Being awake and aware


We are continuously distracted, and those things that pull us away from the real work of leadership are seductive. That little wired box you hold in your hand that gives you the world at your fingertips is the latest in a long line of things that can sidetrack you. These might include the person who needs your help in solving a problem, and the continual busy-ness that allows you to be drawn away from being a leader or reflecting on your vision.

It’s almost too easy to ride the distraction wave, like a surfer, accumulating adrenaline and kudos for fifteen minutes of using your fingers instead of your minds and hearts. Solving things, doing things, and taking action are what you get rewarded for. You forget that behind these distractions, you must be intentional, and intent requires something different and deeper from you.

Aside from blocking out sacred “thinking time” on your calendar (essential to intentionality) – there is another practice to being the best leader that you can be, a close cousin to your reflective activity. Being awake and aware as you are solving, doing, and acting is the key. If you aren’t doing this, you are only reacting.

The ability to stay awake and aware to your own thinking and behavior, to observe yourself real time while still staying connected to what is happening in front of you are, quite simply, keys to extraordinary leadership. Some thoughts on how to begin your “awake and aware” training program:

Notice and Focus on whatever you are doing. Witness when you get distracted and discover what pulls you away (dislike of the present moment or a pull toward something that is simpler, easier, more interesting?). When you feel your mind or your heart being tugged away from whatever is right before you, take a deep breath, and go back to your present-moment focus.

Observe yourself real time as you go about your day. That might sound a little foreign, but you can learn to become self-observant, and it’s important to do so in order to improve your leadership. Focus on your behaviors. What behaviors are most effective and natural to you? Which ones aren’t a good fit for you, or just don’t get the results you seek? Use your reflection time to consider the answers to these questions.

Observe others real time as you interact with them. How are they reacting to you? Do they back off or are they engaged and honest in your conversations? Their reactions will inform your behavior.

Meditate if you want to make focusing and observing easier. Because meditation is a mindfulness practice that trains your mind to do these things, it will help you to learn to focus and observe much more quickly than you might on your own. Not only that, but for most, it can be a stress-relieving process!

You can work at and learn to rid yourself from the distractions that are keeping you from being awake and aware. These “practices” can help you to be the best leader you can be!


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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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