Tag: awareness

7/18/11 “Chef’s Special”

Good day, team,

One of my clients used to work as a chef. He often speaks about the high pressure atmosphere that exists in high end restaurant kitchens, the commitment to quality and the amount of criticism that’s levied on most chefs and their assistants. No matter how bad things get in his current corporate management job, it’s never as bad as what he experienced back in his days as a chef. All of this reminded me of a challenge I wrote back in 2007 that highlights the positive aspects of what it means to work in such a high pressure business. It is still as relevant today as it was then. Enjoy!

This week, I read a magazine article about top chefs in America. One of those interviewed, Thomas Keller, who started the famous “French Laundry” restaurant in Napa Valley and now runs “Per Se” in New York, is known throughout the world for his perfectionism. He’s one of the few chef’s who has earned a combined six Michelin stars.

In the interview, he said something that really struck me: “I tell cooks it’s about four things: awareness, inspiration, intellect and evolution.” When I read this statement, it occured to me that these are four of the five traits I consider to be most important in a leader. The fifth is “clarity.”

Without awareness, people miss what’s right in front of them as well as the benefit of self-observation. Without inspiration, they themselves are unable to inspire others to want to do more and be more. Without the intellect that comes from book and street smarts, it’s hard to keep up in today’s global world. Without the willingness to evolve as things change, people lose their flexibility. And without clarity, it’s hard for people to see the truth in a situation and communicate it in such a way that most people understand it. All of the good leaders I know embody these qualities.

Your challenge this week is to choose one of these attributes and make an effort to enhance it within yourself. If the trait is awareness, try being more present in each moment. Just look out of your eyes and feel your feet on the floor. Or maybe you become present to your breath. Try using whatever brings you back to the moment so you don’t miss what’s happening around you.

Maybe you’d like to be more inspirational to the people you work with. What do you love doing every day and how do you let others know that it gives you energy? Try sharing what energizes you.

How about increasing your knowledge about a subject and finding a way to share that with others? Have you learned something new that you’d like to share with a colleague?

Consider your evolution. Are you growing as conditions change and as you mature in your current job or life situation? If you feel stagnant, how can you jump-start your evolution by approaching something in a new way and challenging yourself differently? Are you someone who acts as a change agent within your organization?

Finally, how clear are you in your thoughts and words? Are you able to see through many extraneous facts to the heart of the matter and then clearly communicate what you see? Ask a co-worker what he or she thinks of your communication skills. Find out whether people understand what you’re saying. It may be a lack of clarity that makes it difficult for others to understand what you mean.

Whatever quality you choose, don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s through trial and error that we learn how to change the way we do things and thus gain a new perspective about ourselves and the world around us.

The article on top chefs noted that Thomas Keller had stood on a chair to sift confectionary sugar onto a cake to see if it would look more like fallen snow. Sure enough, the picture of the scrumptious-looking chocolate cake in the magazine looked just like snow had fallen on it. I was inspired by Keller’s creativity, adventurousness and commitment to making the most beautiful cake he could make.

Have a great week!


Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2011 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

12/6/10 “Being Present”

Good day, team,

Years ago, when I first learned about being present, I had some vague
intellectual idea of what the phrase meant. I had heard that it was the key to
self-awareness and becoming more conscious, so I asked a number of gurus,
meditation teachers and people who claimed to know a lot about awareness, “How
do you do this, I mean, how do you be present?” I received answers like “You
just be in the moment” or “Just allow yourself to be where you are” or “It’s
your natural state, just allow it to happen” that frankly didn’t give me any
specific help. It wasn’t until someone suggested that I try to feel my breath or
feel my feet that I began to experience my attention in my body, which brought
me into the moment.

This week’s challenge is about the experience of being present and some good
reasons and suggestions for doing it. A client* of mine sent me this recent
article from ‘The Huffington Post’ that addresses some of the benefits of being
present. It’s written by Soren Gordhamer, the author of ‘Wisdom 2.0’. Take a look:

“Researchers are slowly coming to the same conclusion. Harvard researchers, in a
study of over 2,200 people, asked them how they were doing at various random
times. The researchers found, as reported in ‘The New York Times’
, that
what mattered more was not /what /people were doing but rather the degree of
attention that they were bringing to what they were doing. According to the
article, ‘Whatever people were doing, whether it was having sex or reading or
shopping, they tended to be happier if they focused on the activity instead of
thinking about something else. In fact, whether and where their minds wandered
was a better predictor of happiness than what they were doing.’”

We’re used to thinking that sitting on a beach in the Bahamas is much better
than sitting in rush-hour traffic in New York City. And while there may be some
truth to the fact that is easier to pay full attention while in a relaxed
environment, according to the researchers, “The location of the body is much
less important than the location of the mind, and the former has surprisingly
little influence on the latter.”

But where is our attention during most of the day? It is generally lost in
thought. According to the researchers, “On average throughout all the
quarter-million responses, minds were wandering 47 percent of the time.” But we
do not need researchers to tell us that our mind wanders just about all the
time: We can watch and see for ourselves. As Eckhart Tolle has said, “Compulsive
thinking has become a collective disease.”

And now we have all kinds of gadgets that, essentially, help us stay in our
minds, disconnected from our bodies and actual experiences in a given moment.
Walk down the street of any major city and you’ll notice that most people are
essentially somewhere else, either because they are on their phone or are
daydreaming about some future moment or reliving a past one. This moment, the
one we are living now, is often missed.

As Ram Dass used to say, “We become human doings instead of human beings.” How
do we connect with being? For Eckhart Tolle and others, one simple way is to
“focus your attention away from thinking and direct it into the body, where
being can be felt.”

Even now, reading these words, can you bring attention to your body and see
thoughts arise and pass without riding the train of associated thoughts that
take you away from this moment?

Try this: for today, whenever you notice your mind wandering, invite attention
back into your body. Focus less on doing and more on being, and see if the
actions you do take come more often from that place of ease and focus, what in
sports they call “the zone.” Prioritize not what you are doing as much as the
quality of attention you bring to what you are doing, as if what you are doing
right now deserves your full attention.

This week, see what the experience of being present is like and if it makes a
positive difference in your life.

Have a good week,


Kathleen Doyle-White

Pathfinders Coaching

(503) 296-9249

© Copyright 2010 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search, Inc., all rights reserved.

* Many thanks to Mark DeWald from Move Inc. who forwarded this article to me
while he was feeling his feet!