Returning “Home”—Leading and Living with Less Distraction and More Intention

I’ve been reading a thought-provoking new book by the organizational behavior thought leader Margaret Wheatley, called So Far From Home. I appreciate her unique synthesis of global trends and the realistic, yet still inspiring, conclusions she draws about how we leaders can do meaningful work in the very complicated world we inhabit. Interestingly, Meg specifically calls out the Internet and its applications as a major source of distraction—the kind that negatively interferes with our quality of life. (How ironic that I am writing about it on a blog!)

This level of distraction has particularly bad implications for leaders–we can’t seem to get away from email, texts, social media, and other sources of information-overload that drown out any silence in our lives. In my experience, the constant opportunity for distraction allows us to feel a false confidence in the decision to solve primarily tactical problems, often at the expense of confronting deeper, wide-spread challenges and developing fully collaborative teams that can bring forth a unified vision into an ever-emerging global reality.

Do you wish you could find more clarity through the daily chaos? I certainly do. One of the comments I often hear from clients is that they appreciate our coaching sessions because they offer a chance to slow down, to think through complex issues, and to discover personal blocks that detract from doing their best work and leading their best lives. I have a coach, too, and I find the same benefit. And yet, I want more—one hour every week or two does not provide enough reflective solitude to see challenges and opportunities clearly and to do my own self-development work so that I can work through those challenges and opportunities with focus and grace.

I’ve tried several different disciplines for this kind of work: yoga, tai chi, meditation, journaling, jogging, and a variety of mind/body exercises. None have “stuck” as a discipline for me. They’re there when I want access to them, which is helpful, and yet I suspect that having more of a routine in one or more practices would provide a small island of calm and clarity in my very full life. Rather than commit to practicing a particular discipline, I’d like to have some fun with this by engaging in some intentional, focused experimentation to help me find the mix of disciplines that works best for me.

So, I’m asking for your help.

What practices do you return to on a regular basis for self-reflection, deeper thinking, and rejuvenation?

If you don’t have a regular practice, which ones have you considered or tried out on a short-term basis?

Please share your thoughts below. Based on the input I receive, I’ll choose a variety of activities for my experiment. I’ll give each activity a concerted effort over one to two weeks and evaluate the effect the practice has had on me, sharing my findings in this blog. My hope is that the experiences and lessons I share might help others to discover a practice that helps them return from the journeys that have taken them “so far from home.”

Thanks, Meg, for the inspiration. And thanks to YOU in advance for sharing your ideas with me!

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6 Responses to Returning “Home”—Leading and Living with Less Distraction and More Intention

  1. Geri says:

    Morning Pages, ala Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way) have been a regular part of my morning discipline since 1999. I’d say they stuck! Also, reading from a daily spiritual book, whatever your path. I’ve returned to yoga again after too long of a gap and find it has staying power, also. But the important thing for me is to break a sweat most days of the week, whether from a great Vinyasa flow class, gardening, or chasing my dog.

  2. I have two essential daily practices; morning “Quiet Time” and morning yoga. My yoga (only about 15 minutes first thing each morning; other exercise comes later in the day, either at the gym or on my exercise bike, or outside) is what wakes up my body. I rarely miss a day of yoga. Quiet Time is an hour each morning, generally to watch the sun come up. During that delicious hour to myself, I also journal (most days), read from a daily spiritual book(s) and pray. This practice centers me, refreshes me, slows me down, and provides time for reflecting on matters of the heart and spirit. One intention for this year is to begin to meditate and learn more about that practice.

  3. Probably the most consistent and powerful of my practices is being aware of my breath. Breathing intentionally takes no additional time and keeps me attuned to my body as well as my heart and mind. The second practice is to play with my dog. Yes, that’s right. It gets me away from the computer and the mental clutter, takes me into Nature and clears my mind. Playing and laughing with Finn helps me stay engaged in my life and as a result I’m clearer in my work.

  4. A couple of times a week, my wife understands that I will arise from bed (either shortly after going to bed or early in the morning) and head to my office with my “brain on fire.”

    When I go to bed, my intention is to sleep. But sometimes I think. And when that happens, I have two options. One is to roll over and speak something into my digital recorder. If that’s sufficient, I’ll roll back over and go to sleep. Sometimes that’s not enough, so I get up, get dressed, and go to my office and take some kind of action.

    Sometimes it happens early in the morning. I’m at the age where rarely can I make it through the night without a bathroom visit. Usually, it’s right back into the bed and asleep. Sometimes it’s back into the bed and wide awake, with some new idea simmering in my brain. Lying there is futile—I won’t go back to sleep. If I get up and go take some action, I might make it back to bed an hour or two before normal wakeup time.

    I’ve long ago said that either option is great. Either I get full, deep sleep, or I’m treated to some unusual, beneficial idea. It’s a win for me and for the people I serve either way!

  5. When I was a department Director, for a Fortune 500 corporation, and setting up a new department, I scheduled an hour of “my time’ everyday, and posted it on my sharable Outlook calendar, so folks wouldn’t schedule over it. During that time, I would close my office door, take no phone calls, and ignore my computer; I would write (pen and paper), read, or just think. I found it quite refreshing, and it allowed me to refocus!

  6. Angela says:

    Jen, what a lovely, warm article. Thank you. I am a dreamer. I use creative visualization every night as I journey into my sleep state. I love that my mind can take me wherever I want to go and I’ve gotten better at focusing and really putting myself into the situations that take me closer to my most authentic self. Each day that follows, I feel inspired, sometimes with new ideas, to keep marching toward my goals. I think this perpetual practice has led me to believe that I really CAN achieve my goals.
    What was the question again?
    Yeah, the ocean! I am connected to the beach. It is so liberating to me. I love to have beach smells and ocean sounds wherever I can create them. I just love it. I play ocean sounds with the soft flute accompaniment in my office on my ipad, and even at night as a backdrop to my creative journey to everything I hope to be.
    To me, returning home is a trip to the Beach. Yeah. Thank you for helping me to clarify that.

    It just makes me happy.