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Building resiliency through self-compassion (feat. Sharon Salzberg)

Aug 11, 2021

One secret to resiliency as a leader is self-compassion. The more readily you can forgive yourself for mistakes, the faster you can bounce back. 


Some leaders may believe that forgiving yourself for your mistakes leads to laziness and a lack of ambition. In other words, if you aren’t hard on yourself for errors, you won’t be motivated to improve.


However, according to Sharon Salzberg, this type of punitive mindset only leads to exhaustion, as you drain your energy berating yourself. Self-compassion, on the other hand, allows you to move on more quickly from mistakes, show empathy for yourself and bounce back better than ever.


As a leader, when you model resiliency like this for your team, you help create a sense of stability and strength that can permeate your entire organization. 


Sharon is a mediation pioneer, known for bringing loving-kindness meditation,” a form of meditation that starts with self-compassion and self-kindness, into western culture. She’s also a world-renowned teacher, New York Times bestselling author, and the founder of the Insight Meditation Society.



What is loving-kindness meditation?


Sharon refers to loving-kindness meditation as “the stretch” because it involves stretching your perspective from your default mindset to a lens of kindness. 


For example, a person who has a habit of criticizing themselves at the end of every day for their mistakes could use loving-kindness meditation to intentionally shift their perspective toward what they did well that day.


In our episode, Sharon shared a version of loving-kindness meditation using this framework for shifting perspective: 


  1. Offering kindness to yourself
  2. Offering kindness to someone who has inspired or helped you
  3. Offering kindness to the people in your life
  4. Offering kindness to all beings


As in all forms of meditation, it’s likely your mind will wander — and that’s okay. What’s most important is what happens next: you bring your mind back to the practice.



How loving-kindness meditation enhances leadership


One aspect of Sharon’s work is helping leaders realize the interconnectedness of our world. 


For example, she often asks leaders this question: who else has to do their job well in order for you to do your job well? The farmers who grew your food, the people who paved the roads to make it possible for you to get to work, the teachers at the school your children attend, your team… the list is endless.


Once leaders grasp how dependent we are on one another, their leadership is transformed.


They begin to view every person (and themselves) as part of a larger team, and this makes a huge difference in how they treat employees and even themselves. For instance, leaders begin to see beyond the immediate impact of their actions, foresee how an action or decision reverberates through their whole organization, and, therefore, make sounder decisions.



How to overcome resistance to meditation


I don’t have time. I just can’t do it. I tried once and failed. 


These are some of the most common objections to meditation that Sharon hears.


Her suggestion for those who feel constrained by time is to start with tiny increments. She recommends 12 minutes, three to five times a week. But if you can’t manage that, a simple practice of letting your phone ring three times before answering and meditating through those brief moments can be a great way to become more mindful.


Sharon’s response to those who feel like they “aren’t good at meditation” is to reframe how you view meditation.


It’s not about eradicating thought completely (having a blank mind). It’s about changing your relationship to your thoughts, getting space in between you and your thoughts so that you can observe your thoughts rather than be ruled by them. 


Sharon also guides listeners through a live loving-kindness meditation on this episode so you can experience a shift in your own awareness.


Discover how the simple daily practice of offering kindness — to others and to yourself — can transform your leadership. Come join us!


If you like this episode, you might like a recent interview I did with Patrick McKenna, an uber successful investor who’s learned to fuel his ambition with love, not fear.

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