Do you find yourself in high-stress mode these days? Corporate restructuring? Change that happens faster than our capacity to absorb it? More work than most of us can handle? No wonder most of us find ourselves off-kilter. As I have personally discovered, and recommend to many of my executive coaching clients, there is one leadership practice that is indispensable in these times. It is finding time every day to rebalance and center to our most emotionally intelligent selves. Whether we are preparing for a tough negotiation, managing an impossible workload, juggling work and personal commitments, leading in uncertain times, or striving toward our most important goals, having access to our most wise and present self is critical to success. Here is what I recommend to my executive coaching clients for a daily practice.
Just last week I had myself in a bit of a frenzy anticipating a stressful meeting with a difficult client. During my morning yoga one of my practices is letting go of all tension in the body. During this practice I had a sudden insight. The stress I was feeling was from a thought about the anticipated difficult meeting. It was just a thought, a perspective I was holding. Nothing had actually happened. I realized that I suffer from many unfortunate events daily, most of which actually never happen.
Why A Daily Practice?
We experience stress every day. Why not a practice to release stress every day? Our stress lowers our in-the-moment emotional intelligence and ability to respond to situations that challenge us. It also robs us of our well-being. Who we are as leaders is the sum total of our leadership habits. Habits are nothing other than actions that over time due to repetition become unconscious and ingrained in us. If we want to be more calm, centered, and wise leaders of ourselves, our workplaces and our family, it requires a different habit. Habits are formed through practice.
In April, I committed personally to getting up at 5:00am (okay sometimes it’s 6:00am, I’m working on the discipline part) to do a one hour kundalini yoga practice. It has been over 40 days since I started this daily practice, and I am noticing a difference in my ability to remain calmer through stressful times. I see my practice as my gift to myself every day, to nurture the part of me that keeps me sane and anchored. Otherwise, I am liable to be the person who my teenage daughter describes as “highly impatient and ready to fly-off-the handle and order people to clean up their rooms”. She has confessed that part of her purpose in life is to help me manage my impatience issues (some of which may be caused by getting up at the hour of 5:00am as she points out).
How to Pick a Practice
There are many ways for us to return to our center. The most important parts of a daily centering practice are:
- An intention to spend time with ourselves. It is a gift to our peace of mind, growth, and an investment in being our best selves. It signals to us and others that we matter.
- An opportunity for a shift in perspective (to enable us to see situations from a more centered, less stressed perspective). Often a shift in perspective solves big issues.
- A release of stress in our bodies toward greater relaxation. This helps our immune system. As our bodies shift, they create shifts in our mind. More on the mind body connection is here.
- A reconnection to the wisdom that already lies within our most centered self.
- A work out for our mind, body and spirit through both pausing to reflect, and moving our bodies to bring oxygen to revitalize cells.
There are many types of practices to do that (vegging out in front of the TV or eating a pint of ice-cream doesn’t count). I recommend to my executive coaching clients some combination of the following to start the day:
- Daily journaling practice
- Daily mindfulness or spiritual practice
- Daily embodiment practice (yoga, exercise, running, martial art, gardening, or just taking a good walk in nature).
The key is to set a clear intention and pick a practice that you will stick with. Kundalini yoga offers the following guidelines for a practice. Based on the number of days we do a practice, here is how it affects our habits:
- 40 days to break any habits that block us from achieving the benefits of our practice
- 90 days to establish a new habit in our conscious and subconscious minds. It changes us in a deeper way.
- 120 days to confirm the benefits of the practice, integrating it into our psyches.
- 1000 days to master the benefits of the new habit, even in times of great challenge.
With practice, we can develop new habits that rewire patterns that no longer serve us. What is a practice you will pick today?
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What a great read! Last year I started every day with a yoga practice and even though I went through a time of what seemed like incomprehensible turmoil I felt centered, in control, and even had fun! I thought I had ingrained the habit permanently until a year ago when I decided to start a new career… which just goes to show it takes a 1000 days to master a habit even in times of great challenge and change! This past year have been struggling with feeling unbalanced, with ever escalating stress levels, and finding that little voice of wisdom inside me (I know it’s there somewhere!), your article has reminded me that I don’t have to live like this. Looks like it’s time to start practicing again!
Hi Fawn – Thanks for sharing your personal story. You’re so right. The temptation is to believe that we’re now permanently “stress-free” or “thin” or “disciplined” or whatever the goal is that we’re striving for. The answer, as you point out, lies in the daily practice.
I agree completely with Henna! I walk for one hour every day Monday thru Friday. I am a tax CPA who works alot of late hours, but I still walk every day. I have been doing this for about four years and can’t live without “my walk.”
Thanks Julia for weighing in. I’m sure your daily walk during tax season keeps you calm…and might even rub off on your clients!!!