Last year, Scott Eblin wrote Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. Of course, who wouldn’t resonate with that title?! It targets business people and, specifically, business leaders. He states: “One of my favorite definitions of leadership is that it’s a two part job—the first is to define reality; the second is to offer hope.” And what gets in the way of clearly understanding and dealing with reality are distractions and limiting patterns of belief and behavior that lead us to overwork and land us in a state of feeling overwhelmed: grouchiness, insomnia, poor decisions, lack of follow through, you name it.
So, how practiced are you at defining reality? Your reality? The reality of those on your team? The reality of your industry? And how wide is your lens? Do you incorporate the reality of your community, country, or globe into your assessment of the current situation? Certainly, the recent events in France at Charlie Hebdoe entered everyone’s reality along some dimension: emotional (compassion, outrage), judicial (right of free speech), integrity (believing and practicing a commitment to respect for all religions), personal (friends or colleagues who live in France; who are members of Islam; who are journalists). There’s much to consider—and if we don’t stop long enough to ask ourselves what we believe, pausing for a moment to check in with ourselves to see what toll this has taken on us and others, then we continue to barrel along, oblivious to the impact.
Here’s a favorite visual of ours—the Human Function curve—used for decades as a graphic for the impact of stress. We often include it in a leadership training or coaching session, asking: "Today, in this moment, where would you plot yourself on this curve?" As stress increases (the horizontal dimension), our creative engagement increases (dubbed as good stress) but only to a point. Then our performance, our positive output, our hope (!), our clarity and our health all start to diminish as over time we allow ourselves no break.
We are in Such a Rush to complete the project, meet the goal, stake our claim that we forget to be mindful of the impact world events on the macro level and our choices on a more immediate level may be having on us (lack of sleep, poor selections in nutrition, grouchy moods). We forget to ask others how they are doing in the midst of earth shaking news or simply in the midst of a challenging work day. And, when we do ask, do we truly taking the time to listen? The reality is that none of us can sustain the pace or practices that keep us “over the hump" in fatigue and distress. That’s reality. But, there is hope!
As Eblin points out: We must do something to break cycles that keep us from being mindful, from being fully present, so that we are clear in each moment about our choices and actions. Being intentional about our desired outcomes. Having a simple way to keep ourselves focused. Tracking the progress. He’s not talking about a to do list, but a thoughtful inventory of self. Working with a coach, joining a group of peers to share insights and commitments, identifying rituals or practices that restore your energy—all of these can fuel your mojo.
Personally, I believe if we each commit to tune in more regularly we can address the fundamental questions: Where am I in this moment on that Human Function Curve, What is contributing to this current reality, What can I do right now to create a more creative—healthy—productive—positive situation, and Who can I ally myself with so that I am more likely to keep that positive momentum?
Best wishes this new year for deleting from your repertoire “overwork” and “overwhelm” and replacing them with the experiences that inspire and sustain.