If becoming more mindful is one of your New Year’s resolutions, or even if you’re just curious about the topic, you’re not alone. More and more executives are looking for mindfulness practices to help develop their leadership capacity. We’ve found quick hits of mindful activities can go a long way toward bringing more focus to your personal and professional life.
How to get started with mindfulness
We’re more likely to fail at big commitments. To prevent that from happen, make a bite-sized commitment to mindfulness. Begin by blocking 15 minutes each week for the next month. Don’t just intend to do it–schedule an appointment on your calendar now, and copy-and-paste one of the exercises below into your calendar, so you have a plan of how to use that time.
Before you begin, spend one minute scribbling everything that’s on your mind onto a sticky note. Then put the note aside, trusting that you can come back to it when you’re done. With your mind now clear, close your door and begin your selected activity.
15-minute mindfulness practices for leaders
Meditation: Perhaps the most obvious of all mindfulness practices, meditation has grown popular through apps like Headspace. Some companies even provide free subscriptions to meditation apps as part of their wellness plans. If traditional meditation has been a struggle for you, compassion meditation can be a good place to start as it is focused on others. We like the meditation offered by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a leading scholar who studies the impact of meditation on physical and emotional health. Her “compassionate love” meditation is free, and 14-minutes long.
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Lectio Divina: Lectio divina is a monastic practice of meditative reading. Select a section of scripture sacred of meaningful text, just a few lines, and read it slowly. Find a word or phrase that attracts you and repeat it quietly, allowing yourself to be curious about what it means. If you are a person of faith, you can ask God to reveal the passage’s message to you. Or simply ponder what the passage might be saying to you. Read the whole passage again, several times. On your final read through, ask, “What am I to do now, based on this information?” Need a text for your lectio divina practice? Pick one of these short readings from Parker Palmer.
Finger labyrinth: Walking a garden labyrinth has been a meditative practice used by scholars and religious pilgrims for over 4000 years. Finger labyrinths bring the practice to your desk, with printable versions that you trace with your fingertip. At first glance, a labyrinth looks like a maze, but mazes have dead ends and are designed to confuse. A labyrinth has a clear entrance and exit and follows a winding path with no obstacles along the way. The objective is to trace the path with your finger while your mind focuses on the activity. Our colleague Dr. Nancy Sayer of InterConnexion Consulting likes sharing labyrinths with corners. She encourages participants to move through the labyrinth at a snail’s pace, with your mind on a leadership mantra or intention. At each corner, Sayer suggests taking multiple deep inhales and exhales, while asking what the mantra means for your leadership now. Find printable labyrinths here.
Breathing: Practicing deeper inhales and exhales can do wonders to clear your mind and calm anxiety. Start by trying the 4-7-8 approach: breath in for 4 seconds, hold for seven, and exhale for 8 seconds. (It’s harder to do than you might expect.) Or find a five-minute breathing meditation on YouTube.
Need more mindfulness practice ideas? Our free January 14th executive education webinar will teach three additional techniques: visualization, journaling, and Pantoum poetry.
Looking for other ways to develop your leadership? You can start by watching more TV.