The Leading Edge

Your Guide to Turning Barriers into Bridges

Just Breathe

Picture this. It’s early September, the perfect time for fresh starts. On the 21st floor of a downtown office building, a group of high-powered executives fill a corporate meeting room. All are keen to strategize and move forward into an exciting and lucrative new opportunity.

With the aid of an external facilitator, they confidently articulate a vision of their success in five years. But when asked what actions they could take in the next 12 months to make their vision real . . . Dah, dah, dah, daaaah. The room goes silent. They freeze. Like deer in headlights.

From Fear to Fuel

It’s the most remarkable thing. Here’s a group of successful business leaders with hundreds of years of experience amongst them, scared to death by their own “what was I thinking?” inner dialogues. Fortunately, the facilitator knows a magic coaching trick that works like rocket fuel to power them through the fear barrier.

Yes, this really did happen, and yes, the facilitator was yours truly. I’ve used the same party trick for years myself and with all my clients. It always helps dispel the fears and anxieties that commonly crop up when we stretch and take leadership.

Big Breaths

It’s a simple exercise—something we all do several thousand times a day. Just breathe! Try this special kind of breathing I learned from Rick Carson’s gem of a book, “Taming Your Gremlins.”

  1. First, stand up. Yes, really. Get out of your comfy chair and onto your two strong feet.
  2. Now put a hand on your stomach.
  3. Next, inhale, breathing in to the count of five, eight or 10. Fill up your tummy with air; make it stick out.
  4. Keeping your hand in place, exhale to the same count, flattening your tummy as you go.
  5. Good. Now do it again, and again, for a total of three big breaths. For maximum benefit, really exaggerate your stomach’s ups and downs.

Back on Track

So? What do you notice? What’s happening inside you? If you’re like most of us, you feel calmer, grounded, focused and ready to move forward. Such a simple little exercise, but it can help us connect to that wise and true part of ourselves, the part that knows what our next step should be—and knows we can do it.

Those powerful guys who got all afraid and small? With the help of this remarkable tool, they got big again—and even more powerful than before. Maybe because they’d now confronted the risks ahead, they were able to really tap into their brilliance.

I thought of them while recently snorkeling in Hawaii. Exploring a beautiful underwater world filled with green sea turtles and orange Nemo-like clown fish, I became super-aware of the depth and evenness of my breathing. Soon I felt more open to see the best of the above-water world, too.

Next time you’re venturing into new territory, try this handy breathing exercise. And let me know how it goes.

Your Turn

I’d love to hear how you’ve turned barriers into bridges and what those strategies have done for your business and your life. Write


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