I spent a lot of this weekend immersed in some deep reading on the topic of emotional intelligence. The way our brains connect between individuals without us really knowing what is happening fascinates me. It’s pretty challenging stuff, and I started getting lost in understanding how this knowledge applied in my engagement with others, how I might use this in my executive role and how it informs my coaching work. I moved on to thinking of what a great post it would be to talk about how our emotional brain and our intellectual brain interact. I was deep into it. Then I went outside and raked leaves.
It was quite a feeling to go from a highly engaged thinking state to one where nothing was really on my mind except “being”. When I was reading I wasn’t really connected to anything or anyone but myself. I was in a space where I was focused totally on learning but also on how that learning would apply in the future. I was often unaware of what family members were around me, what they were doing and what they might need or want. In short I had retreated inside and somewhat disconnected from others.
Outside with a rake in my hand there was no future and no past. There was just now. I wasn’t consumed with anything more than just being outside, working physically and, I think most importantly, really connecting with the world we live in. I felt really grounded which meant content and alive.
This awareness got me thinking about what happens in an office environment. Often we’re in a sterile, climate controlled environment many stories off the ground with little ability to even see nature. We are often immersed in activities that may engage our brains, but may also engage our engines that just want to get stuff done, potentially reducing our colleagues from people to resources, interpersonal connections to meetings, creative energy to productivity.
How do we make sure that we can find and keep our centered, grounded self in the midst of the high pace of high stakes, high-rise business? Here’s three ways that work for me:
- Exercise – the best technique for me to get centered is to do some strenuous exercise. It doesn’t matter to me if it is cardio or resistance training, just elevating my heart rate lets me reconnect with myself. Starting the day after exercise is a great base. Exercise at lunch is a great break. Working out at the end of a work day helps us transition to an engaged state for our families. When I exercise two things happen for me. First I can often focus my mind on one thing or problem I want to solve, which allows me to let go of what might be taking me off center. Second, the primal nature of exercise slowly allows me to stop over-thinking past performances and future challenges and just be me. I will almost always leave the gym with a renewed sense of self.
- Get Outside – if I can’t get to the gym I will try to get outside to a place with some natural elements. We’re fortunate that our office isn’t that far from the river, so heading there to walk along the banks or sit on a bench among trees and grass, watching the birds and other people passing by allows me to reconnect with the world and enjoy the beauty of natural things. In places like this, there is often others in pairs or groups walking and talking and connecting which in turn resonates with me creating a desire to connect with others.
- Connect With Someone – in those times when I feel that work is getting the better
of me or the tasks are losing their meaning it really helps if I go seek out someone I’m close to in the office and engage in a personal conversation. It’s important that I focus on the other person and make sure that work is not a part of the discussion. We are social creatures, and it is amazing how healing just engaging in an authentic, personal relationship can bring us back to our core. Sometimes it is as simple as making eye contact. Here’s a simple exercise: when walking down a crowded street or through a mall, try walking with your head up and looking as many people in the eye as possible. See the difference it makes in your overall sense of being grounded vs. walking eyes down avoiding others.
As leaders, it is important for us to notice whether our team members are centered and connected. We can create an environment which encourages people to practice healthy living while at work, including exercise, group breaks outdoors and making sure we open authentic connections with team members every day. By fostering such an environment, we will help people’s satisfaction with their work environment and their work-life balance which will in turn help to reduce attrition and increase productivity. Look for people who isolate themselves except when they need something, who are immersed in their “busyness” or just seem to have lost their sense of self.
How about you? What techniques do you use when you are feeling out of sorts to return to your centered state ? How do you help others return to theirs?
22 thoughts on “3 Ways to Get Centered At Work”
I love how intentional you have become in your living, thinking and giving Ian.
While I love the hard labour of raking leaves, the man who does our yard arrived Friday to rake our leaves — before yesterday’s snow. But, I have been thinking of my need to get outdoors into nature more. How for years (decades) I began my day always with a morning run — and now, I sit at my computer. I’ve been wondering if that brings more balance, or less balance to my day and have decided to shake things up to see if there is a difference if I begin my day with exercise outdoors rather than brainy exercise indoors at my computer.
I’m excited about the possibilities because what I read from your post is — paying attention and acting with intention are the path to balance, harmony and joy.
Thank you so much for this Louise. Mind if i use your last phrase as a quote?
I would be honoured . Thanks Ian
Ian, thank you for the reminder to be present. We all too often get focused on our to-do-list, the next meeting coming up, the phone call with an elderly parent, etc…that we forget to be present and enjoy the moment in front of us. I’ve been practicing mindful leadership for the last couple of years. This practice has helped me to become more grounded and intentional in my interactions with others. Mindful leadership includes a nonjudgemental moment to moment awareness that cultivates focus, clarity, creativity, and compassion.
Louise, I really like your last phrase as well. Would you mind if I too used it as a quote?
Thanks Chris. I love the concept of mindful leadership. Is there a book you like on the topic? BTW Louise has a wonderful blog at dareboldly.com.
You are both welcome to quote me. Thanks! 😄
Exercise works for me too Ian. I go for a brisk walk, and it’s funny you should mention it, but I naturally make eye contact with people as I walk!
When I feel lonely or really want to connect. I try to get a sense of the person I walk by; do they look stressed, in a hurry, do they look like they’re reliving a funny moment, etc., and I pray God help them through their day, get them to their next meeting on time, thank you for bringing joy into their life…
I can and have gotten caught up in the ‘seeing people as mere resources toward the end goal’ in a work setting. I feel bad when I catch myself doing that!
I love the idea of getting a sense of what is going on for people passing by. What a great skill to practice!
I bet this helps for writers too as alot of us tend to sit in our boxes or writing spaces conversing with the screens in front of us we get little time to connect with each other as we are spread out world wide. This month I am participating In the NaNoWriMo-national novel writing month
http://nanowrimo.org/dashboard and I am hoping to apply a few of your ideas to keep me centered.
I think that is an interesting observation, more so because much of writing is to be in relationship with fictional characters which might make it more difficult for a writer to pull out and connect with ‘real’ people (recognizing that characters are real to their creators).
On Sunday, November 2, 2014, Leading Essentially wrote:
Great post Ian! I too agree that physical activity is very helpful to become centered and clear ones mind…that great endorphine release 🙂 Living with mindfulness is something that I’ve been personally working very hard at in the past 6 months.
Another great technique is to adopt a habit of daily sitting, it’s incrediable how such a simple thing can really make a difference in ones life. It doesn’t have to be long 10 minutes the key is to do it daily, we are all so busy this is just is one powerful technique in becoming mindful. Mindfulness training is becoming very big with corporations too, Google as an example offers a course ” Search Inside Yourself” it is based on teaching the staff to stay in the moment. This has been proven to decrease stress levels and increases creativity and productivity.
My opinion is we can learn from the past Lessons Learned, we can plan for the future…but the true power comes from the here and now, making each day as great and fulfilling as we can.
Thanks again for your Great Sunday posts.
I love this: “… the true power comes from the here and now …”. Our vision for the future will only happen as a result of what we do right now. We will do the right things now if we are able to be present and mindful of what is happening in our lives right now. Thanks for the great thoughts!!
Absolutely 😊 Leadership through mindfulness
Thank you for this insightful piece Ian. Your words reminded me that Daniel Goleman – the main developer of Emotional Intelligence and author of the book “Primal Leadership”, is a Buddhist. HIs inspiration is from the place of being present and mindful. I am a big fan of EI and its impact on out outer and inner worlds!
It’s funny you should mention Mr. Goleman. I am reading his book “Social Intelligence”. I love how his science melds so seemlessly with his mindfulness approach.
So do I Ian. When I was doing executive coaching I did a lot of EI work and am certified in two instruments. If you ever want to explore further I’d be happy to connect directly.
Nowadays I bring EI together with Mindfulness and Yoga in a series of workshops. Very satisfying for the mind body and soul 🙂
Great post, Ian! It is a great reminder of how important exercise, enjoying the outdoors and staying connected to others really is. Right now I am struggling with the exercise part, for me it all comes down to scheduling the time which I need to work on as work/life balance starts to eventually get back into check.
A technique I use for this but not as nearly as often as I should is fishing. Gives me great exercise walking the river and love being in the outdoors.
Thanks for sharing, as I started my morning today in somewhat of a stressful mood, just because I know what is on tap for the day. I enjoyed reading this post this morning as it reminded me to ‘chill out’ – so thanks again for sharing.
Thanks for the thoughts Rick. I can imagine how fishing would bring you to center! I grew up as a kid sitting on a dock with a fishing rod in my hand … it just grounded me so much as a person. In fact that’s all I felt when fishing … I’m alive! Not “I need to better at school” or “I wish I had more friends” or “my bike isn’t as good as Peter’s” … just the joy of being alive and in nature.
For me, I do the opposite than you as I retreat (rather than connect) and that charges me up. Then again I am an introvert and I need that daily time of solitude.
I read an interesting comment (but cannot find where) that extroverts go to coffee shops to interact with people, and introverts go to coffee shops to escape from people.
LOL. Love the coffee shop analogy as you can see both types in every one! I get the reference to recharging as well … that is classic Myers Briggs typing of introverts getting their energy internally. What is most important to me is that we each can identify what techniques will bring us back to our true centre so that we can reset our ability to operate naturally.