Using Mindful Leadership to Prepare for Life After Business School

Every other Wednesday, I get the opportunity to take prospective students out for lunch and answer any questions they have about life at NYU Stern. Over the course of the meal, we talk about our backgrounds, reasons to go to business school, and our future aspirations. Towards the end of the meal, the prospective student invariably asks me what I find challenging about business school. I don't remember what I said the first time I received this question, but after much thought and reflection, I now have a definite answer: juggling. Time management is too eloquent for what actually occurred in my life on a day-to-day basis. Start with classes and their never-ending barrage of group meetings, searching for an internship or full-time employment, add-in networking, volunteering, friends...and, what about family? Unfortunately, family all too often gets squeezed in after everything else. Now, add in special courses and seminars on communication and leadership. Should I take a mini-course about financial modeling? Is this even considered juggling anymore? Sometimes I reach a point where my mind gives me the 'Blue Screen of Death,' but how do I reboot?

With graduation in May and my first journey into corporate America on the horizon, I can already tell that my time in business school has been the minor leagues in regards to juggling. If I don't stop what I am doing now and find a better way, I will struggle. Enter NYU Stern's Mindfulness in Business program. I had the privilege of attending a three session mini-course about mindful leadership taught by former General Mills senior corporate executive, Janice Marturano, Esq. I was promised that through this course I would "experientially explore the simple, practical ways to train [my] mind and take the small steps [I] need to lead and live with excellence." After our introductory meditation session, my brain felt like a fog was lifted and that my mind was better able to focus. I knew that I made the right choice by attending.

The next two sessions increased my repertoire of meditation techniques and introduced purposeful pauses. Instead of using every second of my awake hours to multitask reading, eating, studying, and living, I was to pick times throughout the day to focus on one sense. I enjoyed the taste of my lunch instead of shoveling my food in as quickly as possible while reading for class. I removed my pair of visual blinders that every New Yorker wears and saw all of the colors while walking from the subway to campus. Instead of continuously scrolling through my mental to do list while riding the subway, I focused on the sounds of the creaks and rumblings as the car rolled down the tracks. At first my mind wandered constantly during these purposeful pauses, but with practice, I was starting to sustain my focus. Going forward, I plan to maintain this virtuous cycle by adding the recommended two 10-minute meditations to my daily routine.

I came to business school to prepare myself to be an effective leader, but juggling tasks, meetings, friends, and family soon took its toll. I learned that my brain was stuck juggling everything thrown at it and was not ready to lead. I can have all of the book learning in the world, but I must be able to see the situation, accurately assess it, and effectively apply the right knowledge. I now know that if I want to succeed as a leader I must daily train my brain to be ready for these challenges as a leader. The next time a prospective student asks me what I find challenging about business school, I will still say juggling. However, I can now confidently offer them a solution: "Let me tell you about Stern's mindfulness program."