Repa Patel is the founder of Leading Mindfully, where she works with CEOs, executives, senior leaders, small to medium business owners, and more.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My professional life started as a lawyer in the UK. I was a Crown Prosecutor, commercial litigator and deputy general counsel in financial services before Head of Legal for the Institutional Bank at ANZ. I then moved into the business side of banking as Head of Strategy and Planning for ANZ Bank’s International Trade Finance business.
During my executive career I integrated yoga philosophy, neuroscience and positive psychology into the way I worked. People noticed and asked me to coach them in doing the same.
For the last 10 years, through my business, Leading Mindfully, I’ve been working with leaders and their teams to elevate their leadership by teaching them how to connect their heads and hearts to lift customer satisfaction, engagement and business growth. The significant benefits to organisational culture include higher levels of trust, collaboration and accountability.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Yesterday was a typical day. I was interstate delivering a leadership team strategy offsite. It started very early with pranayama and meditation to reconnect to my personal purpose followed by a walk along the ocean and breakfast.
Next, a gratitude practice and revisiting the key outcomes and plan for the day, including what I want my clients to be thinking, feeling and doing as a result of our work together.
Following a personally energising and uplifting day of facilitation, I had dinner with the executive team. I returned to my hotel room for structured reflection on the day to close it off before sleep.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
As a business owner the freedom to make decisions around where and when I work is of paramount importance to me. I work from my home, my office in the city and, basically anywhere, from a cafe to an airplane.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I prefer the concept of work life integration. My life goals are holistic and include personal, professional, physical and spiritual growth. By defining my goals in this way, I’m able to ensure that my entire life is integrated.
Rather than work life balance, which is an ideal state that can vary from each moment and impossible to sustain. Imagine balancing on one leg for the rest of your life. It’s impossible to achieve. So is the concept of work life balance. The moment you achieve it, something happens to disrupt the balance.
Understanding that life is a flow enables me to make conscious choices in the moment. Particularly when things don’t go to plan or uncertainty disrupts my business. I can change and flex my plans to adapt to the situation.
An example of this is understanding that I can take time away from the business this morning for personal training because my physical health is one of the pillars of my resilience. In saying that, I may need to work late or a couple of hours over the weekend, if a project deadline requires it. In this way, I flow between my work and personal goals. They are all an integral part of me.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I’ve started a new physical health regime and have set myself some courageous (scary) targets. One of them is to complete 3 unassisted chin ups. I’m training with a wonderful personal trainer, further honing my diet and lifestyle habits to be the healthiest and strongest version of myself in my 50’s.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
There are so many books I recommend on mindful leadership and purpose.
A good starting point is In To The Magic Shop by Dr James Doty, the Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery at Stanford University. In this book, he describes how he uses mindfulness in neurosurgery, particularly when things don’t go to plan.
It describes perfectly how to use mindfulness during unpredictable situations and the scientific basis for how it works.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
My physical hardcopy, bright pink journal, which is my constant companion. Great for my gratitude practice, reflections and thoughts for workshop design.
My mala beads (string of 108 yoga beads). They centre and ground me throughout my day. In the yogic tradition, your malas are given to you. They select you, if you like. I’ve been blessed with two sets of gifts from very special people in my life. The malas help me stay connected to the gifters too.
The Calm App, which I use extensively and highly recommend to my clients. The sleep stories are so effective.
My Apple Watch, which is a recent purchase. It helps me set and attain my daily fitness goals. I love how it gamifies the process making it fun and motivating.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
There are two people, both of whom I consider my spiritual elders.
Stephen Cope, a writer, teacher, yogi and scholar. Stephen lives his life’s purpose fully and has carved out a niche for himself in bringing yoga philosophy into real life. I was both humbled and very honoured when he provided a recommendation for my new book. His work sparked my interest in Kripalu Yoga and led to my initiation into this lineage of yoga.
Rod Stryker, a yoga and meditation Teacher, author and founder of ParaYoga. Rod teaches how to achieve material success by living your life on purpose. He embodies his own techniques and is an exemplar of work life integration.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
When you integrate your life by having holistic goals, you learn that growth happens on the journey, in all parts of your work and life. Learning to flow through your work and life elevates your resilience and helps you to weather the storms of life.
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