Mindfulness Matters

Although it can be energizing, the work that a committed leader puts into a cause or community can be also draining. We may find ourselves feeling stuck! Living and leading with integrity is no simple task, but it is possible.

Often, we start intentional conversations of leadership with one simple question: Why? We focus our passion, our work, and our reasoning around that ask. I would like to share my own experience of failure, delayed reflection, and burnout. You might be asking, why tell you this story? To be simple, I will say this: mindfulness matters.  

Within the first few weeks of college, I became involved with multiple clubs on campus as a committee member and soon was invested in all things campus life. From planning events and helping with Orientation, to giving tours and becoming the college mascot, it was never just one thing. Yet student involvement, which gave me the highest highs indirectly led to my lowest lows.

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My third year in college was by far the most challenging. To give context, I was committed to the following:

  • Served as the liaison between Student Government Association and Student Activities Board (in which executive board meetings ranged from 1 hour to 2.5 hours, each);
  • Volunteered off campus six hours/week through my scholarship;
  • Acted as the college mascot at campus and community events to increase overall spirit;
  • Held an on-campus job as a tour guide;
  • Took five 300 level courses; and
  • Floated between two vastly different friend groups

People would ask me how I balanced it all and my short answer would be along the lines of no idea, but in reality, I followed my passions. All of those bullet points gave me tremendous energy and happiness at different times throughout the semester; if one was draining, I would bounce to a different point.

Because of this high level of involvement and the mismanagement of my time, I was not aware that I was spreading myself so thin; my grades suffered, the quality of work diminished and going to events or being with friends felt like a chore. Instead of adding to my college experience, all of these things were just checks in a long list of things I had to do each day.  

While giving a speech to incoming freshman, I remember saying, “Throughout my time [in college], one of the best decisions I made was becoming involved in various aspects of Student Life.” I still stand by that statement 100%, but in hindsight, were there times where if I were to take a step back and reflect in the moment my stress levels would decrease? Absolutely. An advisor once told me (and I am paraphrasing here), “You cannot help others until you take care of yourself”. Those words still ring true to this day. Whenever I find myself stretched too thin or ignoring my own well-being, I think back to that moment.

Moving beyond actively thinking, I reach towards a pen and paper. For me, all I need is a space where I am alone and an instrumental movie score playing in my headphones for the writing to commence. Every entry is different, given that every experience, emotion, and thought I have prior to writing is different – there is no specific, step-by-step formula of what I write about. There are, however, themes of reflecting upon the day and looking forward to what the following day, or week, will bring. 

Only through lived experience did I realize, and understand why, mindfulness matters. Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you; I hope that you learned something along the way.

If you have a story of why mindfulness matters to you, send LeaderShape an email at community@leadershape.org

Colby Brown is a Community Engagement Intern for LeaderShape. He participated in the Institute (2015), served as an On-Site Coordinator for national sessions of the Institute (2017, 2018), and recently participated in Catalyst (2018). As a retired mascot and recent graduate, he spends his young professional life giving back and pursuing a graduate degree in Higher Education, Student Affairs.

October: Reflecting in the Moment

Here at LeaderShape, we rely on the power of our community to make what we do possible. We believe that anything is possible with a compelling vision, integrity, a supportive community and the commitment to stay in action. We spent September looking toward the future, and we hope you did too (head over to our Instagram account and check out the “September” story).

Our vision is a just, caring, and thriving world where everyone leads with integrity and lives in possibility. Where we work in community with one another. Where everyone recognizes their own gifts and finds ways to use them for the greater good. Our intention is to create spaces for others to be included and contribute in this world and then by doing so, lead others to do the same – “to lead, live”.

This month we want to invite everyone, including our staff and organization, to reflect in the moment. Being mindful and present with yourself, and groups you identify with, is beneficial to our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well being.

Below is a peak at some of what we’ll be sharing on our social media platforms this month. We’re eager to reflect with the LeaderShape community this month!

National Book Month

Books expose us to new ideas, connect us to the lived experience of others, and can even bring about self-discovery. October is National Book Month and to celebrate, the LeaderShape staff is sharing what they have been reading.

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Day 7

Leaders inevitably find themselves stuck in the mess; living and leading with integrity is no simple task, but it is possible. Because of this, we will focus our #Day7 in October around why mindfulness matters. Student leaders, especially, can become overwhelmed with everything that college life involves – attending class, preparing for papers and tests, attending club meetings and putting on campus events, not to mention maintaining relationships with friends, families, and partners. This alone can turn a normal nine to five day into a non-stop day with few breaks and little time for meals and sleep.

We believe that all of us, no matter our workload or commitments, is capable of practicing mindfulness. On Sunday, October 7th, follow the hashtag #MindfulnessMatters on Instagram and Twitter as we reflect on ways to practice mindfulness by yourself, with a group, and reasons why it’s beneficial for leaders.

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LeaderShapers in Action

Over the past few weeks, we have heard from LeaderShapers across the nation who  are staying in action. And soon we’ll be sharing even more advice and stories from the participants and facilitators from our programs!

We would like to share your story as well! If, as a result of a LeaderShape program, you have experienced a personal change in thought or behavior or have put what you’ve learned into action. We can’t wait to hear from you!

LeaderShapers In Action

LeaderShapers in Action

LeaderShapers In Action

Our LeaderShape community is filled with people who are guided by their core values and who embrace possibility. Through our Catalyst program, they are encouraged to start something extraordinary on their campuses and in their communities. As Institute graduates, they commit to living and leading with integrity and contribute to creating positive change through a personal vision for the world. By participating in Resilience, they understand the importance of their own personal resilience and work to incorporate resilience-building habits into their daily lives.

As a way to shine a spotlight on the amazing folks in the LeaderShape community, we’ve been collecting and sharing their stories. We’ve learned about Thalia, a graduate assistant in the Office of Diversity Outreach and Development at Kent State University, whose family cluster pushes each other to be a better version of themselves everyday. We connected with April who tells future LeaderShapers to, “[give] it as much as you got, allow yourself to be uncomfortable, because it is only then when we truly learn and grow.” You can also meet Christopher, Eliza, and Jave’on, here.

What about you? Are you someone who is living your best LeaderShape life? Do you know someone who is? If so, contact us! We want to know more and we’re eager to share these LeaderShape stories with the rest of the community.