I’m a sage advisor to an Executive Director for a nonprofit. We met the other day and the Executive Director said (I’m paraphrasing), “I feel like I’m in a helium balloon. Every day, more helium is being let in to the point that it’s going to explode.” Then, he wondered out loud if he was the right person in his role right now.
When too much helium gets in our balloon, the effect we feel is frenzy, which is how the Executive Director described it. We can’t focus, we are quick to make decisions that are prone to error, we move from one thing to another, and we can’t catch up. It affects our sleep, attitude, desire to be engaged, and our sense of control. This is exactly how it affected the Executive Director.
So, what to do? The Executive Director came up with a few responses.
- Stop reacting to situations. Instead, pause and choose how to respond.
- Say, “No,” especially to those external situations that land in your lap. If it will not enhance what you’re doing, if it is not part of your plan for 2014, if it will stretch staff thinner and thinner, then say NO. As he said, “Stop chasing the money.”
I suggested the following:
- Slow down. He was moving ahead too quickly without real progress. As a result, he was not in the flow of things and his energy expended was for naught.
- Just go for a walk outside – 10 to 20 minutes – when you feel like the helium balloon is about to burst. Allow yourself to just empty and don’t give attention to work thoughts, unless a creative idea or solution comes forth.
All these actions are mindfulness practices. But to engage in them requires us to first pause, take a few moments to deepen our consciousness of what surrounds me and how I’m being impacted by what I’m experiencing. Then, choose a response “to allow a different, more powerful action or attitude.”