THE EXPERIENCE AND AN OVERVIEW OF THE TWO DAY PROGRAM AND ITS KEY POINTS
So a couple of weeks ago you may remember me writing that I was going to attend the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Course at Google HQ in London. A course dedicated to understanding and implementing mindfulness and wellbeing in the workplace through practising a series of personal development exercises and tools. It was Louise from Work Well Being who kindly introduced me to this course and I’m so thankful to both Louise and SIYLI for the opportunity to attend and take away a number of fantastic tools for my on-going work and life toolbox!
There’s so much I’d like to share with you following this two-day intensive and extremely informative session. Amongst other things we journaled, we practised meditation in various forms and we discussed and tried out different conversational and listening techniques, looking at how we might implement them in the workplace. I would certainly like to cover a few of these topics in greater detail in some future, separate posts.
For today I thought I’d begin with an overview of the two days, a run down of what was covered and some of my personal thoughts and feelings having let the learning start to settle in over the last week or so. If you’re considering taking part in a future course then I hope you’ll find this an interesting and useful insight.
SO WHAT DO YOU EXPERIENCE ON THIS COURSE?
The course is designed to bring forward techniques to help manage the fast paced environments in which we often find ourselves at work and in our lives, in a more thought out, mindful and meaningful way. Helping us to step back and work through problems that perhaps don’t have an immediate solution, to try and find a little more peace, self-awareness and understanding in difficult and challenging situations.
Over the two days our two experienced tutors, Laurie Cameron and Simon Moyes, assisted and guided us through a number of practical exercises as well as sharing their knowledge and expertise. They also discussed the neuroscience that is steadily becoming available to explain and complement the meaning behind mindfulness training and the given exercises.
In a theatre style, conference setting, we were talked through a number of slides, interspersed with opportunities to get up and partner with fellow attendees and practice differing exercises. There was plenty of opportunity to share how we felt about each exercise, ask questions and take short breaks to absorb each step along the way.
The course is designed to make you feel very safe and at ease. Don’t think that you’re going to have to stand up in front of a group of strangers and divulge personal information about things that bother you at work and in life. You do work in pairs at times but in a very safe environment and when it comes to feeding back to the group and the tutors it’s very much up to you whether you choose to bring forward your thoughts and feelings or if you wish instead to sit and absorb from others around you, as well as reflect on each moments revelations for yourself.
PERSONAL THOUGHTS AND MY EXPERIENCE
Personally I very much enjoyed actually sitting back and taking it all in without feeling the pressure to be sharing to social media, taking photographs or commenting in any way if I didn’t feel the need – a common blogging problem at most things I usually attend, and although that’s not something that I dislike at all it was nice to have a completely absorbed and in the moment approach instead. Reminding me that perhaps I need to behave in such a way far more often! After a little persuasion to my mind and body, I was gradually able to find myself truly in the moment and take in what was happening instead of negotiating external pressures and ideals.
When we began our first exercise, a short attention training exercise designed to help us focus our wandering minds, I could physically feel my digitally strained, computer and iPhone focused body and mind fighting against me! My back and shoulders were tense and angry; the mind was still lost in a myriad of early morning commuter woe, concerns over where my phone was in my bag and why couldn’t I remember the name of the person sat next to me, again?! As well as, had my current blog post published itself as instructed whilst I was on the train and when would I get a moment to check and share it to social media. These are the sorts of things that bother me daily! My mind definitely didn’t want to focus and my body was letting me know that it had no interest in sitting up straight and focusing without causing me a lot of tension and unwanted pain. Initially I thought to myself that this had the potential to be a very long two days!!
But by the end of the first day, and without realising it had even happened, each exercise and meditation, the calming, streamlined and more focused approach, had already had an incredibly positive effect to both mind and body. Physical pains and mental chitter chatter had started to ease, and that night I slept like an absolute dream – something that I’d been struggling with in the lead up to that week. So the foremost thing that I took away from day one, aside from a heady desire to share each and every little morsel I had learned and an excitement about just how much of it really made such perfect sense; is a feeling of greater peace and an ability to actually rest.
SOME OF THE TOPICS THAT WE COVERED
Emotional Intelligence is really the key to the course and the skill upon which you are trying to build. Self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy and social skills all collide to enable us to better interpret our own emotions and those of others around us. We looked at this in greater detail, trying to grasp ways of improving our emotional intelligence and how we can apply this in both the workplace and in life.
Mindfulness is such a growing topic and beneficial skill. But of course it’s easy to be mindful when everything is calm and you feel collected and on top of things. The true trick and challenge is learning how to maintain it when that calm, stillness has been well and truly disturbed. When everything is coming at you at once and you need to make decisions despite pressure and stress being ever present. Through learning how to cultivate the mind, set an intention for what you wish to achieve, apply focused attention and invite an open awareness of yourself and your surroundings, learning how to be a little more mindful in your everyday work can really enable the following:
- Stability in the midst of a storm - sit like a majestic mountain.
- You become more aware of what is happening and why, training the witness, the observer in you.
- Paying attention in a different way, with calmness and a greater clarity.
- Understanding and choosing to respond in an optimal way even amidst the craziness of life.
It’s like training the body in the gym, but training the mind instead. It takes practice, repetition, to build a muscle that will react in a certain way when you need it to. The brain and the mind are just as susceptible to such training and this course gives you ways of building upon that.
Leadership and how we can try to lead with greater compassion was also a key theme. How do we influence others as well as ourselves? How can we lead with a desire to help someone else succeed and communicate in a more insightful and compassionate way?
WHAT SORT OF EXERCISES DID WE TRY?
Attention Training: Clearing and focusing the mind through meditative exercises to help bring about a sense of self-awareness with more clarity and calmness.
Journaling: Free flowing, writing without self-censorship. Allowing the pen to keep moving no matter what and getting everything out and down onto paper.
Mindful Listening and Conversation: Learning how to stay present and focused on what the other person is saying. Actually really hearing the other person, not letting the mind wander and not interrupting.
Mindful Walking: Truly experiencing walking, the environment around you and having an awareness of the movement that you are making.
Empathetic Listening: Active or reflective listening where you are listening with true empathy. Learning how the person is feeling about something that has or is happening to them without projecting your own thoughts or feelings.
THOUGHTS SINCE FINISHING THE COURSE AND LOOKING TO THE FUTURE!
This is potentially the sort of course that you come away from full of ideas and new experiences that you can’t wait to implement but low and behold, life kicks back in and a few weeks down the line you find you haven’t really had the time to give the course or its techniques a second thought. Except something about Search Inside Yourself really stays with you.
Firstly the team don’t just send you off into the big wide world again without checking in to help remind you of what you learned and what you might have forgotten to look back at and hopefully start feeding into your everyday life. There are a number of resources available and each week for a month following the course, you receive an email with various prompts and advice. Checking in and helping steer you back on track. Alongside that you are invited to attend a webinar at the four-week mark to reconnect with the course leaders, solidify where you’re at and where you wish to be going forward.
Secondly the benefit of this course is that many of the techniques stay with you and they tap in at moments when you most need them. Of course meditation, mindfulness and other techniques that complement these ideas require regular practice in order to really gain meaningful benefit and make a real difference. Yet just gaining a greater awareness really helps on a day-to-day basis when you start to feel the strain of a heavy workload or a particularly stressful situation.
I took so much from the two days and will certainly be working further on everything I learnt going forward. I will definitely share a little more about some of the techniques in future posts as promised. For now I hope this has been a useful starting point and overview.
If you’re interested in learning more about Search Inside Yourself please visit the website to find out more: Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. There are many upcoming public programs happening worldwide this year with further courses in Europe including Amsterdam, Helsinki and Paris. Take a look at the calendar to learn more and to register if you're interested in taking part for yourself: Public Programs Calendar 2016.
Farewell for now everyone and enjoy your day.
*My place on this course was complimentary as part of working with the program to learn more about these techniques that I feel are so relevant to the work I love to share on this blog. All opinions are completely 100% my own and if I hadn't enjoyed the program and felt it was worth sharing with you then I wouldn't be writing about it here today.