Leadership Foundations: Three critical practices

Whether a person’s leadership is being developed or expressed in an organization, at home, in her or his community, or—as some colleagues and I are experiencing—in a doctoral program, embracing a holistic practice of “being” yields significant benefits. Attending to our health undergirds our interactions with others. Weaving in dimensions of body, mind and spirit allows the fabric of our lives to be strengthened and assures a measure of balance amidst the competing demands of daily life. Here are three ideas to inspire your own practice:

1. Get moving. Yes, I explicitly mean the “e” word: exercise. Literally, get up from the chair and walk somewhere—even if it’s just a block away. Do it daily, or even better, more than once a day. Better still, join a gym. I joined the local YMCA and go to an early morning class Monday through Saturday. I know it’s hard to start, and—for some—even more difficult to maintain. And if, for any legitimate reason, you have a day or two of break (as in you are in bed with the flu), get right back to creating a forever habit of exercise ASAP. You NEED this. Your Brain and Heart need this. Every cell in your body needs this.

Still require a bit more motivation? Here’s a great link for the top ten reasons to exercise (other than losing weight): Life Hacker Top Ten …

2. Engage your brain. Yes, I’m adding “brain training” to your body routine, especially if you have cognitively challenging work. You need the mental off-set to inspire different ways of thinking and to build the subtle skills that support the “day job” you expect of your grey matter. And, literally, the activities take only a couple minutes daily.

BEFORE you roll your eyes—I saw that!—go check out Lumosity.com. You can sign up for FREE. Ignore the emails inviting you to join the paid version [or go ahead and pay, it costs very little, but wait until you’re offered at least 35% off ;-)]; the free version will expose you to a few games daily on a rotation basis. Over the week, you’ll have tests of memory, cognitive skills, problem solving, adaptiveness, decision speed, and more. You get to track how consistently you follow through, as well as how well you’re achieving across the various dimensions. Need greater detail before you’re willing to commit? Here’s a great link on Neuroscience 101.

3. Begin a reflective practice. I know, you’re already suggesting there’s no room in your schedule to shoe-horn in another activity. Somehow, you must find a way to fit this in. Even ten minutes will pay huge dividends. So what exactly do I mean? You have a multitude of options. A faith-based option includes meditative prayer. A mind-body option could be learning yoga. Begin a gratitude journal at the end of each day.

One particularly good way to learn meditation (for free, of course) is to visit Headspace. [Here’s a hint, replay the early days of the 10 free days to get a sense of the habit.] There are also apps for your tablet or smart phone, if you require additional help to replicate a “headspace” type activity. I recommend reading reviews to find one that’s a good fit. The key for reflection is to become still, self-aware, to recognize your breathing and the influence of stimuli around you, and then allow yourself to begin reflective examination of a topic. Let go of preconceived notions, allow insights to come.

Engaging in leadership requires us to build competencies, awareness and reserves across multiple dimensions, allowing us to tap into our resources as needed. [Hmmm. Anyone else pushing to complete a research project or paper by the end of the semester? Now is not the time to find the body-mind-spirit well dry!] The interactions of a body-mind-spirit practice provide an ongoing, positive reinforcement of the best and healthiest “you.” Consider the benefits of committing to a holistic practice . . . your investment in regular self-care is a gift that appreciates with time.

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