Right here, right now: Mindfulness in the life of a leader

By: Dr. MaryJo Burchard

In a quiet office, I nervously sat staring at a computer monitor, waiting for the notification that the conference call was ringing me into a video job interview. I was one of two finalists, and I was first up. 

Due to technical difficulties on the other end, we were already 15 minutes late getting started. Then, 20. Then, 21, 22…

As the minutes ticked by, my mild apprehension began to grow into silent panic. How could I convey who I am in half the allotted time? What if we didn’t get through all the questions? What if I didn’t have time to explain myself? As my thoughts began to spin out of control, one clear thought pierced through the noise and silenced me.

Jo, you only need to do one thing: Be present. Right here, right now. Just show up with all you are. Do that and you win, no matter the outcome.

Then I took a deep breath and made that commitment, just as the monitor flashed to life.

The interview was a technical fiasco. Audio froze and unfroze. I couldn’t see the interviewers, and I couldn’t hear most of their questions without asking them to repeat. The conversation lacked cadence, and I didn’t give my most brilliant answers. Yet at the end of the appointment, despite my frustration, I emerged satisfied because I had still succeeded in truly showing up.

No, I didn’t get the job, but that experience gave me new insight into the role that mindfulness can play in providing clarity, focus, and healthy engagement - both in high pressure situations and in the daily grind.


Mindfulness in a world of noise

Merriam-Webster defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”

In the whirlwind of life and work, mindfulness simplifies the universe into one thing: Be right here, right now. With all your heart, your thoughts, and your bodily presence - show up, and be all-in.

Mindfulness is awake. It says, “Hey! Snap out of autopilot. Focus your entire attention. What is going on around you and inside you in this current moment? Face it head-on with curiosity and alertness rather than fear and judgment.”  

Mindfulness is kind. It shuts out distractions, making the person in front of you feel fully seen, heard, and valued. If you are the only person in the room, then mindfulness can silence the internal noise so you can listen and discern what is most important to you right now.

Mindfulness is effective. Practicing it minimizes anxiety and overstimulation while building others’ trust in your ability to focus. Being mindful increases resilience in times of crisis.

With so much at stake, leaders need mindfulness to stay on track mentally, socially, and even morally/ ethically. But how can you begin to build mindfulness in a world supersaturated with information, communications, and demands bombarding from every direction?

Ways to be mindful right now

  • Just breathe. Start here – pay attention to your breathing. Take deep, even breaths. Become aware of the speed and rhythm of your breath, and this will bring you mindful awareness.
  • Slow down. You cannot stay mindful if you are constantly functioning at breakneck speeds. If the nature of your life and work moves at a frenetic pace, then set aside even a couple minutes for slow, quiet contemplation at critical moments of the day: when you first wake, before a big decision, meeting someone face-to-face, before you go to sleep.
  • Stay curious. Throughout the day, check in with yourself and explore what’s going on in your heart and head. Hold still - what is going on around you? What is the focal point of this moment? Are you paying attention?
  • Pick your “yes.” Whenever you say “yes” to anything, you’re saying “no” to everything else in the universe for that moment. Make sure you are intentionally picking the best “yes” for this moment, right here. Are you saying “yes” to something that belongs in another moment, at the expense of the best “yes” for right now?
  • Keep trying. Mindfulness, like anything worth developing, takes time. But keep choosing to show up – now.

And now. And now.

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1 Response

  1. MaryJo is right on time! Very Good! Being "mindful" and present is crucial in developing trust and making rational decisions.