This last week was a challenging one for me. I found myself with a lot to do, and somehow unable to keep my concentration and focus on the tasks at hand. I usually do my work at night after putting my son to sleep. This week, in an effort to stay on top of my work, I bypassed my usual nightly chores to diligently sit in front of the computer. I had great intentions of methodically working through the papers and presentations I was expected to prepare. Somehow, those evenings would roll away in a flurry of internet searches and Facebook perusals; I would finally go to sleep, my head full of useless information and little closer to my goal. As the week passed, I began to set aside morning time to get my homework done. Rather than go for a run or do yoga, I chose instead to sit in the library and write. This too, seemed to me like a constant struggle. Analysis and eloquence appeared like tiny specks of light dancing just out of reach of my struggling fingertips. When I finally finished everything I needed to do, I felt relieved, but not graceful or fulfilled. I had let the balance slip and I think that was reflected in the quality of my work and in the disheveled state of my home on Friday afternoon. Somehow, in the frenzy to get so many things done, I never let my brain fully exercise itself.
I am going to take this opportunity to talk again a little bit about what I’m learning from the book Leadership from the Inside Out by Kevin Cashman, which is one of the course readings for the class Organizational Leadership. Last week I introduced the concept of Resilience Mastery, and spoke about the importance of balance. Today, I’d like to take a moment with the concept of “Being Mastery”. According to Cashman, Being Mastery is about cultivating an inner silence from which we may think and act consciously. In an effort to help us understand the link between inner being and the outer leadership we take into our organizations, Cashman shares a formula “With no silence, there is no reflection. With no reflection, there is no vision. With no vision, there is no leadership”. He emphasizes that “For most leaders, the most innovative ideas and creative solutions usually arise, not during traditional work hours, but during the quiet, inner moments while swimming, running, walking, gardening, or meditating”.
Given this reading, and the challenges I faced getting things done last week, I have decided this week to more consciously approach my work and life in order to cultivate that inner silence. Meditating is not something I feel comfortable doing; however, I can say quite confidently that I have experienced my greatest insights and creative moments while in motion, or while doing simple, mundane tasks like the dishes. When I start to run, words, thoughts and tasks sift through my head as fast as if I were under a waterfall of things to do; however, as my feet continue to pound the ground, as I begin to listen to my breath, as the sweat begins to bead, the barrage slows down, and for a few glorious moments, my brain feels empty. It is generally in these moments that I think most clearly about my life and the challenges facing me.
I have similar moments doing yoga, and (yes, I know how bizarre this must sound) while doing the dishes. So here are my (somewhat silly, though hopefully effective) goals for the week. I hope that by following through with these commitments, I will give myself space for silence and creativity, as well as increase my productivity
- I will not open Facebook after 9PM- This is becoming a barrier to my creativity and a waste of my time; though I love to know what my friends are up to, this is not (to me) a valid or fulfilling way of keeping in touch with them. I will write a letter or an email if I want to connect.
- I will take 15 minutes to do the dishes quietly after Zeba has gone to sleep. I know I think with more clarity when my kitchen is clean.
- I will go for a run or do yoga at least twice this week. This means making sure that I am on top of my homework in such a way that I am not cramming to finish things.
I understand, looking at my meager list of commitments, that this is hardly the stuff of great leadership. I can’t imagine Nelson Mandela sitting down and saying to himself: “I will run, do the dishes, and avoid social media for a week”. Nevertheless, I imagine that if I have problems with these small things, perhaps some of you do too. In fact, I know that many of my classmates speak of such challenges in getting their work done. So, perhaps together we can work towards the “Leadership being” in each of us, one step, and one dish at a time.