The program flyer sat on my desk. The words caught my eye.
“Give yourself the gift of time”.
A gift of time. Where do I sign up for that? I wanted to be first in line, especially as the daylight savings change was about to steal 60 precious minutes of my life.
A mindfulness retreat. Hmmm. Years ago I had participated in an eight-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and described in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living. It was invaluable, professionally and personally.
I thought it might be good to get a ‘tune-up’.
But it was a FULL DAY retreat. How could I possibly take a whole day to sit around and meditate? I had too many things to do. Among them, writing this article.
Thankfully I listened to my inner voice. Its volume reduced to a mere whisper by the noisy-ness of all the things I was doing. I had become so caught up in the rat race we call life; I had temporarily forgotten the practice of authenticity.
No, I don’t mean Enron-level lack of integrity. I’m talking about trueness to self. Living the life you want to live, not someday, but now. I had become so busy doing – with the intention of getting someplace else - I forgot to enjoy being.
This is not my feeble attempt at Zen mastery. It’s about authenticity and leadership. There’s a lot written about authentic leadership lately for good reason. Authenticity is not a nice-to-have; it's a leadership requirement as I realized during the retreat.
- When the buzz of the alarm goes off in the morning and your eyes flutter open, do you start the mental list of everything you need to do that day?
- Do you sometimes feel stressed, worried about how you will ever get it all done?
- Have you noticed that even on the days when you get most things done, you still feel a lack of satisfaction?
You’re not alone.
Seems to me that we are all here on the planet to serve a purpose. Life is the journey through which we explore and discover the meaning of our lives. You can say that you practice dentistry because it pays for the life you want to live. You can think of dentistry as a role you leave behind when you go home to your real life.
If so, you might find yourself going through the day on automatic pilot. Irritated by your staff or angry at an emergency patient who should have followed your treatment advice months ago. Fighting to gain a sense of control over your life only to fear that you’re losing the battle.
Authentic leadership is about listening…first and foremost to yourself. It’s setting aside reflection time to be still, to hear the inner voice. Not the one screaming about everything you should be doing but the voice that wants to live a life of contribution, friendship and kindness. A life of being.
So start tomorrow and everyday thereafter with mindfulness. Pay attention to what you’re doing as often as you can. Be present in your work, in your home, in your life.
Before your feet hit the floor as you get out of bed, pause and identify your intention for the day…perhaps to be more patient with yourself and others. Or maybe to be more aware of the things you encounter during the day, to experience the day with wonder. To have more compassion for yourself, knowing you’re doing your best and that’s all any of us can do.
Your reward? A sense of purpose, confidence and meaningfulness that only you can give yourself, and no one can take away from you. Better yet, the rewards get passed along with every interaction you have throughout the day. You’ll feel better, and you’ll have more loyal employees and patients. Give yourself the gift of time. The gift of now…each and every moment.
If you would like to be more fulfilled and authentic in your work, contact Dr. Haller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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