The day after Election Day

As I write this, it’s Election Day in the US, one unlike any other I’ve lived through. Here in New York City, some friends are looking to escape to a safer place, wherever that might be. One is talking about boarding up his business in anticipation of protests or riots or worse. People in other countries are telling me, “We’re watching to see what happens.”

It’s as if we’re all trapped in a snow globe, waiting for things to settle down so we can see clearly. Except things don’t settle down. The snow globe keeps shaking, and the change and uncertainty and stress don’t go away.

How will you manage?

The Snow Globe.001.jpeg

A new approach to well-being

More and more companies recognize the need to do something extra to help employees. Even before the pandemic, a research brief by the RAND Corporation found that “69 percent of employers with more than 50 employees offered a wellness program, and 80 percent of the larger ones (more than 1,000 employees).”

Later this week, I’ll kick off a WOL Mindfulness program for a new corporate customer, with more programs planned all throughout next year. 

WOL Mindfulness is an 8-week peer coaching program that cultivates skills we need now more than ever: how to better relate to ourselves and each other, how to be more resilient in the face of change, how to be calmer and happier.

Why would a company spend time and money on this? Because it’s a good investment. Last year, the American Psychological Association estimated that workplace stress “costs U.S. industry more than $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity, and medical, legal and insurance costs.” And that number is surely going up. 

But WOL Mindfulness isn’t just for big companies to invest in their employees. You can choose to invest in yourself, too.

“A maximum outcome with a minimum investment of time”

The WOL Mindfulness program that’s offered to companies is also available in the new WOL Membership Network. The program is designed to help you deal with the shaking snow globe. As part of your annual membership, you get coaching and support all along the way, enabling you and your Circle to practice well-researched methods that yield tremendous benefits. (Your membership entitles you to participate in as many as three Mindfulness Circles or WOL Circles.)

For example, Melanie used WOL Mindfulness “to reduce stress and to realize how much good is happening in my life.” Her new habits, she said, “have become an integral part of my everyday life.”  Maria, just today, shared the impact of her first WOL Circle: “I now feel empowered, optimistic and better connected.”

Maybe you’re seeking these kinds of benefits for yourself, or want to help a friend. Or maybe you’re looking for ways to help your organization and colleagues.

In a sense, every day is Election Day. More uncertainty. More change. Yet waiting and hoping for a better tomorrow is a poor strategy. You deserve to take more control of your own future, to be less stressed, to be happier.

We form the first WOL Mindfulness Circles in January. You can sign up now.

The Goal Clinic

The first members of the WOL Membership Network signed up this weekend, and it’s already an amazing mix of people.

Creating this new network opens up possibilities for individuals as well as companies of all sizes. Here’s one of the first things we’ll do together, and the kinds of people who will benefit from it.

The Goal Clinic

All the Circle methods, including WOL Mindfulness, begin with a goal of some kind. It helps you orient your activities throughout your Circle and tap into your intrinsic motivation.

But what should you choose? Though there are instructions in Week 1, I’ve seen how people benefit from getting some coaching to help them choose or refine their goal.

That’s what happens in the Goal Clinic. Before our new membership Circles even form, we will give people the chance to share their goals, listen to others, and explore tips and possibilities with me and others in the network. That will help them get off to a great start with a meaningful goal they can make progress towards.

We’ve been doing this with our biggest corporate customers, and now we can do it for everyone in the new network. Even better, we can offer ways for members with similar goals to continue to connect and exchange throughout their membership, expanding our chances for learning and growing together.

The Goal Clinic.001.jpeg

Five Kinds of Members

Some of our new members work for themselves and some in big organizations. Some joined as part of their personal development program at work and had their company support their membership. Here are five types of members we’ve seen so far.

Career Builders who want to develop their skills and access more opportunities.

Joining my first Working Out Loud Circle was one of the best decisions I made.

- Lea on her WOL Circle experience

The Curious who are looking to explore new topics and make new connections.

[WOL Mindfulness gave me] a maximum outcome with a minimum investment of time. It helped me to reduce stress and to realize how much good is happening in my life. My new habits have become an integral part of my everyday life.

- Melanie on her WOL Mindfulness experience

Supportive Managers who want to offer their staff personal development and coaching opportunities that are proven, cost-effective, and easy to administer.

Many are simply astonished by the number of opportunities that they were offered while applying their WOL practices.

The employees indicated that WOL has changed the way they approach and value others as well as the way they treat and value themselves." 

- Nadine Skerlavaj, “Why is WOL accepted by employees?” [Bachelor Thesis]

Small Company Executives who would like the kind of employee and culture programs that large companies have, so they too can foster a more agile, collaborative workplace. 

An ideal method to further develop our learning and working culture.

- Dürr Systems AG, sharing their WOL experience on LinkedIn

Working Out Loud can provide some of that “social glue” that enables organizations to move forward cohesively. Whether it’s a virtual team or one physically together.

- Shirley on joining a Circle as a new joiner

Progressive HR Professionals who are looking for new ways to help employees collaborate and feel connected, especially in a time where more people are working remotely. Some are even looking for cross-company networking.

We are 70 leaders on a journey towards better collaboration culture and decided everyone should start a Circle. 

- Sebastian Kolberg, Leading Digital Transformation & Change Projects, Bayer

The future of corporate learning is self-directed and social. WOL is an important part of our learning strategy.

- Laura Krsnik, Head of Global Learning, Merck KGaA

Can you relate to these roles and these quotes? Are you looking for new skills, opportunities, connections, or ideas? The WOL Membership Network makes it easier than ever to invest in yourself. 

Learn more at: signup.www.africanmango-slim.com.

WOL Mindfulness - a new kind of WOL Circle

At the beginning of an online meeting, the moderator asked participants for a single word that described how each person felt. The most common responses? “Tired.” “Stressed.” “Exhausted.” “Busy.”

This was a group with good jobs in a modern company. We were all healthy, educated, able to make a living. And yet…it was hard to see past the challenges we each faced.

That’s why I created WOL Mindfulness. Together with Lukas Fütterer and Sophia R?diger from MountainMinds, we developed completely new materials and just concluded a 60-person program in Europe.

The Goal

When you are mindful—when you have trained yourself to control your attention—you are more aware of what’s happening to you and around you, and you can choose your responses in an intentional way. That helps you to think more clearly and make better decisions. It helps you to be calmer and more resilient. Cultivating the skill of mindfulness can make you more effective, and also healthier and happier.

More and more companies recognize the need to help employees cultivate this skill. In a 2017 survey by the Business Group on Health, 35% of employers were offering mindfulness classes or training to employees, with an additional 26% considering them for the future. WOL Mindfulness can be a part of these and other employee health programs,

The point of WOL Mindfulness isn’t to teach people about mindfulness. It’s to help them practice until they become more more mindful and realize the benefits.

What is WOL Mindfulness?

If you have already been in a WOL Circle, certain aspects of WOL Mindfulness will be familiar to you. You will meet as a group of four or five, and it will be a psychologically safe, confidential space without judgment or competition. You will each pick your own goal (though it will be a different kind of goal than you choose in a WOL Circle), and your Circle can meet in person or via video. 

Beyond that, there are several notable differences. This is not about networking so there is no relationship list. You will meet for eight weeks instead of twelve, and you will use the WOL Mindfulness Journal instead of individual guides. In addition to guides for each meeting, the Journal has short daily exercises to do in between meetings. Over the eight weeks, you experience a wide variety of ways to control your attention and develop the skill and habit of mindfulness (i.e., it’s not just meditation). By the end, you develop your own sustainable practice. 

Melanie’s Story & Results from the First Pilot

An earlier attempt I called “WOL: Self-Care” showed me what worked and didn’t work, and I decided to start over with a completely new approach. 

From the detailed feedback we received in our first pilot led by Lukas and Sophia, the key benefits are the exchanges with Circle members and the development of new habits that make a positive difference. 

Melanie, for example, shared on LinkedIn how she realized “a maximum outcome with a minimum investment of time.” WOL Mindfulness helped her develop habits that enable her “to reduce stress and to realize how much good is happening in my life.” Importantly, those habits “have become an integral part of my everyday life.”  

WOL Mindfulness Programs 

When I first started working on this idea, I thought that Circles could be used to help people develop all kinds of new habits and skills, and that Mindfulness should be the next one.

Hundreds of companies are spreading Working Out Loud Circles, proving that they are willing to create a safe, confidential space for employees to develop themselves. 

What if we could build on that, and use Circles to enhance employees' focus, self-control, and stress management while helping them be kinder and happier? How many people would benefit if all those wellness programs had a new method that was easy to implement and spread? 

We are now organizing WOL Mindfulness programs for companies. To discuss a program for your organization, please contact us:    

mindfulness@www.africanmango-slim.com

UPDATE! Individuals can also experience WOL Mindfulness by joining the new WOL Membership Network.


The Waiting Room

The doctor didn’t seem concerned at first. After my annual check-up, he left me a voicemail like he usually does. “Your blood counts are low,” he said. “It’s probably nothing. But we should retake them.”

A second test showed the same results. Red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets: All low. “You should go see a specialist,” he said.

Googling cancer

My first reaction was denial. I feel fine! Then rationalization. Maybe it’s because I’m vegetarian. I ordered some vitamins and called a hematologist, a blood specialist, whose first opening was in a few weeks. Plenty of time to educate myself. 

If you search the internet for “low blood counts” you quickly wind up at sites like cancer.org, reading articles on leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome. Each one gravely predicts how long you can expect to live.

The doctor did a battery of tests to try and find a root cause. Enlarged spleen? Bone marrow malfunction? “Unfortunately,” he said, “it’s not related to your diet.” Something was definitely wrong.

The Waiting Room

A bone scan involves an extremely long needle, and the procedure feels and sounds as if they’re hammering it through your body to test the marrow inside while they also take a chip from the bone itself. “We’ll have the full results in about a week.”

More searching. More thinking.

A week later, I was back in the Waiting Room. The other people there all seemed much older. They had trouble walking or breathing, or both. One was visibly shaking. In more ways than I wanted to admit, though, I was just like them. We all wore masks, keeping our distance. We all sat quietly, waiting our turn.

Whatever he says next, I thought, will determine the course of my life.

“The doctor will see you now”

I began thinking of friends and family who had or have cancer, and all of a sudden I felt more connected to them. Instead of misfortune at a distance, I felt fear and apprehension up close and imagined how they must feel it too. I think of the untold millions who suffer from illness of some kind, many of whom don’t have the luxury of healthcare or the support of family. I felt connected to them too, and grateful for all I have.

The nurse calls me in and my doctor, shuffling through my chart, delivers my results: I don’t have cancer. Wading through the jargon, it seems my bone marrow just isn’t producing all the right cells in the shapes that it’s supposed to. “There’s nothing to do,” the doctor said, “but keep an eye on it.” Since then I took two more tests, and I have another one next week. In the spectrum of possibilities, my results were fine.

As I walk home from the doctor’s office, I begin to think that each moment is a kind of Waiting Room. You play out scenarios in your mind, some of which stoke fear and anxiety. You worry about what comes next. But I make myself a promise to try and be more present, to enjoy what I have instead of worrying about when I’ll lose it or waiting for what happens next.

You could spend your whole life waiting.

Copyright: ?Jed Gammon Photography

Copyright: ?Jed Gammon Photography


Letting go

While preparing a new eight-week format called WOL Mindfulness (a next iteration of WOL Self-Care), I came across a story about “a particularly clever way to catch monkeys.” It’s from Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

As the story goes, hunters will cut a hole in a coconut that is just big enough for a monkey to put its hand through. Then they will drill two smaller holes in the other end, pass a wire through, and secure the coconut to the base of a tree. Then they slip a banana inside the coconut through the hole and hide. The monkey comes down, puts his hand in, and takes hold of the banana. The hole is cleverly crafted so that the open hand can go in but the fist cannot get out. All the monkey has to do to be free is to let go of the banana. But it seems most monkeys don’t let go.

My first thought was of how simple the monkeys’ brains must be to be trapped like this. Then I realized I am just like them. The banana just takes different forms. Usually, it’s in the shape of a “should” or a “shouldn’t.” 

I should be more successful/skillful/productive/handsome/youthful/kind…

She should …

They should …

And now, more recently:

There shouldn’t be a pandemic.

I should be able to go ahead with my plans.

Lured by an idea of something better, I hold on and can’t let go. I’m trapped by my thoughts just like the monkey. 

Kabat-Zinn’s editor suggested he avoid using the word “catastrophe” in a book meant to help people. So he tried dozens of other possibilities, including Paying Attention: The Healing Power of Mindfulness. But he wanted to do more than help people heal. He wanted to help them experience and embrace all the richness of life. He said the phrase “simply wouldn’t go away.”

“The full catastrophe” captures something positive about the human spirit’s ability to come to grips with what is most difficult in life and to find within it room to grow in strength and wisdom. For me, facing the full catastrophe means finding and coming to terms with what is deepest and best and ultimately, what is most human within ourselves. There is not one person on the planet who does not have his or her own version of the full catastrophe.

It can take a lifetime to learn how to accept and embrace the full catastrophe of what’s happening around us and inside us, if we ever do. But it’s worth the attempt. The “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” are baggage we are carrying around with us every day, and the road to happiness is best traveled light.

Let it go. The road to happiness is best traveled light.

What will you do when the train is late?

A disruption in your day can be a good time to practice Working Out Loud. Here’s an example. 

I often travel across Germany on their national rail system, the Deutsche Bahn. Compared to train travel in America, the sprawling and incredibly convenient system in Germany seems like a miracle to me, second in the world only to Japan’s. 

Yet this miracle is quickly forgotten whenever a train is late or, heaven forbid, canceled.

When that happens, I can feel the irritation and anger rise in the car and outside in the station. People air their displeasure with loud sighs and complaints. They take to social media to “share” a dose of negativity and sarcasm. They accost overwhelmed train personnel, demanding answers the staff usually doesn’t have.

This is the time to practice WOL, by pausing before you act and asking yourself two questions:

  • What’s the contribution?

  • How would you feel if you were them? 

The late train is a trigger that sets off a cascade of emotions and reactions. Whatever you do next, will it be helpful or will it only amplify the suffering? Will the people around you feel better or worse as a result?

Stopping to pause and ask questions helps you engage the more evolved parts of your brain so you can make a more mindful choice, one that’s better for you and everyone around you. It changes how you relate—to the situation, to yourself, to others—so you can be more effective and access more possibilities. 

If you don’t ride trains, what else might be your trigger? Maybe, like me, it’s waiting in traffic or in line at the supermarket. Maybe it’s an unpleasant interaction or incident at work or at home. We can wish certain things don’t happen but we can’t control them. All we can control is our response, and that takes practice. The author of How to Train a Wild Elephant, a book on taming your mind, puts it this way:

“If we don’t let the cart of the mind keep running down the same deep ruts, down the same old hill, into the same old swamp, eventually the ruts will fill up. Eventually our habitual states of irritation and frustration over something like waiting will dissolve. It takes time, but it works. And it’s worth it, as everyone around us will benefit.”

Next time, what will you do when the train is late?

Deutsche Bahn ICE Trains. Photo: DPA

Deutsche Bahn ICE Trains. Photo: DPA



Results of the WOL: Self-Care experiment

Exactly a year ago, I wrote that I was working on a new practice called WOL: Self-Care (or WOL: SC), and a few months later we began a pilot with one hundred people. Just this past month I compiled survey results.

Here’s what happened.

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The Why & How of WOL: SC

My intention was to create a new practice that people could join after their WOL Circle ended. It would be comprised of five different kinds of mindfulness practices spread over six months. You would still be part of a peer support group, but with some important differences.

You will do daily exercises on your own each month, and your meetings will be for you to share what happened and to prepare for a different practice the next month.

Also, unlike a WOL Circle, there is no goal or relationship list. The practices are largely focused on yourself. The only goals are to develop greater self-awareness and mindfulness. These are the keys to realizing more of your potential as well as a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness. 

Whereas Working Out Loud improves how you relate to others, WOL-SC helps you improve how you relate to yourself.

The survey results

Whether or not the experiment was a success depends on your perspective. Fewer than half of the WOL:SC groups finished, which is disappointing. And yet there were clear themes about how to improve the practice, so I learned a lot:

  • Change the timing of the meetings to be closer together

  • Include more interaction between members

  • Make the material more engaging, perhaps with videos and/or a journal

Regarding the exercises, most liked them and a few even called them “life-changing.” But a significant percentage felt they were too personal, too similar to things they’ve already done, or not suitable for WOL or the workplace. 

What’s next

The last question I asked in the survey was, “If you were me, would you keep working on WOL: Self-Care?” 

The responses were (mostly) positive and encouraging, and yet even if they weren’t I would keep working on WOL: SC. As I wrote about a year ago, the needs for putting these ideas into practice are greater than ever, and we have a tremendous opportunity because of how WOL has spread.

Hundreds of companies are spreading Working Out Loud Circles, proving that they are willing to create a safe, confidential space for employees to develop themselves. What if we could build on that, and use Circles to enhance employees' focus, self-control, and stress management while helping them be kinder and happier? How many people would benefit if all those wellness programs had a new method that was easy to implement and spread? 

As a next step, I will redesign WOL: Self-Care, employing a different structure, different media, and different exercises. I will also create alternative practices so those who finish WOL Circles have multiple options for continuing their development.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the pilot as well as those who offered ideas and opinions along the way. I greatly appreciate your support and contributions.

“The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.”

What if, instead of constantly trying to fight against some of our cognitive and behavioral weaknesses, we could use them to our advantage?

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Hidden persuaders

The title of this post is taken from the last line of Mindless Eating, by food researcher Brian Wansink. In the book, he writes that we make over 200 food decisions each day, and that we aren’t aware of most of them. The result is that what we eat and how much we eat are determined by an astounding array of “hidden persuaders.” Here are a few of them:

  • size of the plate or container

  • shape of the glass

  • distance to the food/convenience of accessing it

  • variety of food

  • number of people you’re eating with

  • distractions present (tv, radio, phone, reading, etc.)

  • labels/descriptions of the food

  • presentation of the food

The most famous example might be the popcorn study. Wansink gave people a free bucket of popcorn at a movie theater. Some had a medium bucket and some had a large bucket, though each was big enough that no one could finish all of it. Importantly, all of the popcorn was stale, having sat in sterile conditions for five days. Despite patrons saying, “It was like eating Styrofoam peanuts,” people with large buckets ate 53% more - an average of 21 more handfuls (or 173 extra calories). 

Study after study show the impact of hidden persuaders. If you eat with one person you’ll eat 35% more, and up to 96% more when you eat with a group of seven. If you’re given a half-pound bag of M&Ms you’ll eat an average of 71, but you’ll eat 137 (or 264 more calories) from a one-pound bag. Even experienced bartenders mistakenly pour 37% more alcohol into short, wide glasses than into tall, skinny ones.

How to avoid a lifetime of suffering

If you’re like me, you may believe you’re not fooled by such things, that you’re in control of your own choices. Alas, two decades of Wansink’s research shows that everyone thinks this way.

“We all think we’re too smart to be tricked by packages, lighting, or plates. We might acknowledge that others could be tricked, but not us. That is what makes mindless eating so dangerous. We are almost never aware that it is happening to us.”

Instead of fighting with yourself to become more disciplined, Wansink suggests you adopt simple “reengineering strategies” that make it easier for you to choose what you believe is in your own best interests. Want to eat more vegetables? Serve them family style or on larger plates. Want to drink a bit less wine? Serve it in taller, thinner glasses and keep the empties on the table.

“As all of our research suggests, we can eat about 20 percent more or 20 percent less without really being aware of it. You can eat too much without knowing, and you can also eat less without knowing it. The goal is to make small changes in our environment so it works with us rather than against us.”

Beyond popcorn

Reading Mindless Eating has already inspired me to change my environment when it comes to food. But the core idea applies to all sorts of things - from how much we use our phones to what kinds of media we consume.

Yes, our innate human tendency for doing things in a mindless, habitual way can lead to unhealthy choices - choices that may well be driven by external influences and the interests of others. But a short period of making mindful adjustments to your environment can help you create a kind of “positive mindlessness,” one that leads to choices that serve you well.

The next time you overindulge on popcorn or social media, don’t waste time berating yourself. Think instead of how the things around you may have led to that behavior. Choose to control your environment rather than have it control you.

Introducing a new kind of Circle: WOL-SC

For people who have participated in a WOL Circle, a common question is, ”What comes next?” Many people want to keep going, so some join another Circle with new members. Others just continue to meet every so often, updating and supporting each other. 

Now there’s another option. It’s a new way to deepen the insights and practice you began developing in your WOL Circle, and it’s called WOL-SC.

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What is WOL-SC?

The “SC” in “WOL-SC” can stand for many things: “Self-Care,” “Self-Compassion,” “SuperCharge,” or whatever other label you can come up with that expresses a sense of investing in yourself and and developing important skills. In many ways, a WOL-SC Circle can be thought of as a prequel to a WOL Circle. Whereas Working Out Loud improves how you relate to others, WOL-SC helps you improve how you relate to yourself.

WOL-SC is comprised of five discrete practices that you experiment with one after the other. Without exaggeration, these practices have changed my life. When I compare my current self to myself in years past, I am happier and calmer. I act with more confidence and clarity. I am a better father, husband, and friend. WOL-SC is an attempt to distill what I’ve learned from years of experiments aimed at improving my own work and life. It is not meant as a prescription that will work for everyone, or to presume that anyone should do what I do. Rather, it's offered in the spirit of “this helped me, and I hope you find it useful too.”

The main ideas are not new. The WOL-SC Circle Guides are all based on ancient wisdom, much of it thousands of years old and increasingly supported by scientific research. My intended contribution is to make it easier for anyone to apply these fundamentally good practices till they become habits, so more people can realize the many well-documented benefits.

How does it compare to a WOL Circle?

If you have already been in a WOL Circle, then certain aspects of WOL-SC will be familiar to you. You will meet as a group of four or five. It will be a psychologically safe, confidential space without judgment or competition. Your Circle can meet in person or via video across locations, and there will be guides with instructions on what to do in those meetings.

Beyond that, there are several important differences. You will meet only once a month for six months. You will do daily exercises on your own each month, and your meetings will be for you to share what happened and to prepare for a different practice the next month.

Also, unlike a WOL Circle, there is no goal or relationship list. The practices are largely focused on yourself. The only goals are to develop greater self-awareness and mindfulness. These are the keys to realizing more of your potential as well as a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness. The reason for the Circle meetings is that the structure, shared accountability, and support can help each person make progress. Also, reflecting on and exchanging experiences each month can advance your learning. 

Better for you. Better for your organization.

The personal benefits of the five practices in WOL-SC have been thoroughly studied and documented, and the new Circle Guides include resources to help you explore further and learn more. But there are benefits for organizations, too. Companies clearly recognize the need to do more to help employees handle the strains of work and life. Every company I've met with, for example, has a Wellness at Work or Mindfulness program. And hundreds of companies are spreading Working Out Loud Circles, proving that they are willing to create a safe, confidential space for employees to develop themselves.

What if we could build on that, and use Circles to enhance employees' focus, self-control, and stress management while helping them be kinder and happier? How many people would benefit if all those wellness programs had a new method that was easy to implement and spread? 

If you would like to be the first to try it…

I’ve been toying with this idea for a few years. While staying in Japan this summer, I finally drafted a set of guides that are ready to test, but not yet ready to publish. For the first experiment, I’d like to form 3 Circles, comprised of people I don’t know well and all of whom have been in at least one WOL Circle. We will start in September.

  • Circle #1 would meet in person in New York City, and I would be a member. So I would need four volunteers who live in or near NYC.
  • Circle #2 would meet via video and would span timezones. I would be a member of this Circle too, so I would need four volunteers from different countries.
  • Circle #3 would not include me. This will help me understand if the new guides are self-explanatory and what changes I may need to make. For this Circle, I would need five volunteers who would meet via video (unless five people in the same location volunteer as a group).

If you would like to volunteer for the WOL-SC experiment, send me an email at john.stepper@www.africanmango-slim.com and let me know if you have a preference for which Circle you’d like to join. This is version 1.0 of something that may take many iterations to get right, but I am committed to working on it and to making the guides available for free. I appreciate your interest and support.

“What brought you here?”

In the late 1970s, Jon Kabat-Zinn was at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and he thought the mindfulness practices he’d been experimenting with could help patients there. 

This was viewed with skepticism and even derision, but he persisted, starting in conference rooms with small groups of people. He called his eight-week program the “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic” or MBSR. The focus on clinical benefits in a hospital setting helped to normalize what was then an exotic set of practices unsupported by science. 

40 years laters, there are MBSR instructors in more than 30 countries, and almost 80% of medical schools are involved in some kind of mindfulness training or research. 

When someone first entered the clinic, Kabat-Zinn began by asking them, “What brought you here?” Then he listened.

“I learned from this listening that our patients came to the Stress Reduction Clinic for a lot of different reasons that, in the end, were really just one reason: to be whole again, to recapture a spark they once felt they had, or felt they never had but always wanted.”

Most people were looking for something they weren’t getting - from their doctor or from life - and had decided they wanted to take some steps for themselves. 

“They came because they wanted to take charge in their own lives….
They came because some aspect of their lives wasn’t working for them anymore…
And perhaps, above all, they came, and stayed, because we somehow managed to create an atmosphere in the room that invited a deep and open-hearted listening, an atmosphere that the participants could recognize as benign, empathic, respectful, and accepting. That kind of feeling tone, unfortunately, can be an all-too-rare experience.”

The MBSR Program is a good model for what WOL can accomplish, both in how it normalized basic human practices that help individuals realize more of their potential, and how it scaled the changes. I included the question as the first exercise in Week 1 of a Working Out Loud Circle.

As with MBSR, people join WOL Circles for all sorts of reasons. They want to be more effective, accomplish a goal, explore a topic, earn access to new opportunities. But the underlying reason is often a sense that there could and should be more to work and life, “to recapture a spark they once felt they had, or felt they never had but always wanted.”

Since you’re reading this, you’re interested in WOL for some reason. What is it? What brought you here?