Impact Leadership Mindset Reflection Self awareness

Game of awareness and intention

Everything we decide, every behavior we show, every action we take, and every conversation we have results in better or worse performance.

For ten days, I participated in a meditation retreat. This experience, which required waking up at 4 am, challenged my preconceived notions about my habits and routines. I had always considered myself a morning person, but the early start to the day at the retreat was a new experience for me.

I also needed to figure out what to think of the light meal option of two pieces of fruit at 5 pm with a cup of tea as the final meal for the day. I was used to having it reversed: a light breakfast consisting of a healthy smoothie with protein, a decent lunch, and, most of the time, a warm dinner.

As I contemplated the idea of meditating for 100 hours and the unique meal plan, I found myself curious and genuinely intrigued by the possibilities. 

Here’s what happened in reality. 

From the first day, I found myself in a state of serene calm. The early morning walk, accompanied by the chirping of birds and the fresh English countryside air, instilled a sense of tranquility that I grew to cherish.

The meals were also great. I had a healthy breakfast with peppermint tea, a vegetarian meal with thyme tea for lunch, and two pieces of fruit with chamomile tea, my favorite, for dinner. In between, I refilled my Skoolbeans cup from Iceland with whatever tea I liked. Unlike most English participants, I kept it clean of milk and resisted the light digestive cookies.

During the evening lectures, I learned that continuing to give in to cravings and aversions and adding new ones to your life will result in distressing your system. Conversely, resisting new cravings and aversions will bring old ones to the service and will help you remove them altogether if you consistently practice awareness of mind, body, and soul.

The effect became dramatically clear after a few days.
  • My mind became sharper. Meditating became easier and more profound.
  • Sleeping, although 90 minutes less than usual at home, became solid. I woke up fresh at 4 am.
  • My body started to feel more energetic and less full (I was also eating in moderation), and I never had that dull feeling I sometimes have in the morning.

For ten days, I had no issues at all. I felt much better than I usually do. And I consider myself a healthy person. 

When I returned home, I had lost 3 kilos in ten days. My fat percentage was 2% down, and my muscle weight remained more or less stable — slightly less. That’s because I did only core exercises in the morning. Vigorous exercises were not allowed because they influenced the quality of the meditation. One should always meditate first and then exercise.

Why does this matter to leadership?

We’re often so busy, on the move, and distracted that we don’t internalize our actions. Pausing for ten days and being disconnected causes you to reflect. 

“Taking all the time now to internalize what we learn helps us not to lose any second in the future.”

Erikjan Lantink

Or, as I often say it, slow down to speed up. 

We often don’t slow down because we “don’t have the time.” It’s a vicious cycle that our busy brain does not want to break — pressured by constant change and the pressure to perform now, afraid of the consequences of missing out on anything.

But often, we don’t miss anything. When I switched on my phone after 10 days of disconnecting from everything, the news, of course, had progressed, but everything still looked the same as before. I didn’t miss anything. Yes, there were 459 emails, but none were really urgent because I had communicated and prepared myself well.

Here’s another reason why this last story about being a leader, and before we switch to high-performing teams, matters to all of us leaders.

Everything we do has consequences, good or bad.

There’s an effect to everything we cause. Every intention we have has an impact. 

We must be intentional about who we want to be and who we are today. We must be intentional about the relationships we build and not leave them to chance. We must be intentional about the change we will face in our lives. 

Change is inevitable, so you need to be intentional about it if you don’t want to be caught off guard.

Changes, consequences, effects, or impacts either have a positive or a negative result.

Eating healthy for ten days results in a healthier body and a sharper brain. Giving in to cravings and overeating in the evening, often with an alcoholic beverage, and doing it regularly results in body and mind being less healthy.

Allowing our work life to cause constant stress, not taking any breaks at work, having back-to-back meetings, doing extra work in the evening, and catching up over the weekend will ultimately result in burnout. 

Even worse, the effect of such behaviors can result in our thinking patterns changing, allowing us to drift away from a healthy mind, causing bad decision-making and deterioration of our leadership effectiveness.

As I’ve written recently, you are an athlete committed to top ‘sports’ every day, so why don’t you behave as one?

Here’s the main point I’d like to reiterate at the end of this leadership section.

Everything we decide, every behavior we show, every action we take, and every conversation we have results in either an upward trend in our performance or a downward trend.

With the stress on EVERY!

So, if you decide to reschedule that check-in or feedback conversation for the fifth time because you don’t have time, you’re creating a downward spiral.

You create a reaction with every seed you choose to plant or not to plant. A seed not planted will never come to fruition. A seed planted and nurtured correctly will produce the fruits of your labor. 

Leadership is that simple and that hard at the same time.

It’s simple because it’s an easy concept to grasp. It’s hard because having the presence of mind in everything you do, resisting cravings, and avoiding aversions are some of the hardest challenges for a leader.

Leadership is a game of awareness and intention.

Leadership is a game of understanding the power of the moment, practicing the sharpness of mind, having the discipline to be consistent, and understanding your impact.

One last comment on meditation. Observing the way things are NOW with wisdom is what that’s all about. Meditation will help you to do just that and stay away from the past that’s gone and the future that hasn’t arrived. 

When your mind is sharp, and you plant the right seeds, the result will be exponential growth.

Mind. Seed. Grow.

Erikjan Lantink

Mindset turns into MindSeed. Plant your MindSeeds, and things will turn your way. 

You will need your MindSeeds to be the inspiring leader you want to be for your teams now and in the future. 

May you have the wisdom, courage, care, and awareness to be a leader for the people you serve. 

Your turn: Rat race or Intentional pace? 

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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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