“One of those people”

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I think for many people the thought of trying mindfulness can be quite overwhelming. I remember when I first began doing my mindful meditations I was worried about what others would think, and I was wondering if I wanted to be one of “those types.”

You know what I’m talking about, one of those overly “granola, homemade clothes, organic, free-range, non-processed, alternative, free-spirited, know-it-all, snotty, new-wave types of people that annoy us all. I’m talking of those crazy hipsters that over-share every gimmicky thing they have ever done, and pass on their judgments and experiences without solicitation.

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(I am having flashbacks of traumatic Starbucks conversations that I’ve accidentally overheard.)

The 9 Most Annoying People at Starbucks

If it wasn’t for the mindful leadership class I took as a part of my MBA program, I highly doubt I would ever have had the courage necessary to try mindfulness. There is something to be said about trying something new, but for me I enjoy my comfort zone too much. New experiences usually only occur when I’m being forced, or I stumble upon it accidentally.

Mindfulness is nothing more than creating space, and you’ve probably been doing it for years. Do you remember when you were getting angry and your mom told you to, “count to ten” to calm down? Or have you ever felt that moment of relief after taking a deep breath during a hectic day?

You had a mindful moment.

So you're telling me the peaceful lake isn't included with my meditation package?

So you’re telling me the peaceful lake isn’t included with my meditation package?

We all find our ways of calming down whether it is through prayer, a nap, a favorite song, or exercise. What makes mindfulness so beneficial is its portability. All you need is to focus your thoughts, concentrate on your breath, and sharpen your mind. It’s not about flowing robes, reading the latest books, stacking rocks, or sand gardens.

How to Bring Mindfulness Into Your Life

Mindfulness is about maximizing the most of the present, ignoring the static that distracts us, and putting all of our attention and focus to those things in life that are most important. We are so overwhelmed with the saturation of information of around us that our minds simply cannot keep up.

Mindfulness In Everyday Tasks

How do you take a stand against this constant chatter we are subjected to? That’s what mindfulness does for me. It’s allowing myself 20 minutes every day to sit, reflect, and slow the world down. Don’t worry mindfulness is okay for normal people too.

How much time would you give to have clearer thoughts?

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“WWOJD?”

What Would Old Josh Do?

What Would Old Josh Do?

One benefit of mindfulness is that it allows you to be quite reflective on your life. Those past moments where you may have reacted poorly to a situation become more apparent with this clearer hindsight, and it helps you to avoid making the same mistakes.

With this clarity, it is quite clear that I have made only several thousand mistakes that I wish I could “redo.” When I look back at many of the mistakes I have made, I see several patterns:

-There were times in life where my impatience made the situation worse.
-I often leapt before I looked, and reacted instead of responded.
-I was stubborn when I should have been flexible and compromised.
-I was angry and jealous when kindness and compassion were needed.
-I would say things without thinking (over and over again)
-I was often reckless, and didn’t see how my actions would affect others

Mistakes are only bad if you don’t learn from them. Now with mindfulness I’m more present in these emotionally charged situations, and I am better at recalling past lessons that I learned the hard way. I like to ask myself, “What Would Old Josh Do?” and it helps me to regain my focus to find a positive solution.

The “Old-Josh” was before I began practicing mindfulness: the impatient, cynical, bitter, stubborn, and self-centered person that I have been slowly changing one meditation at a time. I was very impulsive and immature, and let my emotion drive my behaviors.

If I could only go back in time and teach him what I know now! It still frustrates me to think of all of the problems and stressors that I used to let get in the way of me being a happier and more productive person!

Now I am better at being positive, and I have found there is an upside to so many past mistakes, and I am bound and determined to learn from them. In order to not fall into the same emotional traps, you have to be better at seeing these situations before they occur. Mindfulness helps you maximize your focus in the present moment, and is very helpful in recognizing these patterns.

How to Stop Making the Same Mistakes

We all have those moments where we get frustrated with ourselves for making the same mistakes over and over again. That moment when you walk away and say to yourself, “Why did I just do that?” It could be that moment when your stress gets the best of you, and you yell at your spouse or child, when they were doing nothing wrong. It’s in these situations when we let our emotions trump our rational thoughts that we do the most damage to those around us.

10 Negative Thinking Patterns to Avoid

Mindfulness is great at helping you avoid your knee-jerk reactions and the negative patterns you create for yourself. Even now I’m nowhere close to being perfect, but I am improving in how I handle difficult situations. I still have moments where my initial reaction to a problem is wrong, but I’m better at correcting myself and finding a positive solution, instead of making things worse.

Even though I wish I had started practicing mindfulness long ago, I am thankful I’ve found it now, and I can use these skills to make less mistakes in the future.

Which mistakes are you constantly repeating in your life? Take a mindful moment and examine what you can do to break those patterns!

MISTAKE QUOTE

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Mindfulness for Kids

Peace for Children = Peace for Parents

Peace for Children = Peace for Parents

As many of you may know, I am becoming a father soon. My stay of execution of only having to take care of myself is roughly about six more weeks. Soon my wife and I will be responsible for our son, and I have been exploring mindfulness techniques for new parents. While conducting this research I found several sources about how to start meditations with children, and I wanted to pass those along.

There are several techniques out there, I found these 4 Activities to start meditations for kids at MindBodyGreen.com:

1. Listen! Bell Meditation – Invite kids to sit up tall in “criss-cross applesauce” and let their eyes close. Ring a bell or singing bowl, and ask kids to use their sense of hearing to explore the sound. Ask them to listen very carefully, and as soon as they hear it stop, raise their hand. They can then practice attentive listening without the bell. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds in your space. Which are closest to you? Which are far away? Which to the left, or right? You can also try this meditation while walking down the street or lying in bed before falling asleep.

2. Sing! Relaxation Song – This meditation combines song with touch and brings even the youngest of kids to a place of peace. Invite kids to sit up tall. Sometimes we sing the syllables Sa Ta Na Ma, or sometimes an English affirmation like “I Am Strong.” With each syllable, touch a different finger to your thumb, starting with the pointer finger and moving to the pinky. We practice singing, whispering, and singing quietly to ourselves in our minds. This is a self-soothing exercise and can be done discretely anywhere kids want to calm down, from the train to the classroom desk to the dinner table.

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3. Breathe! Take Five Breath – Your breath is always with you. Learning to check in to it from an early age is a major tool. Try “take 5 breath” where you inhale for five, and exhale for five. Use your fingers to count as you breathe. Slowing your breath will slow down your mind. Can you feel your heart rise and fall as you breathe? Can you feel the breath enter and leave your nose?

4. Watch! Cloud Gazing – Sitting quietly, pay attention to your inhale and exhale. When thoughts or feelings come up, think of them like clouds passing through your mind, which is like the sky. You can watch the clouds come and go just like you can watch clouds in the sky move and shift in their shapes. Kids may not sit too long, but just introducing this concept is a great preparation for adult meditation. And the awareness that things are always changing and things do pass is important to share and practice observing with kids.

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Children who practice mindfulness have experienced reduced stress, increased creativity, and improved decision making. Students who have autism and ADHD have also seen improvements in some initial studies. Would you be willing to try any of these activities with your children, or are there other techniques you use to calm and focus your child?

This soon to be Dad would really appreciate your insight!

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Does EVERYone deserve a second chance?

Mistakes are only bad if you don't learn from them.

Mistakes are only bad if you don’t learn from them.

“Everyone deserves a second chance.” It sounds overly optimistic to me, I absolutely hate blanket statements, but yet I still feel this is true given the appropriate situation. Of course I believe that in situations of gross negligence, theft, violence, or severe disrespect that employees should be dismissed immediately, but I think a lot can be said about a leader in how they deal with failing employees.

I was watching an interview last night of a CEO talking about how he every time he has given an employee a second chance, they have let them down, and he ended up terminating them all over again. He now has a flat policy that if someone has quit and/or been fired, they will never be allowed to work for his business again.

WHEN TO GIVE EMPLOYEES A SECOND CHANCE

Obviously I do not know the exact circumstances as to why each employee for this man was fired, but it seems to me that having such a rigid policy could be detrimental to a company. Often when an employee fails it isn’t just the employee who is at fault. I think blame can also lie with leaders as well.

Maybe it’s the (soon to be) former teacher in me, but most experiences lend themselves to teachable moments. Often when there is a failure to meet expectations, it could be due to many reasons, not just employee incompetence. An effective leader must analyze the situation deeper, and reflect on their actions in regards to employee performance.

Effective leaders must ask themselves the following questions:
1. What have you done to ensure employee success? Could you share in the blame?
2. Were your expectations clear and attainable?
3. Can this serve as a lesson to help further strengthen the employee’s skills?
4. Were your requests of the employee reasonable?
5. Do you hold yourself to the same standards you expect of others?

Employees must be encouraged to take risks, and as long as these risks are taken in the best interest of the company, leaders must be willing to accept failure from time to time. Allow these shortcomings to be coachable opportunities in which you can reflect with your employees, analyze their mistakes, and collaborate on new strategies to ensure success in the future.

Employees who take risks can achieve incredible rewards.

Employees who aren’t afraid to take risks can achieve incredible rewards.

By treating subpar moments as a more positive learning opportunity, your employees will actively seek your advice, and are more likely to utilize your suggestions. If failure is met by a negative confrontation in which employees are belittled and/or they feel their job is threatened, employees will do their best to cover up their mistakes. Employees will be more loyal, and work harder for a leader that supports them even when they fail.

HOW GREAT LEADERS HANDLE BAD NEWS AND CREATE OPPORTUNITIES

Does every employee need a second chance? I guess it all depends. Are you doing everything you can do to make that employee successful? Maybe their shortcomings are a reflection of the work environment you are creating for them. Create space, reflect, and see if there is something you can do to improve the situation.

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When Weakness Becomes Strength

Weakest-Link

Through mindfulness I’ve been better at more accurately analyzing my behavior, perceptions, and thought processes. I had these thoughts while trying to write about leadership. To my surprise, my perceptions changed, and I was able to see what I once thought was a weakness in my leadership style, as strength.

Who was your best leader? What was it about them that made them worthy to follow? I asked this question to myself today and it took quite a while for me to think who my best leader was, and even still I could not reach a consensus.

Assessing and Improving Your Leadership Skills

Instead, what popped into my head were specific leadership strengths that each person had. Certain leaders in my past had completely opposite ways of motivating me. Some of my favorite bosses would motivate me with praise, while others would motivate me by doubting my abilities, and even others would model the expectation and lead by doing.

As this cyclone of leadership memories engulfed my mind, one thing became clearer: there are many ways to be a leader. I see this in my 5th grade team each and every day. We all skin our cats in very different ways, and even though we all have our own unique styles, we are all very effective. Each member of the team has unique backgrounds and experiences, and that has shaped our own excellent leadership styles.

I still find even this slightly perplexing. It’s easier to analyze things when there is one exact formula, but when it comes to leadership there are so many variables to factor in! If there is no standard way to gain leadership skills, how do you know if you’re being a good leader?

What's the formula for effective leadership?  I hope it's not this complicated.

What’s the formula for effective leadership? I hope it’s not this complicated.

At first I thought this was a weakness for me. At times I do not know what makes me a good leader. I am constantly analyzing my behavior, decisions, and interactions with others. I am also very observant of other leaders (both effective and ineffective) and continuously using their behaviors as lessons to adjust my own leadership style. I thought a good leader should always know what they are doing at every moment, stick to their technique and be consistent. Shouldn’t a good leader be confident in their style and not critique it?

When I’m most critical of my leadership style is when things are going smoothly. When my leadership style flows seamlessly is when I get the most analytical and observant. Why is it going well? What am I doing right? How can I make it better? I felt this was a weakness in the sense that I should just go with the flow and let it happen naturally. It took great self-reflection to realize that this continual goal for improvement is what is making me a better leader.

I have to once again credit mindfulness for this self-assessment and improvement in my life. My “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude is slowly changing in all facets of my life. It’s okay to strive to be better in all we do, and even if things are going well, it can get better. My perceptions of situations are getting clearer and more accurate, and I’m able to use what I see to make the appropriate decisions and adjustments. It really is an amazing feeling when the bigger picture comes into focus clearer than ever before.

Mindful Leadership: A new way to sustain effective leadership

I strongly suggest that you try mindfulness meditation and see what it can do for you on both a personal and professional level. It has provided a deeper level of thoughts and clarity than I thought possible. Create some space in your life, and see what happens.

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Confessions of an Apathetic Employee

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My biggest pet peeve in life is when people waste my time. I have never been one that enjoys sitting idle, and I would rather work myself to the bone than stand off to the side and let minutes tick away. I enjoy working towards goals and overcoming difficult challenges to meet my objectives. I love being inspired and pushed to do my best, but lately I feel the leaders above me have muddled my purpose and their lack of vision leaves me idle and frustrated.

How Poor Leadership Can Effect Employee Motivation

In my current position I have many meetings and professional developments that I feel are detrimental to my productivity. I am an overachiever, and I learn things rather quickly. Lately I feel my time has been greatly wasted, making it difficult to focus, and to put my best efforts into my work. There is a time requirement from the school district, and all too often these meetings are stretched to meet this time, whether there is enough content or not.

My input is also not listened to as the leaders who decide our school district’s instructional strategies are never in attendance when these new procedures are presented. The people who present the information are completely unaccountable for what they are teaching us, and have zero power to modify any policies if mistakes are found.

During my most recent professional development meeting, I began imagining what my leadership style will look like after I complete my MBA, and what I could do to inspire an employee like myself.

What I came up with was these 10 leadership goals for myself:

1. Be organized: don’t waste other’s time looking for the things I need.

2. Do not micromanage: allowing others to take risks can give you unimaginable results.

3. Share knowledge as soon as you have it, not when you think others may need it. Transparency is more helpful than harmful.

4. Have faith and trust in your staff, obviously you hired them for a reason.

5. When it comes to meetings less is more: meetings should be measured by the value of the content given, not the time it takes to deliver it.

6. Don’t ask others to do what you won’t do yourself, the golden rule is time tested!

7. Ask don’t tell. Even if we know that your request is rhetorical, manners go a long way.

8. Don’t condescend; a high tide raises all ships.
Teach to the smartest and most talented people in the room, not the weakest.

9. Appreciate the efforts of others; even failures deserve encouragement and support.

10. Share your emotion, laugh harder, give hugs when needed, cry if necessary, but dammit be a genuine person!

I am a real person, I wear my emotion on my sleeve, and I love diving into the trenches to help everyone around me. A good leader must be accountable and passionate in everything they do. They must be able to take input from others and provide a leadership structure that allows everyone to achieve their best.

I don’t know where my career may lead me, but I hope to follow these goals for myself to become a more caring, passionate, and inspiring leader to those around me. I never want my employees to feel as directionless and unappreciated as I feel now. If they do, it’s more likely my fault than theirs.

I may be too optimistic, but I truly feel everyone wants to do their best. If you inspire, support, and appreciate the people around you, it will lead them into being more productive than you ever thought possible.

15 Ways to Indentify Bad Leaders

Do you feel the leaders of your organization are restricting your potential? Did the situation get better, or did you leave for a more inspiring and supportive company?

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Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers

church design zebras

As I’ve said before in a previous post, when we become stressed our physical causes us to be reactionary creatures. During times of great stress and anxiety we tend to throw out the thousands of years of evolution and upper level brain function, in order to succumb to reflexive hormones rushing through our brains. Our bodies take over, and it takes time for our minds to catch up to create the right response.

Dr. Robert Sapolsky from Stanford University has a very interesting BOOK in which he analyzes, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.” Sapolsky is a professor of neuroscience at Stanford University, and has completed some rather fascinating studies in regards to how animals and humans respond to stress. In this study, he compares the emotional behavior of baboons and zebras regarding how they handle the stresses of their lives. You can watch a synopsis of his findings in the video below:

According to Sapolsky, humans are much like baboons as we are the main culprits for our own stress. Our lives have become easy, we do not spend much time foraging for food or avoiding predators, and we use this surplus time to let our minds wander and worry about things we cannot control. We have such an elaborate and amazing brain, but yet we put the same stress reactions we have for serious problems to even minor and insignificant problems.

The zebra never worries about stress, it has the potential to constantly be under attack, but can shed off these traumatic experiences with predators and return to a calm state rather quickly. Why? I would like to think (and I think Sapolsky would agree) it’s because their minds do not wander, they have brain function that allows them to better focus on the tasks at hand necessary for survival.

Think about how you have handled some of your most stressful moments. Did you yell at someone when you wish you hadn’t? Pushed or shoved to get someone out of your way? Did you flee from the situation when you wish you would have stayed and made things right? Maybe you just froze at that moment, and someone had to respond for you.

We all have these moments of clarity in hindsight, but it’s very difficult to maximize our emotions during these stressful “fight or flight” moments in our lives. Mindfulness is a reflective and clarifying process, that when exercised effectively, can allow you to have clear thoughts even during the most chaotic situations.

It’s been called many things. Michael Jordan and other athletes call it, “getting into the zone.” The moment when they don’t even notice the crowd around them, the ticking clock, or the stress of hitting a game winning shot, he simply felt the ball in his hand.

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We have all experienced those moments, when our concentration is hitting on all cylinders, every decision we make is correct, and your timing is perfect. Was it just dumb luck? Or were you finally able to block out the stressors and distractors in your life and put the full power of your brain toward the situation? I strongly feel it’s the latter.

Since practicing mindfulness I have had significantly more of these “in the zone” moments. It’s a skill that needs to be practiced, but my stress has greatly diminished during difficult times, and I find myself more adept at selecting the right choice for the problems I face.

As a leader, couldn’t you use more “in the zone” moments throughout the day? Making the space necessary is only a short meditation away.

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