One of the challenges of being a leader or business owner is the speed of our day and the uncertainty of what lies ahead. This reminds me of a story told by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist monk and prolific writer on mindfulness.
“There is a story in Zen circles about a man and a horse. The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important. Another man, standing alongside the road, shouts, “Where are you going?” and the rider replies, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”
Most of us can relate to being on a galloping horse, or as Hanh says, “we don’t know where we are going, and we can’t stop.”
Janice Marturano, founder and Executive Director for the Institute for Mindful Leadership, has asked thousands of leaders, “What is missing in your life as a leader?” The most frequent answer is: SPACE. Space, “the breathing room, necessary to be clear and focused and to listen deeply to ourselves and to others.”
The galloping horse represents the energy generated from our habits that pushes and pulls us, causing us to flit from one thing to another, grab lunch on the run, work on a business project at night, and then collapse in bed to wake up and do it all over again. Whew!
Space. How do you find space in your day? Let me offer several thoughts.
First, don’t be judgmental about your habit energies. Do be aware of them and how they push you.
Second, acknowledge the habit energy every time it manifests. Hanh suggests to say, “Hello, my habit energy, I know you are there!”
Third, smile to your habit energy. Why? You are acknowledging its presence vs. fighting or resisting it, which creates negative energy.
Fourth, pause for a minute by taking several mindful breaths with focus on your breath. Just be present with your breath.
You may find that you’ve created SPACE, to be focused and in the moment. With practice, you can extend your mindful breathing longer or use it whenever you are on that galloping horse. This small action can slow you down a bit to appreciate life’s journey, laugh at yourself, and prevent habit energies from dominating your life.