Archive for the ‘Mindfulness’ Category

The road to resilience

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

These are tough times, worrisome times, exhausting times. For many, taking the path of least resistance can seem like a good choice as we navigate the road ahead. However, a tough go of it may be the very thing needed to help us build a competency of emotional intelligence which is vital to our ability to thrive during these stressful times.

This competency is resilience. Resilience is the ability to recover and bounce back after tough circumstances. It’s represented by perseverance and a “don’t quit” attitude in the face of setbacks. It’s the ability to cope with difficult circumstances, move past hurdles, and be resourceful when resources are limited. Those who are resilient are able to rebound quickly from disappointments. They tend to be flexible, adaptable, and open to change. They see setbacks as temporary and failures as isolated, short-term events.

People who exercise resilience may experience the same negative, stressful situations as the next person. It’s not a lack of negative circumstances which cause them to fare well, it’s the ability to adapt and keep going.

Laura Malloy, the Successful Aging program director at the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, says resilience is associated with longevity, lower rates of depression, and greater satisfaction with life. “There’s a sense of control, and it helps people feel more positive in general,” she says. [https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/ramp-up-your-resilience]

On the other hand, those who are not resilient tend to see failures as permanent. They demonstrate inflexible thinking, dwell in the past, and become frustrated when change is required. These individuals tend to get ‘stuck’ and can’t move forward when creative, innovate ideas are needed in the midst of tough circumstances. They tend to engage in negative self-talk when things go poorly. We often describe this as a ‘victim mentality’.

Most worthwhile things in life take work. Think back on the last thing you accomplished which you are most proud of. Was it an easy road to get there, or did it take hard work? Most likely, your success required a great deal of perseverance, trouble-shooting, and resourcefulness. There were probably times when you wanted to quit — but you didn’t. 

“Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone how has overcome adversity.” — Lou Holtz

Instead, you made a choice to stick with it, despite the challenges. One of the most beautiful things about competencies of emotional intelligence, such as resilience, is they can be developed and broadened with the choice to do the work. So if you struggle with resilience, rather than waving the white flag and throwing in the towel, consider choosing to take one small step in a new direction.

Here are a few places to start down the road to resilience:

  • Practice healthy living. It sounds simple, but if you’re not getting sufficient sleep, or eating nutritious meals, or getting physical exercises, it can be tough to develop a resilient mindset.
  • Note your negative self-talk. Engaging in negative self-talk is a good way to tear down your resilience. Take note of when these conversations take place and look for patterns. Is there someone in particular who triggers this negative talk? Why might that be? See if you can’t isolate the negative talk and ask yourself, “Is this belief based upon facts? What evidence do I have to back it up? Is this belief serving me and others well? What is a different way I could view this situation?” 
  • Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations. State your goals with “I can…” or “I am…” or “I will..” sentences which give credence to your ability to be successful. Write them down. Say them out loud. Share them with a friend.
  • Remind yourself that setbacks are temporary and need not be viewed as long term and permanent. Picture each challenge as a hurdle which can be jumped over, instead of a brick wall which will bring you to a halt. Envision yourself leaping over that hurdle and moving forward.
  • Look to others who are resilient. Identify people in your life who exercise resilience and learn from them. Ask them how they move forward when they face obstacles. Seek out their advice and ask them to share stories of times when they persevered.
  • Don’t go it alone. Surround yourself with a team of  people who support your efforts to become more resilient. Shy away from those who validate you as being a victim and instead, seek out others who know the value of hard work and aren’t afraid to tackle hard things. These could be colleagues, managers, family members, friends, a coach, etc.

“We can do hard things”. — Anonymous

Building a resilient mindset takes work and time. Allow yourself mistakes along the journey, being quick to forgive yourself and others, and keep that chin up, always looking ahead. When you stumble, remind yourself that everyone gets tripped up from time to time. When you fall, get back up and keep moving. The road to resilience is tough, but the reward is worth the effort.

Power Up

Article contributed by guest author Marnette Falley, ACC

Want to feel calm, cool, collected—and like you’re the one who’s in charge of your life? Use these 5 strategies to tap into your personal power.

No one wants to feel like a doormat—and you don’t want to be a bull in a china shop, either. You do want to say what’s on your mind without blowing it or blowing up. You want to feel confident. You want to feel prepared for life’s challenges. Who doesn’t?

Getting closer to those beautiful (and sometimes lofty feeling) goals grows out of self understanding. Labeled more specifically, these behaviors reflect “personal power.”

In fact, personal power is one of 26 Emotional Intelligence (EQ) competencies. Emotional intelligence describes your ability to notice, understand and manage your emotions and your behavior. Strength in emotional intelligence puts you in a position to make clearer and more satisfying choices in challenging situations and in your relationships with others.

People who demonstrate lots of personal power feel a calm conviction about who they really are. They’re confident that they can get the things they want and need in life. They tend to define their view of themselves internally, leaning on their strengths and capabilities to fuel their self image rather than leaning on external factors like their title or social standing.

On the flip side, if you don’t exercise your personal power as much, you may find that you hesitate to try new things, pull back rather than saying what’s on your mind, and struggle to set clear boundaries.

As with all areas of emotional intelligence, practicing personal power is not a characteristic that you get or don’t get. Instead, it’s a set of behaviors that you can practice. Try these five strategies to stretch in this area:

  1. Celebrate your successes

Make a list of the 10 most interesting things you’ve ever done. Then make a list of your 10 biggest wins. And remember, they don’t all have to be about work or school accomplishments. (Although, feel free to include those!) Think about what you’ve achieved as a member of your family, in your hobbies, as a volunteer, or related to your personal development.

We’re wired to remember negative experiences more easily than the positives of our day or week. So I also recommend keeping a weekly list of wins. Leave a little space on your weekly to-do list, and write down at least one thing that went well every day. When I look back at my own list, I regularly see I had far more wins that I would otherwise ever remember. If you do this consistently, you can look back over a month or six months and see all the great progress you’ve made that you might otherwise discount or take for granted. Pausing to notice what went well and reviewing your wins periodically fills your confidence bucket.

2. Acknowledge your strengths

It’s easy to take our own super powers for granted and wish for the ones we don’t have. But you have strengths that everyone else wants, too. You may hardly notice that you’re doing something that’s hard for other people, because it’s so easy for you. Take a minute, and really appreciate those special talents, aptitudes and skills that you bring to the table. Maybe you see trends in data or behaviors. Maybe you’re the glue that holds your groups together. Maybe you have a special gift for inspiring others to get things done. Or maybe you’re the one who can keep the trains running on time. You do great things. Take a minute to remember that.

3. Explore the gap.

It could be that you tap into your personal power in some kinds of situations, but not in others. Think about the times when you’ve struggled to hit the balance you’re looking for on assertiveness. What do those situations have in common? How could you feel more confident in those situations? Maybe there’s specific training that would help you feel more armed. Or maybe more preparation for those moments would help you stay centered and focused on your goal for the conversation or the meeting.

4. Learn from your best outcomes.

When were you at your best? Make a list of times that you achieved or came closest to achieving your perfect level of assertiveness. You said no, and so nicely that everyone still left smiling. You stepped up and pointed out a weakness in your bosses idea without getting fired. What can you learn from that peak performance? What did you do that time that you could try again the next time you’re preparing for a situation where you feel like you struggle with personal power?

5. Find someone else who does this well.

There’s usually at least one person in any company or organization that can have the conversations that the rest of us shy away from. Who’s that person in your life? What do they do differently than you? What can you learn from that? As you think about this, remember to focus on their behaviors, not on their characteristics.

Remember, no one hits their perfect mark 100 percent of the time. Even if you’re focused, you’ll have times you wish you’d been stronger in your presentation and times when you’ll feel like you pushed too hard. This isn’t a win-lose situation—you’re learning what works for you. And the more options you try, the more opportunities you have to expand the range of strategies that work for you.

Confidence. You’ve got this.

Don’t miss the view

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

I woke early and hopped on my bicycle, barefoot, and pedaled over to the beach in the first rays of the morning light. Pinks, oranges, and purples danced across the water’s surface. Sea gulls flocked together on the shore and sat silently looking seaward, dreaming of discarded sandwiches and half-empty bags of chips. A lone heron stood on one foot, stately and elegant, and a silvery fish jumped with a splash.The waves rolled in gently and the breezes whispered promises of peace and hope. Early mornings on the beach are the stuff dreams are made of.

That is, if you look past the trash strewn across the sand, remnants of yesterday’s revels. Broken glass, empty soda cans, bags of garbage, diapers, broken chairs, plastic sand toys, dismantled canopies, busted umbrellas, fast food wrappers, grocery bags, cigarette butts, and oh, those plastic water bottle lids by the dozens.

Here’s a thing I was thinking about. If I only focused on the garbage, and believe me, there was a LOT, and reflected on what kind of people would leave such a mess, the whole beach experience would be pretty crappy. I could get on social media and yell about it, criticize, and make snide remarks, making it clear I am not “these type of people”, and how the world is going to h-e double hockey sticks because of it. I could pretend “it’s my duty to inform you” of how degenerate people are and describe in detail their dastardly ways so you, too, can jump on my bandwagon. I could word my posts in such a way which breeds fear and panic about how polluted our world is, where no one would ever want to venture out to that dangerous, scary place called the beach again.

But look at this picture. Despite the messiness, the vista was breathtaking.

With a focus bent on the negative, I could have missed it.

Or, I could consider a different perspective. I could shake my head, then get busy picking up some trash. It’s not fun. It’s actually kind of gross. It hurts my back a little, too. But doable. Instead of scorning “them”, I could choose to offer forgiveness to those who don’t know better (or maybe do and make a choice to care about things different from me). And all the while, soak in the stunning beauty which surrounds me.

Every day we read and watch nothing but negative behaviors on our news feeds. There’s some pretty awful stuff going on, hurtful and shocking and scary. Is it tainting your view of all humans? Of our country? Of this world?

And what are you doing about it? Are you helping pick up the broken pieces during these crazy times, or just kicking them around, making an even bigger mess?

I know, the trash is real, and it’s ugly. And there are dangers associated with it, and things are not as we’d like them to be, and we’re scared. But try to keep living, humanely, despite it all. It’s easy to kick around the anger, fear, and worry, spreading it to everyone you know. It’s harder to bend down and pick it up, and put it in its place.

If you feel at a loss as to what you can do to help in these unsettling times, consider picking up some of the residue left by others who are hurting, angry, and struggling. Grab a bag and carry it for them, and find a place to discard it, even if you don’t think they deserve it. Maybe it comes in the form of sending encouraging words in a text. Maybe send some money anonymously to help someone who is struggling financially. Maybe share a positive post. Maybe make someone laugh. Maybe let them know you value them. Maybe share a meal, send a gift card, or ask someone how they are doing, and take time to really listen. Discover their needs, their fears, their dreams, and figure out how to help clean up the mess. Because we all end up in messes sometimes. And we all need others to help when we find ourselves in that messy place.

And while you’re doing that, look up.The sunrise is amazing. Sure, these days you have to look a little harder to see it, but it’s there, every morning, the dawning of a new day. So lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, to the north, and to the south, and to the east and to the west. You won’t want to miss the view.

13 Ways to Be More Collaborative

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

Boy, are people cranky these days! And for good reason, right? Our norms have been turned upside down, and, combined with fear, uncertainty, financial strain, and worry — it’s a sure recipe for contentiousness.

Just take a look at just about any social media page. People can post the most innocent of comments — or not — but no matter, there’s always someone, or some-many, who will jump on their soapbox and argue, call names, sling insults, and make snide remarks, sometimes just to be disagreeable. Why is it when things get tough, we tend to throw teamwork and collaboration out the window?

Some would say it’s human nature and can’t be helped.

“Bad temper is its own scourge. Few things are more bitter than to feel bitter. A man’s venom poisons himself more than his victim.” — Charles Buxton

Oxford Language Dictionary defines human nature as “the general psychological characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits of humankind, regarded as shared by all humans.” Why, then, if it’s something we all share, are some people kindhearted, uplifting, and encouraging, while others seem prone to be the thorn in everyone’s side?

It comes down to choice.

Contrary to popular belief, we get to choose how we react to the emotions we are feeling. Every single one of us can either choose the path of collaboration, or, decide to go down the path of contentiousness. We have the choice to either fall victim to our emotions and allow them to take us down the spiral of negativism, cynicism, and criticism, or use them as a vital source of data which can lead to greater connectivity and cooperation with others, leading to healthier, happier relationships.

No matter your circumstances, no matter how tough things are, no matter how utterly frustrated you may feel, you get to choose how you respond.

Experiencing negative emotions is normal. But we don’t have to act out on them. So why does it feel like poor behavior sometimes is an automatic reaction, one that can’t be helped? The answer has to do with how our brains are wired. When presented with stimuli which trigger a strong emotion, the signal first arrives to the emotional part of your brain, and communicates that you either need to fight or take flight, without delay. It takes another six seconds for the signal to hit the rational part of your brain and allow you to use reason in choosing your next steps.[How to best manage the six seconds that can change your life (for the worse)].

If you choose to react within those first six seconds, chances are your choices may be clouded by the hot emotions you’re feeling. Those are the moments when we shoot back that feisty text, fire off a heated email, or exchange hurtful words in a disagreement. This out-of-control response is a result of an amygdala hijack, a term coined by Daniel Goleman in 1995. The amygdala, the part of the brain designed to respond quickly to  threats, in order to protect us from danger, can interfere with our functioning in our day-to-day lives where perceived threats are now rarely a matter of life and death. 

If we delay reacting by just a few more moments, allowing the brain to take the emotional stimuli and process it with the rational part of our brain, we have a much greater likelihood of making a thought-out, cooperative and productive decision. [Amygdala Hijack and the Fight or Flight Response]

Easier said than done.

Becoming a team player, and leading others toward collaboration, takes emotional intelligence, including self-awareness, self-management, other awareness, and relationship management, to pull it of. These traits often don’t come easy. But with some focused effort and the help of a social + emotional intelligence coach, you can take steps in a new direction.

If working collaboratively with others is not one of your strong points, here are some things to try to work toward  a more cooperative approach:

  • Hit pause. When you feel your temper rising, take a break. Inhale deeply, step away, take a walk — anything to give your brain a chance to bring reason to the table.
  • Look for opportunities to team up with others. Instead of going it alone on your next project, find a few others to collaborate with and let them know you’d really appreciate their input.
  • Enhance your listening skills. When others offer their insights, even if you don’t like what they’re saying, tune into what they’re trying to communicate and take a genuine interest in learning more. Understanding their motivations may help you be more open to a differing viewpoint.
  • Keep others informed as to your goals, projects, timelines, and successes along the way. Communicating with others helps them feel like part of the team.
  • Be sure to say thank you to those who are working with you. Gratitude goes a long way in building rapport with others. Some people thrive on public recognition while others appreciate a private “thanks”. Learn your team members and be generous with your appreciation.
  • Lead without dominating. Seek out ways you can ask for input and allow for time and space for others to come up with suggestions, ideas, etc…especially those who may be quieter or less assertive.
  • Give validation freely. Letting others know their input is valued, even if the ideas presented are not ones you’d necessarily incorporate, goes a long way in building a cooperative spirit. An old proverb says, “In a multitude of counselors there is safety.” A variety of ideas, even the ones which sound crazy or far-fetched, can contribute to finding successful ones.
  • When conflict arises, attempt to resolve it sooner than later. Unresolved conflict can eat away at cohesion. Though avoiding hard conversations may seem easier in the moment, they’ll need to take place eventually. The sooner you can resolve disagreements, the sooner you can move forward toward your goals.
  • Treat everyone with respect and courtesy. There’s never a time when it’s OK to be rude, distasteful, or demeaning. No matter the job title, position, or lot in life, practice treating all people with high regard.
  • Share your resources with others. Don’t be an idea-hoarder. Who knows if your insights may spark imaginative ideas in others?“

“Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

  • Allow others to take credit. Your innovative ideas may spur others to come up with creative ways of doing things…so much so that they may forget the original idea came from you. That’s OK. Exercise enough personal power to not need to have all the credit all the time.
  • Empower others to be successful. Good leaders look for ways for others to be successful. Which of your behaviors turn others off? What hurdles may be keeping others from feeling like part of your team? What needs do they have? How can you go out of your way to meet those needs?
  • Get to know your colleagues. Learn their spouse’s names, ask about what their kids are up to, and seek to understand their motivations and personal interests. When team members feel understood, and appreciated, they’re much more likely to be strong contributors.

Learning to get along and work well with others will enhance your own sense of well-being, as well as contribute to happier, healthier relationships and a greater sense of community…something we all could use more of these days.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

The History of You

Article contributed by guest author Paige Dest.

Most of us probably never imagined just two months ago that we’d be in the place we are right now –  socially isolated from family, friends, neighbors, co-workers – those we used to be with every day. We each had our own things going on, though we stood beside each other. And now, we are together in a situation, though we can’t stand beside each other. There are emotions flowing around each of us that we hadn’t anticipated, some with which we may not know what to do. And that’s OK.  That’s being human. We’re allowed to be scared and courageous at the same time. Emotions, after all, are just chemicals in our body that give us information about the next action we may need to take.

But the question is – what action will you take? Will you focus on self-care? Taking care of others? Showing kindness, generosity, gratitude? Will you be creative? Will you teach, learn, or both? Where will you put your energy?

What will be the history of you?

This is the time to decide who you want to remember yourself as, in a year or in ten years. How you decide to “show up” in this time will help define you after this is over – and it will be over. You can take  the steps to be someone of whom you are proud. Someone who accepted their emotions but didn’t wallow in them. Someone who stepped up – whatever that means for you. Someone who used this “moment of pause” in the human condition to reflect, accept, and intentionally move forward. And whether that step is a small step or a big step, it’s still a step. A step that you will remember. So, I ask you, what will that step be? What will be the history of you?

A good way to begin figuring this out is to experience what your body is telling you and what emotions you are feeling. Name your emotion and be curious about the information it’s telling you. Use this information to strategize your available choices and opportunities. These could be around your own care and development or around assisting others. Or perhaps it’s both. In each moment, you are given a choice. Listen to your emotions and take each moment to pause and decide how you want to be. Once you know how you want to BE, you can make a better choice of what you want to DO. And in each choice, you are also deciding the history of YOU. Make it one of which you’re proud!

Navigating the storm

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

I think we all can admit things are tough right now. Life as we know it has hit a strong headwind and it feels as if we’ve been thrown into deep, uncharted seas. We have been launched out of our safe harbors and suddenly must figure out new ways of working, relating with others, and existing. Gone are the days of smooth sailing and we’re being called to exercise adaptability, resilience, optimism, and patience — to name a few — just to stay afloat.

It’s hard, because what is being required of us is to change, and change can be difficult, especially when resources are limited. Suddenly, reaching the goals we had previously set seems near impossible.  “How am I supposed to [fill in the blank with your impossible goal(s) ] when I can’t leave my home?” It’s a fair question, one which many are asking. The easy thing to do during times such as this is to cast blame. But doing so will only take the wind out of your sails, which, in rough seas, may be the very thing which causes you to sink.

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” — Winston Churchill

As we’ve seen in the past few weeks, there are those who continue to accomplish great things, despite the difficult circumstances, while others have given up on accomplishing much of anything. Why the great gulf in response to tough times? Of course there are many contributors, but one factor to consider is achievement drive.

Achievement drive is a competency of emotional intelligence. Those with strong achievement drive have high standards, and strive to succeed despite setbacks and failures. Stephen Covey said it well: “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” In other words, no matter the state of affairs, there is still a choice whether to push forward or fall back.

People with a strong achievement drive tend to be results-oriented, with a high motivation to meet their objectives. They have a deep understanding of the values which are important to them and don’t make compromises. They set goals for themselves which require stretching instead of taking the easy route. They’re not afraid to take risks and are always looking for ways to do things better. And most of all — they’re not OK with OK. They are constantly looking for ways to improve.

Who do you know like this?

Not everyone can name achievement drive as one of their assets. Those who struggle with this competency tend to, either overtly or covertly, avoid firm, fixed standards of performance and instead, fit the results to their circumstances. These are the people who meet expectations, if needed, but don’t push onward and upward. They tend to put forth minimum effort, whatever is needed to get by. They accept the status quo, and pride themselves in not being one to “rock the boat”.  And personal standards are quick to be thrown overboard when whitecaps begin to form.

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” — Henry Ford

I’ll be the first to say that achieving goals when the seas are rough is not easy. But if you’re always waiting for the timing to be right, you’ll probably be waiting a long, long time. If you look back upon the life you’ve lived, you can’t help but notice that change is a part of life. And often, just when you think things are going to be easy for a while, a twist of circumstances can quickly turn your world upside down. Have you ever been saving money, making better choices as to your spending, and just when you’ve almost reached your financial goal, an unexpected burden arises and your resources are again tapped out? Yes, it’s hard to reach our goals when things aren’t easy. But we can do hard things.

Will you let this storm bring your plans to naught, or will you figure out a way to paddle, if needed, through the waves and find a safe harbor on the other side?

The good news is that negative behaviors, such as a lack of achievement drive, can be shifted to follow a new course, despite the circumstances. It takes a mindset of growth, and a willingness to take risks, and even fail, and a positive outlook, along with some blister-forming hard work. But it’s worth the effort. Studies show that a negative mindset can squelch our  innovative ideas, and if we let it run rampant, motivate us to lower our standards, take an easier, lesser route or even worse, quit.

On the contrary, a positive outlook can help us see possibilities and fresh solutions needed to tackle the storms ahead. As Les Brown says, “In every day, there are 1,440 minutes. That means we have 1,440 daily opportunities to make a positive impact.”

Here are some ways to improve your achievement drive during rough seas:

  • Chart your course.  Do you set goals which are too easy to reach? If so, it may be what is preventing you from reaching your highest of heights. Raise the bar a bit. Nelson Mandela once said “There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Choose a destination you actually want to get to! To coin the phrase from the 80’s, “Reach for the Stars!” Setting goals which feel a bit beyond your grasp will require you to extend your boundaries and pick up new skill sets. Check your goals by asking the simple question, “Is this excellent?” or, “Is this the best I could do?” If it’s a no, chart a new course.
  • Get in touch with your love of the sea. Tuning in to the emotional pull of what you want to achieve and why can create energy needed to accomplish great things. Someone once said, “Purpose is the reason you journey. Passion is the fire that lights the way.” Ask yourself these questions and take some time to journal about them: Why do you want to reach this goal? What about the journey draws you to it? What will you gain by achieving this goal? What benefits are there to going the extra mile? What will you lose by not taking action or going for more?
  • SMART Sailing.  SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed. Does your goal need some tuning to be a SMART goal? Again, writing about each of these can be effective in gaining awareness. Or, find a trusted friend or colleague with whom you can share your ideas to get some feedback. Sometimes an outside perspective can provide great insights. As you uncover areas of growth, list out ways you can make adjustments where needed.

“A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a plan and a deadline.” – Harvey Mackay

  • Name your adversaries.  What is holding you back from driving toward achievement? Is it a past story that is being retold, one which does not serve you well? Is it a fear of rejection, or may be failure… or a fear of succeeding? If needed, work with a counselor or emotional intelligence coach to help you recognize and name the forces which are opposing you, and learn healthy ways to move past them.
  • Inch forward, one knot at a time. Break down your goals into small, doable action items. Commit to doing one each day, no matter what distractions or interference you may incur. Keep on keeping on. Though your progress may seem slow, each step in the new direction counts. In time, these small gains add up to big gains, then you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come. But only if you keep moving. Your determined, continued effort will pay off.
  • Keep a ship’s log.  Discouragement comes when we don’t feel like we’re making progress. It’s important to acknowledge that you are making headway against the strong winds. Keep a daily log of your achievements, small and great, and everything in between, and reflect on them at the end of the day, week, and month. Share them with others. Celebrate your successes and allow yourself to be encouraged by the progress you make along the way.
  • Enlist a crew. Your friends and colleagues may have skills which you don’t have. This is good. Think of your friends, colleagues, and family members. Who do you know who has high standards, who have set lofty goals and achieved them? Call them up and ask to meet in order to learn from them. Tap into their expertise and ask them to share their stories, tips, and suggestions.  Inviting someone else along for the ride also helps the struggle feel more enjoyable, and will give you much-needed accountability.
  • No need to walk the plank.  We live in a culture where perfectionism is thrust upon us as a norm. Which would be useful, if we weren’t human. Even the best of us miss sometimes, but it doesn’t have to result in quitting. You have to know that it is OK to make mistakes, especially if you use them to learn and grow. Some of the greatest individuals we know have stories of failure. Accept that getting off course and hitting reefs is a part of the learning process. And when you do mess up, apologize where needed, reset your course, and move on.  And a word to the wise: Skip the shame. Living with shame is like dropping an anchor and dragging it along the bottom of the sea as you try to move forward.  It will do nothing but slow down your progress and may even bring you to a halt. Instead, allow your mistakes to motivate you to try a different approach.

Of course, it is easier to succeed when the sun is shining and the waters are smooth. But unfortunately — or fortunately — that’s not the way life works. No matter your circumstances, you have the choice to move forward. It may be a different route than you originally planned, and you may face new obstacles and be forced to discover new ways of doing things. But if you don’t move forward, you’ll be tossed to and fro until you’re seasick!  Don’t give up.  I know, it’s hard.  But I encourage you to push on, despite the rough seas, and be someone who makes it to the other side. Keep driving yourself to achieve.  Once you’re there, in that safe, sunny harbor, not only will you realize your own dreams, but you’ll be able to turn around and throw a life buoy to those still struggling, and help them move forward as well.

It’s tough right now. It really is. But if you can use these difficult days to pursue high standards of excellence, through this storm, you’ll build resilience and grit, competencies which will serve you when the next squall arises. Which will arise, you know. This isn’t the end of it. There will always another wave coming sooner or later. So use today’s struggles to get ready for it.

Sail on. You’ll be glad you did.

“Do what you can with all you have, wherever you are.” — Theodore Roosevelt

Letting go

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

Over the years, I have struggled with giving up things I loved…my spacious home filled with cherished stuff, financial security, my church, a job that paid well with benefits, someone to provide happiness for me, and all the privileges which came along with that lifestyle…because I had to. Instead, I’ve had to figure out how to live in a very small space, secure remote work, accrue some debt, get rid of most of my stuff, live on a very limited income, learn to enjoy my own company, develop a personal relationship with God, and find joys in the simple things. Now that I’ve let it all go, and choose this lifestyle, it no longer feels like a struggle, though to many I may seem poor.

But it sure makes the transitions called for during a times such as this a lot easier. Other than the need for a mask, and a deep compassion for those who are without food, are scared, and have lost jobs and loved ones, life without many of the typical conveniences feels normal to me, and oddly, I feel thankful for the rough times which led me here.

Crazy-thinking, I know.

I get it, right now it feels really hard. Because it is. But sometimes letting go of parts of life-as-you-know-it can be a breath of much-needed fresh air if you allow yourself to breathe it in and fill your lungs. With a mask, of course, for now. And down the road, without it all, you may just find a place of peace and joy you didn’t know was possible.

I’m not negating the struggle getting there. We’ve never faced something like this and losing beloved things like career, savings, freedoms, security, health, and loved ones is painful–terrifying, even.

But things may just turn out all right. On the other side of this, your life may look a lot different than what you dreamed or planned…and you may even ask yourself, “How did I end up here?!”, like I have, countless times. Yes, it will be a different life…but maybe, just maybe, all right.

Change is so hard for us humans, but it’s not going anywhere. Let today’s struggles give you the strength for the next wave of change which will hit, once this one ends. Keep your chin up. This is hard…but we can do hard things. You got this.

Because you never know, you might just like that place you find yourself on the other side.

How do you sabotage your success?

Article contributed by guest author Brian Baker.

Everyone has had the experience of self-destructing. It’s a strange feeling to know that you ruined the very thing you were trying so hard to accomplish. Most self-sabotage is the result of discomfort. It can be the discomfort of failing, succeeding, or having to perform tasks that are uncomfortable.

You may have heard the saying, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Unfortunately, most of us are well-practiced in the art of avoiding discomfort. This is the most common way we sabotage our success.

Are you sabotaging your success? Consider these points:


1.  Distractions. The tasks that need to be done in order to be successful are typically less appealing than watching TV, surfing the internet, or spending time with friends. We’re experts at distracting ourselves, and the urge to seek out distractions increases with the unpleasantness of the task.

  • Solution: Allow yourself to have distractions, but control when, and how long, you engage in them. You might give yourself 30 minutes of distraction time after three hours of work. Or, you might limit distractions to the evening after your work is done for the day.

2.  Procrastination. Distractions are one way of procrastinating, but there are countless ways to procrastinate. The general theme is that you’re doing something other than what you should be doing.

  • Solution: Be clear on what needs to be done and why.
  • Focus on just getting started, which is often the most challenging part of working.
  • Use a timer and see how much you can accomplish in 30 minutes.

3.  Indecisiveness. Indecisiveness is a success killer. When you can’t make up your mind, progress comes to a stop. If you wait until you have all the wisdom and information necessary to make the perfect choice, you’ll be waiting a long time. You have to pull the trigger and move forward.

  • Solution: Be clear on what needs to be done to accomplish your objective.
  • Give yourself a time limit. You might give yourself 10 minutes or a day to make a decision. Then just decide and do your best.

4.  Negative thoughts. For many people, the closer they get to success, the more negative thoughts they experience.

  • Solution: Take control of your mind and think thoughts that are useful to you. Cheer yourself on rather than criticize your actions.
  • Ignore the random noise of your mind. You don’t have to engage with your random thoughts. You can choose to ignore them.

5.  Focus on low-priority tasks. We like to work on our projects but avoid the most important tasks. The most important tasks are often the least enjoyable, so we avoid them. We tackle the less important tasks because it allows us to feel like we’re still making progress.

  • Solution: Have a list of tasks to do each day ordered from most important to least. Start at the top of your list and work your way down.

6.  Quitting. This is the ultimate way to sabotage your success. You can’t achieve anything if you quit before you’re successful. Many people have a habit of quitting right before achieving success.

  • Solution: Develop the habit of finishing what you start. Avoid caving into the fear that crops up when you’re about to find out if you were successful or not. Remember that you can always try again, regardless of the outcome.

Self-sabotage is a great problem to have because you don’t need to try to change anyone else. In fact, the entire issue is your responsibility! This might sound disheartening, but it’s easier to change yourself than it is to change someone else.

Remember this, the person responsible for your successes and failures is staring at you in the mirror each day.

Reflections

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” — Margaret J. Wheatley

Making time this holiday season to reflect on the past year may feel like one more item to add to your ever-growing to do list, and the last thing you have time for.  However, stopping to reflect may be one of the most important things you do amidst the holiday hubbub.

Reflection simply means to give deep thought to something.  It’s not a fleeting, in-passing glance back, and isn’t to be confused with the goofy, quirky “Deep Thoughts” by Jack Handy on NBC’s television comedy, Saturday Night Live.  Reflection consists of stopping what we’re doing, pausing our current thought stream, and purposefully remembering past events, considering why they happened, how they happened, and pondering the outcomes.

“There is no greater journey than the one that you must take to discover all of the mysteries that lie within you.” – Michelle Sandlin

In a research study of employees in call centers, compiling the efforts of Francesca Gino, Giada Di Stefano, Bradley Staats, and Gary Pisano, it was discovered that employees who spent 15 minutes at the reflecting about lessons learned at the end of the day performed 23% better after 10 days than those who did not. [https://hbr.org/2017/03/why-you-should-make-time-for-self-reflection-even-if-you-hate-doing-it]. In the world of academia, researchers found the significance of reflecting on the student’s learning is undeniable . “It can naturally activate further engagement with learning material, deepen learners’ understanding of the topic and reinforce independent thinking and in that way create an effective learning environment.”[https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329203590_Theories_on_Self-Reflection_in_Education].

Reflecting is a positive choice any time of the year, but is especially beneficial as we wrap up the past 12 months and look ahead to 2020. Making time to reflect can add value in many ways. Here are just a few:

  • Forces us to slow down during a hectic time of year
  • Makes it possible to celebrate our achievements
  • Promotes gratitude
  • Helps us determine the things we don’t want to repeat in the coming year
  • Births creative ideas, helping us plan ahead for what’s next
  • Inspires others to reflect on their own lives
  • Connects us with those around us by remembering those who helped us along the way

As educational reformer John Dewey noted: “We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.”

Need some ideas on which aspects of this past year to reflect on?  Consider some of these, for starters:

  • What went well?
  • Where did you miss?
  • What ‘made your heart sing’?
  • What made you laugh?
  • What scared you and why?
  • What are you most grateful for?
  • What (and who) inspired you with hope?
  • Who helped along the way?
  • Who do you wish you would’ve spent more time with?
  • Which accomplishment made you the most proud?
  • How did you overcome a particularly difficult challenge?
  • Who did you help?
  • What do you wish you would’ve done more of?
  • Who are you most grateful for?
  • Which activities were the best use of your time?

Most likely, reflecting on the above questions will prompt you to think of more questions of your own to reflect upon.  If you like to write, consider using a journal to document your thoughts, or record your responses on a voice recorder, or have an in-depth conversation with a trusted friend or colleague.

Doing so will help direct you toward a successful year ahead.

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” — Peter Drucker

Stop, look, and listen

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

I’ll never forget the lesson I learned from little five-year-old Marta. As if her sparkling brown eyes, quick smile, and cheeky, baby-like face weren’t enough to win me over–because they were. But it was a competency of emotional intelligence she possessed, which, without a word, made her one of the brightest kids in the classroom.

Wisdom of a child

In the inner city school where I was teaching, standardized assessment scores were low, graduation rates were astonishingly poor, and for most students, English was the second language. Marta arrived the first day of kindergarten equipped with a backpack, hair neatly braided, wearing clean, pressed clothes, with a smile so bright you couldn’t help but beam back. It was obvious that she was well taken care of at home. However my co-teacher informed me that she didn’t speak a word of English, nor did her grandparents, who were her caretakers.  “Good luck with that!”, she said with a hint of disdain.

I made efforts toward effective communication with Marta, even though at first I could tell she didn’t understand a word I said. I used a lot of gestures and exaggerated facial expressions. However, Marta didn’t miss a beat. She was earnest and intentional. Before she’d take any action, she’d stop, look around her, and listen with riveting concentration. I could see her studying my face when I spoke, was quick to nod though I could tell she didn’t fully understand, and flashed her bright smile whenever I grinned. She constantly watched the kids around her: in the morning as they put their coats away, at her table group as they worked on their papers, and in the afternoons during story time, always following along just a step behind, mimicking their behavior. She seemed tuned-into the difference between the children who behaved well, and those who did not, and readily emulated the actions of those who made good choices. She was a quick learner.

Marta, I came to learn later, demonstrated an incredible amount of situational awareness. Within weeks, her comprehension of English, both verbal and written, progressed at astonishing speeds. By the end of the year, you never would have guessed that it was not her first language, except for some pronunciation variances which she adeptly picked up from her grandmother’s strong, accent-laden diction at home. Her ability to tune into what was going around her had a direct impact on her success as a student.

What is situational awareness?

Situational awareness is a competency of emotional intelligence and one which is effective in determining our ability to influence and lead others well. It’s the ability to read social cues, pick up on political currents, and determine norms in family, social, and business gatherings. Those who are good at it are able to detect crucial social networks and understand the political forces at work. They can accurately pick up on the guiding values and unspoken rules which are in play, and are able to make use of formal and informal dynamics.

Those who struggle with situational awareness can sometimes find it difficult to get things done in various social settings, and can be caught off guard when social and political situations arise, whether it be at home or in the workplace. They can be offensive without realizing it and unwittingly act in ways which are inappropriate. They miss on being aware of the emotions of those around them and can find many social situations (and the people involved) frustrating.

Unaware, unsafe.

Not being aware of what’s going on around us can get us into trouble. For most workplaces, a lack of situational awareness can lead to potentially dangerous situations. In the world of aviation, for example, staying aware of surroundings can be the very thing which helps avoid system failures and crashes.  “One of the greatest risks a pilot has when faced with a problem is that the pilot is simply not aware a problem exists. Loss of situational awareness is like the boogieman sneaking up behind you—danger is imminent, but you are pleasantly unaware of it.”  [http://langleyflyingschool.com/Pages/Human%20Factor–Loss%20of%20Situational%20Awareness.html]  In the construction industry, situational awareness is equally important. In 2013, the Bureau of Labor reported that fatal injury rates among construction workers was almost three times that of all occupations.  In a white paper distributed by workzonesafety.org, it was noted that, “Loss of situational awareness undoubtedly contributed to many of these worker accidents. Situational awareness is a worker’s ability to capture cues and clues from what is happening around them, then being able to put them together to mean something, and predicting future events, especially potential risks/threats.”

Distracted drivers – a lack of situational awareness

Cell phone use is proving to be a large contributor to our inability to remain conscious of our physical surroundings, no matter how good we think we are at multitasking.  It’s known that multitasking impairs performance. Studies have shown that even just listening to words being spoken on a cell phone decreases brain availability for other tasks by 37%. [https://www.workzonesafety.org/files/documents/worker_distraction/fatigue_e-device-use.pdf] At any given point in a day, approximately 660,000 drivers are attempting to use their phones while driving. In 2017, the National Safety Council reported that “cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Nearly 390,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving, and one out of every four car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.”https://www.edgarsnyder.com/car-accident/cause-of-accident/cell-phone/cell-phone-statistics.html]

On the home front

While not honing your situational awareness can prove to be life-threatening, in our home lives, missing on the dynamics of what is going on around you can be detrimental to building strong, healthy relationships. Take the all-too-typical example of an overworked parent who is too busy to notice his kids are showing signs of going down a ‘bad’ path, whether it be skipping classes, lying, stealing, cheating, illegal drug use, etc.  By not being alert and tuning into what is going on in his teenager’s day-to-day, negative habits can quickly form and leave the parent feeling blindsided. “He was such a sweet boy,” the dad will lament, shaking his head sadly remembering when his child was six. But he’s not six anymore — he’s 16 and somewhere, 10 vital years had passed without the parent picking up on the signs of change and being aware — and assertive — enough to respond in a way that encourages the connection kids so long for. In extreme cases, where one or more of the parents is narcissistic (tuning into self and missing on reading and responding to the emotional cues of others), “clinical experience and research show that adult children of narcissists have a difficult time putting their finger on what is wrong…filled with unacknowledged anger, feel like a hollow person, feel inadequate and defective, suffer from periodic anxiety and depression, and have no clue about how he or she got that way.” —Pressman and Pressman, The Narcissistic Family [https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-legacy-distorted-love/201105/the-narcissistic-family-tree]

Office politics and situational awareness

At the office, a lack of situational awareness can take on the form of office politics, a word that most consider ‘dirty’. However, engaging in the goings on at the office actually can have an advantage. In a Forbes.com article, Bonnie Marcus writes that a “lack of attention to what’s happening in the workplace can be extremely dangerous.” After being passed over for a promotion she felt she rightly deserved, she noted, “I didn’t pay attention to what was going on in my company. I avoided office politics and was therefore totally ignorant about how the decision for that VP job would be made. And what’s worse, I  failed to nurture important relationships with the people in corporate who had power and influence over my career.” [https://www.forbes.com/sites/bonniemarcus/2017/04/04/what-i-learned-about-office-politics-that-changed-my-career/#393293266168]. In a study done by Jo Miller, founding editor of Women’s Leadership Coaching., Inc., where she asked 169 employees how they handled office politics, she found that “20% said they try to ignore it, and 61% said they play the game reluctantly and only “when necessary.”” In her article, she quotes Nina Simosko, a leader in technology strategy at Nike, Inc., who says, “When it comes to office politics, there is no way around it. Once you start working with a team you are going to experience it. I am not a fan of politics, but I have learned that ignoring them can have negative consequences. It can determine whether you are successful in your career or not.”[https://www.themuse.com/advice/why-avoiding-office-politics-could-hurt-you-more-than-you-know]. In another article, Jo writes, “An author and careers expert, Erin Burt notes, “Avoiding (office) politics altogether can be deadly for your career. Every workplace has an intricate system of power, and you can — and should — work it ethically to your best advantage.”[https://beleaderly.com/cant-afford-ignore-office-politics/]

It begins with self-awareness

So how do we develop this vital competency of emotional intelligence?  Situational awareness begin with self-awareness, as well-stated, here:

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.” –Richard Feynman

In order to be aware of what’s going on around us, it’s vital we tune in to our own emotions throughout the day and allow them to provide insightful information into how we’re doing.  Try it right now — how are you feeling? Can you put a word to it? Can you trace its origins (why are you feeling that way)? Can you–in the moment–recognize you are feeling that particular emotion and then, choose to manage your behavior in a way that is mindful of that emotion?  Easier said than done, but it can be done.  If you struggle in this area of self-awareness, consider employing a social + emotional intelligence coach to walk alongside you to offer some help.

Tips to improve your situational awareness

Try following these 3 tips to increase your situational awareness.

Stop. Many of us move in a frenzied cacophony of activity, one crisis spawning the next, and rarely take time to slow down, let alone stop and take notice of our surroundings. Set a value of paying attention to what is going on in your social and work settings. If needed, set an alarm to sound throughout your day to remind yourself to stop what you’re doing, for the simple purpose of tuning in to what is going on around you. In that moment, breathe. Notice the details that you may have missed without this much-needed break. How are you feeling?  Why are you feeling that way? How are those around you feeling?  Why are they feeling that way? Attempt to connect the dots — does what you see happening around you make sense? Does it “fit” into the context of the moment and feel “right”? Knowing the history and political currents of your environment can help you answers these questions.

Look. Have you ever talked with someone, only to realize later that you never really looked at them? Maybe you were in a conversation while scrolling on your phone, or answered their questions without looking up from your computer screen. It’s a good practice to develop your ability to see what is going on around you. Make a point to look people in the eyes when they’re speaking. Try to read the emotional cues they may be offering — or hiding.  Now look around, beyond that person. Notice who is in the room and what they’re doing, and how they’re interacting with others. Notice what has changed in the last few hours while you were preoccupied and determine why it has changed.

Listen. We can learn so much from others if we’d just up our listening skills. The people in our lives can clue us in on what’s happening, below the surface. Learn to ask open-ended questions, and try to remember some of the personal details they may share. Not good with names? Jot them down if needed, along with their unique identifiers (she loves cats, he has 3 kids, etc.), so you can refer to them the next time you chat. Questions like, “How are you really doing?”, “How did you feel when that happened?”, “Why do you think that occurred?”, and “What were you most proud of in that moment?” are a few examples of questions which can take your conversations a little deeper. Tune in as they describe people or situations they found to be effective–or ineffective. Invite them to coffee, or lunch, and learn how they operate, what their values are, and what their hopes and dreams may be. By doing so, you’ll be able to identify the characteristic and behaviors of individuals are successful within the organization.

What Marta taught me was that no matter our hurdles, we can choose to learn from those around us to become more situationally aware. In doing so, we’ll not only help protect ourselves from potential pitfalls of being unaware, but enable our ability to learn and grow as we move toward success.

“Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.”  — Stephen Covey

Upcoming Classes