Feeling Better by Doing Less

On Sunday I participated in an all day silent mindfulness meditation retreat. I’ve been doing a weekly mindfulness class for six weeks now, and this was part of that program (I wrote a little more about mindfulness in this post). Each week we’ve learned a different form of practicing mindfulness meditation, whether through mindful eating, yoga, the body scan, or sitting with awareness. The class, and learning about mindfulness in general, has opened my eyes to what being present is, and how living in the moment can truly help bring everything in balance. It’s really helped me with my stress management.

Before the retreat, I was very curious about how the day would go. We were instructed not to speak or even make any eye contact for six hours. The facilitator guided us through the day, giving us a suggested schedule to follow. The longest we had ever practiced in class was for 30 minutes. I couldn’t imagine participating in mindful meditation from 9:30 – 3:30 on my precious Sunday!

Well I did it, and it actually wasn’t too difficult. I was worried that my overactive mind would be running the whole time and I was scared of the idea that I would be trapped with my thoughts. Actually, over the course of this class, I have trained my mind to be a little less overactive and a little more intentional. The point of mindfulness is not to clear your thoughts, it’s about the ability to see them as temporary and impermanent. So you can move on to the next. And nothing feels like a crisis.

My biggest lesson? That I probably could have achieved the same feeling that I got from six hours of practice during a thirty minute stint. I think that’s a good lesson for most things in life as well, and a great reflection on why perfectionism is never necessary. You can do your best at work and still be a stellar employee. You can prepare for a presentation for two hours instead of six hours and still knock it out of the park. You can have a glass of wine, a piece of chocolate, or a cookie without going overboard. Balance with moderation is the key.

Perhaps that is the secret to a happy life. Not always doing more, carpe diem, living out loud. In fact, it’s doing less – more mindfully.


Success By Way of Empowerment

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” ~Bill Gates

Each of us are very different – we have different personalities, skills, and values. We all bring something different to the table. That’s why it is so important for us to acknowledge our differences, celebrate them, and bring them together. Empowering others is the key to success.

Here’s a few key things to remember in empowering others.

  • Practice humility. Before going to battle in a competition with a colleague, take a moment to think subjectively about your opponent. What qualities do they have? What skills have they acquired? What do they bring to the table that you don’t? Take your pride out of the equation. The simple fact is that the best way to work together is to enhance everyone’s strengths, no matter what. Once you do that, true success will be easy.
  • Strike a balance. When thinking about why I’ve been successful in my career, I automatically think about other people. Whether supervisors or colleagues, my peers have truly been a huge part of my journey. I have developed a system to know when to rely on myself and when to turn to others. And that delicate balance is the key to success in the workplace.
  • Expand your definition. Don’t take empowerment to only pertain to subordinates. You can empower your boss just as easily. No matter how confident we come across, we all have insecurities from time to time. It’s important to assure your boss that she is a valued member of the team on a regular basis. It can be lonely at the top.

So often we are taught that it’s a dog eat dog world – everyone’s out for themselves, hoping for more money, influence, or power. Throw that thought away. Especially in the nonprofit sector, collaboration is key. Collaborate strategically by empowering all members of the team to bring their strengths to the table. That is when you will be truly successful.


What is Work/Life Balance?


This post by Annie McKee hit so close to home that as soon as I read it I knew I had to blog about it. It combines everything I’ve been thinking about the past three months – what exactly does work/life balance mean? How can I be successful at work, home, in school, and with my loved ones without getting stressed out? I love my job – but why do I still seem to love my life outside of the office more?

My main takeaway from her piece is that there is no such thing as a work/life balance, and those of us who have been spending time working to achieve it are simply spinning our wheels. Life is always going to be (and should be) more important than work. Our friends and family will always be more important than the work we are doing. Instead, we should focus on balancing ourselves. That includes mindfulness, a practice I’ve recently learned and have been incorporating into my life. I love this quote from her piece:

You can start by cultivating practices that allow you to re-engage with yourself, focus optimistically on the future and connect compassionately with other people. You can start with mindfulness — tuning in to yourself, your environment and others.

As she also mentions, mindfulness does not necessarily mean taking time out of your already busy day to meditate, do yoga, or the like. In fact, I don’t take any time out of my day when I practice mindfulness. Instead, I am working to incorporate it into what I’m already doing. When I’m driving, when I’m waiting for the crosswalk light to change, when I’m waiting for my takeout to be ready… I practice mindfulness. And that practice encourages me to remember to do it when I really do need it – preparing for a meeting at work, being called to speak in class, or doing something new. Instead of getting anxious, I work to live in the present and appreciate the moment.

Of course, I have not achieved perfect self-balance yet. But I’m working on it. And I highly encourage you to read the Annie McKee’s post and think about balance in your life. I want to leave you with one last quote.

Like mindfulness, hope is a powerful antidote to stress. A vision of a better future, optimism and the belief we can make it happen helps to calm our nervous system. Think about your dreams. Help someone else achieve theirs. Pick up trash on the way to work. Talk to a child about what he or she wants to be. Actions like these, done mindfully and often will make a difference.