Tara Sophia Mohr | Playing Big

Tara Sophia Mohr, Playing Big. Find Your VOICE, Your MISSION, and Your MESSAGE.

Mindfulness + Work with Dr. Leah Weiss

Leah Weiss, Dalai Lama, mindfulness, meditation, mindfulness in the workplace

As I’ve shared, I recently read the fantastic new book, How We Work, by Dr. Leah Weiss. Leah’s background is fascinating. She’s a licensed social worker, has a PhD in Theology and Education, has trained extensively in mindfulness and now teaches a pioneering course at Stanford Business School called Mindful Leadership.

Here’s what the Dalai Lama (yes, the Dalai Lama) had to say about this book:

I have long thought that what the Buddha taught can be seen as a highly developed science of mind which, if made more accessible to a lay audience, could benefit many people. I believe that Dr. Weiss’s book, in combining such insights with science and good business practice, offers an effective mindfulness based program that many will find helpful.”   – His Holiness, the Dalai Lama

Next week, I’ll be interviewing Dr. Weiss about the book on Facebook Live, and you are all invited to join.

I hope you’ll come to learn from her along with me, to delve into topics around meaning, leadership, mindfulness and wellbeing, and to ask your questions and participate in the discussion.

Today, I want to share three powerful ideas from the book:

Mindfulness integrated into life.

Leah writes, “I actually had plenty of time to practice [mindfulness], I realized, because practice wasn’t something I had to take time out of working or mothering or living to do. In fact, working, mothering, and living — life — were all opportunities for practice. There is a saying in the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism: ‘Take all of life onto the path.’ Freed from the confines of the cushion, meditation could include all of life.”

I especially loved her articulation of this piece of wisdom: “The back-to-back demands and busy-ness of our days do not stand in the way of our purpose in the world; they represent a chance to realize it.”

In our conversation, we’ll talk more about how to do this — the practical ways we can bring mindfulness into our lives moment to moment. For today, find a moment to pause, and simply bring mindfulness to the situation: What am I feeling right now? What sensations do I notice in my body? What emotions am I experiencing? With awareness, we have a space to self-reflect, to question our assumptions, or to take action to redirect our attention to where we desire it to be.

We’ve got to feel our feelings, not try to bypass them.

She writes, “The research consensus is that fighting against our feelings only makes them stronger… The ability to tolerate or accept or get curious about our unpleasant emotions is the ticket out of this cycle.”

It’s not easy of course, because we all have an instinct to avoid feeling difficult emotions (and we often make a habit out of it!). In our conversation, we will talk about what that looks like in the moment — how can we be mindful of what emotions we are experiencing (even subtly) and then what do we do next once we are aware of them? For today, can you greet a difficult emotion with simple awareness — noting to yourself the sadness, anger, frustration or other feeling present?

Finding purpose in our work.

As you can imagine, I loved the section of the book on the importance of living and working with purpose. Leah writes, “Purpose boosts our capacity to make the greatest impact in the work we do, and to connect with other people across cultures and contexts, however powerless or lonely we might feel. We are energized, motivated, and expanded by a sense of purpose.”

She invokes a metaphor for staying connecting to purpose that I loved: in a jigsaw puzzle, there are all the pieces, and then there is that picture of the whole puzzle put together that is often on the cover of the box. How often do we remember that big picture, the whole of what we are working toward or trying to put together with all these little pieces?

In our conversation, we will talk about strategies for staying rooted in your purpose as you move through the mundane, frantic, or stressful moments of the everyday. For today, bring back a sense of that picture of the whole puzzle on the cover of the box — what’s the vision you are working toward? How does having a sense of it change how you move through today?

Mark your calendars for this conversation — we’d love for you to join us! We’ll be meeting up on Leah’s Facebook page here on Monday (April 30) at 10:30 am Pacific.

In the meantime, you can get your copy of How We Work: Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind here.

With love,

“the detours”

Jadah Sellner, Lead with Love podcast, Simple Green Smoothies, authenticity, finding direction, life purpose

This was one of the things Jadah Sellner and I talked about in our recent conversation for her podcast, Lead with Love.

I’ve come to believe that straying from our soul’s path is simply a part of the human experience. I have never met a person who did not fail in their allegiance to their truth, who did not veer away from what gave them joy.

There is something very core to the learning we are supposed to gain here that has to do with getting lost and then finding our way, veering off our paths and then turning back.

Through that contrast we can see who we are, and what we truly want to claim. We are meant to be lost and found. We are meant to take detours but then return to our road.

So today, recognize the value of the detours you’ve taken or the one you are in right now.

And if you don’t know Jadah yet, or you’d like to hear our conversation, check out her work and our episode here.



taking reflection time

reflection, creativity, mindfulness, work, career

In Dr. Leah Weiss’s fabulous new book, How We Work, she shares a fascinating study about the power of reflecting on our work. 

In the study, conducted by Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino, three groups of IT workers underwent a 16 day job training. 

One group of individuals simply took the training. 

The second group took the training and, for 15 minutes at the end of each day, wrote about and reflected upon what they learned that day. 

The third group did this reflection writing and also spent five minutes sharing their writings and insights with another employee. 

At the end of the training, those who reflected performed 22.8% better on a final test than the control group did. Those who reflected and shared with another person performed 25% better on the test. 

It’s powerful to see the data so clearly, isn’t it? What a fabulous reminder that reflecting on our experiences and articulating aloud what we’ve learned dramatically impacts how much we are learning from our experiences.

•  Do you currently have time and space built in for reflection on what you are learning? Even if you aren’t in formal training like those in this particular study, every day you are learning from the successes, failures, challenges, conversations, and feedback that you encountered that day. What was the learning from that day’s success? From its challenge? From a conversation with a client or colleague? Can you build in a few minutes daily, or weekly, to reflect on this in writing or aloud?

•  Who in your life can you share your learnings with? Can you build time into team conversations or 1:1 meetings for sharing reflections on what is being learned? Or, is there a support person in your life like a coach whom you could have this kind of conversation with? A peer mentoring partner? 
•  What about applying this principle in your personal life? In some sense we are all in an educational training program every day – life. The curriculum is really something, isn’t it? Can you make space to journal about what you are learning about yourself, about others, about life, from the day’s or week’s experiences? 

I’m thrilled that I’ll be talking in-depth with Dr. Leah Weiss, author of How We Work, about this topic​ of reflection at work and other key topics for productivity and meaning at work – from purpose to mindfulness and more. Dr. Weiss teaches the Leading with Mindfulness and Compassion course at Stanford Business School, and has a fascinating hybrid background in social work, Buddhist meditation, theology and education.

About her new book, The New York Times Book Review says, “Weiss’s approach to greater satisfaction and success at work is steeped in evidence-based science. And it’s not just philosophical; there’s plenty of practical advice.”

Stay tuned for details on our upcoming conversation, and in the meantime, get the book here.


if your calling doesn’t pay the bills

calling, purpose, paying the bills, expression, creativity
Yes, it can be a tremendous blessing in our lives to do work full-time that feels like a calling.

But I’ve also never met a calling that cared whether or not it was the way the bills got paid. And over the past ten years I’ve talked to many, many people about their longings, their callings, their dreams.

The callings that come to us want to be respected, not ignored or rationalized away. And they want us to give them expression in some way – but often small ways and small hours are plenty – plenty for giving us huge joy and fulfillment, and for bringing good into the world.

Whatever it is for you – that form of making art that is calling to you, that way of working with people, that project you’d love to do – just give it some air, some time, some of your allegiance and energy. That’s all it needs.


If you wish you had more self-discipline

more self-discipline playing big fan social media pull quotes

You can listen to this post in audio, too. Click the player to download an mp3 file.

Where we think we need more self-discipline, we usually need more self-love.

Several weeks ago, I noticed that those words from the Playing Big book were being shared widely on social media, with people taking the time to format them and give them their own visual expression.

Everywhere they were posted, they seemed to resonate strongly with readers, and that has intrigued me. So I thought today I’d delve deeper into this topic. What do these words really mean? What do they ask us to do differently? And what about this idea are we so hungry for and why?

We tend to think we need more self-discipline when we aren’t taking consistent action toward our goals: we want to exercise regularly but we aren’t; we aim to meditate every evening but we haven’t been consistent; we committed to track our money more closely, but fell off the wagon.

Then we tend to say to ourselves, in some version: “If I could only be more self-disciplined…” That’s our story about the situation, that we lack willpower or discipline.

Yet I will tell you after a lot of coaching conversations that self-discipline is never the missing ingredient in these situations.

What is needed is not more self-discipline or will, but one of these three things:

1. Practical adjustments to routines, schedules, support systems. I think of one woman who believed she just didn’t have the self-discipline to get up early every day. With some self-reflection, she discovered that she really just needed to reduce her commitments so she could go to bed a few hours earlier. Then the new wake-up time became no problem. Or, I think of another woman who thought she lacked the self-discipline to save money, but you know what? She had no problem doing so once she put a monthly transfer on automation. Where we think we need more self-discipline, we need more self-love. Sometimes that self-love expresses itself through the very practical routines, supplies, support systems we put in place to get us where we want to go.

2. Inner work. Other times, when we assume that we lack self-discipline, our flow of motivation is actually getting blocked by fear. I think of one woman who had come to feel she wasn’t publishing on her blog regularly because she lacked the self-discipline. But within a few minutes of coaching around the topic, it became clear that the core issue was fear of what people would think when she shared her ideas more publicly.

Fear is tricky, and subtle, and we put lots of fancy explanations on top of it that can hide it. When our motivation suddenly dips or we find ourselves behaving in ways we label “lazy,” quite often underneath we find fear – especially fear of change, failure, or (for women in particular) fear of separating from others in our life as we step into new ways of being.

In these situations, we do not need more self-discipline (and no amount of self-discipline could get us to ramrod past our fear! Fear will always win out if it’s unexamined or unconscious.) What we need is self-love, manifest through gentle, self-compassionate inquiry into what’s getting stirred up. That can happen through journaling, sharing out loud to a supportive group or friend, processing fear through making art, or through a session with a therapist or coach.

3. Changing the goal. Sometimes the problem is that we’ve given ourselves what I call a “should-goal” – an aim that comes from a sense of should, often drawn from others’ expectations, or your own inner critic’s marching orders. In my own life, I’ve set “should-goals” about going to the gym, “networking” with people in my field, posting regularly on social media, to name a few. None of these things had particular resonance in my heart or soul, and because they were “shoulds” I couldn’t keep up motivation around them. Here, the issue for us is not really a lack of self-discipline, but rather that we are working toward the wrong goal – one we are never going to have a wellspring of energy toward.

We’ve got to set what I call gift-goals, goals that are resonant with our values, our temperaments – goals that feel like gifts to give ourselves. (There’s much more on how to do that in the Playing Big book). In my case, I had to find alternative versions of my “should-goals” that were more true to me – for example, getting to dance class (not the gym) and connecting with a few people I truly admire in my field (not doing a lot of networking).

So, if you are struggling with motivation or consistent action in any area of your life, I’d look at these three areas:
1) Is this a should-goal or a gift-goal? If it’s a should, start by shifting the goal into one that is more resonant for you. (Check out our handout on creating gift-goals, here).
2) If it’s a gift-goal, is there a fear blocking your motivation? How can you feel it, unpack it, move through it – all with loving-kindness toward yourself?
3) Or, do you simply need to change the practical pieces – the time you’ve made available, the level of support you’ve put in place – to make it easier for you to take the action you want to take?

Last but not least, I think we have to pay attention to the resonance of this idea. The spread of these words across the web tells me that many of us recognize that something about our stories regarding self-discipline has lead us astray, and is false. Some part of tus knows that there is possibility in bringing self-love to those very places. If you work with people – as a coach, facilitator, counselor – how can you bring more of this idea forward? If you are a friend, a parent, a partner in conversation with others about their goals, how can you bring more of this idea to those conversations?

Want to set gift-goals or work with others on setting theirs? Grab my PDF on creating gift-goals here, with journaling prompts and coaching questions to help you do just that.

With love,