Happy New Year! I hope that 2017 has started wonderfully for you.
Are you a New Year’s resolution kind of person? I personally like the idea of setting new intentions when a new year begins. But this year, I decided to take it up a notch – to forego a traditional new year’s resolution, and challenge myself instead with something related to the topic of my latest book. I call it my personal “self-leadership challenge,” and it’s a good, meaty one, I can tell you! I would love you to join me as a way to strengthen your brand this year.
Titled Leading YOU™: The power of Self-Leadership to build your executive brand and drive career success, the book focuses on the critical topic of self-leadership – one of the most important yet often overlooked skills necessary to be an effective leader. In the book, I share the 15 most damaging self-leadership behaviors I regularly see in my coaching practice and offer dozens of tips and techniques to correct them.
One of the first 15 behaviors I write about in Leading YOU™ is mind management. It’s covered early on in the first few chapters for a good reason – strong mind management is the foundation of self-leadership. All the remaining 14 behaviors stem from that.
Now, to be honest, I’ve practiced mind management for years, which has helped me focus my thoughts, shift quickly from negative to positive energy, and much more. But this year, I wanted to take mind management a step further: I decided to practice total stillness of mind and body.
What does that mean exactly? Well, “body stillness” is pretty obvious. I mean, we don’t move our bodies at night while we sleep, right? But I wanted to integrate that same level of body stillness into the hustle and bustle of my typical days. I felt reasonably confident I could do that.
But, “mind stillness” (not meditation)? Well, that’s a different ballgame altogether!
If you’ve ever tried meditating, you might have focused on your breathing, stated a mantra, chanted, counted your breaths, or focused on the air moving in and out of your nostrils, for example. That’s all good, but those activities continue to keep the mind “busy.”
No, I wanted to challenge myself to have “zero” activity in my mind – absolutely no thoughts at all. No ideas passing through, no counting breaths, not even experiencing any feelings – nothing. Just 100%, pure mind and body stillness. Could I do it?….
What are the benefits – to you and YOU™?
Let’s admit it: We’ve become addicted to busy-ness. I’ve seen it in myself and in my coaching clients. Most of us rarely have a moment of stillness (at least not while we’re awake). Whenever my husband and I go out to dinner, I look around and regularly see couples and families sitting together, everyone on his or her individual smart phone or iPad. Instead of experiencing any degree of stillness, we seem to be addicted to always keeping our minds busy. But all that does is increase our stress levels, close us off from creative thinking, and make us mentally tired. That’s one of the reasons why I set this goal for 2017.
So, how does this relate to successful self-leadership and branding yourself a leader? A host of studies have found that …
- Besides improving focus, regularly experiencing stillness can decrease anxiety, encourage calmness, and help regulate emotions in order to handle stress better.
- With stillness, the mind can “clear the slate” and come back to address challenges from a truly fresh perspective with renewed creativity and ideas.
- This, in turn, helps manage reactions to situations on the job, staying calmer when issues and conflicts arise.
And all of that helps build a stronger brand for yourself as a leader at work. Because doing so impacts the way you act, react, look, sound, and think. And that is how you communicate your brand, impacting how others perceive, think, and feel about “YOU™.”
Ready, set, go!…
So, I set my sights on a goal for 2017: To spend 17 minutes a day in complete, continuous mind and body stillness. I’m not talking about 1-2 minutes a few times here and there, throughout the day. No, I mean 17 minutes in a row with no mind or body activity whatsoever.
How is it going so far? Well, I said I was going to challenge myself, and it has indeed been a challenge!
On January 1 – Day One of my experiment – I was in Thailand, sitting on a balcony that overlooked palm trees. I closed my eyes to begin my first 17 minutes of stillness. Suddenly, all the noises around me seemed to amplify as if blaring through speakers…. Birds of every conceivable type were squawking loudly. Cars and trucks were revving and honking on the distant roads. I heard water rushing, trees swaying in the wind, and the whir of the ceiling fan overhead. All of that proved to be massively distracting from my goal of total mind stillness. I was clearly off to a rough start…
So, my Day Two strategy included … EARPLUGS! Thanks to that, I was able to achieve a bit of time – albeit very short – of true, concentrated, complete stillness. Each day since, it’s been a mix: I’ve had some good sessions, some not-so-good sessions. But despite the ups and downs, I have stuck with it, daily.
At this point – a little over three weeks into this year’s goal – I estimate the maximum true, total mind stillness I’ve been able to achieve is about 4-5 minutes at a time, but I’m still working toward that continuous, 17-minute stretch. I am determined!
What about YOU? Are you up for the “New Year / New YOU™ Self-Leadership ‘Stillness’ Challenge”? No matter how long you manage total quiet and stillness, you will experience big benefits, strengthen your self-leadership, and help to build your individual brand. How about giving it a try?