Focus isn’t just Single Minded Focus for Leaders

Why Leaders Need a Triple Focus

By Daniel Goleman

Leaders guide attention. But a single-minded focus on goals can run roughshod over human concerns, says Daniel Goleman.
Directing attention toward where it needs to go is a primal task of leadership. Talent here lies in the ability to shift attention to the right place at the right time, sensing trends, emerging realities, and opportunities.


This essay is adapted from Daniel Goleman’s new book “Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence”.

A leader’s field of attention—that is, the particular issues and goals she focuses on—guides the attention of those who follow her, whether or not the leader explicitly articulates it. People make their choices about where to focus based on their perception of what matters to leaders.

This ripple effect gives leaders an extra load of responsibility: They are guiding not just their own attention but, to a large extent, everyone else’s. When we say a leader has “focus” we typically are referring to one-pointedness on business results, or on a particular strategy.

But is such single-pointedness enough? What about the rest of the repertoire of attention? Leaders need strengths in three areas of focus: self (inner), people (other), and system (outer) awareness. Inner focus attunes us to our emotions and intuitions, guiding values and better decisions. Other focus smoothes our connections to the people in our lives. And outer focus lets us navigate the larger world.

But the challenge goes beyond that. The key is finding balance, and knowing when to use the right kind of focus at the right time. Combining data on attention with that on emotional intelligence and performance, this triple focus emerges as a hidden driver of excellence.

Blinded by the prize

To see where single-point focus can go wrong, take this example: The partner at a huge law firm drove her team crazy. She micromanaged, constantly second-guessing them, rewriting reports that didn’t meet her standards even though they were perfectly fine. She could always find something to criticize but nothing to praise. Her steadfast focus on the negative demoralized her team—a star member quit and others were looking to move laterally in the firm.

Those who, like that too-critical lawyer, have this high-achieving, single-focused style are called “pacesetters,” meaning they like to lead by example, setting a fast pace they assume others will imitate. Pacesetters tend to rely on a “command and coerce” leadership strategy where they simply give orders and expect obedience.

Leaders who display just the pacesetting or command style—or both—but not any others create a toxic climate, one that dispirits those they lead. Such leaders may get short-term results through personal heroics, like going out and getting a deal themselves, but do so at the expense of building their organizations.

“Leadership Run Amok” was Harvard Business Review’s title for an article about the dark side of pacesetting, written by Scott Spreier and his colleagues at Hay Group. “They’re so focused on the prize,” Spreier told me, “they’re blinded to their impact on the people around them in the room.”

Spreier’s article offered up that hard-driving law partner as a prime example of pacesetting at its worst. Such leaders don’t listen, let alone make decisions by consensus. They don’t spend time getting to know the people they work with day in and out but relate to them in their one-dimensional roles. They don’t help people develop new strengths or refine their abilities but simply dismiss their need to learn as a failing. They come off as arrogant and impatient.

And they are spreading. One tracking study finds that the number of people in organizations of all kinds who are overachievers has been climbing steadily among those in leadership positions since the 1990s. That was a period when economic growth created an atmosphere where raise-the-bar-at-any-cost heroics were lionized. The downsides of this style—for example, lapses in ethics, cutting corners, and running roughshod over people—were too often winked at.

Then came a series of flameouts and burst bubbles, from the collapse of Enron and the dot-com debacle on. This more sober business reality put a spotlight on the underside of pacesetters’ single-minded focus on fiscal results at the expense of other leadership basics. During the financial crisis of 2008 and onward, “many companies promoted strong, top-down leaders, who are good for handling emergencies,” Georg Vielmetter, a consultant in Berlin, told me. “But it changes the heart of the organization. Two years later those same leaders have created a climate where trust and loyalty evaporate.”

The failure here is not in reaching the goal, but in connecting with people. The just-get-it-done mode runs roughshod over human concerns.

What drives you?

Every organization needs people with a keen focus on goals that matter, the talent to continually learn how to do even better, and the ability to tune out distractions. Innovation, productivity, and growth depend on such high-performers.

But only to a point. Ambitious revenue targets or growth goals are not the only gauge of an organization’s health—and if they are achieved at a cost to other basics, the long-term downsides, like losing star employees, can outweigh short-term successes as those costs lead to later failures.

When we’re fixated on a goal, whatever is relevant to that point of focus gets priority. Focus is not just selecting the right thing but also saying no to the wrong ones; focus goes too far when it says no to the right things, too. Single-pointed fixation on a goal morphs into overachievement when the category of “distractions” expands to include other people’s valid concerns, their smart ideas, and their crucial information. Not to mention their morale, loyalty, and motivation.

“Two years ago, I got some sobering performance feedback,” confides the CEO of a global office real estate firm. “I was great on business expertise, but lacking when it came to inspirational leadership and empathy. I had thought I was fine, so at first I denied it. Then I reflected and realized I often was empathetic but shut down the moment people were not doing their job well. I get very cool, even mean. … I realized my biggest fear is of failure. That’s what’s driving me. So when someone on my team disappoints me, that fear kicks in.”

When fear hijacks him that CEO falls back on pacesetting. “If you don’t have self-awareness when you get hooked by the drive to achieve a goal,” says Scott Spreier, who coaches senior leaders, “that’s when you lose empathy and go on autopilot.”

The antidote: realizing the need to listen, motivate, influence, cooperate—an interpersonal skill set that pacesetting leaders are typically not familiar with using.

“At their worst, pacesetters lack empathy,” George Kohlrieser, a leadership maven at IMD, a Swiss business school, told me. Kohlrieser teaches leaders from around the world to become “secure base” leaders, whose emotionally supportive and empathic style encourages the people they lead to work at their best.

How to develop a triple focus

What stops leaders from growing beyond pacesetting?

One hurdle is the implicit attitude at work that professionalism demands we ignore our emotions. Some trace this emotional blind spot to the “Protestant” work ethic, embedded in the norms of workplaces in the West, which sees work as a moral obligation that demands suppressing attention to our relationships and what we feel. In this all-too-common view, paying attention to these human dimensions undermines business effectiveness.

But organizational research over the last decades provides ample evidence that this is a misguided assumption, and that the most adept team members or leaders use a wide aperture to gather the emotional information they need to deal well with their teammates’ or employee’s emotional needs.

When Accenture interviewed 100 CEOs about the skills they needed to run a company successfully, a set of 14 abilities emerged, from thinking globally and creating an inspiring shared vision, to embracing change and tech savvy. No one person could have them all. But there is one “meta” ability that emerges from research on leadership: self-awareness. Chief executives need self-awareness to assess their own strengths and weaknesses, and so surround themselves with a team of people whose strengths in those core abilities complement their own. This means inner focus.

Companies also need leaders who have an other-focus—who understand the motivations of their employees and want to help other people be successful, too. For instance, they realize that if someone lacks a given strength today, they can work to develop it. Such leaders take the time to mentor and advise. In practical terms this means:

  • Listening within, to articulate an authentic vision of overall direction—from the heart and to the heart—that energizes others even as it sets clear expectations.
  • Paying attention to people’s feelings and needs, and showing concern.
  • Listening to advice and expertise; being collaborative and making decisions by consensus.
  • Coaching, based on listening to what the person wants from their life, career, and current job.

These leadership styles, used in tandem or as appropriate to the moment, widen a leader’s focus to draw on inner, other, and outer inputs. That maximal bandwidth, and the wider understanding and flexibility of response it affords, can pay dividends.

Research by the McClelland Center shows that more adept leaders draw on these as appropriate. The wider a leader’s repertoire of styles, the more energized the organization’s climate and the better the results.

Of course that doesn’t mean that leaders can ignore other concerns, like market trends or innovation, to meet changing demands. But the same attention skills that can help manage one’s own emotions and work relationships can help leaders stay more flexible and allow for better outer focus.

For example, two of the main mental ruts that threaten the ability to focus well on systems and trends are unquestioned assumptions and overly relied on rules-of-thumb. These need to be tested and refined time and again against changing realities. One way to do that is by practicing what Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer calls “environmental mindfulness”: constant questioning and listening; inquiry, probing, and reflecting—gathering insights and perspectives from other people. This active engagement leads to smarter questions, better learning, and a more sensitive early warning radar to coming changes.

Another antidote is expanding your circle of connection beyond your comfort zone and inoculating against in-group isolation by building an ample circle of no-BS confidants who keep you honest. A smart diversification goes beyond gender and ethnic group balance to include a wide range of ages, clients, or customers, and any others who might offer a fresh perspective.

Leadership builds on the basic mechanics of our mental life. Self-awareness, which fosters self-management, and empathy, the basis for skill in relationship, are fundamentals of emotional intelligence. Beyond these, systems science takes us to wider bands of focus as we regard the world around us, tuning to the complex systems that define and constrain our world. All that can be boiled down to inner, other, and outer focus.

For leaders to get results they need all three kinds of focus. A leader tuned out of his internal world will be rudderless; one blind to the world of others will be clueless; those indifferent to the larger systems within which they operate will be blindsided.

And it’s not just leaders who benefit from a balance in this triple focus. All of us live in daunting environments, rife with tensions and competing goals and lures of modern life. Each of the three varieties of attention can help us find balance where we can be both happy and productive.

Read the Original Article: The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley

Morning Mind

This morning I woke up noticing that I was a little anxious. I found myself wondering what I should have gotten done, or should have done differently, over the weekend that just passed. “Monday morning quarterbacking”, you might say. As a self-employed person the weekend is, on some level, just another couple of days. I, like so many other employed people, am put to work by my boss any day of the week, and evening work is part of the equation, as well.

This morning, when I noted the tinge of anxiety, I scanned my mind for what was really happening in my thoughts; it was curious to me that my mind was taking me to that almost anxious place, by rote. In fact, I’d been very aware throughout the weekend, that I was really enjoying just about every hour of both days, feeling grateful, relaxed, and very tuned in. A beautiful spring weekend, I deliberately chose to do and experience all that I did. In fact, I deliberately didn’t get ‘work’ done and instead woke early on Saturday morning to do something I’d never done.

While meditation is part of my regular routine, this past Saturday I went to the beach in Santa Monica at 7 AM to meditate along with a group. The weather was surprisingly warm, clear and calm. We all sat in a line on the beach, silently, while the surfers attempted to catch waves, while pelicans skimmed the ocean’s surface, the occasional porpoise appearing in the surf. Idyllic. I noted that being still on the beach – witness to this glorious day, while sitting quietly – felt perfect, restful, and also energizing. Something I would be sure to experience again.

Saturday was a day for me to meditate as part of a daylong meditation program, arranged for those participating in the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program. All of the teachers in training, including me, were requested to attend. After our beach sit we all went to InsightLA in Santa Monica, and spent the next hours meditating, doing walking meditation, eating our lunch mindfully and in silence. Recognizing that this extended time out for quiet meditation is unusual for most people, anywhere, I felt grateful and happy for the pause. Even when I felt sleepy and too hot in the room, I was aware of the gift of not doing anything for an extended period of time.

The day of practice ended at 3 PM when I walked several blocks, enjoying the spring day, to meet a friend for coffee. My boyfriend picked me up at 5 PM and we went home to walk the dog, eat dinner, and enjoy some good Netflix watching.

Sunday, another spectacular spring day, was reserved for yard work and gardening, and the Sunday papers. A quick, funny text from my son in college made the weekend complete. In all, a weekend of calm, beauty and appreciation.

And yet, I awoke with a habituated question of what should I have done differently? That is the mind. We don’t know where it will take us. Years ago I would have given in to this fear and anxiety. Silently berating myself for not having done enough, well enough. But now, with years of meditation and learned compassion, I can stop and look, and be curious rather than too quickly judgmental. And begin again, with intention and perspective, knowing that I don’t have to believe everything that I think.

An Introduction to Mindfulness – FREE Lecture with Daisy Swan

Monday, March 30, 2015 | 8-9 PM

Mimoda Studio @ Paper or Plastik Cafe
5772 W. Pico Blvd. @ Ogden, Los Angeles, CA 90019

An Introduction to Mindfulness

NightSchoolLAMindfulness meditation is increasingly showing up in mass media as the antidote to contemporary stress. Why all the fuss? Over the past 15 years, hundreds of scientific research studies, and their published results, illustrate just how positively powerful this simple practice is for the human body and mind. Individuals and organizations are now embracing mindfulness practices in record numbers to counterbalance the non-stop demand and distraction of a world that is wildly connected via technology.

Mindfulness meditation instructor Daisy Swan will discuss some of the important research that has recently surfaced in this area and provide resources for practice, as well as lead us in several mindfulness exercises that can be incorporated into daily life.

Night School lectures are free and open to the public! Visit Night School LA for more information.

Think You Shouldn’t Meditate?

By Daisy Swan


There is increasing credible science and recent press extolling the personal and professional benefits of regular, short sessions of simple breathing meditation. Yet it’s not uncommon for very intelligent people to believe this just isn’t for them. You might be one of them. Does this resonate?

Meditate? Not for me. I’ll get lazy, lose my edge, fail to compete, and lose the game of success.

In a recent conversation with a top Fortune 100 corporate executive who’s lived all over the world and managed thousands of people and millions, if not billions of dollars, I learned that one of the resounding messages he regularly heard throughout his career was to stay nervous. Be vigilant was the message, and advice from the very top brass. To keep beating the competition (both in the marketplace and in the corporation) everyone was encouraged to watch his or her back. True to that culture of competition and suspicion, the politics and back-stabbing necessitated that vigilance. Not unusual for a (corporate) jungle, right?

Even if you aren’t in a large corporation, you may recognize this deep message and belief. In a capitalist society, where we’re all about getting ahead, the idea of ‘taking a break’ is completely counter intuitive. How in the world will stepping away from the race help me to get ahead of the pack? Good question.

As a career coach and meditation instructor working with high achieving clients who are wondering what’s happening to them as they try to reconcile the conflicts between what they want less of ~ turns out that jungle is pretty anxiety provoking for even the fittest of the species ~ and still stay ahead in the game. I have heard more stories of mental and emotional abuse at work than you’d care to imagine – but you probably have your own. Bosses who manipulate, pressure, passive aggressively manage, yell and scream, even those who throw things and hit walls in the presence of top performing employees. These badly behaving bosses, you may think, are outliers. Sadly, they aren’t. A demanding, anxiety provoking and vigilant environment will eventually take its toll on any human being and the resultant behavior will become destructive in one or more areas of life…

Here’s a very, very brief exercise: Right now, make a fist. Hold it tight. Notice what your hand, arm, and really, what your entire body feels like right now. Hold this for 10 seconds. What arises in you? Now, let go of the fist and open your hand, palm up. You may notice you take in a breath and let it go. What do you notice holding your hand out, open? What does an open hand evoke? Giving, receiving, openness, willingness?

Leading the pack in the 21st Century has shown us we need to be agile, open, inventive. A simple, short, regular time out to reflect, to reset and calm the nervous system that is continually bombarded by data is one of the easiest, least expensive ways to sharpen our senses to see what’s happening around us so we can make clear headed, intelligent decisions, and to be smarter leaders, friends and partners. Not for you?

Read the Original Article: Intent Blog

Making Smart Decisions Like This Doesn’t Require a Near-Death Experience

More and more companies are recognizing the upside of offering complementary wellness programs, like mindfulness training. Read on…

At Aetna, a C.E.O.’s Management by Mantra



Mark Bertolini, the unconventional chief executive of Aetna, the health insurer, gave thousands of the lowest-paid employees a 33 percent raise, and he has introduced popular yoga classes. His discussions were influenced, in part, by a near-fatal ski accident. Sasha Maslov for The New York Times

On a recent wintry afternoon, Mark T. Bertolini, the 58-year-old chief executive of Aetna, the health insurer, was sitting in his Hartford office wearing a dark suit and a crisp, white, French-cuffed shirt. But instead of a necktie, he wore a shiny metal amulet engraved with the Sanskrit characters “sohum.”

Roughly translated, sohum means “I am that,” and repeating the phrase is used to help control breathing in meditation. Mr. Bertolini says the word also signifies a divine connection with the universe. (He has a similar design tattooed on his back.)

In case there was any doubt, Mr. Bertolini, who runs one of America’s 100 largest companies by revenue, wants to make it clear he is a different sort of C.E.O.

In recent years, following a near-death experience, Mr. Bertolini set about overhauling his own health regimen, as well reshaping the culture of Aetna with a series of eyebrow-raising moves. He has offered free yoga and meditation classes to Aetna employees; more than 13,000 workers have participated. He began selling the same classes to the businesses that contract with Aetna for their health insurance. And in January, after reading “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” the treatise on inequality by the French economist Thomas Piketty, Mr. Bertolini gave his lowest-paid employees a 33 percent raise.

Aetna employees at a yoga class at its headquarters in Hartford, Conn. The health insurer also offers its workers meditation classes. Nearly a third of the company’s 50,000 employees have taken a class. Aetna says participants show increased productivity, and report less stress and pain. Sasha Maslov for The New York Times

Taken together, these moves have transformed a stodgy insurance company into one of the most progressive actors in corporate America. Most health insurance companies are thriving, largely because of increased enrollment. Aetna’s stock has increased threefold since Mr. Bertolini took over as chief executive in 2010, and recently hit a record high. It’s a decidedly groovy moment for the company, and Mr. Bertolini is reveling in his role as an idealistic, unconventional corporate chieftain.

“We program C.E.O.s to be certain kinds of people. We expect C.E.O.s to be on message all the time,” he said. “The grand experiment here has been how much of that do you really need to do?”

On a February day in Aetna’s Hartford headquarters, there were experiments all around. In a conference room downstairs, a meditation class had just concluded, and employees were returning to their desks. Nearby, preparations were underway for a new yoga class, starting in a week. And in his corner office — where a golden statue of the Hindu deity Ganesha was arranged next to an antique grandfather clock — Mr. Bertolini eagerly shared the most recent data from Aetna’s meditation and yoga programs.

More than one-quarter of the company’s work force of 50,000 has participated in at least one class, and those who have report, on average, a 28 percent reduction in their stress levels, a 20 percent improvement in sleep quality and a 19 percent reduction in pain. They also become more effective on the job, gaining an average of 62 minutes per week of productivity each, which Aetna estimates is worth $3,000 per employee per year. Demand for the programs continues to rise; every class is overbooked.

“We have this groundswell inside the company of people wanting to take the classes,” Mr. Bertolini said. “It’s been pretty magical.”

Aetna is at the vanguard of a movement that is quietly spreading through the business world. Companies like Google offer emotional intelligence courses for employees. General Mills has a meditation room in every building on its corporate campus. And even buttoned-up Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs and BlackRock are teaching meditation on the job.

The aims of such programs are eclectic. Some, such as Aetna’s, are intended to improve overall well-being; others to increase focus and productivity. Most of the programs — from yoga sessions for factory workers to guided meditations for executives — aim to make employees more present-minded, less prone to make rash decisions and generally nicer people to work with.

Adoption of these unconventional practices in the workplace coincides with growing interest among the American public. More than 21 million people now practice yoga, double the number from a decade ago, according to the National Institutes of Health. Nearly as many meditate, according to the N.I.H.

But not everyone believes that meditation and yoga are appropriate in the workplace. A recent article in The Harvard Business Review cautioned that “mindfulness is close to taking on cult status in the business world,” and it enumerated ways that a meditative disposition could backfire in the office. Stress can be a useful prompt to engage in critical thinking, noted the author, David Brendel, and is not something to retreat from through meditation. And even as Aetna and others chart what they say are the health benefits of mindfulness and yoga, not all researchers are convinced.

“The public enthusiasm for complementary health practices — and meditation in particular — is outpacing the scientific research,” said Willoughby Britton, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University, who is studying the potential negative side effects of meditation. “Widespread implementation is premature.”

Mr. Bertolini has heard the critics, and takes pains not to impose yoga or meditation on any employees. (There are no incentives for workers to take the classes.) But he can’t help but champion both causes. They helped him come back from the abyss.

On Feb. 18, 2004, Mr. Bertolini almost died. Then a rising star at Aetna but not yet chief executive, he was skiing with his family in Killington, Vt., when he lost control. His body ricocheted off a tree and over a ledge, sending him careering 30 feet down a ravine.

Mr. Bertolini was motionless when his daughter found him. At the intensive care unit, a priest administered last rites. Five of the vertebrae in his neck had fractured. A tangle of nerves connected to his left arm had been detached from his spinal cord.

In a swift recovery that baffled doctors, Mr. Bertolini pulled through and was able to leave the hospital after 12 days. (Since then, he has had four surgeries.) Less than a month after the accident, he made a presentation at an Aetna investor conference, walking with a cane, his left arm in a brace.

But Mr. Bertolini wasn’t the same. “Prior to my accident I used to run four miles every morning,” he said. “I worked hard and played hard.” Afterward, he could barely get through the day. His left arm, now useless, was in sustained, agonizing pain. “It was as if somebody were burning my arm with a torch all day long, and to this day it feels this way,” he said. “It’s never stopped.”

To manage the pain, Bertolini followed doctor’s orders. He took OxyContin. He took Vicodin. He took fentanyl. The drugs barely helped. After a year of unsatisfactory results with conventional treatments, Bertolini went looking for alternative remedies, including yoga. Each morning, the vigorous stretching became a welcome replacement for his daily runs.

Soon he grew enamored with yoga’s intellectual and cultural history, and before long he began practicing mindfulness meditation, too. With mindfulness, Mr. Bertolini found that difficult thoughts and emotions became easier to manage. “Meditation is not about thinking about nothing,” he said. “It’s about accepting what you think, giving reverence to it and letting it go. It’s losing the attachment to it. Same thing with pain.”


This is adapted from “Mindful Work: How Meditation Is Changing Business From the Inside Out,” by David Gelles, which will be published by Eamon Dolan Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt this month. Credit Patricia Wall/The New York Times

Eventually, his regimen of yoga and meditation allowed him to return to work with renewed vigor. When he became chief executive of Aetna, he took over a company that now has about $58 billion in annual revenue and more than 23.5 million members.

Once chief executive, Mr. Bertolini was emboldened. If yoga and mindfulness had helped him, why shouldn’t they help his employees, and even Aetna’s millions of customers? So he decided to use his company as a laboratory.

He started gradually, leading brief meditations in meetings with his executive team. Some rolled their eyes, but others appreciated it. Then he approached Dr. Lonny Reisman, Aetna’s chief medical officer at the time, and proposed offering yoga and mindfulness classes to employees.

Dr. Reisman saw that the practices had helped his boss recover, but he was not convinced. “Because you’re doing yoga, everyone has to do yoga?” Dr. Reisman shot back, as recalled by Mr. Bertolini.

Mr. Bertolini appealed to Dr. Reisman as a scientist. They would measure workers’ stress levels by tracking heart rate variability and cortisol levels, common measures of anxiety. And they would team with the Integrative Medicine Program at Duke University, which does research into the efficacy of alternative treatments.

To develop the curriculum, Aetna enlisted the American Viniyoga Institute, which advocates a form of yoga that involves breathing techniques and gentle poses. And to develop the meditation program, Aetna turned to eMindful, a company based in Vero Beach, Fla., that takes its inspiration from the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, a molecular biologist who has helped popularize mindfulness in recent decades.

Soon Mr. Bertolini’s experiment was underway, with 239 employees volunteering. One-third practiced Viniyoga, one-third took a mindfulness class, and the rest were assessed as a control group. At the end of three months, the data came in, and executives were astounded. All employees who stuck with either the yoga or the mindfulness reported significant reduction in perceived stress and sleep difficulties. And while self-reports of lowered stress are not always reliable, the study also found that physical measures of heart rate variability and cortisol levels had both decreased. “The biostatisticians were beside themselves,” Mr. Bertolini said.

Even Dr. Reisman, who has since left Aetna to start a new company, came around. “As a physician, I don’t believe anything until it’s proven,” he said. “But for people coping with stress, there was a beneficial effect in participating in these programs.”

The results of the study were published in The Journal of Occupational Health Psychology in 2012. Soon Aetna expanded the programs, offering them to thousands of employees around the country.

Employees have generally embraced the courses, but some doubters remain. “When I talk about mindfulness to folks at work, they look at me funny,” said Christine Beaird, an Aetna project manager in Dallas, who took one of the classes and found it helpful. “They think it’s this whole Zen, Tantra Buddhist thing.”

When Mr. Bertolini reviewed Aetna’s financial performance for 2012, he noticed something surprising: Health care costs had fallen. For the year, paid medical claims per employee were down 7.3 percent. That amounted to about $9 million in savings. The next year, health care costs rose 5.7 percent, but have remained about 3 percent lower than they were before yoga and meditation were introduced at the company.

Mr. Bertolini doesn’t attribute all those cost savings to yoga and meditation alone. Other wellness initiatives, including a weight loss program and new health screenings, had also been ramping up during this period. But he says he believes they made an impact. “It was a culmination of a set of programs that led to a steady decrease in health care costs,” Mr. Bertolini said. “I wouldn’t say it’s all just yoga and mindfulness, but they helped.”

The productivity gains — measured with a questionnaire that assesses employees’ ability to stay on task — were also sustained. As Mr. Bertolini discussed the impact of his programs in his office, he gestured freely with his right hand and used it to toss logs into the hearth, where a fire warmed the room. His left arm was limp, however, the legacy of his skiing injury. Though he is still in pain, and would occasionally grimace, Mr. Bertolini said that because of his mindfulness practice, he wasn’t suffering.

In January, Mr. Bertolini traveled to Jacksonville, Fla., where Aetna has a big office. Sitting onstage in a hotel ballroom filled with employees, his Sanskrit amulet visible to all, he announced that Aetna was increasing its minimum wage in the United States to $16 an hour, from $12. Thousands of customer service and claims administration workers around the country would get raises, and Aetna would also reduce their out-of-pocket health care costs.

“If we can create a healthier you, we can create a healthier world and healthier company,” Mr. Bertolini told the audience. Some employees choked up when they heard the news.

Mr. Bertolini grew up in a working-class family in Detroit, and now makes many millions of dollars a year. He owns a large house in West Hartford and a pied-à-terre overlooking Central Park in New York. After he read “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” raising the minimum wage was an easy decision, he said, and will also help Aetna reduce turnover. Walmart has since raised wages for its lowest-paid workers, too, as have other retailers like T. J. Maxx and Marshalls.

But Mr. Bertolini said that without his experience with yoga and meditation, he might not have been inspired to act on his impulse. “It’s made me question what I do and how I look at the world,” he said. “It’s made me consider my influence and how I treat people.”

It was just the latest phase of Mr. Bertolini’s grand experiment. Offering yoga and mindfulness to his employees was the first step. Selling those services as products was another. Raising the minimum wage was a logical next move. For Mr. Bertolini, what began as a journey of personal healing is now about improving the physical, mental and spiritual health of his nearly 50,000 employees, and tens of millions of customers.

It might just be good for business, too.


This is adapted from “Mindful Work: How Meditation Is Changing Business From the Inside Out,” by David Gelles, which will be published by Eamon Dolan Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt this month.

Read the Original Article:

Using a Four-Letter Word to Positively Transform Your Relationships



Have you had an interaction lately with your child (even if your child is of voting age), your spouse, or co-workers that has left you seething, angry, disappointed, or frustrated and then, on top of that, found yourself ruminating about what just happened?

It’s probably hard to choose among a few choice four-letter words that come to mind. Honestly, this happens to us all too often. Caught in a spiral of getting triggered by a situation, we then compound the stress we feel as we re-live it over and over in our minds long after it’s over.

As a mindful awareness meditation instructor and coach, I share this four-letter word all the time: STOP.

This is an acronym that helps us gain awareness of ourselves, and the situation, which gives us an opportunity to respond rather than react in the moment. Or if we do lose it, hearing STOP in our mind helps us to regain our composure and come back to the person with perhaps some new ways to repair the relationship.

Give this a try right now. Imagine a situation you’ve been in. Feel it heating up, and then imagine saying to yourself as you feel the emotions rising, ‘Stop, Take a breath, Observe (what’s happening in you and around you, recognizing the feelings you’re feeling and the choices in front of you) and finally ‘Proceed.’

Know that you don’t have to condone the behavior of the other person, you don’t have to accept the behavior of the other person, but you can be more self-possessed and conscious as you talk to this person.

Using STOP is one of the effective tools I use to bring mindful awareness into everyday life, encouraging a more alive relationship with present moments of life that help to alleviate ongoing stress and strife, and provides me with alternative ways of being in charge in difficult situations and with difficult emotions.

Tough interactions do happen, will happen, but with practice we can begin to decrease the stressful way in which we react to and then regard situations. We have more internal resources to repair and resolve difficulties more swiftly, and then move past them.

With practice, saying an internal STOP can help you move forward, positively, in your relationships without the mental and emotional baggage that can weigh us down like a wardrobe bag without a hanger. Feeling lighter, freer, in charge, we can also be more confident about how to work with difficulties.

Daisy Swan has been a career coach for over 20 years, working with clients all over the world, and is the author of Making Work Work: Secrets from A Career Coach’s Office. Daisy also teaches meditation to help busy professionals manage the stress of modern life, and uncover and foster their creativity. For your free consultation, visit Permission granted for use on

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The Multiple Benefits of Meditation Continue to Multiply!

How to Find a Job With Meditation and Mindfulness


A meditation meeting at the Path in Manhattan. PIOTR REDLINSKI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

A meditation meeting at the Path in Manhattan. PIOTR REDLINSKI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Meditation has been good for Olivia Chow’s career.

In her first month of attending Ziva Meditation on 38th Street, the trend forecaster met Noël Rohayem, a clothing designer whom she later helped to find a new job. That led to a partnership, forged last summer, for which the two are creating a made-to-fit clothing line that will be introduced next year. Most weeks, they meet at Ms. Chow’s apartment — starting every business meeting with a short meditation — to go over marketing plans, fabric swatches and sketches.

Meditation is more than peace of mind for Ms. Chow; it fuels work. Recently she said she was hired by three fellow meditators to make custom-fit clothes. “I network wherever I go,” Ms. Chow said.

There could not be two less compatible concepts: the quiet of the ancient practice of meditation and the heart thump of striving New Yorkers looking for the next opportunity. Now, meditation studios and conferences catering to Type A Manhattan careerists are becoming a new hub for networking without the crass obviousness of looking for a job. It is hard to quiet the mind in a city where competitive cab-hailing is a blood sport. So why not look for a little stress relief, or start-up financing, among empathic meditating friends?

Few meditation studios have capitalized on mindful networking more than the Path, which has emerged as a downtown hub for technology and fashion entrepreneurs. The Monday sessions tend to be jammed, and attendees are encouraged to drink tea and mingle after class. PIOTR REDLINSKI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Few meditation studios have capitalized on mindful networking more than the Path, which has emerged as a downtown hub for technology and fashion entrepreneurs. The Monday sessions tend to be jammed, and attendees are encouraged to drink tea and mingle after class. PIOTR REDLINSKI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Ben Bechar, a technology entrepreneur, said he had attended as many as four networking events a week with little to show for it. However, at the Path, a new invitation-only meditation class that officially opened last month, he said he had met not only a potential investor, but also five beta testers for his new app. The investor introduced Mr. Bechar to other financiers, too, and he said he hoped to find out in a few weeks whether he will get the funding he seeks. “I’ve had more success at meditation than I’ve had at any networking event I’ve attended,” Mr. Bechar said.

New York’s wave of mindful networking is an export from Silicon Valley’s highly caffeinated technorati. Soren Gordhamer, who lives in Santa Cruz, Calif., about 30 miles west of Facebook and Google, used to work for the actor Richard Gere at the charity Healing the Divide, an affiliate of the Gere Foundation.

In 2009, Mr. Gordhamer founded Wisdom 2.0, a conference held in San Francisco and attended by technology entrepreneurs eager to raise their consciousness as well as investment dollars. Mr. Gordhamer leads them in guided meditation as they explore compassion and awareness in the digital age. Two years ago, he brought the conference to New York, calling it Wisdom 2.0 Business. More than 400 people attended last month.

What makes meditation palatable to entrepreneurs and executives these days is that it is perceived as a tool to help increase productivity. A quiet mind more easily recognizes unexpected business opportunities and is poised to react more astutely. “If you are looking solely for an investor, you might be guided to, or looking for, the guy in the business suit,” Mr. Gordhamer said. “Instead, you may need to be talking to the guy in jeans.”

Emily Fletcher leading a session at Ziva Meditation, the membership-based studio she founded in Manhattan. “If you come to meet an investor and you meditate, that is great,” she said. “I don’t care why you come. I’m just glad you did.” PIOTR REDLINSKI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Emily Fletcher leading a session at Ziva Meditation, the membership-based studio she founded in Manhattan. “If you come to meet an investor and you meditate, that is great,” she said. “I don’t care why you come. I’m just glad you did.” PIOTR REDLINSKI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Some meditation instructors welcome students intent on networking because they recognize that people are driven by different motivations. Among them is Emily Fletcher, who founded Ziva Meditation in 2012, a membership-based studio that caters to a wide-reaching clientele, including Broadway actors and investment bankers. “If you come to meet an investor and you meditate, that is great,” she said. “I don’t care why you come. I’m just glad you did.” If you want to meditate at Ziva, finding an investor may not be a bad idea. Ms. Fletcher charges $1,100 for a four-day introduction, as well as unlimited access to follow-up classes and support. Her online meditation course costs $250.

Few meditation studios have capitalized on mindful networking more than the Path, which has emerged as a downtown hub for technology and fashion entrepreneurs. Clients must be invited and pay $20 to attend an 8 a.m. session on Mondays at a 12th Street studio space. The class tends to be jammed; more than 90 people regularly show up. Attendees are encouraged to drink tea and mingle after class.

“When someone says, ‘I’m an engineer working for Google and I want to jump to a start-up,’ people in class are more open to helping you out,” said Dina Kaplan, a former local television news reporter and founder of the Path.

Even when striving for quiet reflection, the extremely connected can’t help doing what they do best — expand their network. Laurel Touby is an entrepreneur and the founder of Mediabistro, a media industry community-building platform. At the Path, she met a product manager from The Knot, a wedding website, who was willing to set up a friend of Ms. Touby’s with a company recruiter. Drew Austin, a founder of Augmate, a company that makes wearable technology, said he met a job-seeking engineer with whom he planned to have coffee. “We are hiring aggressively,” Mr. Austin said. “Finding people is the hardest part.”

For some of the young and cool om set, meditation is better than happy hour. Jesse Israel, a 30-year-old music entrepreneur from Brooklyn, said he was starting a group meditation in November for millennials at a downtown loft used as an office space for Men in Cities, a lifestyle accessories brand. Yuvi Alpert, founder of Men in Cities, will meditate with Mr. Israel’s group. “We are young, modern people,” he said, “and we need a place to meet.”

Meditation-based associations can lead to the swapping not just of energy, but of equity as well. Mr. Israel met Nadeem Kassam, an entrepreneur who was then living in San Francisco, at a conference in Utah in 2012.

“We decided to meditate on the edge of a cliff,” Mr. Kassam said.

Mr. Israel said, “I realized he was the best thing and I wanted to work with him.”

Mr. Israel offered him a slice of a new business he was founding, as well as a partnership role. In return, Mr. Kassam said he offered Mr. Israel a similar deal in an entertainment and health care company he owned. “Every time I’m in New York, we go for a meal and have a breath session,” Mr. Kassam said. “You can form a bond in silence.”

Some fans of meditation are willing to take big risks on people based solely on their joint appreciation of the practice. Bianca Rothschild, an online marketer and digital strategist who was then living in Australia, attended the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco last February. In a meditation session guided by Agapi Stassinopoulos, the sister of Arianna Huffington, Ms. Rothschild met Khajak Keledjian, a founder of Intermix, the fashion retailer.

Mr. Keledjian presents himself as a model of successful meditation, sitting cross-legged for photographers in his homes in New York City and the Hamptons. Impressed by her Zen and savvy, Mr. Keledjian wooed Ms. Rothschild, convincing her to move to New York to help him research health and wellness investments. She agreed and arrived this fall. “I thought I should put my ego aside and just take a risk,” Ms. Rothschild said. “That’s what it means to be part of this movement.”

The instant connection can be powerful, said Amber Shirley, the chief executive of Soul Sisters Collective, a membership organization for female entrepreneurs. When meditating at Ziva over the summer, she encountered Riley Huston, a special projects coordinator for the nonprofit group Boys Hope Girls Hope. It took little time for them to bond.

“When I met him, we hugged,” Ms. Shirley said.

Mr. Huston said he told her: “I have been looking for you. You are exactly who I wanted to find.” On Oct. 18, Soul Sisters Collective hosted an event called “Dress the Part” in the cafeteria of Boys Hope Girls Hope, and now plans to organize monthly events, including dance and cardio exercise classes.

The consciousness raising could lead to all sorts of coupling, Ms. Shirley said. “If someone recommended a guy, and I met him through Ziva, I would date him,” she said. “No questions.”

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