“Search Inside Yourself” Mindful Leadership Program

After the 2-day live Search Inside Yourself program, I would define mindful
leadership as the ability to 1) sense and understand the feelings of oneself as well as others; 2) act and speak with compassion of the motivations and goals of others and 3) lead a meaningful life. The roadmap used to guide the program is a very helpful visualization highlighting that a number of components build on each other and eventually lead toward mindful leadership. From bottom up, the components are: mindfulness, self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy and leadership. Mindfulness and self-awareness are the essential skills that lead to self-management and further, empathy. The first day was focus on building this foundation and fostering good attention to our body and feelings to prevent us from operating on “autopilot”. Only when we can attend to ourselves can we attend to other people as well.

I was particularly inspired by the ‘motivation’ module on the second day: there
was a journalling activity to explore our core values and a 5-year vision activity. The prior draws core values from people I admire, which is incredibly helpful for identifying my core values to have them guide me through difficult conversations and conflicts with a clear, good intention. The second one is identical to the Zingerman’s visioning activity I participated in earlier; this time, it was very interesting to hear about the different areas of focus in the vision from people from various stages of life. For example, while my vision was primarily focused on how I navigate the workspace and professional life, an older lady I talked to was pondering “what does being alive mean to me?”. Most importantly, I got to experience the power of the emotional intelligence of a community. I was genuinely encouraged to care about myself and to explore all the best that I’ve got in my future. If this is not mindful leadership, I do not know what is.The ‘meaning’ in a meaningful life, which I named earlier, is not complete without bringing a meaning to other people’s life.

Throughout the program we practiced a number of types of listening: mindful listening, where we pay our full attention to the speaker without responding; and later, generous listening, where we pay attention to the speaker while also asking guiding questions that explores the speaker’s story and feelings more. This is such an importance skill to be reinforced again and again—it gives the speaker the deserved respect and makes the speaker feel important. It is the key to ‘leading with compassion’, a newer idea to me raised in the program. When handling a challenging conversation, the idea encourages us to consider the narrative of both ourselves and the other side, in terms of content (what happened?), feeling and identity (am I a good person?). Then, with these considerations, aim to solve the problem at hand rather than pushing away responsibilities. A mindful leader is therefore personable rather than perceived as on the top of hierarchy and unapproachable.

By: Ariel Huang

Defining Mindful Leadership

After participating in the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute’s conference and completing the 28-day mindfulness challenge, I’ve found that a key part of mindful leadership is the ability to calmly and appropriately experience and respond to emotions. This kind of emotional intelligence is built largely through experience, which is mostly a function of time, but can also be cultivated through careful and deliberate practice. In my case, as a young leader with relatively little life experience, this deliberate practice is essential to developing my emotional intelligence and responding to situations with clarity, focus, and compassion.

My experience with the mindfulness challenge was mostly pleasant. Each day I would complete a short meditation, delivered to my inbox. These were guided meditations ranging from one to ten minutes long. I only missed a few days of practice, and when I did, I made up for it by completing two in the next day. These experiences were ones that I looked forward to, taking a moment to settle, usually at home at the end of the day, but sometimes in the morning, or before starting work, to bring my focus and attention to the practice.

As a fairly active and rapid thinker, it can be hard for me to focus on one thing at a time. This came through during the mediations, when my mind would start to wander, either back into the past or towards the future, or towards some distraction: a sight, smell, or sound that would keep me from focusing. An earlier version of myself might have scolded or got angry, but I remembered to approach the practice with curiosity and kindness. This allowed me to acknowledge the fact that my attention was distracted, accept it, and bring my focus back to the meditation, usually through a deliberate breath. This is small thing, but it is representative of the emotional maturity that I am developing over the course of this mindfulness practice.

In more high-stakes context, the simple act of acknowledging and accepting emotions will allow me to clearly, carefully, thoughtfully, and respectful present my ideas and opinions without getting overly “caught up” in the emotional tension of a situation. Rather than being defensive, I will be open, receptive, and try to understand how the emotional context of a situation is informing the decisions that various actors are making.

This has allowed me to stay calm in situations that a previous version of myself might have gotten frustrated in. Through mindfulness, I feel I am connected to a broader human context in which all people deserve peace and compassion. It can be hard to retain this feeling when someone cuts me off in traffic or I feel something unjust has occurred, but I still bring to mind these well-wishes, or, if I can’t do that, draw my attention inward to what I can control: my breathing and my body.

The grounding of the body and the breath is an essential mindfulness principle, as breathing creates a touchpoint for my attention when situations are challenging or overwhelming. This allows me to buy time and emotional distance from a difficult situation, and gain the physiological benefits of calm and composure that come through taking deep, deliberate breaths.

As hard as it is to believe, even for me, I believe my SIYLI experience and the 28-day challenge is creating a lasting impact in my life, informing me on the rationale and benefits of mindfulness. I have been able to utilize a number of integrated practices in my daily life, allowing me to be calm,composed,curious, and kind with myself, others, and the world around me.

By: Ethan Hopper