Lead Yourself with Compassion

 


5

Lead Yourself with Compassion

The airline industry has got it right: when there are pressure issues in the cabin, they instruct us to put on our own oxygen mask first—to help ourselves—before helping others. This wisdom is equally important in leadership. In shouldering the responsibility of leadership, we take on a great deal of pressure. Self-compassion helps us lead ourselves in a way that mitigates this pressure and increases our leadership performance.

However, in our research and interviews, we have found that many leaders are rather tough on themselves. Their minds can go into a mode of negative self-talk and self-judgment. Noelene Mason, principal of Malibu School, a large special education school in Australia, shared with us how the first years she was in leadership roles were hard. “In my early years, I felt as though the only feedback I received was about my deficits, where I needed to improve, and what I was doing wrong. My perception of myself was that I was good but never good enough. I always felt I had to put on a mask, a coat of armor, because I had to appear strong and in control all of the time.”

Noelene’s problem wasn’t that she was an incompetent leader. In fact, she kept progressing in her career and being offered more senior positions. Her challenge was her own internal voice, telling her that she wasn’t fully competent. But as we discussed in previous chapters, the voice in our head is just a voice, and if we decide to ignore it, it loses its power over us. And this is what Noelene came to realize. Through a mindfulness training program, she learned to stop listening to the negative self-talk, to have stronger self-acceptance: “Today, I am allowing myself to be who I am, and I find I am enjoying being with other people. And people seem to enjoy more being with me. Letting go of my inner voice, has made me a much better leader.”

Our research has shown that on average, higher-ranking leaders have greater levels of compassion for themselves than midlevel managers. From our interviews and discussions, it appears that they’ve had the discipline of caring for themselves and sustaining high performance throughout their career progressions. Our conclusion: leading yourself with compassion is a vital enabler for successful leadership.

Many people dismiss self-compassion, because they think it conflicts with their ambition or hard-driving attitude, which are qualities that they believe have made them successful. But being self-compassionate doesn’t imply that you shouldn’t be ambitious or push yourself to succeed. Self-compassion is about how you care for yourself to better succeed.

Self-compassion involves taking care of your body and your mind. This chapter includes strategies to help you sleep better, digitally disconnect, and take mental breaks. We then look at how to maintain more balance in your mind, increase kindness, and leverage the power of purpose.

Care for Your Body and Mind

Taking care of your mind and body includes the basics of finding time to exercise and making a commitment to a healthy diet. Being physically active and eating properly are foundations for high performance and improved well-being—a fact well understood by most leaders. Through our own research, we’ve found three additional factors critical to a healthy mind that are less appreciated by busy leaders: the need for quality sleep; the need to disengage from compulsive technologies; and the need to make time for mental breaks.

Get Enough Quality Sleep

Although all aspects of good health are important, our research shows that sleep is often one of the first “luxuries” compromised by leaders. When there are not enough hours in the day, they steal some from the night. Many leaders stay up late to catch up on email or finish other tasks. According to our research, this tendency is widespread, regardless of gender and level of leadership. We found that 68 percent of leaders get between five to seven hours of sleep per night, with only 28 percent getting seven or more hours of sleep on a typical night.

This is a problem. Sleep is not a luxury.

According to the American National Sleep Foundation, adults between the ages of sixteen and sixty-four should be getting between seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If they don’t, they pay a steep price. Scientific studies have conclusively shown that sleep deprivation is a key issue underlying a long list of mental and physical disorders. Even light sleep deprivation has been proven to negatively impact logical reasoning, executive function, attention, and mood. Worse, severe sleep deprivation can lead to depression, anxiety, and symptoms of paranoia. In the long run, sleep deprivation is a main contributor to the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Now the most surprising fact: while humans can survive multiple weeks without food and up to a week without water, they can only go a few days without sleep.

Our research found that leaders with a disciplined approach to self-compassion sleep more. In fact, the majority of C-suite executives we spoke with get seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Despite intense travel and demanding schedules, they are all disciplined about not compromising on sleep. Some block their calendars from a certain time in the evening. Others have asked for support from their spouses, executive assistants, and colleagues to keep a healthy sleep regimen.

It used to be a badge of honor to brag about how few hours you sleep, but many of the leaders we interviewed share openly with their colleagues that they get sufficient sleep. Take a moment to reflect on your own sleep habits. Do you get seven or more hours per night? If not, consider testing how getting more sleep could enhance your performance and well-being. For the next two weeks, make a commitment to yourself to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. After two weeks, see if you notice any difference in your well-being and focus.

Of course, it’s one thing to make a commitment to go to bed early and another to actually get seven or more hours of quality sleep. For many leaders, going to bed is only part of the problem. The other part is getting high-quality, restorative sleep. Fortunately, a good night’s sleep is not a random event; it’s a trainable skill. The following are some guidelines for improving the quality of your sleep:

  • Catch the melatonin wave. Go to bed when you’re just starting to feel drowsy (usually between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.). Melatonin, a natural hormone released from the pineal gland deep inside your brain, makes you relaxed, drowsy, and ultimately fall asleep. If you learn to notice it and go with its flow, you’ll enjoy falling asleep and have better-quality sleep during the night.

  • Avoid screens. Turn off TVs, smartphones, and laptops at least sixty minutes before bed. Why? Each of those screens emits high levels of blue light rays. That blue light suppresses your pineal gland, and, in turn, the production of melatonin. It’s almost like your brain reads the blue light as if the sun is still up, when in reality the sun has probably been down for hours and you should be sleeping.

  • Enjoy only perceptual activities sixty minutes before bed. Too much thinking is another enemy of late-evening drowsiness. Conceptual activities like intense conversations, replying to emails, working, or reading can arouse your attention and suppress your natural sleepiness. In contrast, perceptual activities like doing the dishes, going for a walk, or listening to music can help you better catch the wave of melatonin as it rises.

  • Avoid eating two hours before bed. Most people know to avoid caffeine in the hours before going to bed, but in fact, eating anything can negatively impact your ability to get good sleep. Eating activates the flow of blood and sugar in the body, keeping your body and mind alert and awake. Not the ideal state for a good night’s rest.

  • Practice two minutes of mindfulness when you go to bed. Practice focus training while sitting on your bed, followed by two minutes of relaxed breathing while lying on your back, then turn on your side and let go of your thoughts and concerns.

As you begin to enjoy the benefits of more and better sleep, consider ways you can wean yourself from the compulsive interruptions created by today’s most popular technologies.

Practice Disciplined Disconnectedness

The rise of technology in our lives puts us at serious risk of shattering our ability to be present with other people and diminishing our well-being. The dopamine rush released when checking texts, emails, or social media on our phone, tablet, or computer drives us to compulsively check these devices. Without thought or plan, we click through messages, update our status, or read the latest irrelevant factoid. To better understand the scope of the problem, consider the following statistics from Deloitte’s annual “Global Mobile Consumer Survey”:

  • The time it takes for us to first pick up our phones in the morning continues to shrink—more than 40 percent of respondents check their phones within five minutes of waking up.

  • During the day, we look at our phones forty-seven times on average.

  • Once the day is over, more than 30 percent of professionals check their devices five minutes before going to sleep—and about 50 percent of professionals check their phones in the middle of the night.

  • During leisure time, 89 percent of respondents check their phones, 93 percent while watching TV and 87 percent while talking to family and friends.

Keep in mind what we noted in chapter 3: your prefrontal cortex actually shrinks the more often you let yourself be interrupted by disruptive technologies like instant messaging, email, and social media. The fact that we actively choose to check our phone while talking to family and friends indicates that it has indeed become compulsive behavior. If you’re wondering whether this applies to you, try this quick test. Turn off your phone and leave it off for the next two hours. While it’s off, notice how often you feel the desire to check it. How does it feel to be disconnected? Are you feeling a little anxious? If not, you’re a rarity in today’s hyperconnected world. If so, you’re like most leaders—too strongly tethered to today’s most distracting, addictive tools.

Our compulsive phone habits impact our social relations both at work and at home. Sherry Turkle, professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT and author of the bestselling Alone Together, has found that the mere presence of a phone during a conversation creates a “distance” between the people attending a meeting or taking part in a social activity. Even if the phone is not used—and even if it’s lying face down—it impacts the quality of social interaction. This raises a number of important questions for you as a leader. How often do you have your phone on the table in front of you when you have a one-on-one conversation? How often is it visible during meetings? How often do you hold or use your phone when you’re with family and friends? If you’re like many people, the answer to all these questions is “too often.”

We stand to gain by assessing and redefining how we let technology influence our work and life—especially in terms of when we’re connected and when we’re not. Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow, author of Sleeping with Your Smartphone, conducted an in-depth study of the effects of digital disconnection at Boston Consulting Group, a global management consulting group. Even in such a fast-paced and high-pressure environment, the study showed that the consultants who disconnected from their mobile devices for a few hours every week experienced better internal communication, increased learning, and improved delivery to their clients.

In today’s business environment, disconnecting requires discipline and the application of a few basic principles. The following are a few tips for disconnecting from compulsive technologies and more compassionately leading yourself:

  • Define phone-free zones at home and at work.

  • At work, keep your phone out of sight when you’re engaging with others.

  • When you’re sitting at your computer, keep the phone out of sight so it doesn’t trigger compulsive checking. Or simply turn it off for periods of time.

  • At home, find a hidden location for your phone; a place you can keep it without it attracting your attention.

  • Treat your bedroom like an airline flight cabin. On a flight, your phone must be in “airplane mode” or turned off. The same should go for your bedroom.

As leaders, much of our success at work—and in life—depends on how well we’re able to engage with people, including our colleagues, employees, customers, and suppliers. We need to both hear them and influence them; understand them and guide them. By shutting off compulsive devices that steal our attention, we not only free ourselves from the control of technology, we strengthen our personal and professional interactions in a way that improves relationships and accelerates success.

Take Time for Mental Breaks

Much like a good night’s sleep, taking regular breaks is seen by many leaders as a “luxury.” But in reality, taking breaks is an impactful, simple, and pleasant way of increasing your focus and lengthening your attention span. Air-traffic controllers, more than most professionals, understand the importance of focus and attention. Sitting in their control towers, literally watching over thousands of lives, there is no room for distractions. To maintain this superhuman level of attention, air-traffic controllers are legally required to take fifteen-minute breaks every hour.

In a 2013 Harvard Business Review article, “To Strengthen Your Attention Span, Stop Overtaxing It,” best-selling author Daniel Goleman describes the importance of breaks to maintain mental performance throughout long working days. “Top performance requires full focus,” he wrote, “and sustaining focused attention consumes energy—more technically, your brain exhausts its fuel, glucose. Without rest, our brains grow more depleted. The signs of a brain running on empty include, for instance, distractedness, irritability, fatigue, and finding yourself checking Facebook when you should be doing your work.”

Chris Schmidt, CEO of Moss Adams, a US-based accounting firm, takes short mental breaks between every meeting or big task. During these breaks, he gazes on the Seattle-area mountains through his office windows for a minute or two, thinking of nothing. This helps him continually refresh his attention during long, stressful workdays.

Many of us are so busy that we forget to take a break. Often, the only break we do take is for lunch. And even that “break” is often only the minutes it takes to grab food and bring it back to our desk. Take a moment to consider two quick questions: How often do you take breaks during a work day? What keeps you from taking more breaks? Interestingly enough, the main barrier between ourselves and taking breaks is not our organizations. In fact, most organizations recognize the value of breaks—many even encourage them.

It turns out that the greatest enemy of breaks is most often ourselves. Here are a few steps for making the most of what little time you have for taking mental performance breaks throughout your workday:

  1. Let go of your work activities. Close your eyes or keep them open, whichever you prefer.

  2. Direct your full attention to your breath.

  3. For three breath cycles: Breathe in while noticing your breath; breathe out while relaxing your shoulders, neck, and arms. Breathe in while focusing fully on your inhale; breathe out while focusing on the exhale. Breathe in while enhancing the clarity of your attention; breathe out while maintaining clarity.

  4. Let go of the exercise. Return to your work with renewed relaxation, focus, and clarity.

The benefits of allowing your brain short regular breaks from the stress and rigors of work are numerous. Your brain is re-energized, your mind is more focused and clear, your body is more relaxed, and you break the spell of constant distractions. If you do have to skip breaks, it’s not the end of the world. Just remember, the more you take them, the more rested and effective your mind will be. Think of it this way: a day without breaks is for the mind what running a marathon without water is for the body—unnecessarily exhausting.

Taking care of the basic needs of body and mind should be a priority for every leader. Unfortunately, too many of us compromise our health to meet the demands of our jobs. Although we may be able to sustain an unrelenting pace in the short term, eventually not taking care of ourselves will catch up with us. To avoid this fate, be kind to yourself and make self-care a priority. From this foundation, the next step is to cultivate more balance in your mind.

Equanimity—a Mind in Balance

We are all bipolar to some degree. We move up and down a scale between euphoric, elated states and depressed, despondent states, depending on the latest results or news. But it’s dangerous to get too high or too low based on daily events. This is especially true if we begin to get attached to the states of euphoria or excitement that success can bring. Attachment of any kind has its downside, but a strong attachment to an elated state often means that feelings like sadness, frustration, and disappointment will come more easily. It’s like a pendulum—the farther you swing in one direction, the farther you’ll swing back in the other direction. Equanimity is a form of accepting the good just as you accept the bad and vice versa: they’re both transitory states that will pass.

Does this mean you need to become someone who doesn’t enjoy the ups and downs of life? Quite the opposite. It means you can relish the things you truly enjoy without developing an all-encompassing desire or addiction to those things. It also means you can respond more skillfully to things you don’t like without becoming angry or aggressive. Remember, you are only letting go of your attachment to pleasant experiences, not the experiences themselves.

This sort of mental balance creates an overall state of contentment and happiness that averages out to be much more positive than having peaks and valleys that are euphorically high or painfully low. It also supports strong self-leadership and people leadership skills.

Equanimity is a mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper. It is a mind in balance, despite both positive and negative events. In this way, equanimity is the middle ground between attachment and aversion to the events, interactions, and feelings we experience in life. It’s the art of viewing life’s successes and tragedies as ebbs and flows without getting pulled up or down. Equanimity is an important component of self-compassion and in leading ourselves, because it teaches us to be in balance with things as they are, to be clear minded and accepting of life’s vagaries.

To better understand how a balanced mind can inform leadership, we talked with Manish Chopra, a senior partner at McKinsey & Company who has trained extensively on maintaining mental balance. We asked him how equanimity has impacted the way he leads.

“As a leader,” he said, “you get your fair share of difficult situations on a daily basis, primarily because other people’s difficult situations are brought to you for resolution.” This is a reality that all leaders can understand. Everyone’s problems become your problems. Manish continued, “Equanimity has helped me find ways to manage difficult situations differently than I did before. So whether it’s the loss of a client, a delay in career progression, or a difficult personal situation with a direct report who needs a more empathetic ear—these are all instances that I dealt with differently in the past by being overly reactive. Now, I’m more balanced in each situation and able to provide more thoughtful, effective responses.”

We then asked Manish if by becoming more equanimous, leaders lose their taste for business success. In other words, does a balanced mind temper the drive for achievement? “If anything, the opposite has happened,” Manish countered. “My aspirations have gone up, not down. I feel more available to myself for trying things that I otherwise wouldn’t have attempted before. Building equanimity frees up mind space for other productive pursuits. And with continued practice, effort and output actually go up.”

The ability to better manage difficult situations—along with an increased degree of ambition—is a benefit to leaders at all levels. But having a balanced mind is not something you can just believe in. It’s not possible to say, “Well, I choose not to be attached to that feeling of being overly elated or excited.” You can’t talk yourself out of feeling euphoric. If you’re feeling elated, that’s what you’re feeling. Instead, your ability to maintain balance is determined by how you train your mind to respond to different situations in life.

A challenge for all of us as leaders comes when we succeed, for instance, in selling a big order or closing a major deal. We naturally get excited. Unfortunately, after we have been elated for a short time, our mind has a tendency to swing in the opposite direction as the enjoyment wears off. Furthermore, after we have tasted that experience, we crave to feel it again. This is due to the release of dopamine in our brain. It’s like trying to drink saltwater to quench our thirst: we just end up getting thirstier.

Another neurotransmitter, serotonin, has a wide-ranging impact on the mind and body, primarily serving to inhibit impulsive behavior and increase relaxation and clarity. Serotonin and dopamine are closely connected. When they’re in balance, we can enjoy good food, or a glass of wine, or a big win at work, without becoming addicted. Serotonin offsets the negative effect of dopamine, enabling us to be more resilient in the face of adversity. The more you train yourself to resist automatic impulses, the more balanced your dopamine and serotonin levels become.

This is important, because we as human beings naturally desire things. A study by Wilhelm Hofmann, a professor at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, found that the average adult spends eight hours a day desiring things they don’t have in the moment. Our main desire is food. This is followed by sleep, then media use, then sex, social contact, and leisure. We are, indeed, desiring beings. And when we desire, we’re by definition out of mental balance, because we’re craving something that we do not have. The following are a few tips for working toward increasing balance in your mind:

  • When you feel an impulse toward elation or euphoria, pause for a moment to let your mind find balance and grounding.

  • Consciously identify the events at work that bring you instant gratification. Now identify the events that bring discomfort. Be aware of your reactions to these tasks, and temper those reactions by purposefully limiting or delaying the gratification of the experiences you like, while more actively confronting the experiences you dislike.

  • Train balance by being aware of your reactions to everything you experience: good, bad, and neutral. Notice the experiences you like and those you do not like; situations in which you experience attraction and situations in which you experience aversion.

  • Just being aware of these reactions will lead to change. When you become aware of a desire, the desire will lessen as it’s replaced by awareness of the desire. When you become aware of resistance, the resistance will lessen as it’s replaced by awareness of it. If something is pleasant and nice, you observe it neutrally without giving it more value or holding onto it. If something is unpleasant, you observe it neutrally without wanting it to disappear.

Maintaining a balanced mind—and, by extension, leading yourself with compassion—requires discipline. Discipline is about having the strength to do what is good for you in the long term. Discipline is about avoiding impulsive behavior that generates short-term gratification but in the long run is not healthy or helpful. In this sense, true happiness is not to be in an elevated state of euphoria, but rather to be in balanced state that allows you to accept the ups and downs of life. Being balanced eases self-doubt. It boosts resilience. And it increases kindness for yourself and for others. Having a balanced mind means that you are happy with what you have without clinging to it; that you value success without grasping for it. And that is truly one of the most compassionate gifts any leader can give her- or himself.

Practice Kindness

Sue Gilchrist, regional managing partner for Asia and Australia, of the global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, has been a senior leader in the legal industry for two decades. In this highly competitive environment, people are trained to be critical, and there’s a lot of pressure to be “right … always.” This feeds into a culture where people work very hard for long hours and strive for perfection. People also tend to ruminate on challenges and assume their decisions or actions will be held up to be judged and criticized. This is a common trait in the legal business, as well as in many other industries.

But, of course, we’re all human—and humans make mistakes, plus there may well be more than one “correct” approach to a challenge. When we perceive that we have made a mistake, we often hold on to that mistake, obsessing over it and harshly judging ourselves. We let the inner critic free. This can inhibit thinking and in particular, creative thinking.

The important thing to keep in mind is that this inner critic is self-created; it’s a construct of our mind. With a well-trained, compassionate mind, however, we can learn to dismantle this critic and reframe perceived mistakes. Understanding this, Sue supported the implementation of a mindfulness program at Herbert Smith Freehills to help her lawyers enhance performance, lessen self-judgment, and create more self-compassion. Observing her own team, she noticed that the training gave them the insight and tools needed to help overcome their inner critic and reframe perceived mistakes or imperfections in a more productive way. What would normally be a self-critical voice saying, “How could I miss that particular detail?” can be reframed as, “It was important to focus on the substantive arguments at this early stage. We’ll get to finessing all of the details next.” The benefit of a team working on this together is that the compassion quotient within the team increases along with everyone’s feeling of psychological safety.

Reflect for a moment on how you treat yourself when you make a big mistake or experience a setback. If you’re like most successful leaders, you’re probably pretty tough on yourself. And yet, if you dive into self-criticism, hide in embarrassment, or ruminate for a long time on your perceived shortcomings, it isn’t helpful. When things go wrong—and especially when we fail in front of others—we can become our own worst enemy. But with self-compassion, there are other alternatives.

Being kind to yourself is the ability to acknowledge that you are good enough. Yes, you are a human being with flaws and imperfection, but you’re doing your best. When you make mistakes, it’s important to stop and learn from them. But once you’ve learned the appropriate lessons and done what you can do to fix any negative consequences, it’s time to move on. It’s time to let go.

Researchers from the University of Arizona conducted a study to find the impact of self-compassion on people who have been through a crisis. “Higher levels of self-compassion,” they wrote, “were associated with less emotional intrusion into daily life.” In essence, people who are high in self-compassion tend to experience distressing events without becoming overwhelmed or stuck. They view themselves and their actions empathetically, which allows them to see both the highs and the lows of life as part of the human experience. More resilient, they’re better able to take responsibility for events and more easily bounce back from a setback.

Self-acceptance, especially of mistakes, is the cornerstone of self-compassion. Take a moment to reflect on how often your inner critic shows up, creating self-doubt and lowering your sense of self-worth. Are there certain situations in which that judging voice is more likely to arise? Now make a conscious choice to pause the next time your inner critic pops up and try the following steps:

  1. Acknowledge that your inner critic has made an appearance.

  2. Pause and breathe.

  3. Remind yourself that you’re doing your best.

  4. Pause and breathe.

  5. When you’re ready, let go of your inner critic and move on.

We all make mistakes. None of us are perfect. But what separates average leaders from exceptional leaders is the ability to quickly move on from life’s inevitable missteps.

But the benefits of kindness don’t end with defeating your inner critic. Once you commit to caring about yourself, you gain greater capacity to care for the people you lead. And according to research, being kind to others is one of the most effective ways to become happier yourself.

Numerous studies indicate that being kind to others positively impacts our happiness and well-being. This was in direct contrast to popularly held beliefs—which are often amplified by our consumerist culture—that when it comes to happiness, we should focus on ourselves. In an extensive longitudinal experiment, researchers found that doing acts of kindness for others consistently makes people happier than focusing on themselves. The results of this study contribute to a growing research base that supports the benefits of what’s termed “prosocial behavior.” In striving for happiness, you may be tempted to treat yourself, but treating your colleagues yields even better results.

But let’s face it. Being explicitly kind to others is not the norm in many organizations. It goes against the grain of conventional wisdom, which suggests that if we want to feel better, we need to treat ourselves to a nice dinner, a massage, or some new gadget. But these types of self-indulgences provide only short-term relief. This is because, as explained in chapter 2, true happiness always comes from within—from what we give to the world. In contrast, fleeting pleasure comes from outside—from what we get from the world. When we as leaders treat both ourselves and other people with more kindness, we feel better about ourselves, improve outcomes, and create a more humane culture.

The Power of Purpose

An important aspect of self-compassion is purpose. Developing a sense of purpose in what we do makes us get up in the morning filled with energy, passion, and meaning. A sense of purpose provides the drive we need to carry the responsibility of leadership.

But purpose isn’t a given. It’s something we must create by finding meaning in what we do day-to-day, month-to-month, and through the years. A great example of that is the story of Nand Chaudhary, CEO of Jaipur Rugs.

Founded in 1978, Jaipur Rugs is a social enterprise that connects rural artisans in India with global markets, empowering impoverished communities and preserving traditional craftsmanship. We asked Nand what he saw as the ultimate role of a leader. He answered instantly: “The main role of a leader is to be connected with oneself and to have a sense of purpose. And from that, to bring people within the organization along on that purpose.”

He then offered a personal story. When he was in college, he had a very strict business professor. One day, the professor burst into the classroom, called out Nand by name, and told him to stand. Alarmed, his mind raced, trying to pinpoint exactly what he had done wrong. The professor took out a term paper and told the whole class, “See this boy? He’s given the best answer in his paper.” The question: What is the purpose of business? Nand’s answer: “Business is the creator and preserver of civilization.”

Nand has carried this strong sense of purpose from college through decades of business practice. About Jaipur Rugs, he likes to say, “We don’t sell carpets; we sell a family’s blessing.” Today, his organization provides a sustainable livelihood to more than forty thousand artisans across six hundred villages in five states in India. While enormously successful, Jaipur Rugs is an inspiring case study in how a purpose-driven leader can catalyze social innovation, foster a disruptive business model, and support marginalized communities.

Many business experts make the case that purpose is a key to exceptional performance, while psychologists describe it as the pathway to greater well-being. Doctors have even found that people with purpose in their lives are less prone to disease. Purpose is increasingly being touted as the key to navigating the complex, volatile world we face today, where strategy is ever changing and few decisions are obviously “right” or “wrong.”

Finding your purpose as a leader is not always easy. Many industries do not have the same inherent “feel-good” purpose like Jaipur Rugs. But purpose should not only be looked for in what the company does. It should also be looked for in what you do. Your way of leading your people has a massive impact on their lives, and with that, the lives of their families. As a leader and as a colleague, you have an opportunity for having big and positive impact on others. And in that, you can look for purpose.

What do you want to bring to the people you lead—and to their families? How can you influence them to be truly happier and more connected to others? How can you help them find purpose in their work and life?

Nand’s company Jaipur Rugs does not just sell carpets; it is in the business of creating societal change. You are not necessarily in the finance or consulting or pharma industry: you are in the people-impact industry. You have the power to influence for good.

Ask yourself frequently: What do you want to bring to your people and to your organization? How can you bring more benefit? And as described in the previous section, by treating your people to something positive, you stand to gain happiness for yourself too. It’s a win-win.

Training Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is something you can practice and enhance. Do it at the end of any mindfulness practice session you do. It only takes an additional minute. Follow the steps in “Training for Self-Compassion.”

Quick Tips and Reflections

  1.  Commit to practicing self-compassion training on a regular basis as recommended in the app
  2.  Commit to one thing you will do to take better care of your body and mind (e.g., get better sleep, set up phone-free zones, take mental breaks).
  3.  The next time you experience something really good or something really bad, use it as an opportunity to cultivate balance in your mind, as neither type of experience will last.
  4.  Make a commitment to be kind to yourself and your “inner critic”; consider ways that you can befriend it or reframe it so it doesn’t rule your mind.
  5.  Reflect on what purpose means for you and how developing a greater and broader sense of it could be beneficial.


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