What’s keeping you from getting there?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

The alarm goes off and you jump out of bed with the best of intentions. You have a long to-do list and today is the day you’re going to check those boxes. Check, check, check, check, then – oh. There it is — that one task — the one you’ve been avoiding. That one that has been looming over your head like a dark and thunderous storm cloud, carrying in its dark and grey shadows a sense of dread and trepidation. And with each day that passes without working on it, the bigger and stormier that cloud gets, to the point where it begins to wake you at night and give you that sick, pit-in-your-stomach feeling when you think about it. You know that you have to start on it. But instead of diving in and tackling it, you jump on social media, and before you know it, you are watching videos of cats jumping in the air when they spy a cucumber lying nearby. And at the end of the day — that sick sense of dread is still there. Can you relate?

Procrastination is a choice we make that can really eat at our drive for achievement. I like how Christopher Parker put it: “Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.” So true!

To procrastinate means to avoid doing something that we ought to be doing, and most likely, spending time doing ‘more enjoyable’ things in place of the task at hand. This avoidance can take the shape of spending time on less-urgent matters or simply running from the task completely. Achievement drive is a valuable competency of emotional intelligence and without it, we find it hard to accomplish our goals. People who are overflowing with achievement drive set high professional (and personal) standards and continually strive — yes strive — to not only meet those standards, but to go above and beyond. Those without it tend to do only what’s required of them and don’t like to stretch themselves to accomplish challenging tasks.

“Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.” — Mason Cooley

In grad school we were given the task of developing a research project around our topic of study and to go out and gather responses to a specific set of questions, recording the answers with a scientifically-based and statistically-reliable methodology. The project contributed to a good portion of our semester grade and was going to take more than a couple of hours to complete. “It’s a good idea that you get started on this one early”, our instructor stated. I immediately started worrying about what topic I would choose and whom I would include in my focus group. But instead of going home and at least brainstorming some ideas, I tucked the assignment away and tried not to think about it for the next few weeks. With each passing day the project grew bigger and increasingly fearsome than it actually was, until it seemed larger than life itself. This is an impossible assignment! I’ll never finish it on time! Before I knew it I was waking at night sick with worry, but when the daylight came, instead of working on it, I did everything else BUT the project so that when night came again, the dread settled in my bones like a life-sucking parasite.

At the last moment, literally, with about four days to go before due date, out of desperation, I dove into that assignment, and to my surprise, discovered it was very interesting and even — dare I say — fun? I wished I had more time to spend on it but due to my procrastination I only had a couple of days to work on what turned out to be my favorite assignment of the year.

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” — H.P. Lovecraft

Remember when Indiana Jones had to step out into nothingness to discover the only way across the ravine? Sometimes taking the first steps into a daunting task can feel that way.

A good way to avoid letting it become seemingly impossible is break it down into smaller, manageable steps…and sometimes forcing yourself to put one foot in front of the other, stepping out into that hazy unknown. Letting a project sit too long untouched can slow down your traction. The sooner you can begin to chip away at a task’s monumental stature the sooner you’ll realize it’s not as prodigious as it seemed. And you might find you enjoy the views along the journey.

 

How to do this?

A simple place to start is to create an action plan:

  • Define the project and make note of the deadline.
  • Take a moment to anticipate how you will feel when you accomplish this project and jot it down.
  • Make a to-do list of the steps needed to take to accomplish the project. Set timelines for each step. These can be daily or weekly, depending on the length of the project.
  • Pick your team. Who will help you, whether it be for research, or task-sharing, or simply to lean into as a source of encouragement? Many hands make light work.
  • Push to the front of the line. Each day, if possible, work on this project first. Allowing yourself to do other tasks may take you off course and prevent you from taking necessary steps toward the goal.
  • Celebrate your accomplishments along the way. Each step achieved puts you one step closer to the grand finale. If it helps, create a visual display to show how much of the project you have conquered each step of the way.

Learning to break down large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks can help you avoid procrastination and become more results-oriented, pushing through the uncertainty that often goes hand-in-hand with something that feels overwhelming. Learning to become more action-oriented and thus develop achievement drive can help you begin to take more risks and work toward a higher standard of excellence. The downside is that you may not get to watch as many cat videos on YouTube. But the sweet taste of accomplishment that comes from reaching your goals and finishing projects will most likely be a bit more satisfying.

“Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.” — Thomas Carlyle

Hired or Not? Emotional Intelligence can make the difference

Article contributed by guest author Patricia Edwards

Emotional intelligence is often the “final” factor

If you are like most job seekers, when you read “strong people skills” and “strong technical skills” in a job posting, you may tend to gloss over the first to focus on selling your technical talent and experience to the prospective employer.  In fact, we often refer to people skills as the “soft” skills and that sounds secondary to anything else we might possess. WRONG!

More and more companies hire for attitude because they have been burned when hiring purely for technical skills and knowledge.  What seemed like a dream candidate turned out, occasionally, to be a problem employee who was not successful.

Hired or Not?

Organizations often use behavioral interview questions which are founded on Emotional Intelligence, referred to as the “Other Kind of Smart” like Harvey Deutschendorf and Daniel Goleman. The latter wrote a book, Emotional Intelligence:  Why It Can Matter More than IQ, which soared to the top of the New York Times bestseller list for a year.  Additionally, some companies use

pre-employment assessments, based on soft skills to predict job related behavior or organizational fit. These tests determine the level of self-awareness a candidate possesses as well as how insightful s/he is of other people.  The higher the Emotional Intelligence, the more able the individual is to influence others, crucial to many professions including customer service, marketing and sales.

Emotional intelligence separates star performers from everyone else

Research consistently shows that people with high EQ out perform their peers and studies have shown positive correlation with high EQ and careers involving customer service, sales and, especially, management positions. They are aware of their own emotions and keep them in control, enabling them to focus on their work, when others around them are adding to the drama and non productivity.

Yes!  You can showcase your emotional intelligence in your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile

By sharing your success stories and achievements, you can really stand out against your competition by showing how you:

  • Develop rapport with your work contacts
  • Build trust with team members and customers
  • Manage stressful situations
  • Negotiate favorable outcomes during times of conflict
  • Nimbly navigate change

What about the interview?

Knowing how to incorporate Emotional Intelligence into an interview can also give you the competitive edge you need to ace the selection process.  Employers hire for positive attitude, resilience and cultural fit; therefore, your responses to interview questions should include examples of how you have overcome obstacles, adapted to changes and worked effectively with others. Simply saying that you possess these traits is not enough.  Go into your interview prepared to share several examples.  That way, if you have multiple levels of interviews, you can share a different example with each interviewer.

IQ may get you hired but EQ gets you up the career ladder

Emotional Intelligence also accurately forecasts leadership capability and is used often when companies identify and groom emerging leaders since that process consumes considerable investment of resources. But it is used extensively in identifying and training top sales teams and has been used by a wide variety of organizations from L’Oreal cosmetics to the United States Air Force with results of more effective hiring decisions, lower employee turnover and higher performance.
If you are interested in career advancement, understanding Emotional Intelligence is a wise investment in your development. An assessment will provide you with a baseline and the great news is that EQ can be improved over time with an individual development plan.

Why You Don’t Actually Need Work/Life Balance

yinyangArticle contributed by guest author Aimee Teesdale

Years ago, I was struggling to do what I thought I was supposed to do: study, graduate, find a job, work… I believed that all I needed to do was figure out the right work role and then everything else would fall into place for me.

Like many people, I also assumed I would have my work on one side, and my life on the other, and I would simply switch between the two every day. A successful person, we are told, carefully manages both of these, i.e. they find that elusive “work life balance”.

In coaching others, I’ve met countless people who struggle with this same “imbalance”. Our jobs feel disconnected from the rest of life. At work we’re supposed to dress differently, speak differently, behave differently. It’s as though we put on a mask when we enter the workplace; the mask of a “teacher” or “manager” or “accountant”. The idea is that true professionals never allow their messy emotions to get in the way of their jobs. We’re not meant to let the “life” part creep into the “work” part. Our hopes and dreams are not relevant. Our disruptive opinions are not workplace appropriate.

And what about our authentic selves? What about our deeper yearning for purpose? About our fears? Well, there’s a place for that, but it’s only later in the day when you get home, and finally get to take off the mask. Only then are you allowed to “be yourself”.

I’m a big fan of the concept of balance in life, but something about this just didn’t sit right with me. The more I worked with people who experienced this, the more I learnt that the problem wasn’t that people failed to find balance between their professional and personal lives, but that they saw them as two separate things to begin with.

Balance vs. Alignment

I originally believed the right role for me was “psychologist” or maybe “HR consultant”. At the time, I had just ended a long-term relationship that left me feeling completely lost; struggling with making friends in a big new city, launching a career, and finding my place in the world.

During those challenging years, I worked hard on my own personal development. I travelled. I pushed out of my comfort zone and found my passions. I worked on my professional development too, by training hard as a personal performance life coach and starting my own business. Which was all great.

But the real magic happened when I realized that my private life and professional life were really two different expressions of the same thing. I had an epiphany: development in one inevitably led to development in the other.

I quickly found out that my career was the most fulfilling when I approached it as a whole, authentic person and not simply as someone who was playing a part, or wearing a mask. I realized that so many of my clients weren’t struggling with work/life balance but rather with a lack of alignment between the two.

Emotional Intelligence is the Key

When I learnt to bring my genuine self to my work, my world changed.

When I learnt to let go of fear of change, fear of rejection, fear of failure and fear of the unknown, my work became something truly exciting.

Your success at your chosen profession is so much more than your achievements and your qualifications. While they’re important, your skills and experience are only a small part of what makes you the complex human being you are. You are also blessed with emotions, thoughts, beliefs and dreams, and by cutting this part of yourself out of the workplace, you limit what you’re capable of, and stunt your development in both areas.

Personal and professional success are not zero-sum; rather, they both stem from the same source: emotional intelligence. Cultivating self awareness, knowing how to take control of thoughts and emotions …these are the skills that transform you from a cog in someone else’s machine to something much more powerful. A thinker. An entrepreneur. A creator or healer.

Today, I would not be able to help my clients in my professional life were it not for the insights I gained in my personal life. And my personal life would not be as rich as it is now without the skills I am learning in my professional life. I was only able to really grasp this when I stopped seeing work and life as two things that ought to be separated.

Your hopes and dreams are not just something to bring out of hiding when your work is done for the day. How can you develop the courage to bring your complete, full, wonderful, flawed self into your work, right now?

• Instead of finding ways to squash yourself into a pre-defined role, ask how you can create a role of your own
• Remember that you are not solely defined by the work that you do, or the title that goes along with it
• Instead of finding ways to separate out the personal and professional, deliberately blend them. Become curious about the ways your personal development can fuel your professional development – and vice versa

A Little Running Story

Sometimes the ability to powerfully influence others, a vital competency of emotional intelligence, shows up without saying a word.ramrun2

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

Many of you know of my dark and sordid love affair with running. I go through romantic, passionate periods where I am a faithful lover then for no reason at all kick off my shoes and quit, just long enough to where when I put them back on it’s like an awkward first date. It’s a rather painful process but one familiar to many adults I’ve learned who at one point ran in high school or college. Like the lyrics in the Civil Wars’ haunting song, “I don’t love you, I always will…”

So last fall I ran a marathon, and this weekend I labored (to put it gently) through a short 5K, the Ram Run, a hilly race our functional dysfunctional family jumps into every year to support our local high school. It seems each August when it occurs I am definitely on the outs with my love. I blame it on back pain, or that we traveled too much, or “I have been riding my bicycle!”, all feeble excuses to explain away my wandering heart. This summer was no different as I had only run a handful of times giving cause for great trepidation around the race’s hills, and in particular, the final one.

In the months between each Ram Run I actually daydream about being in such great shape that I completely tackle the beast. The last mile of the race for the most part is slightly uphill and then takes a sharp turn to a dirt path for the last 100 meters or so that could almost be done better on hands and feet, scrambling up the steep rocky incline to the finish line. Needless to say it is a torturous way to end a three mile run.

There is a lady named Jen who always wins with the fastest time overall for women. She is a coach from another school and often (undoubtedly to her dismay if she knew) visits my off- season Ram Run daydreams. Countless times over the past year I have imagined myself turning that corner at the base of the horrible hill and there she is. This is one of the many delusional aspects of my troubled running relationship. In reality, meeting up with her toward the end of this run could never happen because I consistently come in a good 12 minutes behind her each year. That means she is finishing the race well before I even reach the two mile mark….nothing short of depressing. But in my I’m In Great Shape Fantasy World, I have imagined turning that corner and there she is, and to her surprise in a final ditch effort I push past her up that wretched steep incline for the win. Again, completely and entirely delusional…and impossible.

So imagine my surprise yesterday, as I slowly climbed the long grueling ascent before that hill from hell, sweat dripping off my nose, gasping for air in short high-pitched (I’d guess a high A flat?) tones, feet barely shuffling forward, mentally beating myself up for being 10 lbs heavier than last year and so ready to quit and just walk to the finish, when I turned that corner and there she was. It was a surreal deja vu from all of my silly daydreams of the past year, like that hazy place between dreams and awake after an afternoon nap. In an instant (and to my chagrin) I suddenly realized she had speedwalked the entire race! I had to laugh! She walked the whole darn thing and was still ahead of me!

Despite this discouraging realization, here we were at that fateful finale, two players in a dark comedy. I dug in deep from the very little I had left in my already-spent reserves and pushed past her and up that hill with a desperate burst of effort. I had no thought other than, “She will not walk past me!” The crowd was yelling her name and cheering her on as I passed so I knew she was just a few steps back. I thought my lungs were going to explode and my face, boasting the brightest shade of red comparable to a ripe autumn tomato, would frighten the medics and cause them to come running to my aid. I wanted to quit and walk. I seriously can’t remember a time when I’ve pushed harder, but with lungs screaming and legs collapsing I made it up that hill and ran across that finish line just seconds ahead of her.

Thank you, Jen, for being such an awesome, amazing athlete, and without even knowing it, inspiring me to push myself beyond what I thought I could. I hope someday I can do the same for someone else. Though it was my slowest 5K time ever, and kin to the feeling of winning a card game when a little cheating is involved, it still felt fantastic to accomplish the impossible.

And Running, my beloved, my darling, let’s start courting again, shall we?

Tackling fear with personal power

karaokeArticle contributed by Amy Sargent

I have this terrific fear of karaoke.

It is unfounded, ungrounded, and unreasonable. “No one cares what you sound like”, they tell me. “Have a few drinks and you’ll be fine”, they reason. “No one is listening anyway”, they say in a most convincing tone.  I get it and I hear it and I agree with it – but I’m still scared, to the point of getting sick to my stomach and weak in the knees when I see the red neon “Karaoke” sign on the side of a building my friends are leading me toward.

It’s one thing if I got up on stage, belted out a few notes, and it went really poorly. Picking a song I thought I knew (but didn’t), the entire audience pointing at me and laughing because I looked funny, or choking on the remnants of the hot sauce from that last bite of wings…these would be solid grounds for fear. But I’ve never gotten up there and tried it–in fact, I usually flee the scene before the strains of the first tune begin. My fear is completely and wholeheartedly a fear of the great unknown.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

Karaoke is a silly topic, I know. But I’m finding that fears in one area of life are all too quick to spill over into other areas of life, more important ones like work and personal relationships. Fear is a shape shifter. It can take on many forms which can deceive us into not recognizing it for what it is. And because it doesn’t always show itself blatantly in the telltale sweaty palms and a rapid heartbeat, it can lurk unknowingly in the shadows, causing us to behave in ways we don’t exactly want to.  Procrastination, worry, nagging, complaining, arrogance, using humor at the wrong time, poor treatment of coworkers and/or employees — all can be the damaging results of unchecked fear.

Fear has a direct impact on our personal power, that inner knowing that we can meet life’s challenges head-on, and a vital component of emotional intelligence. And who doesn’t have a few challenges that they could use a little personal power toward these days?!  I can’t name one friend or colleague who isn’t battling something rather difficult at the moment. You? Personal power is so vital because without it, we begin to think that we have no control over our situation. When it’s not present, we lose confidence in our own judgment begin to avoid change, allowing ourselves to feel powerless. We become risk-adverse and do what we can to stay safe instead of stretching into what could be new, positive opportunities.

Part of tackling a fear of the unknown is learning to be present in the moment, which is what’s referred to as mindfulness. Human nature in and of itself has a tendency to either ruminate on the past or worry about the future, but the ability to be in the moment can be arduous. Our fears often revolve around things that could happen, not what actually is happening. I’m afraid I’ll have an all-out coughing fit when I get up to sing in front of everyone. Sure, that could happen, but what are the chances? Think about the times when you had a solid career but worried about getting fired…when you were in a relationship but worried about them leaving…when you had financial security yet worried about losing it. Instead of relishing the present, we tend to fear what is not known.

If you’re one of those people who is unabashedly brave, going boldly where no man has gone before, kudos to you. I admire you. And I ask that you use your gift, not only to promote your own successes, but to reach out to someone beside you who could use a hand. And if you lean more toward being a scaredy-cat, regularly giving your fears permission to dictate your day-to-day affairs…how’s that working for you? Are you ready to make a shift?

Here are some ways you can begin to develop your personal power and push past the fears that may be holding you down:

  • Let the past be past. So you’ve failed at a few things. Sure, the thought of failing again can be terrifying. But you’ve got to let them go and move on. I love the words of Thomas Edison when he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
  • Stop being the controller. There are some situations that you cannot fix, and worrying about them isn’t helping either. Learn which things you can change (your behavior) and which you cannot (others’ behavior).
  • Learn your enemy. Often our fears arise from a lack of knowledge. Take a class, seek out a mentor, study up on that thing you’re avoiding.
  • Revel in your successes. Jot down a list of accomplishments, the things you’ve done well, and remember how good they felt. Isn’t that feeling worth working toward again?
  • Try it, you’ll like it. Pick one unknown thing you’re intimidated by this week and give it the ole’ college try. Start small – little successes lead to bigger successes. For example, if you dread giving that upcoming presentation to a tough client,  practice first with a group of forgiving friends.

A lack of personal power can be crippling and a huge waste of time. When we succumb to our fears, they devour our confidence, bind our wings and blur our vision. Fear is a powerful, controlling force that imprisons us, keeping us behind the bars of doubt and worry, locking us away from living our lives to our fullest potential.

Maybe it’s time to grab the microphone and start to sing.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

The value of relating to others

PrintArticle contributed by Amy Sargent

I sat down after finding my name inscribed in calligraphy on the place card.  It was a delightful night to be out on the town — the warm, summer breezes and city lights danced well together to create a jovial spirit for this fundraising event. Though I knew no one in attendance–yet–my plan was to turn on my extroverted switch and add some new acquaintances to my social network on this festive evening.

Within moments a good-looking couple sat to my right, holding hands, and a few others filtered in across the way, but the seat to my left remained empty. The table was so large that conversation with guests across the expanse of linens and silk flower arrangements would be in vain, so I decided to hone in on the lovebirds. But despite my open-ended inquiries, it was quickly obvious that they’d rather spend the evening whispering in each other’s ear rather than engage with me, which was fine, but left me sitting alone.

As our salad plates were cleared, she swept in and sat to my left.  Attractive, mid-forties, with short, well-coiffed hair, a smart navy business suit, and power pumps.  She was one of those very-well-put-together business professionals that somehow always left me feeling inadequate. But that was my issue, not hers. Masking my intimidation, I smiled confidently and put out my hand for the firm-enough-but-not-too-firm handshake and welcomed her to our table.  She looked me over with a nonchalant glance, pursed her lips, and began texting someone (obviously more important than me) as she sat down.

Not one to be quickly daunted, as she finished her text I introduced myself and asked her about her work.  As she answered, with a clipped, succinct sentences, I hurriedly formulated my own response in my head. I honestly didn’t hear a word she said, as I was contemplating what I could possibly say when she asked about me that would make her raise her perfectly plucked eyebrows with interest. I never got my chance. She didn’t reciprocate nor showed any interest in conversing.  After several failed attempts to draw her out, I caved and turned to my chicken dijon with rice until the presentation began. So much for connecting that evening. It just wasn’t going to happen.

There is a quality of social and emotional intelligence called interpersonal effectiveness, and it’s the ability to tune into others with compassion and sensitivity. You know the type. They have a contagious, positive enthusiasm that puts you at ease the moment you meet them. They demonstrate a genuine interest in you and you can tell they actually want to know you. These people possess exceptional listening skills, interact smoothly with others, and are able to make even the most uncomfortable situations comfortable.

Not only were my table partners lacking this quality that night, but so was I. Instead of knowing how to navigate the icy situation with my well-dressed companion, I eventually mirrored her coldness and gave up. The once-cheerful evening quickly became a disappointment and I longed for dessert to be served, not so the decadent sweetness could delight my mouth, but because it signaled the welcome end of an uncomfortable evening.

Does it matter if we really connect well with others?  Theodore Roosevelt stated,

“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

I admire people who can build rapport with all types, no matter the situation.  But specifically in the workplace, interpersonal skills are an important value add because it is our relationships, with bosses, managers, coworkers and customers, that — get this — have the greatest impact on our happiness and contentment in our roles, more so than our workload or tasks or responsibilities or opportunities. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/chriscancialosi/2014/09/22/4-reasons-social-capital-trumps-all/#352a5e0e7b24)

“Financial capital is the funding you need to get off the ground, sustain growth, and develop operations. Human capital is the team that brings value to your organization. And while both are essential resources for your business, social capital — the connections and shared values that exist between people and enable cooperation — is the key to entrepreneurial success.” — Chris Cancialosi

If you’ve ever experienced conflict with those you work with, you understand the depth of stress these strained relationships can cause, and we all know the ill-effects of stress, let alone it being downright miserable. Interpersonal relationships also directly affect our productivity. If you’re a leader with disengaged employees, prepare yourself to watch your resources wash right down the drain. Studies show that companies with engaged employees earn twice the net income of those with disengaged employees.  How does the saying go?  “75% of people quit their bosses, not their jobs.”  When you have a chance, check out this surprising infographic of stats: http://www.dailyinfographic.com/10-shocking-statistics-about-employee-engagement-infographic

Max Messmer, who wrote Managing Your Career for Dummies, says this:

“Your career success in the workplace of today – independent of technical expertise – depends on the quality of your people skills.”

How do you know if your interpersonal skills could use some work?  Self-awareness is a key, and if that is lacking, we may miss how we come across, and may need the help of an outside opinion.  If you have a close friend and/or colleague that will be up front with you, and you’re feeling brave, ask them these questions:

  • Is the first impression I give cold or warm/inviting?
  • Do I ever come across arrogant or unapproachable?
  • Am I a good listener or do you feel I’m too quick to share my own stories, opinions, and insights?
  • Do you feel safe to come talk to me about anything?
  • Do you feel like I know you well?  Do I allow you to truly know me?
  • Do I ever come across like I’m judging you or devaluing your viewpoint?

If you don’t have someone who’ll give you honest responses, you may consider working with a social + emotional intelligence coach to do a 360 assessment, where others have an opportunity to evaluate you.  These can be very eye-opening and give you revealing insight as to how you come across as you interact with others. The beauty of a 360 as well is that the raters can remain anonymous which encourages participant authenticity.

In the meantime, in the words of Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand.” Try focusing on just one of these suggestions this week to see if you can begin to make a shift in your interpersonal effectiveness:

  • Ask open-ended questions. Most people like to talk about themselves, and rarely get asked how they are feeling. Learn to draw people out.
  • Make yourself maintain eye contact if you are one who tends to look “out there” when communicating.  Don’t they say the eyes are the window to the soul?
  • Force yourself to listen and not be thinking about what you’ll say next. I’m terrible at this. This can be tricky, especially if you’re concerned about having the perfect response.  Really tune into what they are trying to communicate by staying present in the moment.
  • Watch for cues that demonstrate not only what they’re saying, but not saying. Is your presence making them uncomfortable? Are they bored because you are talking too much about yourself? Did your last comment make them wince?  Again, watch for reactions in the eyes.
  • Develop an understanding of cultural, religious, socioeconomic, and gender differences.  It’s too easy to offend someone by our ignorance.  Read, read, read to educate yourself about diversity.
  • Withhold judgment.  It’s one thing to have your own opinion.  It’s another to think it’s your way or the highway.  Remain open to new ideas and ways of doing things.
  • Share details about yourself when appropriate. The whys are much more interesting than the whats.  Learn to be a storyteller.
  • Check your own non-verbals.  Are you frowning?  Are your arms crossed?  Are you fidgeting? And by all means don’t check your phone while others are trying to talk with you!
  • Ban complaining. No one wants to hear it, really, and it puts colleagues in an uncomfortable position. (“If I nod, then they think I agree, if I don’t, they think I’m not being supportive…!”).  Find a close friend to share your struggles with — or a counselor or coach — but make an effort to keep complaints and negativity out of relationships, especially at the office.

There will of course be people that we just can’t connect with. It’s normal. But with some brushing up on our interpersonal skills, we can at least make those situations a little more tolerable, if not pleasant.

What’s the Big Deal With Mindfulness?

Article contributed by guest author Renelle Darr.
I have been doing yoga on a fairly regular basis for about 15 years and began getting into meditation almost 5 years ago. Yoga is amazing but a good mediation session takes it to the next level (and good doesn’t always mean “feels good” but rather “good for you”). For a long time, I really thought meditation and mindfulness was about sitting and training your mind to have no thoughts and perhaps no feelings. I couldn’t do it! Impossible! No way! Well, the more I’ve learned about meditation and mindfulness, I now realize that goal really was impossible! I’ve spent more time studying and practicing mindfulness over the last year and want to share some of the key insights I’ve gleaned along the journey so far. I’ve studied the fascinating book How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist, took a local class on “Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction” (MBSR) based on the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. and various other lectures and sessions along with deepening my own mindfulness meditation practice. A few brief insights:
 1. Mindfulness Defined. Jon Kabat-Zinn says “fundamentally, mindfulness is a simple concept. Its power lies in its practice and applications. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.” I believe the part of the definition about “non-judgmentally” is the hardest part for most people in being truly mindful . So it’s not about emptying the mind after all, but about being aware without judgement.
2.  The Concept of Touch and Go. Mindfulness is about paying attention to what is coming up for you, truly feeling it and moving into the comfort or discomfort but not attaching to that one thought. When a thought or feeling comes up touch it and then let it go, even if it is a tough one, a trigger or something that is weighing heavily on your mind. The real trick is also doing this with positive feelings.
 3. Positive Feelings Are the Tough Ones. Our positive feelings are sometimes the hardest ones to detach from. We don’t want them to go away and because of that our positive feelings can cause us the most pain if we are unable to “touch and go”. 
4. Stress Can Be Transformational. What? Don’t we always hear that stress is bad? Typically, we are problem-focused (what can I do to fix this and make it go away?) when managing stress. We are much less emotion-focused (becoming aware, accepting and able to make sense of emotions) or meaning-focused (turning tragedy into triumph as written by Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning). Putting focus in these other two areas changes how our brain responds to stress and mindfulness is a path to get there. Kelly McGonigal has a great TED Talk on this subject.
5. Mindfulness Leads to Emotional Intelligence. Just 8 weeks of daily mindfulness practice (say a sitting meditation for 15 minutes a day) will shrink our amygdala. The amygdala is that tricky little part of our brain that signals “DANGER – fight or flee now!” and has been the culprit for many misunderstandings and interpersonal issues between humans.
6. Sample Mindfulness Practices.  Sitting meditation is one of the more common forms of mindfulness practice. While not the only way to practice, I’ve come to realize that a brief sitting meditation practice is an important part of the mindfulness journey. Other practices are body scans, mindful yoga and intentional yawning (that’s right, yawning is a form of meditation and has positive impacts on the brain). Here is a short article I wrote that expands on how to practice sitting meditation.
My mindfulness practice is a journey.  I don’t always meditate every day as I desire.  I still have thoughts and feelings I touch and then can’t seem to let go.  I do know I’m paying more attention, I see things more clearly, my kids are more adorable and yes, sometimes the pain is much deeper but I’m moving through it all lighter and with less judgement.  The shift is subtle yet profound.

Do you want to be an emotionally intelligent leader? Do you want to manage your stress better? Do you want to improve your health? If so, I highly recommend embracing mindfulness and starting your own journey.

Coaching Toward Freedom

cage

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

 

Hurdles. Obstacles. Hang-ups. Shadows.

Many of us are aware of the things that slow us down in life, that keep us caged up. Some we can put a name to and others remain obscure. But whether they take the form of an event from the past, or a discouraging thought, a looming dread, or a fear of the unknown, or — fill in the blank — we all have issues, like bars on a prison cell, that prevent us from living the life we dream of. Oh, the joy if we could be set free from these chains that seem to continually prevent us from moving ahead!

What is freedom anyway?  Merriman Webster defines it like this:

  1. The absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action
  2. The quality or state of being exempt or released from an oppressive burden
  3. Boldness of conception or execution

(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/freedom)

Is there anything in life you do out of necessity, or because you feel like you have no choice?  Are you currently experiencing any heavy burdens you’d like to be released from? Do you wish you had a little more boldness in creating a new idea or carrying one out?  Dr. Gary Wood, psychologist, life coach and author, says this:

“Coaching should be all about helping people to live a life of freedom.”

Working with a social and emotional intelligence coach can help you begin to take steps toward a freedom you’ve not yet experienced. Or better yet, becoming a social and emotional intelligence coach can enable you to help others do just that! Imagine learning how to help others become more self-aware, then showing them how to manage their behavior based upon that newfound self-awareness, empowering them to be free to make the behavior changes they’ve been longing for. Imagine setting others free from relationship woes by teaching them to learn how to tune into the emotions of those around them, and understand how navigate and manage those relationships toward health.

Consider becoming a social and emotional intelligence coach to lead others toward the freedom of living out who they truly are to the best of their abilities.

Become a certified social + emotional intelligence coach!

coach2

We still have seats available in our online class starting August 11th! Learn to coach social and emotional intelligence and become certified to administer the Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile (SEIP)® on Thursdays, Aug 11 – Sept 29, 6-7:30pm ET. You’ll earn 12 recertification credits from the ICF, HRCI, or SHRM.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER for this online course: https://isei.worldsecuresystems.com/BookingRetrieve.aspx?ID=54430

Regaining Your Personal Power By Avoiding The Opinions Of Others

Article contributed by guest author Grant Herbert.

People with a low personal power or self-worth are generally fearful of what they perceive to be attacks on them as individuals. They have experienced and internalised the consequences of failure and rejection and it really scares them. The most unfortunate thing is, in this all to prevalent scenario, they usually have a distorted view of what failure truly is.

This counterfeit appears real when you allow others to set the values and standards from which success or failure and acceptance or rejection are measured. Your goals and dreams may have been battered an bruised, but your ideas of rejection and failure are usually based on what others have said to you. You seem to have relinquished control over your future and are completely at the mercy of the forces around you.

People who exhibit a low self-worth think that because they have failed in one part of their life’s journey, they have also failed at being a good person. They can not separate their act of failure from the destruction of their identity, so they equate their perceived failure to meet other people’s standards with low self-worth. Self-destruction is as painful as the rejection, so they will eventually end up fearing not only failure but their own self-abasement as well. The American author and advertising executive, Bruce Barton, summed it up in this brief but powerful verse. “How curious it is that men who will die for the liberty of the world will not make the little sacrifice needed to free themselves from their own bondage”.

During certain stages of my own journey toward a healthy level of Personal Power, I have reflected the above definitions perfectly. Building an identity, based on my ability to gain acceptance, drove me deeper into the bondage of the performance trap. If only I can do more it will make up for my failure to be a good husband and father which led to being rejected, judged and labeled. Then one day someone encouraged me, and I cannot for the life of me remember who, to use the self-affirmation “What other people think of me is none of my business”. I was looking for unconditional acceptance from people who were not wired up to give it to me. Their own journey had conditioned them to see things the way they wanted to see them and therefore their view of me was based on my actions going through their unique filtering system. It wasn’t until I learned that true unconditional acceptance could only be gained from within, that I could overcome the fear of what other people thought of me and move forward into my full potential.

Fear of others opinions can be overcome by not relinquishing to them your Personal Power. Positive self-talk, practiced every day, can negate the negative words of others. Remember, you are more qualified than anyone to have an opinion about yourself.

Have the best week possible, you deserve it!

Upcoming Classes