“How to find your space between stimulus and response” with David S. Karlin, President of National Vision Administrators
There is always a “space” between stimulus and response. My mindfulness practice has allowed me to expand that space. As a result my reactions to people and stressful situations are much more measured and well thought out than they have ever been before. I am better able to empathize and much less likely to react negatively and say or do something I might later regret.
David S. Karlin, RPh, is an insurance industry veteran with 30 years of management experience in vision and prescription drug plan administration. He is president of National Vision Administrators, Benecard Services and Heartland Fidelity Insurance Company.
What role did mindfulness or spiritual practice play in your life growing up? Do you have a funny or touching story about that?
My first introduction to mindfulness came in college at a seminar that took us through a process that focused on ‘experiencing the pain fully’. The process included: concentrating on the pain; describing the feeling; the “size” of the pain area; the “color” of the pain; its characteristics (i.e., was it steady or intermittent, pulsating or not, etc.). After that exercise, the idea was to continue to concentrate on the painful area and then shrink it in your mind until there was nothing left of it in your head. It worked!
Later in life, my son experienced headaches after a wrestling injury and we used the same process to help him obtain relief.
How do your mindfulness or spiritual practices affect your business and personal life today?
Mindfulness has become a large part of the way I live my life and is an important gift that I have been lucky enough to provide to our companies’ employees. From a personal perspective, I have attained the proven benefits of mindfulness meditation such as increased focus, enhanced memory and a sense of calmness while under stress. The latter benefit has served me well in all facets of my life — both personal and professional. I am able to more effectively communicate with people in stressful situations than I was beforehand. My listening skills have deepened resulting in fewer misunderstandings and the ability to more thoroughly empathize.
From an organizational leadership perspective, our commitment to mindfulness practice and integration of mindfulness into our daily routines has resulted in an outpouring of gratitude from people at all levels of the company. In some cases, employees talk about how mindfulness improved their handle on both personal and professional stress. For some it has literally changed the way they interact and appreciate their families and coworkers. For others it has increased confidence and made making large decisions easier. In one of our companies, senior managers, managers, and staff sit side by side once or twice a day in the same room to practice. This egalitarian approach has brought the organization closer together. It’s also helped us attract talent, particularly younger people who want to work in an environment that values them as human beings not just as employees.
Do you find that you are more successful or less successful because of your integration of spiritual and mindful practices? Can you share an example or story about that with us?
Undoubtedly, more successful. There is always a “space” between stimulus and response. My mindfulness practice has allowed me to expand that space. As a result my reactions to people and stressful situations are much more measured and well thought out than they have ever been before. I am better able to empathize and much less likely to react negatively and say or do something I might later regret. Communication is a challenge in any organization. Mindfulness practice has enabled me to be able to listen more deeply, understand other’s perspective, and respond in a positive manner no matter the circumstance.
Part of the way I evaluate my success is through helping others with their careers and sometimes their lives. I have seen people in our companies whose lives have been changed by mindfulness practice. One of our people developed a sense of confidence that, in his words, he never had before. It enabled him to look at life more positively and to come out of his shell. Another employee told me she hadn’t realized how much she had been missing in her life by not being mindful. She regularly shares experiences with her family that have been greatly enhanced by her mindfulness practice at work. Others have used mindfulness for specific purposes. One individual was dealing with health issues and was in multiple doctors’ offices for various tests. He used his practice to calm himself, and his family, while this was going on. These stories make me feel wonderful about what we’ve done in developing a sustained mindfulness practice that all our people can participate in. I’m proud to have been a part of providing this gift.
What would you say is the foundational principle for one to “lead a good life”? Can you share a story that illustrates that?
To me, helping others is what defines a good life. That goal should always be a part of the way you live your life. There are so many opportunities to do this, from the mundane to the profound. Treating people kindly and with respect is a good start. Dealing honestly with others in business and personal life is a requirement. Taking the time to mentor and help advance others is a great way to lend assistance and a helping hand.
Can you share a story about one of the most impactful moments in your spiritual/mindful life?
The most impactful moment in my mindful life came after establishing a daily practice and realizing how tuned out I was to my behaviors. I realized that my mind, which I had relied on to get me where I am today, was often my worst enemy. The light went off when I comprehended that I didn’t have to listen to that often overly-protective voice in my head. That realization began an ongoing process of being able to better manage fear and anxiety. It was a big deal for me.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I was lucky enough to be re-introduced to mindfulness by my son, Ben. His ability to explain the concepts in a way that was understandable made it easy for me to begin my practice. His ability to answer my questions and coach me through the beginning of the process were they keys to my being able to establish a consistent mindfulness practice. He has a real gift in being able to help people benefit from mindfulness particularly those that are not predisposed to do so. His company, Free Form Minds, helps companies establish mindfulness based on culture and practices. All of the benefits we have received from mindfulness at our companies emanated from Free Form Minds’ involvement.
Can you share 3 or 4 pieces of advice about how leaders can create a very “healthy and uplifting” work culture?
Think of what you can do to help your people live their lives. Work is only one part of life. Whatever you can do to help your employees become more resilient and better enjoy their lives will pay off in benefits to your organization. The most consistent feedback we hear in our organization in response to our mindfulness initiatives revolves around appreciation for investing in our employees as people, not just as workers.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I like focusing in on basic needs because they are the building blocks for everything else. We have enough food in this country to feed everyone yet food insecurity is a large and growing problem in the U.S. The movement I’d love to inspire would have as its mission getting hungry people fed by tapping into surpluses where the food exists and redistributing them to those in need.
How can people follow you and find out more about you?
I’m on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-karlin-8441067
About the author: Jacob Rupp is a coach, author, speaker, podcaster, and rabbi. He is the founder of Lift Your Legacy, a community that helps people live a more authentic life. He has a regular, syndicated column that appears in ThriveGlobal and Authority magazine. To learn more about him or to listen to the Lift Your Legacy podcast, search iTunes or visit his site: liftyourlegacy.live
“How to find your space between stimulus and response” with David S. was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.