New Clarity & Tool to Try for Emotional Resilience and Response-Agility

I just received this (below) from Susan David, and appreciated her way of talking about "Mindlessness" to help clarify the value of mindfulness. I've been saying that a primary benefit from smart pause practices is to become more aware of what might be "in there trying to run things" and set ourselves up to come from our best potential energy and response-agility. So, I also like Susan's framing of emotional agility.

Excerpt from Susan:

"The term 'mindfulness' has become such a buzzword, especially in business circles, that there’s now a bit of a backlash. Or there is confusion because of the flowery language that sometimes accompanies explanations of it.

That’s why it may be easier to understand what mindfulness is really all about by first looking at its opposite: mindlessness.

Mindlessness so easily leads us down the path of getting hooked. It’s the state of unawareness and autopilot. You’re not really present. Instead you’re relying too heavily on rigid rules or shopworn distinctions that haven’t been thought through. 

It’s mindfulness that allows you to notice your uncomfortable feelings and thoughts rather than be entangled in them. When you’re mindful of your anger, you can observe it with greater sensitivity, focus, and emotional clarity, perhaps discovering where the anger is actually coming from. You might even discover that your “anger” is really sadness or fear.

Mindfulness guides us to become more emotionally agile by allowing us to observe the thinker having the thoughts. Simply paying attention brings the self out of the shadows. It creates the space between thought and action that we need to ensure we’re acting with volition, rather than simply out of habit. Emotional agility means having any number of troubling thoughts or emotions and still managing to act in a way that serves how you most want to live. That’s what it means to step out and off the hook."

So, how do we actually DO this? (That's my delicious obsession in the inspired leadership lab work with smart, normal, complex human beings.)

If your default reactions accidentally make emotions (and thoughts) a master to obey or a monster to try to run away from, then what is running you? A great way to for you to take charge of your own energy is to meet your thoughts and emotions without resistance. Nothing to avoid or attach. When we add self-compassion, this relaxes your nervous system and begins to rewire your inner programming and strengthen your mind fitness. And, with practice, you gain mastery of yourself from the inside out, so that you are choosing and creating your (outer) experience for more enjoyment and effectiveness. When you practice being OK with everything inside of yourself, you can show up at work and in your whole life much more able to be OK with everything that happens, every moment. So you get to show up from emotional resilience and response-agility for each interaction, work focus, creative challenges and enjoy (or at least flow well with) the experience!

New Tool; a simple practice to try (or try beginners mind, renew):

Let's call this exercise "Let it ALL Be."

Find a comfortable position where you can be relaxed enough to sit still for a bit, and yet alert enough that you don't fall asleep.

Take a few nice, deep, cleansing/reboot breathes (in through nose, out through mouth).

Be gently curious, scanning your body for sensations and the emotions underneath.

One way of labeling our core emotions: Joyful, Angry, Sad, Scared, Stimulated. There are more nuances of course, but these are five basics to help us name a feeling.

(As I do this right now, I'm aware of a slight lump in throat that might be like a nervousness about all the things I'd like to get done today. If I label this as a core basic emotion - we could call this "scared.")

OK, here's the game-changer moment in this practice :-) - Whatever is there, let it BE. The normal default with uncomfortable emotions is for our conditioned mind to have an "uh oh" reaction, mildly or more. Breathe and lean into absolute non-judging acceptance, allowing and even appreciation for whatever is there to be there. Imagine an energy embracing this coming from no big deal...as if an unconditionally accepting chill-out voice saying things like of course you are a normal human being with all kinds of emotions, and so on.

Consider an emotion simply being energy in motion, like a wave coming up and then dissolving back into an ocean of infinite compassion or just neutral spaciousness. Breathe in and out, patiently, lovingly sitting with whatever comes and goes. No big deal. Nothing to fix or worry about. Nothing wrong. Nothing to pep talk into a better attitude. Just let it all be. Practice being absolutely OK with all of you exactly as you are.

Just hang out there for a while. When you feel a bit more settled, gently open your eyes and hit the play button again.

Let me know how this goes and how it begins to perfume the rest of your day. If you feel a bit triggered later on, you can do a micro-pause, breathe and say something like “Oh, yeah, no big deal” or “It’s OK, I am OK” to yourself. Then hit play again. :-) Over time, this will fuel all kinds of agility for you and your business. [We explore how to fuel that inner-outer resilience in each leader in their own unique ways, but this practice could be a great start- give it a try.] Hmm, a couple days ago I wrote about being there for someone else. Today's invitation is about being there for yourself.

Cheers to Mindful Workplace Month, and all of you just as you are!

Here's Susan's TED talk


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