Mindfulness and living in the present is a hot topic. In his book “The Untethered Soul” Michael Singer states that we spend far too much time and energy to “resist one of two things: that which has already happened, or that which hasn’t happened yet.” He makes a strong case for consciously letting go of all this and focusing on living in the moment as the path to true happiness. Eckhart Tolle echos this in his bestselling books “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth: Awakening to your Life’s Purpose.” Tolle emphasizes that letting go of our mind's incessant chatter about past and future frees us to enjoy life. As leaders, we make better decisions and are more effective when we are truly in the moment with those around us.
Horses are great teachers of mindfulness because they always live in the present. As soon as a danger is past, they go back to grazing. After a lion has attacked and moved on, they don't dwell on the reasons they got attacked, worry about the possibility of a panther in a tree 3 miles ahead, or try to figure out why lions were invented in the first place. Horses also demand fully present leaders. As herd animals, their lives depend on the leader who constantly watches out for predators, leads them to water and food, and protects them from natural disasters. The second the leader loses their focus another horse will take over or its every horse for himself, which is far more dangerous. My horse Echo teaches me this every time I am with him. The second I “check out,” he gets the message that I have lost the capability, intention, or motivation to take care of us, and his instinct is to take over. I could tell you many fun stories (NOT) of when he led us both. This isn’t bad behavior, it is simply clarifying “who is leading who.” Once Echo is sure of my leadership, he is free to focus on what I am asking him to do.
Imagine if we brought this clarity to our leadership with humans. It may be worth asking if those who follow us know we are fully present with the capability, intention, and motivation to lead them at all times. Do they completely trust we give them our full attention and best decisions for every situation every time they need us? If so, they can focus on performing their best at what we ask them to do.
The reward of leading and living in the present is tremendous freedom, the bonus is better decisions and more joy for ourselves and those we lead. By noticing when we “check out” and bringing our awareness back to the present moment, we can lead with more clarity, and focus our knowledge and power on getting our team where we need to go. Our "herd" will benefit from always knowing who is leading who and where they are going, so they can focus on doing their best work.
Horse wisdom holds many gifts for us, especially as we lead others. Every day I thank Echo for helping me to unwrap and enjoy the “present.”