Archive for the ‘Self Awareness’ Category

Summer: A time of refreshing

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

Stress. A quick Google search tells us stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”  I don’t know about you, but May can bring with its flowers a multitude of demanding circumstances.  It’s a month of must-do’s, especially if you have school-aged children.  ‘Tis the season for the ‘final final’ of every club, activity, sport, and academic arena that your child has ever participated in, and though they are all wonderful things, just looking at your calendar for the month ahead can cause a state of mental strain!  And this comes after long, demanding days at the office. It’s enough to wear even the strongest down.

If you were to self-assess in this very moment how stressed you are, how would you rate?

If you’d like a little help in determining your stress levels, consider taking this short quiz from Psych Central (psychcentral.com):

https://psychcentral.com/quizzes/stress-test.htm

Emotional and mental tension from life’s demands can take its toll on our mental and physical health and contribute to many health issues. This article from the Mayo Clinic cites these negative symptoms of stress:

On your body:

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems

On your mood:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Irritability or anger
  • Sadness or depression
Many of us have fond memories of summer break.  No school, sleeping in, running barefoot, catching lightning bugs, throwing water balloons, sipping lemonade, swimming, picnicking, camping — all wonderful earmarks of the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. It was a time of refreshing between the demands of the school semesters. When we were kids, my brothers and I would play hide-and-go-seek until it was too dark to see where we were running.  I remember the exhilarating feeling of sprinting back to the old ash tree just steps ahead of my chasing brothers, tangled hair flying as my swift, grass-stained feet carried me to the safety of base.  Even if your summers were spent indoors, or taking a summer class, or working at your first job, the season still usually signifies a refreshing break in the routine, a change of pace. But how often do we get that time of refreshing in our adult lives? Seasons come and go and we plod on, day in and day out, consistently meeting demands and solving problems with no respite, leaving us exhausted.

Changing up your schedule to spend time to do things you enjoy is a valuable way to combat stress. The obvious thing to do is to take some time off work and go on vacation. But many can’t afford to take the time off, or have the funds to do so.  Yet they need a break as much as the next person! Look how Maya Angelou celebrated author, poet, and historian so succinctly states it:

“Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”

Here, here!  We all probably agree, but how do withdraw if time and funds are a constraint? It’s really quite simple.  For the moment, put aside your visions of lavishly escaping to a tropical island in the South Pacific, and just daydream for a moment about things do you like to do when you have some free time. Maybe it’s just taking a walk at lunch. Or riding your bike. Maybe you like to fish. Maybe it’s listening to your favorite tunes, or shooting basketball, reading a book, or going on a jog.  Maybe your thing is to meet a dear friend for coffee. Or visit a museum, or browse your favorite clothing store. You may be one who likes to hike, or binge-watch your favorite show or … take a nap!

I have found that I have to escape city life from time to time to find my place of refreshment. I keep my tent and camping gear tucked neatly away in the trunk of my car, so that at a moment’s notice (i.e., 5:01 pm on a Friday afternoon), I can hop in my car and take a short drive out of town to find a scenic spot to set up camp. For me, something about physically removing myself from the city and escaping to the mountains instantly renews my sense of excitement and wonder. Add to that breathing in the crisp, clean mountain air, feasting my eyes on greens and blues (green trees, green grass, blue skies, blue waters), and turning off my cell phone! gives my soul the peace it longs for.

Whatever it is that suits your fancy, make sure it’s something that you truly enjoy and has nothing to do with your day to day routine that leaves you drained. But you’ll find that the most difficult part of refreshing is not determining what to do, but when.  It’s easy to decide that activities that serve no purpose other than fun aren’t as important as our day-to-day work demands that shout so loudly, and just push the fun stuff aside. You’re going to have to make a commitment to fun. Maybe you can carve out a new morning routine before the commute. Maybe you can find some time at lunch to have some down time. Maybe one evening a week you can leave the office right at 5 pm and go play. Or take a half day on the weekend and commit to spending that time doing something you love.  Though fun may not seem as vital as work, truth is, we need both.

There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” — Alan Cohen

When is the last time you did something just because it was fun? And if it’s been way too long, how are your stress levels? Our souls need refreshing and it’s important we figure out how to provide this form of self-care for ourselves. As summer approaches, try to carve out some time for fun. Your body and soul will thank you for it!

“A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.” — Roald Dahl

7 ways to make others avoid you at networking events

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

You know the drill. You don your best business attire, turn on your extroverted switch, write your name and company on the name tag with bold letters, then stride in with your head held high offering a firm but not-too-firm handshake, fully expecting the others to notice your confidence and professionalism as you enter the room. Despite your careful preparations, though, be ready: Most won’t. (Find out why in #3 below).

If you’ve ever attended a professional networking event, either by choice or because your company sends you, you can’t deny that though you claim you’re there to ‘just meet new people’, secretly you hope to come away with a few business leads. I mean, that’s the whole point. Establishing new business connections is a tried and true way to promote your business to people that your current marketing strategies may not be reaching. And while some people are great at networking with others, some, well, just aren’t, and those that aren’t are often the reason you find yourself glancing at the clock once too often and looking for the first opportunity to dash out the door to freedom (once you’ve used up your two free drink tickets of course).

The ability to connect with others, demonstrating compassion, sensitivity, and a true interest in their interests, is a rare skill and a valuable component of emotional intelligence. Those that are good at it can put others at ease, build rapport, and seem to attract new friends/contacts/clients without much effort. Truth is, they have most likely put a lot of effort into becoming more self-aware and ‘other-aware’ — tuning into the wants, needs, and desires of the person across from them and responding accordingly. Those that lack interpersonal effectiveness tend to come across as selfish, arrogant, or a little ‘rough on the edges.’ Have you ever met any of the latter at a networking event?

Here are 7 ways you can make others want to avoid you at your next networking venue:

  1. Tell others how great your company/product is before they ask. As soon as the introductions are over, be the first one to start talking about how great your company and products are and how everyone within earshot desperately needs what you sell/do, before you’ve even assessed if those in the conversation are interested or not. Be sure to use the phrase “you should” often.
  2. Don’t look people in the eyes while you’re talking. Be sure to look ‘out there’ as you talk, as if your inspiration is coming from some far-away land of enchantment. If you look people in the eyes, you might notice they aren’t listening and you’d have to adjust…yikes! In fact, just avoid eye contact in all circumstances.
  3. Don’t ask questions. A great way to make people want to avoid you is to only talk about yourself and your company, and never ask them questions about theirs. Remember, what you have to say is far more important than what they possibly could come up with, and this event is all about marketing yourself, right? If you express a genuine interest in them, they might start telling you about what they do, and you don’t want that!
  4. When others begin to share, don’t pay attention. Get out your phone, send a quick text, glance at those around you, check out the attractive person by the food table, and by all means be thinking about what you’re going to say next. Don’t nod as they speak and never, ever ask them for more details so you can better understand what they do. If it seems like they’re going to talk for more than 5 minutes, excuse yourself to go get that second drink.
  5. Bore them with details. It’s best you dive quickly and deeply into the intricate details of how your company was formed, why it was formed, the levels of training you’ve received, how many clients you have and the names of all of your branch office locations. Use a lot of acronyms. Tell them about the day when your wifi crashed and how you had to call the IT team and work with them for hours on the phone to get things resolved, making sure to share the ins and outs of the support call. Don’t check in during your stories to see if people are interested and/or listening. Just keep talking! Remember everyone in your conversation circle came to the event just to hear about you. A good rule of thumb: Talk for 20+ minutes at a time without pausing or allowing others to chime in.
  6. Brag! Tell others about every accomplishment for which you’ve been awarded, how far-reaching your clientele base is, how many times you’ve been published in the newspaper and featured on the local news. Tell them how your product is far better than anything your competitors produce be sure to throw out little masked insults toward other companies so they know that yours is superior
  7. Only talk about your work. Don’t try to get to know people on a personal level first and don’t share any personal details about who you are (vs. what you do). If you ask about their families, or what they do in their spare time, or if they love what they do, or if they are currently struggling through any personal issues, you might start to connect with them on a human level. And don’t try to find things outside of work that you have in common, whether it be a shared interest in a sport, or a musical group, or a favorite vacation destination. Remember that connecting to people on a personal level might require a relationship rather than just being able to hand them your business card and be done with them.

A lack of self-awareness and other awareness can go a long way — at least make people go a long way — away from you! Approaching your next networking event as an opportunity to truly get to know others instead of it being all about you may be a good place to start. Tune in next time to how you’re coming across and if possible, start making some shifts toward a more emotionally-intelligent approach for more successful business connections.

“Treat each event you attend and each person that you meet as if it were an appointment with your one of your best clients — even if you are meeting that person for the very first time.” –Timothy M. Houston

Taking Leadership To Heart – Success Stories

Article contributed by guest author Dawn Cook.

From Dawn’s blog at DaybreakEQ.com…

This month’s featured leader in the Taking Leadership to Heart series is Eric Adams, Senior Manager -Business Operations for Verizon Wireless.  As we look at his leadership style, you will see there are some commonalities with the others leaders who employ emotional intelligence – the first of which is transparency.  When I asked Eric about emotional intelligence, this was his response.

I haven’t always had emotional intelligence.  For example, when I moved to the south, I discovered people talk more slowly here.  I was impatient and anxious for them to get to the point.  I would interrupt and look at my phone with impatience.  Then I took an emotional intelligence class and had an aha moment. I quickly realized that was not the way to do business here and that I needed to listen with an open mind.  You must also assume the other person is not going to change which means you must adapt.  I also cue into others’ nonverbals and tone.  Body language tells you a lot.  It helps you recognize others emotions.

Adaptability is a key emotional intelligence skill and without it we become irrelevant (think ‘Who Moved My Cheese’) or at the very least we appear obstinate.  Adapting your style to the environment means using your social awareness to recognize you aren’t connecting the dots, using your selfawareness to see how you are missing the target, and using your selfmanagement to make the necessary adjustments.  Instead of letting your ego or pride rule your actions, you make full use of your brain.

Listening without judgment is part of empathetic listening – also a critical emotional intelligence skill.  So often we are driven to jump to judgment so we can apply a quick solution.  Unfortunately, that solution may solve the wrong issue, or worse yet, create a new issue.  To really be present and listen without judging requires selfawareness and selfmanagement.  We must recognize that we are making a judgment before we can suspend it.  And we have to wrestle with the emotions that support our need to be right over our desire to listen with an open mind.

Eric initiated a Behavior-Based Document which outlines how he expects his team to behave.  For example, think before you respond is a requirement for communication style, as is walking away instead of engaging in destructive conversation. This is classic impulse management and so valuable.  Taking even a moment to pause and think before reacting to a trigger enables you to get a grip on the emotion that is tempting you to react.  In that moment, you can coax your logical brain to re-engage and overrule your emotional brain which is trying to take over.  And walking away is a great strategy because it gives your emotional brain time to settle down and allows the logical brain to come back online.

Neuroscience has proven time and time again that emotions drive behavior which drives performance.  Plus, it’s well documented that an employee who feels valued is more engaged and productive than one who is not.  Eric capitalizes on these facts by making recognition a cornerstone of his leadership.  He implemented a program where he sends an email to all his customers with an organizational chart and asks them for input on his team.  He then uses that feedback as the basis for rewarding team members who are performing well.  The especially cool part of this program is that the team member who wins gets to see exactly what customers say about them – and all their colleagues see it as well.  Not only does it create a sense of pride for the winner, but a sense of appreciation from customers and colleagues as well.

Effectively managing relationship landmines is a skill most of us aspire to have, but few people do.  Eric is one of those few.  Last year Eric was promoted to a leadership position in IT over one of his peers who was up for the role.  More interesting is the fact that Eric did not have a background in IT and his peer did.  This was a delicate situation, one ripe with the possibility for animosity.  Eric’s approach was to address it head on and be transparent.  He acknowledged his peer may have some reticence or even resentment to working for Eric and assured him he understood that.  He also impressed upon his peer (now direct report) that he was there to support him, learn from him, and help him succeed.  Eric worked to help restore that team member’s confidence and he was eventually elevated back to a lead role at a similar level.

Turnover is typically an easy way to measure employee engagement, a standard success metric for many organizations.   Eric has had zero turnover on his team from people leaving because of his leadership.  However, Verizon did have a reduction in force and reorganization which resulted in losing 30% of his staff due to layoffs and promotions.  The motto was ‘do more with less’.  Eric knew it was critically important to keep a close eye on his team members to see how they were feeling.  His efforts to continually check in with them and show genuine concern about their well-being resulted in the team rallying and keeping production relatively the same.  That’s no small task!

Here is an example of how Eric builds loyalty and keeps turnover down.  A team member worked until 9 pm a few nights putting out fires.  When he learned this, he told her to go home, work from home the next day for a couple of hours and take the afternoon off so she could enjoy a long weekend.  With that gesture, Eric made it very clear to her that he cared about her as a person, not just as an employee.

Eric doesn’t just check in with his team when there are challenges; he believes that day to day conversations like ‘how was your weekend’ are the key to building a good team.  Maintaining high visibility and high accessibility are two more cornerstones of his leadership.  His door is always open and he is constantly texting, calling or IMing his people to see how they are. He serves as a sounding board.  It’s not about micromanaging either.  Eric trusts his team to do the job.  He believes in empowering them and is hands off until he needs to be hands on.  In return, they trust him completely.

His direct reports will tell you that Eric is big on personal development for his team.  He brings in guest speakers on topics like emotional intelligence and personality styles and he encourages continuing education for self-improvement.  They also feel like he supports them.  One person shared this example.

Not long after I started reporting to Eric, I was called out by the Region Vice President (Eric’s boss) for an issue in a store.  The RVP was so angry that he questioned whether it was the right move to put me in the role.  The conversation was completely demoralizing.  I went to Eric and asked him to reassure the RVP I was competent.  Eric was calm and collected as he listened to my story and said, “I did my research on this team before I took this job; no doubt you are competent.  I will call him and share responsibility for this.”  I knew in that moment that he had my back.

For fifteen years, Eric has been making a difference at Verizon Wireless.  Starting in a store and working his way up the ladder has given him great empathy for what it takes to be successful in the various roles.  Undoubtedly it has paid off for him as he continues to be promoted year after year.   His emotionally intelligent leadership is serving both him and the organization well.

Do you know a leader who uses emotional intelligence?  Drop me an email at Dawn@DayBreakEQ.com and we will get them featured in this series.

Emotional Spring Cleaning

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

In some parts of the world, springtime is just around the corner. And as the weather turns warm and the sun peeks out from behind the grey, winter clouds, many of us turn our attention to spring cleaning. Something about the nesting we tend to do during a long, cold winter creates an innate desire to clean house and get a fresh start with the budding of spring. We open up the windows, organize a closet, and clear out the clutter. We get rid of things that no longer serve a purpose or are slowing us down.

Our emotional homes need a similar ritual of spring cleaning. When is the last time you spruced up your emotional well-being?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of how we are feeling, in the moment and respond accordingly. As well, it includes social intelligence, the ability to read how others are feeling in the moment and to manage your relationship with that person appropriately.

Emotional intelligence differs from our intellectual quotient in that it can be modified and improved. It’s all about behavior and behavior can be changed! Increasing our emotional intelligence is a great way to clean house, emotionally, to rid ourselves of stumbling blocks and open the windows to the refreshing scent of emotional health.

What behaviors are you seeing in your own life that no longer serve a productive, positive purpose? Maybe it’s an old hurt that you allow to continually rise to the surface and trigger anger. Maybe it is a cutting, sarcastic tone that causes damage to those on the receiving end. Maybe it is an inability to see your own worth and lead others with inspiration. We all have our areas that could use some sprucing up. But while most of us know how to use soap and water to clean our physical homes, where do we start to freshen our emotional homes?

Often the cleansing process begins with some accurate self-assessment, to pinpoint the things that are weighing us down. In the words of Cyla Warncke, freelance writer and journalist:

“By taking the time to identify and understand our baggage and making a conscious decision to let go we free ourselves to experience life in a richer, deeper, more meaningful way.”

What are some ways to begin your journey of accurate self-assessment?  There are many tools on the market that can help. Here’s an online quiz created by LiveHappy.com you can take to see how much emotional baggage you are carrying around: http://www.livehappy.com/self/quizzes/quiz-how-much-emotional-baggage-do-you-carry. You also can dive more deeply into your self-assessment by working with a life coach to help you discover the areas that could use some work. Good coaching, teamed up with an assessment such as the Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile® created by the Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence® can give you an accurate, detailed evaluation of your current emotional state: (take our assessment free at http://www.theisei.com/PreviewVideoforCertCourse.aspx).

Once you’ve established the areas of your emotional health that need refreshing, the next step is to make sure you have the right tools to get the job done. There are four tools that anyone in an emotional cleanup project will need:

  • Self-Awareness
  • Other Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Relationship Management

Howard Gardner laid the framework for these four quadrants in 1983 with his theory of multiple intelligences, and in 1998 Daniel Goleman introduced these quadrants as keys to emotional growth. But just knowing the tools you need doesn’t necessarily get them into your hands.  A shopping trip is in order. Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of having a good coach, counselor, or colleague who you trust and can speak honestly into the crevices of your life that may be collecting dirt. Sometimes it just takes an outside eye to spot the cluttered areas that we don’t notice on our own. And if you’re at a loss as to where to start with finding someone to serve as a guide, here at the Institute we have a team of trained coaches who are experts in the field of social and emotional intelligence who can offer insight and direction down your emotional housecleaning.

If you’re not ready to work with a professional on your emotional spring cleaning, there are many self-cleansing practices you can incorporate to jump start your emotional well being.

“Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort. ” – Deborah Day

Many are just basic self-care for our physical bodies that quickly transfer to our emotional health. Get more sleep. Take a yoga class. Drink water. Check your diet and begin to replace unhealthy choices with more nutritious ones. Exercise. Meditate. Learn something new. Serve others. Dream. Spend time doing things you enjoy. Rest. Journal. Practice thankfulness. With a quick search on the internet you can find a multitude of resources to begin to give better care to your emotional self. Many creative ways to nourish your spirit can be found in this enjoyable read by Alison Miller:  http://alisonimiller.com/spring-cleaning-for-the-soul-25-ways-to-nourish-your-spirit/.  In addition, here at the Institute we offer online courses in social + emotional intelligence that can not only help you clean up your own emotional house but train you how to nurture it in others.  Learn more at www.the-isei.com and click on the Classes tab.

Taking the time for emotional spring cleaning will not only give you a mental ‘lift’ but will clear away the clutter that may be preventing the emotional-well-being you long for.  So as you get out your broom and dustpan this spring to tackle the task of cleaning your home, don’t forget about doing some spring cleaning in your emotional home as well.

Do you know when you’re getting in your own way?

stuckArticle contributed by guest author Dawn Cook.

Self awareness is a beautiful thing.  However, the challenge to acknowledge you need to increase self awareness is daunting. Most of us go along our merry way without giving thought to how we may be getting in our own way with limiting beliefs, unconscious fears or simply a lack of emotional intelligence.  How do we even begin to check in with ourselves and look for opportunities to grow?

Probably the easiest way is recognize it in others.  It’s much safer and less threatening to observe someone else’s self sabotaging behavior than to look in the mirror.  So let’s take a look at a few examples to sharpen your focus.

Joan is complimented by her client on her performance in completing a project.  Instead of accepting the compliment, she rejects it by saying it was really not a big deal.  The client makes another attempt to praise her work but she passes it off as ‘no biggie.’  The client begins to wonder if the cost of the project is commensurate with the effort required.  As they discuss her next engagement with them, the client negotiates hard for a lower price – much to Joan’s dismay.  She’s appalled that they seem to undervalue her work.

Tony emailed a colleague this morning with a request for information on a critical project.  As of this afternoon, he has still not heard back.  He proceeds to call his colleague and leave a voice mail, insisting he get the information ASAP. As the minutes roll by, Tony begins to wonder if his colleague is intentionally dogging him.  That notion angers him even more and he finds he cannot stay focused on his work because he is so agitated.

Kathryn calls to schedule a company dinner meeting at a restaurant they’ve used many times in the past.  The restaurant manager informs her that, due to the holidays, they need confirmation of the number of guests to secure the reservation for a private room.  Kathryn indicated she would not know the actual number until three days before the dinner.  The manager reiterates their requirement and Kathryn triggers.  In haste, she tells the manager she will find another restaurant.  However, at this late date, she will be hard pressed to do so.

In each of these situations, the individual was unaware how their deficit in emotional intelligence affected their reactions.  Joan lacks the self esteem to accept that she had done great work; Tony lacks empathy to understand his colleague has his own challenging time table, and Kathryn lacks impulse control to reason out a better solution in the moment.  They all got in their own way yet each of them places blame elsewhere.

The common denominator in these scenarios is the need to look within at your contribution when life throws you a curve ball. Certainly you don’t cause every bump in the road of life, but a few may have your hand print in them.  Your next step in the self awareness journey?   Simply ask yourself, “How may I have contributed to this?” and “How would my best version of myself do things differently in the future?”  If you answer honestly, you just might be amazed at how quickly you stop getting in your own way.

Thank you for reading.  Make it an EQ day!

Cup by Cup

lemonadeArticle contributed by Amy Sargent

There’s nothing like a new year to get us motivated to make a change. Just skim your friends’ social media posts and you’ll most likely read a plethora of energized, excited-for-what’s-ahead resolutions. You’ve probably made a few yourself, even if you haven’t posted them for all to see. The start of a fresh calendar year is the natural motivator we need to prompt initiative and a bias for action.

But what happens in February, March, April, and onward is often a different story. As enthusiasm wanes, resolutions are sidetracked by life. Busy-ness, distractions, and discouragement can shift the best of intentions to a source of shame and guilt stemming from our lack of follow-through, which leaves many, yet again, to announce in December, “Can’t wait for this one to end!”

You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” – Henry Ford

Having a bias for action is actually a competency of social + emotional intelligence. Those who have it are able to create opportunities and seize them, not letting things like the red tape of bureaucracy and other external circumstances slow them down. They are often risk-takers and go forward with boldness in pursuit of the hopes, dreams, and plans. They accomplish their goals and move on to climb taller mountains. But those who do not possess this quality–and we all know the type–probably because we are one of them in some shape or form–are waiting, waiting, waiting for something good to come their way. They often are procrastinators, operating out of either survival or crisis mode, need direction to get things done, and are known to give up easily when circumstances don’t lend a helping hand.

Which camp do you fall into?

A misnomer on being one who is proactive is that one has to take on something huge to make a difference. I love the story of Alex Scott, a little girl from Connecticut who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer that forms in the nerve tissue. Rather than give up, Alex decided to do something about it. At age four she asked her mom to help her set up a lemonade stand to raise money so that doctors could, in her words, “help other kids”. That first lemonade stand brought in profits of $2,000, and throughout her short lifetime of eight impactful years, her lemonade sales raised over $1 million toward cancer research and to this day continue to inspire as many as 10,000 volunteers, at over 2000 lemonade stands in her name, to make a difference in the lives of kids who are battling cancer.

Cups of lemonade!

The smallest of actions can bring about powerful results. The important thing is that you keep moving forward, keep squeezing those lemons and adding sugar, stirring faithfully, and get out there and sell that lemonade, even if it is cup by cup.

If you struggle with staying power, the good news is that there are ways to jump start your initiative and bias for action. Here are some small steps that will propel you forward when your start to lose steam:

·        Make a to-do list. As simple and overrated as this may sound, write down your goals and list out some simple, daily steps to get there. This list can serve as a guide when you begin to get off track.

·        Figure out what is tripping you up. Is it fear of failure? Do you have too many tasks on your plate? Are you stretched in too many directions? Are you allowing distractions to deter you from your goals? Attempt to identify your hurdles by writing them down. If you’re not sure, ask a friend or a trusted colleague, or seek out the help of a coach.

·        Tackle the tough jobs first. Every goal has aspects which are more enjoyable than others. Getting the ‘worst’ ones out of the way first frees you up to enjoy the rest of the project and helps you avoid procrastination down the road.

·        Focus on the things you CAN do and not on the things you CANNOT. Start with these ‘can-do’s’ and get some help on the ones that you just can’t tackle alone.

·        Revisit to your list of daily to-do’s and refocus on checking off the next item when you discover you are losing momentum.

I don’t doubt you’ll achieve your New Year’s resolutions this month. But when the excitement begins to wane, remember the lemonade stand, and remind yourself that taking these small, basic steps can help you refocus and keep up the good fight, cup by cup.

“Have a bias towards action – let’s see something happen right now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.”  — Indira Gandhi

The gift that everyone needs

holiday4

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

In many countries, this time of the year is marked by the telltale signs of people scurrying around from store to store trying to find the perfect gift for friends, family, and loved ones. And while we may fuss that this holiday season has become too commercialized, most will admit that it feels really good to give, especially when we’ve chosen a gift that is well received! Seeing the delight on someone’s face as they unwrap a present they like can warm our hearts on any cold, winter day.

But there’s a gift that many of us possess, yet, often unbeknown to us, withhold it. We’ll spend our hard-earned paychecks on new toys or colorful housewares or the latest electronic gadget for those we love, and even at times for strangers, but this particular gift is a little more difficult to part with. It doesn’t come wrapped in brown paper packages tied up with bows, and you won’t find it online or at your neighborhood retail store. Yet, it is a gift that each of us wants — and needs.

I don’t like conflict.  Not many of us do.  Whether it be with family at home, or colleagues at the office, or with strangers on our daily commute, conflict with other human beings can leave us feeling used up, empty, and numb–the very opposite of what we’re ‘supposed’ to feel this time of year. The holidays are a time for peace.  But we all know how difficult relations with each other can be at times.  How much peace are you feeling at the moment with those you interact with?  And more importantly, how much peace are you giving at the moment to those in your life?

When my kids’ dad and I divorced years ago, I can’t exactly say we were feeling the love, joy and peace of the season in our household those first few winters. There was arguing. Crying. Yelling. Disenchantment. The ending of family as we knew it left raw wounds, which would at times begin to heal over, until a word or action ripped open the flesh once again with new hurt and pain. I was angry, he was angry–we were angry.  The kids got their presents: princess dresses, Batman masks, bicycles, movies, gifts laced with all the trimmings of the holidays, yet the most vital ingredient was missing:  peace.  I remember one particular night we were dropping off the kids and the interaction between us was so bitter than I was shaking with rage.  Peace?  It just wasn’t an item in Santa’s gift bag for our family that year.

Peace can only come about when we are able to get along well with those around us. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a ‘people person’, it’s almost impossible to avoid interactions with others, and it’s these interactions that greatly affect our ability to experience peace. Believe me, I understand how certain circumstances can cause our relationships to be strained, to say the least, but unless we develop healthy conflict management skills, and interpersonal skills, both key components of emotional intelligence, even when there are valid reasons for the controversy, our ability to experience peace– and give peace — will be stifled.

Is there anyone in your life who’s robbing you of your peace?  Or, more importantly, is there anyone from whom you are stealing it? Maybe it’s a coworker who drives you nuts, or pushes your buttons, or…. you name it … whatever it is they do that’s causing you distress. Maybe it’s a family member that hurt you a long time ago in an angry argument.  Maybe it’s the guy who just pulled out in front of you at the intersection. Whomever it is, how does it feel?  If your reaction is anything like mine, the sick pit in your stomach when you think of the person or interact with them is enough to dampen the brightest of holiday spirits.

Forgiveness is often thought of to be a religious term, but it is helpful in bringing about peace to all, no matter what religion, belief system, or god you serve.  A quick internet search of the word ‘forgive’ leads you to this definition: “To stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.”  But I like the second definition that comes up even more so:  “To cancel a debt.”  Cancel means to cross it out, delete it, to let it go. It is inevitable that when in relationship there will be cause for offense. But it’s our choice to let go of the punishment that we feel they deserve for their bad behavior.  It’s a gift that we all possess and have the ability to give, and it’s our choice whether to give it — or not. And while not offering it is definitely an option, we’ve all heard the famous quote by Marianne Williamson:   “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die.”

My years of holding on to resentments tainted my joy, and it was no one’s fault but my own. Sure, I could blame my ex for the unrest, but in actuality it was me who was refusing to offer the olive branch of peace. It took several years, but when I was finally ready to cancel the debt I felt my he owed, it was only then that peace could begin to seep back into my life. Hurtful words became just a little less hurtful. Unrealistic expectations of each other were put to rest, and oddly, a sense of respect for each other began appear, faintly at first, like the first twinkling star at dusk. Although these moments in the beginning were few and far between, it soon became more and normal to treat each other decently. It was as if we were tentatively exchanging little trinkets of peace, like stocking stuffers, and as we rebuilt trust, the gifts became more substantial, valuable, and frequent. I’d compliment him on his parenting skills, he’d thank me for teaching the girls to sing.  He’d offer to pay for something extra, then I’d do the same next time an expense came around. It wasn’t easy, and I struggled with extending kindness when the list of his wrongs always seemed to be much longer than the rights. But I found it hard to maintain a hardened heart when he’d offer a kind word, and visa versa. Sure, we’d often backslide, but for the most part we could tell our relationship was moving to a healthier place. Long story short, just last week, we were attending one of our kids’ choir events, and stopped into local coffee shop beforehand, and all sat together and shared coffee, and actually got along.  No arguing, no hurtful digs, no unkind words. We even laughed a bit and snapped a group photo.  What a different scene than from those early days of conflict. Will he ever be my best friend again?  Most likely not. I don’t think I’d even want that. But we have been able to finally lay down the years of bitterness and begin to again experience the love (well, “like” may be more accurate!), peace, and joy that Christmas carolers croon about.

Forgiveness. It’s gift that we all possess, but one that can be hard to give, especially when we can justify the reasons someone doesn’t deserve it. Offering forgiveness is much easier said than done — but know it can be done and can lead to the peace we all desire, deep down. Who will you offer this gift to this season?

 

The Leap

leap

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

Do you have dreams that are not being realized? And in the day-to-day grind you just can’t see how to make them happen? It’s the story of my life. As a result of my wanderings around the great state of Colorado this summer, I realized that the guilty culprit of dream-stealing is that discouraging and negative acquaintance of ours named Fear. Why we ever decided to make friends with him in the first place I’ll never know! He has an annoying way of stopping by unannounced and knocking on our door until we relent and let him in, usually in the dark and restless hours of the night, when we are wrestling with discouragement and worry. And then he has the gall to stick around like an unwanted house guest until we’re exasperated and completely spent! I know in my life the presence of fear is the very thing that keeps me from exploring new opportunities that are the stepping stones to making my dreams unfold. Fear paralyzes us to the point that not only do we forget our dreams but can’t remember why we even dreamed them, and a life that seems mundane, routine, and purposeless stealthily assumes their place.

Fear can be so crippling that in order to tackle it, drastic measures are needed. Fearing the unknown becomes such a way of life for some of us that the thought of taking any sort of risk or changing up the routine is terrifying, despite realizing we have landed in a life that is so very far from our hearts. Taking a leap of faith, which is a form of exercising our personal power, when an opportunity presents itself becomes the only option to get unstuck and move forward.

I go cliff jumping for this very reason. If you’ve ever tried it, you understand how terrifying it can be.  Just getting to the launch pad is treacherous.  Usually the way up is a narrow, steep footpath with loose rocks, sharp drop-offs, and absolutely no room for error.  As if that doesn’t get your heart racing, there’s often no way down except to jump.  As you carefully peer over the edge to once again assure yourself there are no rocks below (though you already swam around down there a couple hundred of times to make sure), despite seeing those who go before you successfully accomplish the feat, your fears grab your innards like a pair of strong, sinewy vice grips that squeeze so tightly you feel your timid heart may burst with the overload of adrenaline.  Everything in your reasonable, sound mind tells you that there is no earthly reason it would be a good idea to fling yourself off into the oblivion.  But with heart pounding and breath coming in shallow gasps, you leap, a scream escaping your chest that doesn’t quite sound human. At the splash you plunge deep into the cool, cold waters with an instant exuberant affirmation that makes you wonder why you ever hesitated in the first place. It’s a physical way to push back physical fears that so translate over into fears of the heart. The exhilaration of mustering up the bravery to leap, despite sane reasoning, then plummeting downward, barefoot, into the refreshing blue waters below, reminds me that I can do anything if I am bold enough to try.

What cliff is looming ahead for you, that thing you are afraid of that’s holding you back? Or what cliff have you recently leapt from that has moved you one step closer to your dreams? One lie that fear whispers in our ear is that we are alone in our struggles, and alone in our successes.  This misconception can lead to isolation, loneliness, and a false sense of self — three masks that do a good job of clouding our vision and make us feel like we are pursuing our dreams with blinders on. Keep sharing your stories, because it is these tales of love, and hurt, and accomplishment, and setbacks, that could be the very thing someone needs to read today to help them make the leap.

How I failed in my first year of business

moneyArticle contributed by guest author Aimee Teesdale

My company (aka.: ‘my baby’, my ‘pride and joy’) turned one year old at the start of September (2016). Nothing all that special, until you consider that a few years ago, I would never have even dreamt that having my own business was possible. A small town girl from a dodgy council estate, who was I to think about starting a company?! “No, not me. couldn’t do that”.

But as I entered the mainstream of Monday-to-Friday 9 to 5, I decided I didn’t want to simply accept the Rat Race way of life. There had to be more to life than just sitting at a desk making someone else’s dreams come true. I just didn’t know what it was, or if I was even capable of having it. But instead of succumbing to my self-doubt, I set about creating the lifestyle I wanted to live, by creating the person I needed to be to have it. I embarked on my own journey of self-discovery, combined my education in psychology and passion for self-development, and became a transformation coach who empowers other people to achieve the same level of transformation for themselves. But starting my business, and transitioning from ‘PAYE’ to ‘Ltd’, hasn’t been an easy journey.

In the time since starting my business, I’ve obviously been to a fair few networking events, and one thing that always struck me whenever I met fellow founders was how well everyone always seemed to be doing, when I always felt like I was struggling. ‘How’s business going?’ – ‘Yeah really good thanks! How’s yours?’ – ‘Yeah good’ (I’d reply with a sunken heart and fake smile). Why was everyone else nailing it and I wasn’t? What was I doing wrong? I felt like I was trying to crack the enigma of how to get clients and be paid for what I do. Well over the course of time I came to realize that actually, starting a business is hard, and everyone went through tough times, it was just that no-one was talking about it. Everyone was quick to boast about their successes, but rarely did people admit their mistakes. The failures – what failures?

As a coach, I understand the power of being authentic, vulnerable, and brave enough to expose even the less appealing side of ourselves that we prefer to keep hidden. I understand the power of it because I see from my clients: the ones who achieve the most transformation are the ones that are brave enough to admit their deepest, darkest thoughts, fears and mess-ups. So here’s me being authentic, vulnerable and brave, as I explain how in the first year of me running my company, I often failed:

I became obsessed with the outcome:

I was obsessed with ‘success’, measured by how much money I was (or rather, wasn’t) making. I’d grown up in a poor family and was desperate to escape the burden of always having to scrimp and save. But with this obsession for money, I lost my happiness, because the more I dreamt of wealth and financial abundance, the unhappier I was in the present moment, and the more I focused on what I didn’t have rather than what I did. I lost sight of the most important outcome of all: personal fulfillment. Personal fulfillment through transforming people’s lives. Once I focused on that, the money flowed.

I got impatient:

I wanted “success” and I wanted it now. I read somewhere that impatience is simply the lack of trust or certainty that things will happen as you want them to. Think about it: you get impatient in a traffic jam because you lack the certainty that you will make it to your destination on time. You get impatient teaching a concept to someone because you don’t think they will ever get it. You get impatient at your husband because you lack the certainty he will do the dishes when you want them to be done. In the early days, I still doubted whether I’d really be able to make my business successful, which lead to impatience, which lead to me working all hours to get things done, because – well EVERYTHING just because it HAD to be done NOW (when really, it didn’t matter if it was done today or next week – the outcome would be the same). Once I started to trust myself and my ability, I was able to enjoy life, enjoy building the business, and sure enough, attract more clients.

I focused too much on my price rather than my value:

I tried to charge my first potential client the price I wanted to be charging in the future after year’s of experience. It didn’t matter to me that I’d only just qualified as a coach. I thought I knew it all. I tried to charge what other well-established coaches were charging simply because, if they were getting that much money, why shouldn’t I? But I was missing the point. It’s never about the price, it’s not even about the years of experience. It’s always about the value. Do the perceived benefits of what you offer outweigh the perceived costs, to that individual? When I shifted my attention to serving my clients powerfully, by making my intention to simply make a big difference to their life, instead of just thinking about how much I was going to charge them, client after client said yes.

I compared myself to other people:

And worse still, to the wrong types of people – people in totally different industries with totally different businesses and expertise! I looked at them and saw what they were achieving and then started to feel inferior or worthless because I hadn’t achieved the same. As humans, it’s natural to want to gauge our own success based on the success of others, but it should be used as an opportunity to learn and propel us forward, not to let it play down one’s own level of self-worth. Throw away your ‘Ruler of Success’ – there’s no such thing. Define your own measure of success and work towards that – not someone else’s.

I procrastinated:

Ah, the most common archenemy of freelancers and entrepreneurs. There are lots of books out there giving tips on how to overcome procrastination, but they’re mostly behavioural: ‘break the task down into small pieces’, ‘tackle the hardest one first’, ‘set a clear objective’, etc etc. However what I teach is that all behaviour stems from conscious and subconscious thoughts, beliefs and emotions. We act because we feel, we feel because we think. The act of doing nothing, or everything other than what you’re supposed to do, is a result of some kind of thought process which is making you not want to do that thing. For example, one day I realized that the reason why I was procrastinating was because I was being inauthentic. I had written the marketing for my coaching services on a concept that I thought would sound better and sell better. It didn’t come from my own true journey or purpose. It felt fake. When I realised this, I went home and re-wrote my website from my heart. I stopped thinking about strategy and instead focused on sharing. And now when I talk about what I do, I don’t have to think of ‘my elevator pitch’ or sales speech – I just talk. And finally my prospects call me and say ‘I really resonated with what you said…” So if you’re procrastinating, take a deep look inside at those subconscious thoughts and beliefs: Is your task really aligned with your true self? Do you believe in the project, in yourself and in your capability? Are you fearing the outcome? Are you fearing potential failure?

I refused to plateau:

I was GO GO GO day in/day out, not content with no-progress. I blamed myself for not working hard enough if I took a few hours off to relax. I didn’t appreciate the value in just simply letting things be for a little while. This doesn’t mean not working, it just means being content with having reached one milestone before striving for another. Once I finally embraced a period of plateau between milestones in my business, by easing off the gas pedal and focusing on experience and exploration rather than ‘make as much revenue as possible and as quickly as possible’, I let in a world of self-discovery. I was like an elastic band, being pulled back and held under tension, gathering momentum, taking aim, before being fired. Once released, whooooosh…off it goes.

Even with these mistakes, Aimee C. Teesdale Ltd is thriving, not despite my failings, but thanks to them. Thanks to slowing down I gathered the experience, insight, and confidence to quit my part-time job and go full time in my business, a whole year ahead of the goal I had originally set myself. Thanks to procrastination I discovered my authentic self. Thanks to greediness I discovered the meaning of value, enrolled my first client and got the ball rolling, scaling up my prices with every new client I attracted. I am grateful for all my mistakes because I chose to learn from each one of them. Mistakes and failures are not to be feared – they’re there to help us improve.

Failure isn’t the opposite of success – it’s how you get there. What are the mistakes that you’ve made, and what have they taught you? What have you discovered or achieved as a result?

Improve your decisions. Use your emotions.

decisionArticle contributed by guest author John Thalheimer.

It was late on Tuesday; Julie had to make a decision before she left work. It had been a long day of meetings, project reviews, and conversations with her team. As she walked into her office, she sat down in the armchair she usually reserved for guests to her office. The decision she had to make weighed heavily on her. Instinctively she knew however she decided it would impact the performance of her team for the next year at least.

On her desk sat the resumes of the two candidates that would replace her operations manager. Over the last two weeks, she had narrowed down the candidate pool to these two resumes, and now she had to make a decision.

One of the primary responsibilities of executives is to make decisions for the betterment of the organization. In fact, executives make hundreds of decisions each week that impact the direction of their organizations. In my work with leaders, most of them believe that making rational decisions are an important aspect of their leadership. For the important decisions, the leader usually has a very systematic way to make the decision. Ben Franklin introduced us to the pro vs. con list that many executives use today.

My way is to divide half a sheet of paper by a line into two columns; writing over the one Pro and the other Con. Then during three or four days’ consideration, I put down under the different heads short hints of the different motives, which at different time occur to me, for or against the measure. When I have thus got them altogether in one view, I endeavor to estimate their respective weights…” Ben Franklin

If you google decision making, you will get over 133 million different responses. Obviously, we are obsessed with making good decisions. And no wonder with the importance of each decision we make as leaders. And in a way Ben Franklin had it right, the importance of understanding the pros and cons of the variety of choices is still paramount in our decision-making process. Unfortunately, it is not a straightforward as reviewing the facts and making the best rational decision.

As humans, our emotions play a large way in how we make decisions. Our emotions evolved to coordinate our various human operating systems. For instance, the functions of sleep and fear of a predator require different reactions from the brain and body. If the brain was receiving cues from the outside world it was time to sleep while at the same time a lion was stalking us, our species would have been extinct a long time ago.

In today’s society, how we perceive the world impacts our emotions and in turn, influences how we behave including how we make decisions. For instance, when we are deciding between various software providers, we may eliminate one because of a gut reaction that they are not forthright. Maybe the vendor reminds us of time where a vendor let us down. Maybe the vendor triggers an anxious response by shoving the contract in front of you. Maybe the vendor pushes your respect button by calling you, Miss or Son. In any case, this “gut reaction” is an emotional response to an internal trigger that may or may not be accurate.

Our emotional responses are not necessarily rational and may be based on an environmental trigger of which we are unaware. When I was purchasing a new stove for my house, one of the factors I used to make my decision was that it had to be a gas stove. I rationalized this by reminding myself that all of my chef friends said that it is best to cook on gas. It wasn’t until I walked into my grandmother’s house and saw her gas stove that I realized the motive for me to buy a gas stove was a nostalgia for the time spent in my grandmother’s kitchen.

How can we stop having emotions impact our decisions? We don’t. They are a critical part of our decision-making process. In most cases, they provide us a deeper understanding of the decision and how it relates to our internal value system. This connection between our values and the ultimate choice is key to making the best decision possible.

Using the following rules will help us make the best decisions and allow our emotions to properly impact our decision-making process.

  1. Know exactly what you want to achieve. This may seem self-explanatory but in the work environment with its competing and at times conflicting goals, this can be a challenge for even the most experienced leader.
  2. Gather information about the various choices so that you can have a full perspective. You don’t have to get every piece of information possible. Just enough so that you feel comfortable. This is where the pro’s vs. con list can help clarify the different choices.
  3. Get other people involved in the decision-making process. (Not too many, after a certain point too many viewpoints will cause paralysis.) With complex decisions, finding good partners to help you and challenge you help you make the best decisions. It can also offset any biases you may have.
  4. Check your choices against organizational values and standards. Some choices may seem best until they are reviewed with the organizational values in mind.
  5. Finally, make a decision. Yes, your emotions will be involved in the decision-making process, that is not only acceptable and is preferred as it will allow you to react to things that which you are not aware.
  6. Review your decision and its outcomes. Did it meet your expectations? Were there unattended consequences? How did it impact the team? Does anything need to be adjusted? We are never perfect in our decision making, it is how we correct ourselves that truly matter in the long run.

Let’s get back to our heroine, she needs to get home.

Julie stood up and walked towards her desk. She picked up the two resumes. She quickly looked over them, visualizing the two people in her mind. She smiled to herself and picked up the phone and called the Director of HR with her choice. In the end, she realized that it was her decision, and she knew that her intuition would not steer her wrong.

She headed home to her family, wondering what her husband had chosen for dinner.

 

 

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