Sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference. A simple act like taking three deep breaths can make a world of difference in how you show up at work and at home. As the pace becomes more hectic in these last few weeks of the year, slowing yourself down with some intentional breathing is a great idea.
I was reminded of this last week when I was meeting with a couple dozen rising executives of a well-known retailer. We’re in the middle of a four month leadership development program based on my books, The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success and the new one, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. In the first session we spent a lot of time talking about and working on the routines that can help busy leaders show up at their best. As we began the second in-person session last week, I asked the group what they had been working on over the past four or five weeks.
Almost everyone said they’d been working on their breathing. When I asked them to describe the work they talked about taking deeper breaths from their belly, taking deep breaths when they were feeling frustrated and noticing that sometimes under stress they even stopped breathing. (That last one is pretty common actually. You might want to pay attention to whether or not you do that too.)
When I asked them to talk about the impact of paying more attention to their breathing, I heard some good stories about how they were staying more calm in the midst of packed days and making better connections with colleagues because they were showing up more centered. My favorite response, though, came from a woman in the group who had a sly smile on her face. I noticed it and asked her what she was thinking.
She laughed and said, “Well, I’m a little embarrassed to admit this but I’ve been doing it with my kids.” She explained that in those times when her 5-year-old and 8-year-old had gotten a little crazy over the past month, she started taking three deep breaths. It changed her response. She stayed calm with her kids instead of getting crazy herself. Her kids picked up on what she was doing and have started breathing intentionally themselves. So, now the three of them are intentional breathers and the kids are recruiting their father into the mix by telling him, “Daddy, you need to breathe.”
Out of the mouths of babes, right? As you move toward the end of the year, don’t forget to take time to breathe. Here’s a link to a short video where I teach you how to breathe from your belly. If you’re already an expert at that, here’s a link to another video that offers about three minutes of the waves lapping against the shore at Pebble Beach. If that doesn’t make you feel like taking some deep breaths, we need to talk!