Has this ever happened to you? You’re at your desk feverishly working away – AND – THUD – don’t look now, but you’ve hit a roadblock, a big mental brick wall – no creativity, no insight on how to handle the matter at hand.
This isn’t like you. You’re stumped. You get frustrated. You start checking email, social media. You go for a walk down the hall, get a bite to eat, talk to some colleagues for their insight. Nothing’s working today. You’ve got a deadline on this, but thankfully, it’s not today. Whew! But still, you’re getting anxious that your usual business expertise and insight on this matter has deserted you.
You gaze out the window and your eye catches a bird flying by, catching an updraft in the breeze, wings spread and soaring towards the sun. You take a deep breath and appreciate the view for a few more moments before settling back at your desk. Hmm. Things start flowing again. That’s good. What just happened? Whatever it was, you’re back on track, AND you actually beat the deadline and get that project off your desk before you leave for home.
What actually happened to you gazing out that window was a brief experience of the power and benefits of nature-based leadership development. Research shows that your brain on nature (whether you’re inside or out) experiences new clarity, new focus and new creativity. The bird that caught your eye took you on a little nature-based leadership excursion. That’s what I do all the time with business execs and leaders from all walks of life.
I guide clients using nature-based leadership techniques that I’ve developed in my years as a leadership development professor and as a student of the natural world and ecopsychology. Nature-based leadership development uses the natural world – as tame or wild as you prefer, as our first and greatest mentor, and as a mirror or model for the professional or leadership goals that you’ve set for yourself.
So if you’re curious, and can’t gaze out that window right now, or if that bird has flown the coop, here are five easy steps you can try to experience nature-based leadership development. Let me know what happens for you out there!
Step One – Get Outside
Go to a natural setting near your home or office. This can be a place you go to often, or one that you never have time to go to because you’re always so busy. It can be wild park space or a beautifully groomed urban garden – doesn’t matter. Leave your cell phone at home, or at least in the car.
Step Two – Set an Intention
Now that you’re there, the fun begins. No matter how much time I spend in nature, I’m still a Type A, results-oriented person. So the next step is to bring an intention to your time in nature. You can bring a specific question or vexing problem at work thator you can merely set an intention such as “Teach me what I’m supposed to learn today.” The important thing is that you hold your intention loosely – like a gaze, not a stare.
Step Three – Turn off your clever mind
You can thank your clever mind for all that it does for you, like getting you to the park, and even encouraging you to explore nature-based leadership development on your own like this. What you want to do is turn off the mental chatter, create some space in your brain for new discovery and insight, and most of all, be in the present. The best way to do this is…
Step Four – Open up your senses to the experience
Aaahhh…. Take some deep, long breaths. You know the saying “All who wander are not lost.”? Well, that’s you today. Go where your eyes take you. Follow your curiosity. LOOK. Open your eyes wide. Look up to the sky, look down at your feet. Get some new perspectives. LISTEN. What is that you hear in the distance? What do you hear right around the bend? See what you can find. TOUCH. What does that rough bark or slippery rock or beautiful flower petal feel like anyway? Follow your curiosity and allurement. Just wander, don’t worry. If you notice anything that reminds you of your intention or question, stay in that place as long as you can. Don’t think of your question, just dive deeper into your senses in that place. Breathe. Remember to give your clever mind that mini-vacation! You’re doing exactly what you need to do in this moment.
Step Five – Wait for Insight
So before you leave and rush back to your life as usual, stop and give thanks to yourself for taking this time, and to the splendor of the natural world that was your host today. Revisit your intention. What was it that you were supposed to learn today, anyways? Did any insights come to you? The effects of an experience like this come in their own timing. You’ll also get better with practice and guidance. I guarantee that you will be surprised!
So, please let us know the changes you experience when you try these steps for yourself. We’d love to hear from you on Facebook or email. See you out there!