If you are like most leaders, you spend a lot of time running. We go from one meeting to the next with barely any breaks! As a result, we never have time to go to the bathroom, eat our lunch or let everything catch up with us.
The problem is that it is hard to do the work of great leadership when
you don't have time to PAUSE, slow down and tune in.
Effective leaders need time to think, ponder and tune in. However, many resist pausing, stopping, or taking a break despite being overloaded, overworked and overwhelmed.
Most of us say it's because we don't have time to take a break. Yet, pausing is essential to developing confidence and becoming a stronger leader. You can't wait for time to pause. You need to make time for it!
Learn to access your Inner Guidance System
In this series of blogs, I'm introducing you to the steps in the Inner Guidance Cycle, which gives you access to your Inner Guidance System. Your Inner Guidance System is your inner wisdom. If you've been around for a while, you've heard me talk about the steps often, but it might be a good time for a review.
There are four steps in the Inner Guidance Cycle. They are
The first step: PAUSE
By taking the first step, PAUSE, you'll start to awaken your Inner Guidance System. It's that wise part of you that helps you to get a hold of your thoughts and then move forward with a conscious response.
From reacting to responding
Most of us are so stressed that we react to whatever shows up. However, because of our stressed state, we can't think clearly. As a result, we don't take time to choose how we want to respond, engage or the kind of leader we want to be at this moment.
Pausing is stopping, pulling back or taking a break. When we PAUSE, our brain and body begin to relax, allowing us to get out of stress mode and think more clearly. Being more relaxed will enable us to respond and make conscious choices instead of reacting to every fire that pops up.
Pausing is part of journeys
Think for a moment about a road trip. Often when you are travelling, you take breaks. You pull over to the side of the road and stop. That might be a roadside turnout so that you can stretch. You might pause on your trip to stop for fuel. The point is that you can only way to refuel, stretch, or go to the bathroom if you stop.
Leaders need pauses too
In leadership, when we pause, the pause allows us to become mindful and present to what is happening. Rather than being present, most of us have a ton of racing thoughts whirling about in our heads. Those racing thoughts are usually about a future worry or passed incident that we are still stewing about.
Pausing settles your racing thoughts
When you pause, you are not in the future or the past but in the present moment. At this moment, you will find access to your Inner Guidance System. When you mindfully tune in to those thoughts, feelings, and sensations, you will find the inner wisdom that helps to guide you forward.
You won't always remember to pause when you need to
Learning to make pauses a regular part of your routine takes time. Eventually, you may get to the point where there is a trigger that reminds you to pause. That trigger could be when you're feeling:
Those might be signals to go for a little walk, take a deep breath or spend some time trying to figure out why you are so agitated. But often, we ignore those triggers. We push them aside because we have too much work to do. So, for now, don't wait for the trigger. Instead, schedule the time in to pause.
You'll need to prompt yourself to take pauses
You need to schedule your pauses in. Creating breaks in your schedule will help you to build a habit of pausing. So that you get used to responding to the triggers, it is important to start with establishing a routine of stopping and pausing. Remember, it's this first step of pausing that is going to allow you to awaken your Inner Guidance System.
Plan to make these kinds of pauses
Look through your day and decide how you can add these types of pauses:
??♀️BODY BREAK - Having a physical break to go to the bathroom, for eating and move your body
? SOUL BREAK - A mindful moment to take a few breaths, meditate or sit in peace
? MIND BREAK - Time for self-reflection. Effective leaders need time to think, ponder and tune in. Self-reflection is the time for leaders to ask themselves:
Scheduling your pauses in
It's time to schedule those breaks in. I recommend adding triggers to help you remember to do them, even when busy.
? Block time off in your schedule or day-timer. If you think you'll remember to do it, guess what? You won't. Schedule it in.
?️ Set reminders to notify, encourage and motivate you.
Reminders about WHY you must schedule the pauses in
? Because you will only do it regularly if you schedule it.
? Because even though you mean to, you'll get busy and forget
? Because it takes longer than you think to establish a habit
? Because it tells those around you that you value balance
Awaken your Inner Guidance System: Step # 1 - Pause
Start accessing your inner wisdom and allowing it to guide you by pausing. By awakening your Inner Guidance System, you will be learning to get control of your thoughts and feelings. That internal control will help you become confident in your leadership abilities, bounce back when adversity hits and be your best self. Begin to awaken that Inner Guidance System by scheduling pauses throughout your day.
P.S. If you are ready to dive into all four steps of the Inner Guidance Cycle and use it to boost your confidence, grab Mastering Confidence: Discover your leadership potential by awakening your inner guidance system
If you've been dealt another blow like staff shortages, funding cuts, dealing with disciplinary action, or general overwhelm, you might start to feel negativity wash over you.
You know that negativity can spiral if you don't catch it so you might be wondering:
How can I stay positive?
Questing how to stay positive is the theme of my clients this week. They want to know how to stay positive and motivated, and move towards their goals when they feel tired, overwhelmed and challenged.
One client is working on a certification process. She is studying for the next level exam. Yet, time is already running away from her. She is quickly becoming stuck in not-enoughness.
Another client is in the process of starting a new program and isn't sure if she can pull it off within the deadline. Self-doubt has crept in and is robbing my client of her confidence.
A third client was dealt a nasty blow at work. She's feeling insecure about her future. It's hard not to be negative and sarcastic. "Why bother trying so hard?"
The message we hear is to keep our chin up.
Social media posts, motivational books and well-meaning peers tell us:
Heck, I preach positivity too. I am constantly working with my clients to help them see the positive, be confident, and believe it is possible. However, how do you do that in the face of so much challenge?
The secret isn't to focus on what we are experiencing.
It's to focus on what we are thinking.
You can learn to focus on the positive
It is not what you see that makes up your reality but what you think about what you see. We all experience similar events but react to them differently.
Suppose you have a message to call your kids' teacher because of missing assignments.
Think about the thought accompanying each of the above parents' emotions.
Our inner voices are powerful. They impact our emotions and our experiences. The messages we tell ourselves about our events create our reality of the event.
Our inner dialogue controls our outer experience.If I tell myself leading my team is hard, I will notice all the hard things I experience daily.
If you tell yourself the day started bad, is getting worse and going to be a gong show, guess what you'll experience?
The secret is getting control of what is going on in your head.
You can use The Inner Guidance Cycle to get control of your thoughts.
Here's how 👇🏻
Step back from what you are doing, take a deep breath, or grab a piece of paper to write on.
You'll never shift your thoughts if you stay stuck on the hamster wheel.
Start becoming aware of your inner dialogue.
When you are frustrated, unenthusiastic or cynical, start to notice what is happening in your head.
Notice your thoughts. Becoming aware of the constant stream of thoughts helps to manage them. You'll likely notice a running commentary of your day going on in your mind. Most times, it's rambling on, and you aren't controlling what you are thinking.
Try consciously listening to your inner dialogue rather than having it run in your subconscious. The more you notice it, the more aware you will become of what you are telling yourself.
Start to shift your thoughts by examining them.
Perhaps you think, "This is the worst thing that could happen."
Is it? My guess is it could be worse.
Maybe you repeatedly say, "I don't know if I can pull this off."
Notice how that allows doubt to creep in.
Once you consciously shift your thoughts to the ones you want to be thinking, you can get back to "work."
Shifting thoughts isn't necessarily easy. It takes practice and discipline.
For example, changing "I don't know if I can pull this off" to "I can do this" isn't a one-and-done process. However, when you slip back to "I don't know if I can pull this off ...
You can learn more about The Inner Guidance Cycle in
Mastering Confidence: Discover your leadership potential by awakening your inner guidance system
Staying positive requires willpower
Positivity isn't a magical pill. It's work. It's choosing what you think, what you focus your thoughts on and learning to manage your thoughts. That process all takes willpower.
Willpower is also known as self-control or discipline. Using your willpower to train and control your thoughts requires the same energy you would use to resist the donut and stick to your workout schedule.
It's also the same energy you use to stick to responding to an email you've been avoiding, staying focused on the annual report despite your cell phone notification calling you or biting your tongue when someone irks you.
Willpower is a powerful tool for leaders. It's willpower that helps you stay positive, productive and poised.
If you want o learn more about using willpower in your leadership, check out the Willpower Essentials course here.
Shifting thoughts is a lifelong process. It's called Inner Work.
Learning to choose thoughts, managing thoughts and changing thoughts IS the inner work of a great leader. Do the inner work. It's worth it!
Are you a nonprofit leader who loves learning but doesn't have much time? If so, podcasts are a great way to get snack-sized bites of wisdom during times when it's "ok" to multitask. There are many valuable podcasts for nonprofit leaders. If you have a favourite, comment below so we can all learn from each other!
Did you know that I produce a podcast? I do! However, it's been on hold for a few months, but guess what? The latest episode of the podcast is out 👏🏻
It's been seven months since I released the last podcast episode. I certainly did not expect to take that long of a pause. However:
The first lesson I learned is that things often take longer than expected. I, of course, thought it would only take a couple of months, but it did take a little bit longer 😉
There are four other lessons I take away from the extended pause that I share in this week's episode of the podcast.
🎙 To hear those four other lessons, tune in here.
Catch up on the faves
If you are new to my work or have yet to listen to other episodes, below are some that you might be interested in.
Podcast Episode Favourites
One of my favourite conversations was with Elizabeth Bishop
# 45 - How to regain your passion for your nonprofit work
One of the top listened-to episodes is
Episode # 42 - How to have brave board conversations with Heather Terrence
And another favourite of listeners is
Episode # 33 - Permission for Ambition with Anna Gordon
If you are having a crazy day, try this one:
Episode # 26 - Wellness Tips for Overloaded & Overwhelmed Women Leaders
The most listened-to series of episodes:
I'd also love to hear what you would like me to share in future podcast episodes.
And in the meantime, happy listening!
p.s. Don't forget to share your favourite podcasts below
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.