Covid, the changing workplace conditions, inflation, extreme market fluctuations, economic hardships, high gas prices, a heartbreaking mass shooting in Uvalde, mass shootings across the country, a devastating war in Ukraine, January 6 hearings, conflict over election fraud claims, a landmark change in the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade, protests, conflict over gun rights, and political battles as mid-term elections loom near. As one person stated, “There is a horrific noise roaring in my head making it hard to think.”
Whether you are in a leadership position or an employee, all these circumstances affect the workplace atmosphere. According to the World Health Organization, stress and depression have increased 25% since Covid. And that was before the current and on-going situations. Studies show many people are seeking work-life balance and jobs that offer alternatives that can provide hybrid and flexible options.
But first we need to deal with our own inner balance. I am going to suggest that finding inner equilibrium is the way to deal with all these competing distractions, problems, and events. The dictionary defines balance as a state of equality and an emotionally and mentally stable mind. Individuals must each find their inner balance and leaders need to operate from a state of balance within themselves before they can affectively lead others. I call this Enlightened Leadership, The BE LOVE Model.
A Bicycle Metaphor
It may be helpful to view the journey through life as having the elements of a bicycle ride, especially when the road is winding, rough, and unknown. I have used these guidelines to weather many bumpy rides.
Balance on your bike and in your life is essential and if you don’t maintain it, you can tip over, fall, or crash. Good balance is dependent on a healthy body, mind, and spirit. Steps to maintain body, mind, and spirit include recreation, rest, good nutrition, exercise, mental stimulation (including work and other goals) and spiritual alignment. If you are putting all your energy in one or two areas and not feeding your body and soul all it needs, you could end up out of energy, stability, and enthusiasm before you complete your journey. If you don’t take care of yourself and get time away from work and competing distractions, you won’t have the clarity you need to progress. Time away includes getting work issues off your mind, both mentally and electronically.
Directing your bicycle ride toward a destination is an important part of your journey. If you jump on your bike and head out without an intention, you may end up riding in circles or even getting lost. Having a clear vision and then planning your course will make your trip more worthwhile and expedient. Even if you come upon some unexpected delays, you will still be able to stay on your path if you keep your focus on your target. However, don’t be so fixed on the destination that you miss the ride, the process, and unexpected opportunities that might come your way. Sometimes the unexpected occurrences can become the greatest prospects and new revelations.
The ability to focus attention is one of our greatest gifts. When the clamoring noise from outside activities and disruptions is too overwhelming, we need to take a break from the competing confusion. We can focus on what we choose and avail ourselves of our own calm, inner sense of peace. This means being present to the nature, the sounds, the wind on our faces, and all the sensations of being alive. It could also include a pause for mindfulness and meditation on the journey. When we are thinking about too many opinions, perspectives, and our own added drama, we can become clouded in our view of the road and the world. Overthinking and compiling thoughts can become a disaster course. It can cause us to crash or at least miss the moments worth savoring.
It takes energy to traverse the hills and valleys of our lives. Stopping for a healthy snack and beverage can revitalize you, giving you fuel for continued activity. We may have times when we feel our energy is drained and we need rest and restoration. We need to be aware and get the sleep and rest so that we can become re-energized. At work, this may mean periodic breaks, change of scenery, taking attention away from conflicts or worry and refocusing. Getting off the bike can bring new energy and clarity to carry on with the work or road ahead.
Breath is life. Breathing is something we often take for granted, unaware of its importance. Without breath and fresh oxygen, we will quickly die. Life begins with our first breath and ends with our last. Sometimes our breathing is shallow, and we are not getting the benefits of deep breathing. Sometimes we are out of breath, and we need to “catch our breath” so to speak. Moving and elevating our heart rate builds strong hearts and lungs. But when we get too much out of breath we must stop and recover. Breathwork is way to increase our inner state of equilibrium and peace. Focusing on the breath is one of the most often used practices for meditation. Right now, as you read this article, take a deep breath. Enjoy the sensation and relaxation that follows. Allow a quietness and sense of calm to come over you. You can do this periodically throughout the day to refresh and, at night, as a way to gently fall asleep.
Starting on the road and then staying on the journey requires motivation. The root word for motivation is motive. Having a goal or many goals can help us sustain our motivation and overcome difficulties. Companies try to motivate people with money, recognition, external rewards, and more recently, opportunities for remote work, flexibility, and work-life balance. The most powerful motivation comes from within and is not induced by external rewards. Finding our own motives and meeting our intrinsic needs are more long-lasting.
Sometimes we ride alone and sometimes we are with others, connecting for different reasons. As social beings, we often work and play better with others. But we can also find great fulfillment with solitary activity such as writing, art, music, cooking, and solo walks/rides. Again, seek balance to determine the optimum choices for each. Sometimes after solo rides we desire the camaraderie of friends and teammates. Conversely, we often need alone time to disconnect and be at peace after being with people. Be true to yourself and your needs.
Where we are traveling and how we get there is often not as important as the process and the journey itself. How we spend each day, face the circumstances that arise, and make the right choices are best when stemming from the innate wisdom residing within each of us. We can gain perspective, be an active listener, and have an open mind to help us make decisions. But in the end, our own inner guidance, found in silence and retreat from the clamorous noise of the world, is our truest source, our inner spiritual greatness. I encourage everyone to find that inner, true nature through mindfulness and meditation, each day and throughout the day whenever possible. This intuitive inner path to authentic guidance will sustain and enrich your life’s journey both at work and at leisure.
**By Danna Beal