As someone who held the title “most quiet” in high school, verbal communication has always been a challenge for me.
When I got my first job in advertising I was content executing campaigns and managing day-to-day relationships, but once I started taking on more responsibility, my shyness started to get in my way. I worried about making the wrong decisions and deferred to other people; I turned down presentation opportunities and froze up on conference calls.
In the highly stressful culture of advertising agencies feedback was rare—unless you did something wrong—and promotions often political. Last-minute client demands would lead to unpredictable hours, and I went to work with no idea when I would leave. While I was able to easily move up at first, my motivation was dwindling and my confidence remained low. I had hit a wall. A little over a year ago, my client cut spending and I found myself out of work. And while I felt like a failure, I also saw this window as an opportunity to find something that I love.
I had recently read Arianna Huffington’s memoir, Thrive, which referenced large companies and high-profile executives who are incorporating mindfulness practices into their organizations and lives. I was a yoga practitioner who was considering yoga teacher training “when I had the money,” but all signs were pointing to now being the time. So I signed up and took on a freelance job in my field to pay the bills.
In teacher training we were required to develop and document a daily meditation practice, discuss our intentions on a regular basis with the group, and develop our own teaching voice. Learning about the chakras, or energy points, helped me understand what I needed to work on physically and emotionally. This awareness led to change, and I began to see a difference in the way I presented myself at work. Specifically, I noticed six ways in which teacher training had allowed me to find the necessary tools to grow both in my personal life, and in the workplace.
1. I Trust Myself
I realized that there is no “right” way to solve a problem. I used to worry about being the best, and putting forth the most “outside the box” idea—my instincts would get clouded with anxiety. Through my meditation practice I became more in tune with my intuition, worried less about being perfect, and focused on putting forth good ideas with strong rationale.
2. I’m a More Confident Public Speaker
Since I began my career almost 10 years ago I’ve been to at least four public speaking workshops, which only made me more nervous because they focused on pointing out flaws. In yoga teacher training feedback is meant to encourage each individual to develop a unique teaching voice by highlighting our strengths. This allowed us to continue to do what we were doing well, and feel confident in our abilities. In the corporate world, we all have distinct voices and everyone’s ideas matter. Keeping this mantra in mind has given me the confidence to get in front of a room and communicate my ideas.
3. Improved Articulation
Teaching yoga to beginners requires articulating specific direction because they have little body awareness. This skill is incredibly helpful in training direct reports and interacting with outside sources that need context and clear instruction.
4. Stay Calm in Stressful Situations
The pressure to be successful—particularly in New York—is immense, and one could argue that most people are in a constant state of panic. Breathing techniques and meditation slow down the heart rate, helping to balance the nervous system and counter that state. I used to panic when asked a question on the spot, and sometimes that still happens, but for the most part, I’m able to respond more calmly and think through an intelligent answer.
5. Better Prioritization
It’s very easy to get distracted by requests from external sources and stray off course. Meditation makes us more aware of the “mind stuff” that clouds our thinking on a daily basis, and once we achieve clarity, we’re able to focus on the task at hand and prioritize.
6. Stronger Relationships
Overall I’ve found that I now listen better and contribute more authentically. I find people are more drawn to my peaceful demeanor because of these practices.