Daily Practice

By geraldford (Fickr: Sojiji Meditation Cushions)
[CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In my last post, I discussed active listening and it’s fundamental importance in leadership, yet noted how difficult it is to maintain as a daily practice.

In fact, I concluded, the “reality is that the work of being a truly alive human being is truly difficult to turn into a daily practice. And that’s probably the real work of any kind of “leader” worth their salt.”

A recent article on The Atlantic by Christine Gross-Loh entitled “Why Are Hundreds of Harvard Students Studying Ancient Chinese Philosophy?” elucidates some further thought around the importance of daily practice:

The smallest actions have the most profound ramifications. Confucius, Mencius, and other Chinese philosophers taught that the most mundane actions can have a ripple effect, and Puett urges his students to become more self-aware, to notice how even the most quotidian acts—holding open the door for someone, smiling at the grocery clerk—change the course of the day by affecting how we feel. . . . 

While all this might sound like hooey-wooey self-help, much of what Puett teaches is previously accepted cultural wisdom that has been lost in the modern age. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do,” a view shared by thinkers such as Confucius, who taught that the importance of rituals lies in how they inculcate a certain sensibility in a person. 

I love that quote from Aristotle tied into the idea that small, mundane actions can have profound effects on our own psyche.

I thought about this in relation to our past discussions on this blog on the principle of obliquity, and it made me think about the inevitable annual SMART goals we are so often asked to set as professionals. These goals can be useful for focusing our thought and purpose at the outset of a year, to be sure, but the notion that we could possibly predict how we will grow within the chaotic course of a rollercoaster school year is laughable.

How much better would it be to set oblique goals, focused on tangible, mundane, concrete acts that we can perform daily!

In such spirit, I have established two personal daily practice goals, which I believe will do more to establish my “leadership” trajectory than anything else:

  • To sit in meditation each morning for at least 15 minutes
  • To intentionally conduct active listening with at least 1 person each day
These practices sound deceptively simple, yet could have profound implications.
Writing those goals is easy. Implementing them daily—or merely a few days a week—is much harder.

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