Why Mindfulness is for Leaders and Not Just Monks

Guest post from Scott Eblin – a nice follow-up to my
recent post
at About.com, 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
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.

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:

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

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

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