4 Steps to Face Challenges Mindfully
By John J. Murphy, guest contributor
Let’s face it. 2020 was an unprecedented year of disruption, challenge, and stress. We have all felt it one way or another – and so have the people we work with. Take a moment right now to reflect on this. Contemplate it without judgment. Let go of analysis and how you think things should or should not be. Just feel it. Empathize with the suffering surrounding you. Listen to your intuition and let your heart speak to you. What is it saying?
This is just one technique I use to center myself and get grounded in the perceived reality I live with. I call it “Let Be.” It is what it is. We cannot change the past, and the future is yet to come. I often equate this to a skilled athlete about to complete an immediate task – be it hitting a golf ball, shooting a free throw for a game-winning shot, or approaching the line of scrimmage to execute a play in football. As a former quarterback, I learned the importance of being present, poised, and confident, even when those around me had doubts. The only time that matters at any one moment is the moment – the eternal now. What good will it do you or your team if you approach the situation with agitation over a mistake made earlier in the game? What good will it do you if you take on the challenge with hesitation, fear, and doubt? None of this will help you during the only time that matters, which is right now.
The mindful leader recognizes that fear and doubt are contagious. Therefore, despite the circumstances, we approach each day as a new beginning, another opportunity to make things better. We have a choice. We can be solution-focused or problem-focused. These are two sides to the same coin. Great leaders pull teams together around solutions. We approach challenging situations with positivity, faith, and trust. There is no problem without a solution.
To center myself during challenging times, I use a four-step model: Let Be, Let Go, Let See, and Let Flow.
To understand this powerful model for mindful leadership, let me explain it backward, beginning with Flow. Flow is our natural essence, a state of heightened focus, perfect alignment, timelessness, and peak productivity. A lot of gifted athletes refer to this as “the Zone.” It is something we are all capable of – given we get out of our own way.
Take a moment now to think about a time when you were in perfect Flow. Your work felt effortless. You felt empowered, creative, focused, and enthusiastic. You did not feel stressed or anxious about anything. You were fully present. Now, consider how you manifested this state of mind and being.
The step prior to Let Flow is Let See. Chances are, you got into Flow by seeing things in a positive way. You saw a solution ahead. You looked upon the situation with hope and promise. You trusted that everything was going to be okay. Take a moment now to consider this. What images did you hold in mind to see with such clarity and vision?
Note that the step before Let See is Let Go. Our vision is often clouded by distractions and temptations that feed on negativity and drama. Just look at the evidence all around us. To the untrained mind, everything seems to be falling apart. People are sick. People are dying. I just lost my mother to COVID-19. Believe me, we all have challenges in our lives. We have plenty of opportunities to give up hope. The Let Go step reminds us to release these temptations of the mind. It challenges us to let go of fear (a projection of the mind), anxiety, doubt, guilt, grief, despair, anger, and greed – anything weighing us down. It helps us see the other side of any coin.
This brings us to the first step in the process: Let Be. Note that I opened this article with a Let Be exercise. Be present. Take time to meditate for 5-10 minutes throughout the day. Breathe deeply and listen to something peaceful. Commune with nature if you can. Read something inspiring. Make this a practice. Pay attention to what you pay attention to. And pay attention to who you pay attention to. There are plenty of critics hiding the silence and stillness of mindful leadership and universal grace. Cut through this with heightened awareness and discernment and set an example of inspiration and hope with calm resolve. Your team, your family, and your friends will notice this. Optimism is contagious, too.
Note that all four of these steps begin with the word “Let.” Flow is natural. Flowers do not try to grow and blossom. It is their essence. It is what they are meant to do. We as humans are gifted with the same energy. We simply need to allow it. We do this by tapping into it, by becoming mindful of it, and aligning with it. It is this energy that pulls us together and unites us. It is this energy that gives us life, individually and as a team. Let it.
It is also important to note that this model is not linear – starting with step one and finishing with step four. Rather, it is cyclical – like day and night, and winter and spring. It is perennial. What goes around comes around. Therefore, by aligning with a great state of Flow, we experience a renewed state of Being. We are now a better example of mindfulness for others to witness and follow. To paraphrase Gandhi, we are being the change we want to see in the world. Thus, these four steps are an ongoing mindfulness practice. When challenged with difficult times like the pandemic, we open to them and learn what we can from them. We contemplate them, letting go of criticism, condemnation, and judgment. We see light at the end of the tunnel, and we approach each day with optimism, compassion, and confidence. Let Be. Let Go. Let See. Let Flow.
John J. Murphy is an author, speaker, entrepreneur, business consultant, and coach and has been for over 30 years. He has traveled as many as 51 weeks out of 52, teaching in dozens of countries around the world, with languages and cultures he knew little about.
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