Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why Mindfulness is for Leaders and Not Just Monks

Guest post from Scott Eblin - a nice follow-up to my recent post at, from someone that knows more about the topic than I do! Scott is the best at what he does - coaching and advising successful but overworked executives. Buy his new book!

You know a topic is hot when it makes the cover of Time.  That’s what happened with mindfulness last year when the magazine ran a cover story called The Mindful Revolution.  When you’re a busy leader and you hear about the latest trend like mindfulness, you may immediately think, “ Yeah, right, I don’t have the time or space for that.  I’ve got real world stuff to worry about.  That may be great for monks who have time to meditate for hours a day, but that’s not my life.”

You’re right about that not being your life, but you’re wrong if you think mindfulness can’t help you with the real world stuff you’ve got to worry about.  Here’s why.  Being mindful doesn’t mean you have to meditate like a monk.  Based on the research I did for Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative I define mindfulness as simply being aware and intentional.  By being aware, I mean aware of what’s going on around you and inside of you – mentally, emotionally and physically.  Once you’re aware, you’re in a much better position to be intentional about what you’re going to do or, what you’re not going to do, next.

Pretty simple, right?  The part that may not seem so simple is learning to be more mindful about how you show up as a leader and in the rest of your life.  The problem is that the demands of a do-more-with-less operating environment and the hyper-connectivity of a smartphone-enabled life can easily leave you feeling overworked and overwhelmed.  Think about it:

·        Over the past 5 or 6 years has every year seemed a little more frantic and packed than the year before? 

·        Are you in the same job you were in a year ago, but the scope today is bigger that it was a year ago?

Most of the leaders I work with as an executive coach and speaker answer yes to both of those questions. 

The pace and input of modern leadership and life can leave you feeling overworked and overwhelmed.  When you feel that way all the time you end up in a chronic state of fight or flight.  Being in that chronic state has a dramatic impact on your ability to think clearly, your judgment and your relationships.  It also has a devastating impact on your overall health and well being and makes it more likely that you’ll die sooner rather than later.

This is where mindfulness comes in.  In doing the research for my new book, one of the things I learned is that most of the millennia old mindfulness traditions like meditation or yoga have the effect of getting you out of fight or flight by activating your body’s rest and digest response.  Fight or flight is your body’s gas pedal.  Rest and digest is the brakes.  Just like you need both in a car; you need both in your body to be an effective leader and lead a healthy life.

The good news is you don’t have to meditate for hours on end or take a 90 minute yoga class every day to activate your rest and digest response.  There are simple habits and routines you can learn – I call them Killer Apps and Habit Hacks in my book – that are easy to do and will definitely make a difference in you showing up as the aware and intentional leader you want and need to be.  For example, learning to take three deep breaths from your belly before a big meeting or taking a short walk to energize your body and clear your mind when you’re feeling overworked and overwhelmed can do wonders.  In the book, I share a one page resource called the Life GPS® that will help you identify the routines that enable you to show up at your best and help you create the outcomes you want not just at work but at home and in your community as well.

If you want to demonstrate leadership presence you actually have to be present – not just physically, but also mentally, relationally and spiritually.  If feeling overworked and overwhelmed is keeping you from doing that, give the mindfulness alternative a try.  You’ll be a more effective and happier leader if you do.

About the author:
Scott Eblin is an executive coach, speaker and author who helps leaders exhibit leadership presence by being fully present.  His new book is Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative.  You can learn more about Scott and read his blog at

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi Dan -

Thanks so much for providing the opportunity to share with your readers. Readers, would love to engage with you here. What are your thoughts or questions on the difference mindfulness can make for leaders?

Cheers -

Scott Eblin