Choose an Open Heartset

I often advocate the importance of an open mindset to realize potential and to see possibilities.  I would also like to emphasize the value of an open heart or a positive “heartset.”

We have each had the experience of being open, present and embracing what is before us. Perhaps it is when we see a young child, a beautiful scene in nature, a piece of inspiring art, a moving song or the view from the peak after a hike.  We sense the preciousness and embrace the moment and connection without judgment or fear. We are in an open and accepting state. We appreciate the moment and are open to what is and what may emerge. Our mind and heart are open. We may experience compassion for a person and their situation. We recognize our humanity and experience connection with others.

I try to remember such moments in my life so that I can reconnect with my open heart and experience the sense of openness more frequently. I have a photo of Santorini, Greece at my desk that reminds me of a beautiful holiday where the blue roof tops of the white buildings mirrored the blue skies, the water sparkled and was clear and the warm sun and cool breeze werewas delightful. I felt glad to be alive and just wanted to be in the moment. I dropped my “to do” list and judgments and enjoyed just being.   When I recall that moment, I can drop from my everyday worry and stress and open my heart and connect with myself and others.

I encourage you to recall such moments and revisit them to allow yourself to connect with open awareness and relax the part of you that may be trying to figure things out, predict the future and that may be worried. You can shift your attention to being aware of awareness and open your heart to the moment. This is a muscle that we can build. We have more capacity with an open heart. We are more likely to trust that things will be okay as they have been for us.  An open heart allows us to be present and to embrace opportunities and possibilities.

Choose to connect with your open-hearted awareness and experience aliveness and possibility. Choose an open heartset.

Breathe Positivity and Peace

Understandably, many people I have been talking with are fearful during these uncertain times. Watching the news and updates brings anxiety and more questions. Worrying takes a lot of energy and does not change the situation. How do we calm ourselves so we can positively influence others?

A very simple practice is to first acknowledge our fear and uncertainty. You might say, “something in me… is afraid of the unknown and what I am imagining.”  You are more than this thought and the truth is there’s a lot of negative circumstances and possibilities. This is “what is.” The larger part of you can hold and be with the part of you that is concerned. Just as a parent acknowledges their child’s fear, we can just be with this part. We don’t have to demand that it shape up or change or argue with it.

After we acknowledge “what is” we can simply notice our breath and as we breathe in we can say, “what is” or “world” and as we exhale say and imagine spreading peace. You can use any words that support your intention of spreading compassion,  peace and kindness.

Breathe in: “What is” or “World” (imagine taking in the uncertainty, pain and negativity)

Breathe out: Peace (imagine spreading peace, compassion, kindness, light and positivity to all)

You can consciously do this simple breathing practice when you are walking, sitting, being with others, watching the news and anytime. It is also useful to be grateful for all that we have and what the world provides.

One small thing we can do is to calm ourselves, breathe and spread positivity. Notice how you feel and the impact on others around you.

What Do You Control?

Like many of you, I work hard to feel like I am in control. I pride myself in being responsible. However, the coronavirus reminds us that there are some things we can control and some that we cannot. We suffer when we try to control what is not within our power to do so.  We can’t control the virus at this point, but we can manage how we respond.

Yes, there is a lot we can do. We can be proactive and follow recommended hygiene practices of washing our hands, engaging in social distancing, sheltering in and self-quarantine. While we would like to know the outcome of this pandemic and how our lives will be impacted, we need to ride the uncertainty.

We need to face our fear of not knowing. We need to give ourselves and others empathy and understanding. We recognize that when we are contracted in fear we lose the full capacity of our neocortex. We may react and do things we regret like fight over toilet paper or hoard food.

We can use this experience to practice being in the present.  We cannot control the future but we can become calm to face what is in front of us. We can be responsible and positively influence others. Leaders are needed to support others through this unknown territory.

We don’t have to be strong alone. In fact, together we can support and inspire one another. Reach out to others during this time. Let people share their real concerns such as worries for elderly family members, children, finances and the future of businesses. Really listen to people, give empathy, assurance and support.

Visualize finding strength during this experience even when we know we are not in control.

An Opportunity to Reflect on What is Important

The disruption caused by the coronavirus gives us the opportunity to revisit and reflect on what is most important to us. Were we spending our time and life energy in the most useful way? What can we let go of that is not really essential? What do we most miss and value and how can we incorporate that into the present circumstances? How might we reimagine our lives?  How might we reimagine our society and world?

This moment gives us the collective opportunity for conversation about what is most important. How do we collectively weather this storm? How do co-create a new future?

I encourage you to consider these questions and engage in open dialogue with your family, friends, colleagues and community.  We have the opportunity to create new patterns. Leaders can encourage being open-minded to possibilities rather than contracting in fear and self-concern. Together we can use this disruption for positive change.

Begin to be still, listen, reflect and engage in what is possible with others for your family, team and our connected world.

Spread Kindness as You Wash

No doubt by now you are well aware of the importance of washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. Some say you should sing Happy Birthday twice to ensure you devote the time needed. 

Another option is to practice a kindness reflection.  For example, I say:

·      May I be safe and at ease

·      May I experience joy

·      May I experience connection

·      May I be creative

It is useful to allow yourself to really feel these emotions. For example,  I revisit and allow myself to have a felt-sense of a moment of joy with my daughter.

Next you can say and envision the same for your family and friends:

·      May they be safe and at ease

·      May they experience joy

·      May they experience connection

·      May they be creative

You can recall that everyone would like these experiences.

Finally, you can wish the same for the wider community and even for people you do not favor.

Research shows that practicing a form of the Loving Kindness reflection has many benefits. Barbara Frederickson found that after 8 weeks people report experiencing less stress and are more positive.   

Practice saying the kindness reflection when washing your hands or at another moment. Be kind to yourself and spread kindness.

Social Distancing Not Social Disconnecting

I keep asking myself, “What can I do to support others during this pandemic affecting all of us?”

Ensuring space between ourselves and others and staying at home, if not a frontline worker, is an act of compassion for others. By minimizing our interaction we reduce the risk of possibly infecting others.

However, physically distancing ourselves does not mean socially disconnecting. In fact, this is a time to reach out to neighbors, colleagues and friends, especially those who may be alone. Social isolation was already an epidemic prior to the COVID-19.  According to a national survey by Cigna, loneliness and social isolation negatively affect our immune systems. Cigna’s 2018 report said that loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Young people report some of the highest rates of loneliness.

Many people are offering forums for people to get together and share their experiences during this period. This may be an opportunity for virtual community building. Join or start a group to listen, learn and share together. (You may be interested in joining an Open Conversation Project Circle. The purpose is to develop a practice of being open, learn conversation skills and work on mini-projects to make a difference in the context of a collaborative and supportive community.) Learn more here:

 We can make a difference by being fully present and listening to one another. In a study we did called the Open Conversation Project a group of coaches and consultants listened to people share their experiences of when they are open and closed. Both those sharing their experiences and those listening compassionately and tentatively reported feeling connected with one another and found it to be a positive and worthwhile experience. Clearly, we can’t solve many things at the moment, but we can truly be open and listen to one another. That will make a difference during this moment of uncertainty and challenge.

We need to keep our hearts open to one another and reach out to connect, even though we may not be in the same room. Wishing you the opportunity to nurture positive and productive relationships during this time.

Where are the Silver Linings?

Drawing by Ann Van Eron

How do we cope with the rapid pace of uncertainty? Life as we know it is changing before our eyes with the spread of the Coronavirus. It is natural to fear the unknown and feel out of control.

First, we need to manage the shock and appreciate “what is.” We can give ourselves and those around us empathy and compassion. We can acknowledge our stress and fear of the unknown. Will we and our loved ones become ill? What will happen to our jobs and livelihoods?  Will our retirement funds rebound or be lost? How long will we be shuttered? How will we handle the social isolation? We need to recognize that each of us will be at different phases of accepting our new reality. And we will cycle through various emotions as things unfold.

While we cannot control the outcome, we can use this as a time to manage our response. We can shift from fear and contraction to choosing to be open and curious. We can catch ourselves when we are fearful and shift to being curious about what may be possible.  Our emotions are contagious. When we are open and curious, we support others in also being open to possibility.

Be open for the possibilities. One leader told me that the crisis was bringing his leadership team together and allowing some system changes that have been needed for a while without resistance. There can be more consideration and alignment around priorities. Perhaps we don’t need so many meetings. For some, there is an opportunity to connect with family in a new way. Others share that they are rapidly learning new leadership skills. The CO2 emissions have been reduced. Perhaps you can use the time of being sheltered to write the book you have planned or work on a special project.

Make it your intention to model an open mindset, be curious and find the silver linings.

Embodying an Open Mindset During Times of Stress and Uncertainty

Drawing by Ann Van Eron

Hoping you and your loved ones are well!

As we navigate this time, many of us are dealing with new challenges, added stress and perhaps moments of shock and paralysis.

We’ve all experienced uncertainty in the past and are resilient. However the current crisis we face as individuals, family members, leaders, professionals and as a society now is daunting.  As we navigate what’s happening, a challenge many of us may face is fully embracing the situations we find ourselves in yet being open and curious, relaxing into our bodies and moving into a creative response. Emotions are contagious and the power of an open mindset is beneficial now more than ever. 

The emotional and physical presence we bring will impact our choices, how centered we feel, and others around us. As we encounter frustrations, disappointment, and fears, there may also be unexpected opportunity.

In this spirit, we invite friends, clients, colleagues and others to join us for a complimentary 30 minute Zoom session for dialogue on:

Embodying an Open Mindset During Times of Stress and Uncertainty

Friday, March 27, 2020  12:30- 1:00 ET

This interactive session is designed to provide an opportunity to connect with others and support you now. Please feel free to invite others.

Hosted by Ann Van Eron and Jackie Sloane

Once you register, you will be sent a Zoom link via email before the session.

Spread kindness

A simple kind word or gesture can make a difference for how a person feels included in the workplace or family. Coaching clients often share these moments and many also share their sense of aloneness. Studies on the employee experience show that while people want meaningful jobs, fairness, transparency and growth they want to experience connection and kindness.

When people change jobs and organizations, they often feel a loss of friendship and connection with others. Research shows the critical importance of psychological safety. Yet intimacy cannot be developed when there is not a sense of kindness and openness to connection. We can each contribute to a sense of psychological safety and connection by being kind to those with whom we interact.

Small gestures of greeting people, smiling and showing interest make a difference. Cigna’s annual study on Loneliness in America showed 52%, a 6% increase than last year, in people feeling alone all or most of the time.  38% say they “do not have close relationships with other people.” With the focus on social media, the internet and emails many are not creating meaningful relationships, particularly young people.

As leaders, it is up to us to reach out to listen, show interest and compassion and to demonstrate kindness and build relationships. We each can make a difference by engaging with people rather than our cell phones.Clayton Christensen, wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “How Will You Measure Your Life?”  He was a highly successful professor and consultant who created substantial impact. Yet, he realized that he would assess his life by the individual people whose lives he touched. He stated, “Don’t worry about the individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people.”

Is Knowing Half the Battle?

I love learning and buy and read a lot of books. I listen to podcasts and am continually exploring. It would be great if I mastered a concept just by listening or reading about it.

Professor Laurie Santos has coined the term GI Joe Fallacy based on the 80’s cartoon in which GI Joe would state after a lesson that “knowing is half the battle.”  However, we all know on some level that even when we know that we want to be grateful, stay present, be kind and be an effective leader that we often fail to live up to our expectations. It takes more than “knowing” what we want to do or should do to make it happen. Behavior change takes conscious effort, planning, practice and habit building.

While we set goals and New Year resolutions, this is only one step. We need to identify small doable habits that we can incorporate into our daily lives.  For example, I set a goal of being more grateful and joyful. I built the habit of reflecting on my day and what I am grateful for right before I fall asleep. I also start the morning experiencing gratefulness for the day. It is a small action that I incorporated into my day.  And yes, it has made a difference. When I experience gratefulness I feel more joyful and alive. Knowing is not enough or even “half the battle.” Building a habit is the critical part. 

If you want to be a more effective leader perhaps you commit to listening and offering empathy before offering your solution. If you want to be more kind perhaps you will send a thoughtful text each morning after breakfast or consciously greet people as you enter your workplace or in your neighborhood.

Identify a goal or habit you would like to incorporate. Study what you need to know and then identify an action you will practice. When will you take a small action?