Next Level Blog

Simple, practical, applicable

Mindful Mondays: What’s It Going to Be This Year? Doing or Being? January 26 2015 no responses

doing-being3One of the unexpected pleasures of completing a yoga teacher training course a couple of years ago, was that I had to learn a little bit of Sanskrit – the language of the people who first came up with yoga thousands of years ago. And when I say I learned a little bit of Sanskrit, I mean like a thimbleful. Most of my very limited repertoire is focused on the names of different poses and a few words that represent some of the key concepts from the tradition. The fun part has been making a connection between some of the ancient words I’ve learned and very modern day situations.

For instance, one of my favorite Sanskrit words is vritti. There are a lot of different ways to define that word. The one I like best is mental chatter. Another way to describe it is monkey mind. In some weird way, I find it comforting that even though they didn’t have smart phones to distract them, ancient sages recognized the challenge of monkey mind so much that they came up with a name for it.

This month, I’ve learned a new Sanskrit word that I think is a perfect one to reflect on as we wrap up the first month of the new year. As I wrote here last week, we’ve entered the phase of the year where many of the resolutions and good intentions we set a month ago have been subsumed by the flood of things we have to do every day.

That brings me to that new word which I learned this month from one of my favorite teachers, Sara Ivanhoe. The word is sankalpa. Again, it has many variations on a definition. I really like the way that Sara describes it. Paraphrasing her, the idea of sankalpa isn’t about what we’re going to do; it’s about how we want to be. I love that idea because it takes a lot of the pressure off remembering a list of things we have to do to be better and better. Instead, if we remember how we want to be, the things we need to do to show up that way become fairly self-evident.

While I didn’t know the word sankalpa when I wrote Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, it’s the principle behind the first question of the Life GPS® personal planning tool that’s at the heart of the book – how are you at your best? If you have a clear picture of how you are at your best, that can become a reference point for the actions you take and the outcomes you’re trying to create.

There’s this great question that you may have heard – are you a human being or a human doing? As we move on to the rest of the year, what difference would it make to focus a little more on the being and a little less on the doing?

How to Uncover Happiness When You’re a Leader January 22 2015 no responses

Uncovering Happiness - Book Cover

Being a leader can be and often is a high stress job. The demands on your time, the tough calls, the conflict resolution – it can all add up. If you’re not paying attention, it can leave you feeling stressed out, burned out and even depressed.

In this episode of The Next Level Podcast, I’m sharing a conversation with an expert who can help teach you how to avoid that. Elisha Goldstein, PhD is a psychologist, a well-known and respected teacher of mindfulness and the author of several books including The Now Effect and his latest, Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion.

In this brief conversation, Elisha shares several of his strategies for putting the brakes on the overwhelm and stress which can leave leaders feeling depressed. He explains our brains are not wired to absorb the huge amount of data input that the modern workplace throws at us and shares antidotes that can improve not just your productivity but your overall wellbeing.

You can listen in here for the wisdom and practical tips that Elisha shares from his new book Uncovering Happiness.


Mindful Mondays: Why You Should Take Time to Not Think January 19 2015 2 responses

dontthinkAh, the third week of the new year. The holiday break is an increasingly distant speck in the rearview mirror and we’re all back up to our eyeballs in work. And, of course, our brains are working overtime trying to churn through and process everything we have to do. Gotta’ stay focused, right? There’s too much to do to just let your mind wander.

That’s the wrong call. Let your mind wander. Not all of the time, but at least a few times a day. If you can’t imagine doing that a few times a day, at least take a few breaks during the week to give your mind time to not actively think about a problem you’re trying to solve or a project you’re trying to finish.

Here’s why.

Seven Ways to Play a Bigger Game This Year January 15 2015 no responses

bigger-gameIn fifteen years of coaching high potential and senior leaders, I’ve conducted thousands of hours of colleague feedback interviews. One of the themes that I hear a lot from senior executives talking about high potential leaders is that the client needs to play a bigger game. What the executives mean by that is that the high potential needs to start making an impact beyond their immediate function and start acting as a leader of the entire organization and not just their function.

With the performance reviews and goal setting sessions that come at the beginning of the year, now is a great time to think about how you can play a bigger game this year – the kind of game that really changes things and makes a big difference.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve asked around three dozen high potential leaders to answer the question, “What’s the one thing you need to do to play a bigger game this year?”  I’ve boiled their answers down to seven ways to play a bigger game. If you’re ready to play a bigger game, you’ll want to take a look.

Mindful Mondays: What Do We Agree On? January 12 2015 2 responses

parismarch1Yesterday, millions of people in Paris and around the world marched in solidarity against hate and for human rights. In Paris, the march was led by 40 heads of government from around the world. On the front line, spaced four people away from each other, were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

By marching together, these two leaders along with the 38 others and millions of citizens in Paris and around the world showed a lot of mindfulness. They were all aware of the import of the moment and intentional in demonstrating a strong and clear stand for common values. Netanyahu and Abbas put aside deep and long standing differences to show their support for what they agree on.

All of those who marched on Sunday offer a perspective check for the rest of us. As we begin a new week and a new year, let’s stop and consider how we can work with and build on the values we agree on.

Consider How You Want Them to Feel January 8 2015 8 responses

If you work in an organization with other people, this is the time of year that you’re likely having conversations about goals and expectations for the year. You may be the boss having those talks with your team members. You may be the team member talking with your boss. You may be both.

It’s natural to approach the conversation with a focus on what you want out of it. You have hopes and expectations for the new year. Maybe you want to push the reset button and put things on a new path. No problems with that. It’s all good.

Here’s a tip for a successful conversation. Don’t make it all about you. Focus on the other person in the conversation. Ask about what they want. Ask how you can help. Maybe most importantly, before you start the conversation, ask yourself how you want them to feel after the conversation.

How the other person feels at the end will be a big factor in what happens after the meeting. And just to be clear, I’m not talking about thinking about what you want them to do. I’m talking about how you want them to feel. That means what emotions do you hope they’ll be feeling at the end.

Because so many of us are wired to focus on the logical path to getting results, it’s easy to overlook the emotional aspect of getting things done. Just because we overlook them, though, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. They are. Emotions are just part of the human condition.

So, how do you want them to feel? Confident? Supported? Trusting? Enthusiastic? Optimistic? Challenged? Appreciated? It’s worth thinking about the kind of emotional outcome you’re trying to create and how you need to show up to make that more likely.


If you’re struggling with the concept of thinking through how you want them to feel, take four minutes to join the more than half a billion people who have watched Pharrell’s video of his mega-hit “Happy”. It should help you tune into what I’m talking about.

Please let me know what you think (or how you feel!) by leaving a comment.

Mindful Mondays: How Baby Steps Can Keep You on Track This Year January 5 2015 one response

baby-stepsHave you found yourself already Googling the topic, “Why do New Year’s resolutions fail?” On what is, for many of us, the first full work day of 2015, I’m reminded that this is where the rubber meets the road in terms of all the intentions and resolutions that were made over the holidays.

There’s a lot of research and opinions out there about why resolutions fail. In this post, I want to focus on one big idea about how to make them successful. It’s baby steps. Take them. Love them. Celebrate them. Revel in them.

Baby steps, when focused on a goal and consistently taken, lead to big results. They enable you to make progress by solving for 2% or 5% instead of 100%. Here are a few stories – one about the Beatles, one about yoga and one about business – that illustrate what I mean by that. The stories are followed by five principles for applying baby steps that have worked for me and my clients. Please read on and share your thoughts and questions in the comments.

Mindful Mondays: Set Your 2015 Direction with a Life GPS December 29 2014 one response

life-gpsIf you’re like most people reading this, you regularly use a GPS app on your smartphone to help you get where you want to go. What difference would it make if you had a GPS for your life? As you think through and plan for what you want from 2015, you can use these three simple questions in this post to create a Life GPS® to help you get where you want to go.

The Life GPS® is a personal planning tool that my wife and I came up with when we were parents of two young boys and had very busy lives filled with work, family and community commitments. We wanted a “one pager” that would keep us focused on how we wanted to be and the routines that would help us show up in a way that led to the outcomes that were most important to us in the different arenas of life. Over the past fifteen years, I’ve used the Life GPS® to help thousands of clients and readers get clear about what they’re trying to do and how they need to show up to do that.  The Life GPS® is at the heart of my most recent book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. There’s a lot more in the book than we can cover in one blog post but here are the three big Life GPS® questions to help you get started with setting your direction for 2015. (You can download an editable Life GPS® worksheet here.)

Mindful Mondays: 15 Ways to Get Ready for the New Year December 22 2014 one response

sign-new-yearAs the year winds down and the holiday season is upon us, it’s a great time to reflect on 2014 and plan for 2015. (I wrote a post last week on the reflecting part. Tune in next Monday for the planning part.) When I look back on 2014, one of the biggest things I see in the rearview mirror is the release a couple of months ago of my newest book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve read plenty about the book this year. What you may have missed, though, is a lot of the original articles I wrote and interviews I did on the book for other websites, publications and radio shows. Thinking that you may have a little more free time than usual over the next couple of weeks, here’s a recap of 15 articles that just might help you get ready for the new year.

First up, I wrote two articles this year for The latest is 20 Mindful Habits to Practice for a Happier Holiday. The first was 24 Ways to Be Mindful All Day, Every Day.

Canada’s newspaper of record, The Globe and Mail ran an excerpt from Overworked and Overwhelmed titled Why You Should Choose What Is Easy to Do (and Likely to Make a Difference. I also had a great conversation with their business columnist Harvey Schachter which he summarized in Forget Fight or Flight. Try Rest and Digest. I was thrilled and honored that Overworked and Overwhelmed was named one of The Globe and Mail’s Top Business Books of 2014.

Jeff Haden of Inc. magazine wrote a very popular article based on the book titled 10 Ways to Stop Feeling Overworked and Overwhelmed.

On the radio front, I was excited to talk with Wharton professor Stew Friedman for his Sirius XM show, Work and Life. You can read a transcript of our conversation here.

I’m very grateful to Fast Company magazine for running an excerpt of the book under the title of 7 Ways to Start a More Meaningful Routine and for two great original articles, 5 Routines to Clear Mental Clutter by Stephanie Vozza and 5 Ways to Embrace Mindfulness at Work by Laura Vanderkam.

The New York Daily News shared my message with its readers through an article titled Running on fumes? What to do when you are ‘Overworked and Overwhelmed’ that their reporter Victoria Taylor wrote after interviewing me.

The Huffington Post ran my article, Four ‘Killer Apps’ to Feel Less Overworked and Overwhelmed the week the book launched and recently ran an original article by Lindsay Holmes based on an interview with me titled Five Ways to Combat Stress with a Mental Makeover.

Finally, I hope you’ll get some useful takeaways from one or more of these articles I’ve written for Entrepreneur magazine.

Be Strategic. Set Aside Time for Daily and Weekly Goals.

Apply the Brakes Before You Break.

Up to Your Eyeballs in Work? Reconnect With What You’re In It For.

So, that’s the (partial) list. I hope there’s one or more ideas here for you to chew on. Would love to hear which of them resonate with you. Please leave a comment. And, in the meantime, happy holidays!

How to Avoid the Disaster of Leadership Vertigo December 17 2014 one response


Is there a gap between how you view the impact of your leadership and the way others view or experience it? If there is, then you’re suffering from what leadership expert, speaker and author Tanveer Naseer calls “leadership vertigo.” That’s actually the title of a new book that Naseer has co-authored with S. Max Brown. As Tanveer explains it in a recent conversation he had with me, leadership vertigo occurs when your brain tells you one thing and the facts tell you another. Just as vertigo can lead to disaster in the rest of life, leadership vertigo can lead to disaster in organizational life.

In this recording of our brief conversation, Tanveer clearly outlines four principles that can help you avoid leadership vertigo. Even if you don’t think you need to, you’ll want to give this a listen. It might just save you from a leadership disaster.