Friday 5: 5 Ways to Live Compassionately

What does it mean to have compassion?

In very simple terms, it means to seek to compassionblog-post-imageunderstand the life of another person. Whether the person be in your life for years or just a moment, the interaction they have with you is one in which they are valued, heard, and appreciated. Why is compassion important? Because everyone suffers. Everyone. Not everyone’s suffering is the same but regardless of the cause of that suffering, we can all relate to that feeling of pain. When we see that in each other, our hearts are opened to the possibility that we are a lot more alike than we are different.

How then do we live compassionately? Here are a few thoughts…

Withhold judgement. It is easy to see the “perfect” family picture on Instagram and quickly craft a story about that person’s experience, thinking that their life is perfect and they don’t face any trials. It is just as simple to have an interaction with a co-worker who seems agitated and jump to conclusions about them as a person. Don’t craft the story in your head, let the story unfold as the other person wants to share it.
Serve without the expectation of getting anything in return. Let’s be honest, deep down we are all a little selfish and often want to do things because of what we get in return. Put those feelings aside and as you see a need and serve. Don’t boast about it. Don’t expect anything in return. And then when it is over, think about the time you spent serving and what it meant for those you were with.
Be vulnerable. Being with someone as they face a challenge in life is difficult and it can trigger emotions that we would rather not recognize. When a friend gets expelled from school because of academic failure and you are with them when they tell their parents, it requires you to be present and be in the moment with them. Don’t back away from the opportunity to share your emotions, feelings, and experiences. Doing so can create a space for others to do the same. It can show others that no matter what hurt or hang-up they have, they are important to you.
Wish others well. When a car cuts you off in traffic, the first thought in your mind may not be one of good wishes. But what if it was? And not in a sarcastic way – but one of true thoughtfulness. As we go through our days, we interact with many people that we know nothing about. From the cashier at the movie theater to the telemarketer that calls every single week to ask us to change our cable service, they each have a story. What if my reaction was first one of well wishes before one of frustration? It can change the way you see people because your first thought is one of positivity and not frustration.
Practice Self-Compassion. All of the concepts above can be applied to you as well. We are often our own worst critics and, when the world around is also judging us, there can be little escape. So be kind to yourself. See the goodness that you bring to the lives of others. Take time to heal the hurts of your own life.

How will you practice compassion in the coming days? Tell us in the comments!

Kristen Young serves as Senior Vice President at LeaderShape. She is a lifer at LeaderShape! Her first experience with LeaderShape was as a participant and she hasn’t left since!  Outside of work, Kristen is a wife and mother who tries every day to live a life lead by her values and embracing the joy that can come from the ordinary. 

Being Visionary

During the month of May, there will be 38 sessions of the Institute held all around the country! Somewhere around 2,000 people will spend six days considering how they can lead and live with integrity, hold a healthy disregard for the impossible, and work towards a vision that is rooted in their most deeply held values.

Creating a vision is an exciting, challenging, and moving part of the week. It pushes each of us to consider how we want to make a positive impact in the world based on what we care about most.

Beyond the actual vision that this exercise helps us to create, participants are taught a process that can move them from having a vision to being visionary! We are grateful to have visionaries in the LeaderShape community and want to introduce you to one of them.

faceMeet Varun Arora! Varun is the CEO at OpenCurriculum, a California-based nonprofit education technology company that is helping K-12 teachers all around the world teach better. In 2011, Google named him a Zeitgeist Young Mind. Varun has a Bachelors and Masters in Information Systems Management from Carnegie Mellon University and participated in the Institute in Doha, Qatar in 2009. This is what he has to say about being visionary. 

What does being visionary mean to you?
It actually is quite contradictory what it sounds like. It means being so so so close to the hopes, desires, and aspirations of the people whose lives you care to affect that you are able to see for their future what they are incapable of seeing themselves. And then believing in that future more than they can.

What do you think it takes for someone to have a visionary mindset?
A visionary mindset is a very hard skill be good or maintain because it requires a lot of work to build. It’s different from dreaming; dreaming involves casually thinking about a utopian future, but doesn’t actually focus on you understanding how to get from where you are to where you want yourself or your community to be in the future.

In my opinion, here are the quintessential traits a visionary mindset:

Discipline & focus
A visionary operates in the framework of the existing state of the world. To be able to imagine and create the future, he/she needs to understand the past and present in great depth and have a grounded understanding of why it is that something that does not work according to how he/she wishes it could. It takes enormous determination and effort to avoid distractions in this process of building understanding and making oneself skilled enough to do something about it. Distractions are hard to avoid because the entirety of human energy around you is hung up on the status quo.

It takes years and years of hard-work, and that’s only if you get lucky very often.

Practice
A vision is not something you see once and come back to on weekends or during “free time”. It is something you practice and improve upon every single waking minute. You practice the skills and tools at your disposal to achieve change. You practice how to deal with critique of your vision. You practice patience. You practice grit. Many of these skills are counter-intuitive, and thus, a visionary mindset isn’t something you have or don’t have, it is something anyone can build with hard-work, tradeoffs, and sincerity.

Progression
A vision is never static in nature. To conceive a complete change in how humans would behave or act in the future is impossible without making progress every single day towards that vision and evolving oneself and planned milestones during that journey. A vision is never achieved in its entirety – ever. Achievement is measured in progress towards that vision. A vision is only as beautiful as the progress made towards it.

What does being a visionary mean to you?
We hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments!

Friday 5: Things In My Office That Make My Day Better

We spend a lot of time in our offices! Even when you factor in meetings and errands, you’re probably in your office or cubicle about 5 hours a day. How often do you eat lunch at your desk? Ever spilled a cup of coffee on your keyboard? Yeah, me neither.

Because we spend so much time there, it’s nice to have a few items in our work spaces that inspire us, help us be productive, bring us some comfort, and motivate us. There are times when we need those items, right? Sometimes just a small memento can remind us of how far we’ve come, challenge us to push through some tough times, and bring some relief in the times when we think we just can’t keep going.

I keep a few things in my office that help me in those areas.

1. Focus Keeper app – I’m a little competitive. Not with other people; just with myself. This time keeping tool helps me compete with myself in a way that increases my productivity … win-win! The app includes a timer for productivity, and a shorter timer for a break. The goal is to see how many “rounds” of these timers you can complete in a work day. It’s helpful to have small, manageable time goals throughout the day to stay on track.

2. Gym bag and shoes – I try to go to the gym every day over my lunch hour. Keeping a gym bag packed with workout clothes and running shoes in my office certainly helps me stick to that plan. I find that having that time outside the office to sweat helps me come back to the afternoon refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the day. Even if I don’t have time to get to the gym during the day, I will sometimes put those shoes on a take a short walk to clear my head.

3. Pictures of my nephews – My nephews are super important to me. They are a IMG_0021huge part of why I’m grateful for the work we are doing at LeaderShape. I want the world to be much more just, caring, and thriving by the time they’re old enough to attend the Institute. Seeing their pictures throughout the day certainly reminds me of that. They are such kind, funny, smart, and creative boys! Just seeing their smiles can make me smile and refocus my mind onto what’s truly important.

4. Music – This is high on the list of things I value. I often listen to the Productive Morning and Instrumental Study playlists on Spotify. It’s nice to have some quiet background noise that is unfamiliar so I don’t start whistling along On days when I have lots of conference calls and tasks to manage, I start the day with “Eye of the Tiger” … obviously. I think music is so critical in creating a tone, in pumping us up and creating a sense of calm.

5. Inspiring quote – I have some lyrics from a Dave Matthews song framed on my desk which reads, “Take what you can from your dreams, make them as real as anything.” My mother gave this to me a few years ago. Those lyrics are so inspiring to me because sometimes I need reminding to keep pressing on.

What do you keep in your office to help with productivity?
What do you keep in that space that inspires you?

Abby Prince is the Director of Program Quality and Management at LeaderShape. She spent 13+ years in the corporate world as a communicator and analyst before taking the leap into the world of not-for-profit. She hasn’t wanted or needed to look back. Outside of her career, she enjoys creating memories with her nephews, reading big books, rescuing dogs, and spending time in the kitchen.