pause (maybe including a hike. I remember after prying my white knuckles off a lucrative corporate ladder and workaholic life, how going for a long walk on a weekday afternoon made me feel so prosperous). Once upon a time Richard Branson had to make a critical decision about which business unit to sell (music or airline) and amidst all the data and advice he was bombarded with, he unplugged and walked around a lake for a few days. We could say he dropped out and in in order to come up with the best business choice.
I like to ask, have we fallen into busyness or are we truly in business (fueled by inspired choices and healthy, sustainable, prosperous flow). In addition to being data-driven, how shall we be inner wisdom-wired?
They say everything in life can be your teacher. I'm grateful to all of these teachers today and my own choice to back up like the master pole vaulter, pause, tune into the most powerful intelligence and let that inspire how I serve all of my current and future clients and all the lives we get to impact.
I hope this gives you more permission to pause in ways that fuel your real power. Cheers!
Here's a simple 2-minute Hit the Pause Button "challenge" for this week:
Let's start with some challenges to our cultural norms about how to be smart, successful and happy.
Eknath Easwaran was the first person to teach an accredited course on meditation at any major university (began at UC Berkeley in 1968). His words ring even more true today.
Somehow in our modern civilization, we have acquired the idea that the mind is working best when it runs at top speed. Yet a racing mind lacks time even to finish a thought, let alone to check its quality. When we slow down the mind, we work better at everything we do. Not only is the quality of our work better; we are actually able to get more done. A calm, smooth-running flow of thought saves a lot of wear and tear on the nervous system, which means we have more vitality and resilience in the face of stress.
OK, breathe that in for a minute. (Your brain may go, "Yeah, yeah, I know this already." And, how are you actually behaving most days? How are you setting yourself up to flourish or fail?)
Next, the icon of smart thinking, Albert Einstein, offers challenges like this:
The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness......the solution comes to you and you don't know how or why.
The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self.
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.
What influences you to keep rushing or trying to get things done "faster, smarter, better" ? How are you kidding yourself or self-sabotaging the quality of your work… and the quality of your life?
The next time you might chastise yourself for "wasting time" staring out the window or such– think again.
Don't judge yourself or anyone else. We've all inherited so many habits and ideas about how to be good boys and girls, and still swim in environments every day that don't prioritize pausing. So, please have infinite compassion for yourself and everyone as we give birth to a saner, more sustainable way to succeed.
In this moment, try this. Challenge yourself :-)
Just hit the pause button for two minutes. Breathe. Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose, exhale through your mouth a few times.
Reflect on what’s truly important to you. Allow some clarity to come in about what is the next best investment of your precious energy.
2 minutes, 2 questions. Here are two extremely powerful questions (to invoke in your two-minute pause)- if you let them be that for you.
Why am I here?
What's my most important job?
How you answer these makes all the difference in the world for you, and ultimately for the world because of you. Let your deeper wisdom and infinite potential answer, (not your schedule or to do list or expectations of others and all that jazz that normally runs the show) and let the potency of this pause operationalize the rest of your day. Try it every day this week and let me know what you discover!
Hint: If you START your morning this way, that could be Einstein smart, hmm? :-)
You have to stop and charge your phone or reboot your laptop, right? It’s too bad we don’t have running low warnings or upgrade available alerts in our human operating systems.
Nothing can be more important than being able to choose the way we think. -Eknath Easwaran
Hit the Pause Button
Especially this month, you're cordially invited to hit the pause button and join us to "Fuel a game-changing movement of mindfulness in the workplace that promotes human flourishing." Check out Mindful Workplace Month here. Stay tuned for updates and more free mindfulness resources to come.
Consider the inner programming of your nervous system and mindset that actually needs continuous clearing and updating even more so than the “click to install” or “shut down” pauses we do regularly on our devices. Just pause for a moment right now and contemplate how you treat your phone and how you manage yourself. :-)
Take a moment to read the following invitation (to help you wake up inspired) and see what this stirs up in you today. Let the word rest be synonymous with hit the pause button (a mindful unplug, meditation, walk, longer time out, etc.).
"In the relentless busyness of modern life, we have lost the rhythm between action and rest. In our culture, action is always seen as better than non-action, and doing something is always better than doing nothing. Because of our desire to succeed and do well in this environment, we do not rest.
Because we do not rest, we lose our way.
We miss the compass points that show us where to go, we bypass the nourishment that would give us succor. We miss the quiet that would give us wisdom. Poisoned by this hypnotic belief that good things come only through unceasing determination and tireless effort, we can never truly rest. And for want of rest, our lives are in danger.
A “successful” life had become a violent enterprise. In our drive for success, we are seduced by the promises of more: More effectiveness, more satisfaction, more success, more information and more influence. We parrot a familiar refrain: “I am so busy.” We say this to one another with no small degree of pride, as if our exhaustion were a trophy, and our ability to withstand increasing stress a badge of true character.
All wisdom traditions insist that a life well-lived requires rest. Only from rest may we gain the nourishment, wisdom, courage and clarity necessary to heal the world, and reclaim the delight that makes our lives and work fruitful."
-from Wayne Muller, Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest
I inherited this beautiful quote from a highly successful client at the top of her game (whom others might say was a workaholic). We could say I'm a "recovering workaholic." I pried my white knuckles off that treadmill way back in 1995 and became a role model of healthy success. And, residue of an old inner achiever programming corrupted by accidentally self-sabotaging conditioning exists buried in my subconscious system, still needing loving attention and clearing.
Last week a sore throat blossomed into a full fledge bug, coughing that hurts, wiped out, so I've had a rich opportunity to appreciate Muller's wisdom, and white flag surrender into the imperative of rest. I'm fascinated by "weaker" moments actually opening up to our true power and ultimately coming from our best self.
My 7am Friday meditation buddy and I talked about masculine and feminine... from supreme court drama, to my own inner "pusher" that gets concerned about missing work, or even "live up to the calling." And then I remember to hit the pause button and find the calmer, clearer energy that moves us into true strength, higher perspectives, unlimited possibilities and smarter choices.
Every thought you have counts. Every breath counts.
Teach me by meditation, to stop the storm of breath, mental restlessness and sensory disturbances raging in the lake of my mind. Let the magic wand of my inner calm stop the gale of unnecessary desires, and in the rippleless lake of my mind let me behold the undistorted reflection of my best self, glistening with the light of presence. -Paramhansa Yogananda
Imagine the inner calm, courage and clarity that could be available to shift some of what we see in the media circus, unnecessary stress or disengagement in our workplaces and so on. Imagine a tipping point of enough of us choosing to recharge ourselves at least as well as our phones! Imagine watching way more news about innovative breakthroughs flowing from mindful, compassionate workplaces where human beings are waking up inspired, bringing their best and falling asleep grateful.
A client brilliantly shared new ahaa’s she's discovering about “bugs in her system” and we laughed about working together on “inner technology upgrades” as the root cause of her life and business mission flourishing.
What if the real secret is the opposite of trying harder to succeed, while hitting the pause button to shift what is running you.
This is my heartfelt wish for you; to find your own calm, clarity, and freedom to create the healthy, sustainable success you are meant to enjoy, including how each breath you take and thought you choose contributes greater prosperity and fulfillment in your workplace and beyond. Cheers!
Your first step for the evolution of humanity starts with one smart hit the pause button for yourself :-) What choice will you make today?
I'd love to hear any questions, comments, insights. What are your favorite ways to hit the pause button or what would be the most helpful input/ resources for you?
The greatest revolution in our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives. William James