Don’t Forget to Breathe

May 30th, 2014 by Marcy Schwab

Don’t Forget to Breathe

We hear a lot about mindfulness and living in the moment. Some people get it and others want to get it. This morning, I woke up and walked into the room of each of my kids. Both were still sleeping (it was 6:30AM, after all). I noticed their expressions, their body position, their breathing patterns. I took a deep breath and breathed it in. I locked the memory and thought, “this is what life is about.” I saw beyond the messy sheets and the upcoming struggle of our morning routine and saw the possibilities in them.

It’s all about the deep breath and the noticing of what’s going on around you. That’s really what mindfulness and living in the moment really are. It’s looking around and taking in whatever is happening and then processing it in a way that has meaning for you.


The Deep Breath As a Leadership Move

How does this apply to your work life or daily life? Inspirational leaders are those who make powerful moves which others are inspired to follow. They take a lot of well-timed deep breaths. From those moments, they can see beyond the basics of what’s going on in front of them and can see beyond the obvious. They make meaning from their situation and sit back and figure out where they should go from here based on what’s true in the moment.

These moves are the most powerful because the inputs are richer and more nuanced. They are your deeper interpretation of what’s true about what’s going on around you; the moves you make as a result are therefore more authentically yours. This authenticity means you can be more inspiring. More inspiration means more people follow, which leads to greater success.


Deep Breath In Practice

I have a current client, like nearly all of my clients, who has been on the fast track for her entire career.  She’s hard charging, very bright, insightful and highly motivated. She is currently in a position that is not as intense as her prior roles and she is not quite as busy. At first, unsurprisingly, this situation has rattled her. But now we are seeing this circumstance as a positive. We are working together to take this time to look around and assess her opportunities. She’s looking at her surroundings, noticing where she is doing well and where she has opportunities, and she’s making moves to improve.

She identified an opportunity to build stronger relationships. She now has the time to think about what impressions she was wants to leave on others. She is contemplating each interaction, taking a deep breath before going into conversations. What is true about this relationship now? What do I want to be? What do I notice in my interactions with this person? What can I do to improve it?

She has also identified the broader need to give back to the community in a meaningful way. She identified an opportunity to serve on some Boards to give back and contribute.

It must be nice to have this time, but it seems like a rare opportunity and not everyone gets that. So, what can you do every day when things are busy and you have little time to contemplate?

  • Take a moment, even just 5 minutes, every few hours or once or twice a day to stop, take a deep breath and notice what’s going on around you – set your phone alarm to go off a few times a day, if it helps
  • Jot down what you are thinking, seeing, and feeling
  • Contemplate what moves you can make as a result of what you’re noticing and jot those down, too
  • Review your notes in the evening or every few days


Breathing and Physiology

It’s widely understood that a slow, deep breath (and many in a row) can help you relieve stress, improve your health, and increase balance.

It also helps to heighten your awareness, literally taking toxins out and bringing freshness in. The physiological changes that happen in your brain as a result of this deep breath facilitate the ability to see more, experience more, and think more deeply. So, this activity isn’t just a trick to get yourself to focus, it’s a physical change in the body that literally enables you to see more possibilities.


The ability to think more clearly, make changes, and lead more effectively is literally right under your nose.

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