By Julie Hood Leverenz, CEO of JLev.Life and Author of There’s JOY in the F.O.G. Awaken!
Remember this from your childhood? “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart …WHERE? ...down in my heart. WHERE? …down in my heart. I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart to stay.” Other verses regaled, “I’ve got the peace that passes understanding…..” and “I’ve got the wonderful love of my blessed redeemer…” And of course, you can’t just sing this when you are a child, you shout it. You rejoice as you join friends singing loudly with glee.
Today, this memory along with my yoga practice made my heart expand, got the endorphins flowing and awakened me to the possibilities of the day. (I’m still enjoying the benefits of Daylight Savings and the ease of rising early it offers!) I truly felt joyful, and I began considering the application of a new set of tools to boost performance in today’s workplaces.
Yesterday, during my leadership coaching and team development practice with a client organization, we explored Brene’ Brown’s Dare To Lead, and more specifically we focused on her research surrounding the imperative for leaders’ to develop authentic empathy skills to build relationships and trust with those they lead. In Dare to Lead Brene’ Brown continues to re-enforce the surprising (to her) outcome of her research on leadership. High performance leaders build and maintain meaningful human connections with those whom they are entrusted to lead. Not shockingly, her research reveals that we perform better when we are supported, growing and confident in the workplace. Last week at this same client organization, we focused on tools that enable us to incorporate stillness into our days, so that we can step off the treadmill and fully engage as leaders. To be a whole-hearted leader for those with whom we work, we can’t be running all the time. That’s a real shift for most of us who have always believed that faster is better and more productive. Research today reveals quite the contrary. And the alarming rates of burn-out, stress and suicide in society, as well as the divisiveness we see illustrated on the evening news each day, are vivid reminders that there are devastating consequences to this pushing, grasping and sprinting pace that has been the norm for decades, now.
Beneath all the research is the simple truth that we all hunger for human connection and its affirming power; and for an overwhelming majority of us, it feels good when our lives include loving, supportive and encouraging people. Human beings are designed to be with others. Our species is literally unsustainable without relationships between and among people. When employees feel isolated and unappreciated, and without connection to others in the workplace, employers will never reap the benefits of fully invested and engaged team members – retention, productivity, innovation and performance. Yet relationships are hard. And relationships are by definition, inefficient. Human connection is messy. And the overwhelming research and subsequent belief and practice by employers that relationships are the true secret to performance, has certainly not penetrated our culture, yet. Workplaces that truly care and nurture the lives of those in their employ are still not abundant. I feel fortunate to work with a client organization who really takes care of its people. This CEO’s organization of more than 150 people is thriving, despite the pandemic. They believe in the growth and development of every one in their ‘work family’ and my presence is but one example of their investment in resources and tools to help team members remain on a path that strengthens each of them as well as the organization.
In my work to help individuals, teams and groups unleash potential, I’ve recently discovered a beautiful new set of tools that seems to unite and support contemporary leadership development research. Interestingly, I’ve discovered Yoga. Yes, Yoga. Although I’ve been practicing infrequently for about five years, I’ve just recently (thank you Pandemic) begun practicing faithfully; and I’ve became so excited by its early benefits and its demonstrated potential that I’m taking a 200 hour teacher training class. The more I learn, the more benefits I see. And the more I learn, the more I want to share it with others.
Erich Schiffmann, recognized as a Yoga Master writes in his book Yoga, The Sprit and Practice of Moving into Stillness, remarks,” The simple perspective I have come up with, through all the years and thousands of hours of practicing yoga and meditation, is that yoga makes your feel good.” And I’ll vouch for that. “It’s relaxing. It’s energizing. It’s strengthening. You feel better and life just runs smoother,” he goes on the say.
“Yoga enhances your experience of life. It changes your perspective. You find yourself spontaneously embracing a larger, more accurate conception of who you are and how life works. You start seeing things differently which results in more peace of mind, better health, more enthusiasm for life , and an every-growing authentic sense of inner well-being.
“As you practice yoga and meditation regularly, this subtle sense of feeling good gradually becomes so pervasive, so natural and genuine, so much a part of you that it carries over into the whole of your life. … restoring optimism, hope, meaning and purpose.” Schiffmann continued.
And I thought I’d just get in better shape and maintain flexibility as I aged! Yet, as I’m practicing, how yoga really works is being revealed to me. We all like feeling good; and when we feel good we can truly embrace life…work life, home life, play, etc. We begin to unleash that potential that’s within us. I’m still exploring how yoga could be integrated effectively into the workplace, but I’m convinced of its potential to deepen the meaning of work, the relationships among those who work together, and the potential for performance and success.
Just try it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.