After taking Columbia Business School’s Personal Leadership & Success, I started regular practicing meditation to improve my ability to focus, become more mindful, and operate more efficiently under stress. Around the same time, I incorporated a daily exercise routine and began making healthier decision around food and alcohol. I’d give myself a passing grade on the fitness changes, but I’ve been having trouble this last week making time to meditate.
We had friends staying with us last week, and to be honest, I felt slightly embarrassed and selfish about taking the personal time to break-away and from our friends and my son to focus on myself. Additionally, my apartment was full and there wasn’t an ideal place to unplug and collect my thoughts. In hindsight, I should have a back-up location to use, and I recognize that my insecurities aren’t doing me any favors.
There haven’t been many immediate results or from the meditation as of yet, which could have contributed to my recent inconsistency. In fact I’ve actively noticed that I’m just as forgetful and clumsy as I’ve always been. It’s slightly discouraging, but looking on the bright side, perhaps meditation has helped me become more aware of these behaviors as the first steps toward personal growth. Regardless, I know better than to rely on short-term results for validation in this long-term pursuit.
Lastly, I thought I’d share some advice about mediation that I received from a classmate, who struggled as I did. It’s a given that novices will be distracted by thoughts, ideas, images etc. in their early attempts to clear their minds. When this happens to me, it feels like I am failing. However, my classmate suggested that meditation is actually all about the process of pulling your mind back to center after each ‘distraction.’ He compared it to doing curls in weightlifting: you don’t get stronger by just holding the dumbbell up by your shoulder. You build muscle over time moving through the natural resistance.
This perspective shift has been encouraging to me, so I hope it’s relevant to someone else who’s having a difficult time keeping-up a steady routine.
The Personal Leadership & Success block week at Columbia was everything I wanted it to be: Fun, inspirational, thought-provoking, motivational… This week has been a different story.
The class provided an array of frameworks and exercises to identify and re-script default behaviors and emotions, which will help you uncover an optimal version of YOU. We practiced these in class; they sunk in and they made perfect sense.
Returning to work this week, I’ve already had numerous opportunities to put these tools in action. I’ve come to realize that re-wiring a brain is clumsy work. No surprise, it’s a lot harder to apply these frameworks in the wild than it is in a safe and focused classroom environment .
For example, a “bad news” email hits my inbox. I react with a sharp spike of disappointment, and start down a negative path. I can catch myself, and start to unpack the Automatic Negative Thoughts and Self-Defeating beliefs that hijacked my focus. I feel better for a while as I calm my emotional reaction. Once I’m back to ‘center’ it’s only a matter of time before the “bad news” catches my attention again and hijacks me once more. This time I’m dealing with the added frustration from my awareness that I’m losing the fight.
If the class made one thing clear, its that personal growth isn’t a overnight thing. It take time, work, and care. I’m not discouraged by these early failures. The ‘added frustration’ from self-awareness is a actually a positive signal that I’m doing something right. Sort of like waking up sore after your first day back in the gym .
Last week, I attended Professor Hitendra Wadhwa’s course at Columbia Business School, Personal Leadership & Success. Throughout the course we used great leaders in history and business as touchstones for the concepts discussed — Lincoln, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Mandela, and many others. While it’s always inspiring to study these leaders, I feel as if the temporal, geographical, and circumstantial distance make it more challenging for me to apply their principles. I typically draw inspiration from the people around me.
In another class, I had the pleasure to meet Dr. Tomoaki Kato a humble and reserved Surgeon from New York Presbyterian hospital pursing his MBA. In this class we had an exercise in which we had to motivate a fictional team of our peers/employees by sharing a personal story. It was then that I learned of Dr. Kato’s historic achievement…
Here’s a short commercial from New York Presbyterian featuring Heather’s perspective.
Dr. Kato approached Heather’s case with optimism, hope, creativity, and logic where his peers from other hospitals responded with fear, self-doubt, and other “Automatic Negative Thoughts.” Conventional wisdom offered no option for Heather, but Dr. Kato had the strength to see beyond the obvious reasons why he shouldn’t perform the operation, and create medical history .
When I confront my personal ANTs, such as anxiety before reaching out to a very senior contact, I’m going to think about Dr. Kato, the stakes of his decision, and courage it must have taken to forge on. I’ll continue to draw from the great leaders we discussed in class. Through these lenses, I hope to bring some perspective to my doubts, discomforts, and anxieties, and more easily manage these emotions down to a productive level.