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

2018 Palmer Award Recipient: Briana Landis

We are so excited to announce this year’s Palmer Award Recipient! Meet and help us to congratulate Briana Landis, an Institute graduate from Meredith College, whose vision is “to create a world free of Multiple Sclerosis.”

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For those unfamiliar with the disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system. This attack on the brain and spinal cord disrupts signals to and from the brain. This interruption can create a variety of problems from numbness to blindness to paralysis.

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Briana herself was diagnosed with MS when she was 4 years old and prior to participating in the Institute, she interned with the research lab DiscoveryMS. These experiences helped Briana to understand the need for funding to be directed towards MS research.

Through her experience at the Institute, Briana realized that, although she is young, she really can make a significant impact on what she cares about! She can be bold in her vision of a world free of Multiple Sclerosis. As she developed her vision further, Briana set a stretch goal to speak with local government officials about funding for MS on the state level as well as eventually speaking with Congress to demonstrate the need for funding on a national level.

Take a look at Briana’s progress!

  • Shared her story at multiple events that were raising money for Multiple Sclerosis
  • Was approached by the National MS Society and asked to go to Congress and speak on their behalf
  • Researched which bills were connected to Multiple Sclerosis and met with the National MS Society to understand the issues more deeply
  • Traveled to DC and spoke with members of Congress and the head of the MS Caucus
  • Met with her local state representative and the Governor of North Carolina

While in DC speaking to members of Congress, Briana asked for support of the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act. This act would prohibit large pharmaceutical companies from having programs that limit access to generic drugs. Briana shared that, on average, a person living with MS will pay $2500.00 a month on medication. Getting the CREATES Act passed means more people will be able to afford the medications they need and enjoy a better quality of life as their symptoms are being treated.28870387_1816760605055167_7650265836946946227_n

There has been progress on the Neurological Conditions Surveillance System, another area that Briana spoke with legislators about. Although previously passed, no funding had been given. Funding has now been established and preliminary results shows there are more than one million people in the United States with Multiple Sclerosis. Earlier studies estimated that number to be only half of that. The census results demonstrate the need for resources to be allocated to those with the disease and for research.

Through her work with her local Representatives and Governor, Briana as advocated for more funding for North Carolina’s Affordable Housing initiative. The passing of this initiative benefits people with MS who have been homebound by providing them with easy-to assemble ramps for their homes. MS can limit one’s physical mobility, keeping them homebound. Those in this situation may not be able to attend doctor’s appointments, pick up prescriptions, run errands, or see friends and family – all activities important to one’s physical and mental health. These ramps can add so much value to those living with MS by helping them be more mobile and offering an increased level of independence and freedom.

Briana’s knows her work is not done yet! Even so, she shared that she is eager to one day say, “I used to have MS.”