Staying Grounded


There is a guided meditation I’ve used with groups and individuals that literally helps them to imagine roots growing out of their feet into the ground. One of the purposes of this exercise is to help people feel “grounded”, i.e. stable, back to their “roots” and better able to withstand the corrupting forces of losing touch with reality.

It’s true that power can corrupt. In the shift to having the ability to exercise more control as you rise to the top, you must find ways to avoid the self-deception that comes with the lure of the immoral and unethical.

Slowly, unethical, immoral or just plain unpleasant behaviors (like being out of touch, in denial, a know-it-all) can creep in. You may not recognize it, but when these things happen, you’ve lost your roots. You’ve forgotten that it is a privilege and honor to be in a position of leadership.

What’s the secret?

Some leaders – the good ones – know this can happen. Perhaps you are one who is concerned about it happening to you. While the meditation exercise isn’t bad, you need some help now, and on ongoing basis. How can you stay grounded?

Know what you value and act on it: Many of the leaders I work with have memorized their top personal values. This helps them in tough decisions and sticky situations that aren’t as black and white as they’d like. Your values are an “anchor” for behavior that is ethical and moral; they can keep you on the right track. When you have a tough decision to make, ask yourself “What decision can I make that will keep me true to my value of XXXXXX?”.

Remember that work isn’t your whole life: Leave your cell phone at work and enjoy being present to some of the activities that remind you of your fallibility and humanity. Spend time with your family and in spiritual pursuits. Reconnect with things you love to do outside of work (sports, hobbies, nature). Volunteer for something that is very different from your everyday life (connect with children, or work at a soup kitchen). Try something new that really stretches your physical, intellectual, or emotional ability.

Surround yourself with stakeholders who will disagree with you (and then listen to them): Don’t isolate yourself and make decisions in a vacuum. Invite others into your thought processes and welcome their opposing views. Hire people who think differently than you do, and listen closely to their ideas. Make sure you balance your need to be the person that knows everything (because you can’t possibly) by understanding what others know.

Connect regularly with trusted and trustworthy friends and advisors: It’s important to have people you trust to connect with regularly – inside and outside of work. Just hanging around with good people can make a difference, but they can also provide the space you need to have confidential conversations to help you to stay grounded. Consider a mentor, a coach, friends and colleagues whom you trust.

Staying grounded is, in a way, staying human. Human leaders find ways to keep their roots.

What helps you to stay grounded?


I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

6 comments on “Staying Grounded

  1. An important question, Mary Jo. It’s so easy for all of us to get caught in the fray of day-to-day activity, lose perspective and not even realize it. The problem is we get caught up on our minds and disconnect from our hearts – we need both operationalize to make good choices. Your suggestions are all excellent ones. I especially like your suggestion to keep people around who disagree with you because it’s counter-intuitive. Personally, for myself, I find that regular meditation and paying attention to my breathing helps.

  2. Hi Jesse, I too like the idea of meditation – I am a long time regular meditator (decades – I won’t say how many :)) for staying grounded, and I teach meditation techniques to clients who are interested. I think it helps me to stay in touch with my unconscious self, but it is also calming and steadying. Thanks for that suggestion!

  3. Your question made me think of an interview I saw with Tim Tebow (polarizing QB of the Denver Broncos). He was asked why he brings to each game a sick or downtroden kid and then spends time with them before and after the game. His answer was that spending time with them puts the stress and pressure he is about to be under in the right perspective on what is really important. Given that, I’d say making an active investment is serving the needs to others will be something I intentionally add to keep me grounded.

  4. HI Mary Jo, Thanks for the post. I notice for me I can become ungrounded internally or externally. Your post seem to support those that are more involved in the external world and to help them anchor back to their spirit and to the internal values that may get pushed aside in the quest to create and do but it can also go the other way. Having been on a seekers path for a while I can become ungrounded when I pay too much attention to internal investigation and reduce my exposure to the physical world. I lose my grounding to the world of doing, to form and to the external. It reduces my ability to experience the good that is offered in the world and what I can offer. I see that balancing is good and may be necessary when we become lost or too enguaged in either the external world of form or the internal work of spirit. I believe we are here for the experience of both. Thanks for the heads up :).

  5. Kennedy, your comments are very insightful. I like the way you have made us look at that grounding (balancing) in a different way. I find the things you speak of are true for me too (I’m an extravert who needs to make an effort to have enough people-contact due to the work I do, much of which is solo). Thanks so much.

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