Are You Building Mindfulness into Your 2019 Leadership Habits?

Susan S Freeman Blog

It Starts With Intention

Happy New Year!  I hope that you’re off to a strong start this month and that mindfulness might be playing a role for you in 2019.  I’ve found personally and professionally how helpful it is to create clarity on our intentions for the year ahead.  We tend to increase where we have placed our focus.  The challenge I see in January is that most folks stumble into early January after much holiday celebration without much thought about how they will make this year better than the last one.   They don’t pause or reflect long enough between one year and the next to outline even a minimal outline, much less a strong roadmap for the year. 

I find this so curious.  Would you attempt to drive from where you are to California without a detailed set of directions, maps or GPS system?  Probably not.  Yet you may be surprised to find out how many people don’t think it’s odd to navigate into a new year in their lives or careers without a map or system! 

By roadmap, I don’t want you to feel limited to detailed “goals” or “benchmarks.”  For the first pass, it’s more about getting clear on what you value, what makes your heart beat fast, and how do you intend to create more of those moments in the year ahead?

Here are some of the most common intentions, to name only a few:

  • Spend more time with family
  • Lose weight
  • Exercise more
  • Learn something new
  • De-clutter

Many of us focus on the physical changes we would like to see; in our homes, bodies, or offices.  We read books, hire helpers, and take workshops so we can improve our external facing pieces.  But what about taking equal care of our minds?  Do we equate this as being a true high-payoff intention, or is it something “for another day” or “for someone who has more time?”


What I don’t often hear is: “I’d like to develop a mindfulness practice so that I can become more present in whatever moment I am in, so that I will be joyful a lot more of my day.”

When I began my own company, mindfulness had not yet entered the mainstream of best leadership practices.  Now it is in the mainstream; articles, videos, websites implore us to enter the “pool of presence.”  The challenge for many is “that sounds good, but how exactly do I do that?”

Mindfulness isn’t something that you only practice at home or in a park in complete silence (although that helps for starters).

Mindfulness can be developed at any moment in the day, simply by placing full attention on the activity in which you are engaged. 

This means:

  1. Paying attention to your breathing patterns. Is your in-breath coming from your upper lung, or is it initiating in your lower belly?  Remember the lung is shallow and increases anxiety and overwhelm; belly breathing activates para-sympathetic nervous system.  Hence, relaxation and focus appear here.
  2. Single-minded attention on one important thing at a time vs. multi-tasking.
  3. Aiming to get into “flow” on one thing and completing it vs. starting and stopping.
  4. Slowing down; go slow in order to go fast; reduces errors, forgetfulness, and prevents re-do’s.
  5. Removing those darn distractions, auditory and visual; alerts, beeps, ringers, caused by tablets, computers, and cell-phones

Consider the cost/value ratio of the belief that you must always have your phone on you AND answer it immediately.  The value is that you feel consistently connected and won’t “miss out.”  The cost is that it can rob you of your power to control where you place your attention.  When a phone is always in front of you, your brain believes that everything incoming is urgent.  This is the exact opposite of training your brain to become mindful.

I checked out Bill Gates’ recommendations for Best 5 Books of 2018 and am working on the ones I haven’t yet read.  Presently, I’m enjoying The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe, founder of Headspace.  For those who haven’t yet waded into the water, he offers an excellent explanation of the value, the experience, and practical tools for getting the most out of your 10 minutes. 

As you roll into 2019, are you intentional about what leadership habits would be most helpful?

My hope for you is that whatever else is on your list, mindfulness is near the top.   It’s a high-payoff habit whose impact will serve you everywhere in your life.

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