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?

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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.

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.


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.