Stop the Madness!

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Most of us are shit at our jobs right now.  I said it because no one else will.

All year, great clients have sent so much opportunity my way that I’ve been super busy with projects. Weekends include at least one day catching up on what didn’t get done during the week. Overall it’s been an intense year and I’m grateful for all of it…except for one thing.

My newsletter has been virtually nonexistent.  It’s not due to lack of time or topics. The words simply would not come.  I’ve often said, give me a good headline and the story will more or less write itself.  But then suddenly, the headlines stopped coming – I had a bad case of writer’s block.

Imagine a pen that’s running out of ink. You shake it and maybe a few words come out, and then it stops again. You look for another pen, computer, tablet, what have you, and the same thing happens – over and over again.  Eventually you wonder if you will ever make legible sense again.

Recently during a meeting with clients in a BIG, global company, I noticed that everyone was talking really fast. It seemed like adrenaline shots had been passed out with the triple shot lattes. I actually started to feel uneasy and anxious – for them! Something seemed seriously wrong and yet people were acting like this was normal.

No one was breathing. Sure, no one had turned blue, so technically they were but only in that high up, can’t really get your breath kind of way.  Their words didn’t make sense. They seemed frantic. They had so much going on and things had become so complex that they literally could not breathe well.

As a consultant, people pay me to bring solutions or that’s what I tend to think. That day, while taking in the rapid fire jargon from what seemed like helium-induced, cartoon voices, I was reminded of something Michael Grinder, one of the world’s leading experts in nonverbal communications, taught me.

Michael says, “In a complex situation your job is not to bring solutions, it’s to bring sanity.” Well, that day certainly called for a shot of sanity! So, I got out of my head and started to breathe deeply, low in my belly, and stayed present with them. Within maybe 3-4 minutes, the others started to speak more slowly, their words were making more sense; they seemed more relaxed. What they were asking for became clearer. We were getting somewhere!

Feeling stressed?  4-7-8 Breathing will help you feel better in one minute or less: 

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Slowing down, even a little, helps us go faster with more creativity and better results. When I finally realized how caught up in the madness of racing around with a to-do list 3 pages long wasn’t helping, it was time to slow down and breathe. I took a jump-start on my meditation practice again with Deepak Chopra’s free, 21-day meditation series. Within a few days, the writing started to flow again.

When you pay attention to your breath and breathe deeply you will be better at your job, your life, everything. Active mindfulness helps bring us into “approach mode” where we can actually hear what is being said instead of “avoidance mode” – which makes it hard to sift through all the noise, thoughts and body sensations.

Mindfulness will help you cope with change, uncertainty and avoid scattered thinking. And you don’t have to sit on a cushion hoping for a lotus flower to appear. A good breathing, meditation, or similar practice will help you become more comfortable with ambiguity.  It improves your ability to respond rather than simply react.

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