I started this journey at a time when I had an amazing coach, who introduced me to mindfulness. Always wanting that “next stage” of growth (at the time simply in a professional sense) and naturally curious, I went to check out why so many top leaders were practicing this enigmatic word and what on earth the actual science behind it was. 70K thoughts a day I heard in the intro? It seemed so unbelievable. Over the course of the next few weeks a whole new world opened up to me, noticing where thought tangents were going, reliving past events as if they could somehow change. I started calculating roughly just how much time and energy a day was wasted in that revisiting things in my mind that had already happened, or about something that had yet to happen and very possibly wouldn’t. Researching the benefits, I immediately signed up for an 8 week Executive Leadership & Coaching Mindfulness course and well, there I took on a front row seat to arguably the most fascinating and long running TV show I’ve ever experienced, my own mind!
That 8 weeks could be equally as frustrating as it was interesting. An intensive course that required daily 40 mins practice, I was able to start to discern that so much time and energy was busy analysing and planning in my head (that the planning was often stuck on repeat didn’t yet occur to me in those very early days). I spent the first few workshops listening to others with their aha moments and just not getting it. I’d by now become aware that I would sometimes over think emails after I’d sent them. Well, I sent an important email the next week and something very different happened, or rather something didn’t happen. Gone was the second guessing myself, suddenly my brain had turned to teflon and my mind said “it was probably a good email or you wouldn’t have hit send, and if it wasn’t, really such a small thing who cares” …… the liberation from not having any afterthoughts and just spending that extra mind energy on the something actually productive was remarkably effective. My aha moment was born and I was hooked. If we could get to know ourselves so intimately that we could choose at will which thoughts to engage with and which were likely not important, well let’s go back to that 70K thoughts a day or put in another way around 1000 minutes a day. If I gain agency over my autopilot thoughts and even choose 10% of them to go in another direction, that’s 100 minutes a day that I could influence from potential unproductive energy into total production and trending positively. Don’t forget our thoughts drive our actions and behaviours all day every day! So, imagine the difference I was making in the way I showed up, living with far more ease and transforming my ability to think solution orientated about bigger picture. The effect on my stress levels was also huge, so much reduced mental fluff about the every day minutia that most people get caught in.
The way I showed up was super charged with smarts – I was asked to be the first female member of our regional executive committee in a male dominated industry of finance and stockbroking. Did those mindfulness skills have anything to do with it? You ask my old boss! Spending time on getting to know and choose where you put your attention is pure smarts – mind strategy in the best possible way moment by moment, situation by situation; responding skillfully instead of reacting unconsciously. All those top leaders that practice this mindfulness thing – they’re onto something big.
Fast forward to my second child. Suffice to say learning this skill of awareness and less reactivity so deeply was my saviour (and his) as we navigated toddlerdom with an extra curve ball learning about and managing his additional needs, both inside our household and interacting with the world around us. It enabled me to reach out early for solutions; instead of only wallowing in the problems I was able to turn toward the difficult, process all of our challenges together and not get caught in the mire. For parenting this skill was amazing, but for this extra-large curveball I’d say it was essential!
Another large part of my journey was facing a fairly debilitating fear and turning it into an opportunity by using the skills I teach to do so. Public speaking was a huge obstacle to my potential success and being the determined person I am, I sought help in all sorts of areas over years. There are many stories along this particular journey, but the biggest lesson here is that what I felt was my biggest public failure (a panic attack while public speaking) was actually my biggest stepping stone for growth. We have a choice in everything we do. Time and time again I have seen people that are so talented get in the way of themselves and not move forward in life as they should, whether it be from a reactionary life, or limiting beliefs. Your own mind is your most powerful resource, is yours going to be friend or foe?
These personal and professional experiences among many others, these parts of my journey, not only surviving but finding my way to flourishing – I thank all of these acquired skills to learning to live this one life with more patience, ease and overall total smarts!!