January 17, 2024

How 2 Minutes Can Make You a Smarter, Better Leader

Leadership Development

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nse of duty and responsibility. They often work long hours and, while they recognize they should designate some time for self-care, they end up devoting little (if any) time to it. If this sounds like you or someone you know, please read on for a simple, quick, research-based way to enhance your wellbeing and resourcefulness.

Leading well starts with your own wellbeing 

The healthcare environment is brimming with challenges and constant change. With so many critical issues confronting you as a leader in this dynamic environment, it is important to be at your best. When you are tired, stressed or under pressure, your ability to think clearly and strategically is compromised.

What’s happening in your brain

When you feel threatened — whether by a looming deadline, relationship fallout, or seemingly impossible performance goal — the primitive area of your brain kicks into survival mode. The amygdala (a small, powerful information filter in the brain that makes connections and responds 100x faster than the cognitive system) takes over. This is known as amygdala hijacking, triggering emotions and reactive fight, flight or freeze responses. In this reactive state, we are focused on survival rather than thinking and acting intentionally or strategically. 

The 2×2 practice: How silence helps replenish your resources

Over the past few years, many healthcare leaders like you tell me they’ve benefitted from this simple practice to quickly boost their focus, resilience, mood and effectiveness. I call it a 2×2 (two by two): making space for (at least) two minutes of silence, twice a day. There’s some science behind this suggestion.

Why two minutes? Studies have shown that as little as two minutes of silence can be highly beneficial to your brain and body. It can help sustain energy, reduce stress and tension, and restore the nervous system, enabling you to feel calmer, more focused, and to think more clearly and creatively. In all, it helps to replenish your mental resources when you feel drained. 

Other benefits of silence include:

  • Improve self-awareness: You will likely notice a shift in your ability to be more self-aware and more intentional about how you show up with others (including family and friends), and how you respond to your environment.
  • As you move into a calmer state, you can access more complex, higher-order thinking functions of the brain, resulting in better clarity, decision making, and problem-solving.
  • Silence can help condition your mind to be more agile, adaptive and responsive to the complex environment (i.e., learning agility).
  • Calming the brain’s threat response also reduces the release of stress hormones, lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Lastly, you will be more connected to your inner thoughts, memories and emotions, and better able to recognize connections between things.

A recent study led by Imke Kirste, PhD, PMP at Duke University Medical School found that silence is also associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key brain region associated with learning and memory. 

Altogether, these outcomes add up to an incredible return for a tiny investment!

Will YOU accept the 2×2 challenge?

Silence is healing, regenerative and accessible to all of us. While the 2×2 practice won’t replace a multifaceted health and wellbeing plan, it’s a great place to start, and you can build from there. 

I hope you will accept this 2×2 challenge and make a commitment to carve out this small, yet important, amount of time for yourself during your workday.

Apps like Calm and Headspace are also recommended by clients for a customized meditation practice outside of the intentional moments of silence.

If you think you’re too busy to spare a couple of minutes, take it as a sign that you’d benefit greatly from doing so.  As the Harvard Business Review puts it, “the busier you are, the more you need quiet time.”

Need help navigating change or growing your impact as a leader?

Healthcare leaders choose MEDI Leadership for our unmatched breadth of expertise, and the results to match. The nation’s only coaching firm focused exclusively on leaders in healthcare, MEDI Leadership coaches have rich industry experience and a long record of helping leaders create meaningful change. Our methods, customized to individual goals, are rooted in solid research on how humans are wired to learn and change, and behaviors needed to drive lasting transformation in complex environments and shifting conditions.

Explore what’s possible:

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About the author

Kathy Gibala

Kathy Gibala is a sought-after executive leadership coach with more than 25 years of healthcare industry experience and over 15 years as a coach. She is honored to serve as a trusted partner and change catalyst to healthcare executives across the US to raise the bar on their leadership, build high-performing teams, and accelerate transformative change. Kathy incorporates neuroscience-based coaching techniques to help healthcare leaders expand their impact and reach their fullest potential.

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