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How to have an emotionally intelligent weekend

 

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

“I know that you have worked hard all week, so I got you a little present. It’s called Saturday & Sunday. I hope that you enjoy it, and put it to good use.”  —Anthony T. Hincks

TGIF! Finally, it’s Friday, and the weekend is just around the corner. You’ve been working hard all week, dealing with stress at the office, leading your teams, accomplishing goals. The thought of curling up on the couch, large bowl of snacks at hand, and relaxing while chain-watching your favorite show may sound like a very, very good idea.

And it very well may be. Weekends (for those of us who don’t have to work weekends) are designed to give us a break – a refreshing, of sorts, of the mind, body, and spirit. Sometimes, at the end of the workweek, we just need to crash, unwind, and relax. But there are many other activities a weekend can hold which may provide even richer rejuvenation for you. Learning to tune into your feelings can help you design your weekend so it is specialty ordered, just for you.

“No weekend, all weakened.” — Toba Beta

Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of how you and others are feeling — in the moment — then using that information (what you’re feeling) to guide your decisions around behavior. Learning to listen to your feelings and manage your behavior can help you make choices that allow you to live a life teeming with emotional health and vibrancy. So though a TV-watching binge may just be the thing for you this weekend, consider tuning in to how you’re feeling before you decide.

Check In

Take a moment to assess how you’re feeling, in the moment. Grab your journal, find a quiet place, and stop. Close your eyes. Breathe in deeply, then exhale. Do a body scan by assessing each region of your body and noting what you’re feeling in each. Headache? Stiff neck? Tight shoulders? Stomach upset? Restless legs? Because we tend to carry a lot of our stress in our physical bodies, it’s important to start noticing where you carry yours. Breathe in again, then out, and allow the exhale to quiet your racing mind. When you begin to feel a bit of calm, open your eyes and begin to write down all the emotions that you’re experiencing. Be specific.  For example, instead of saying you’re “mad”, it may truly be frustration, irritation, hurt, or disappointment. Instead of “happy”, consider excited, giddy, nervous, or anticipatory. If you discover you’re only writing negative emotions, also try to come up with a few positives, no matter how minute and hidden they may seem. Dig deep, again, mentally scanning each area of your body, and continue to jot down any new emotions you are feeling.

Recognizing how you’re feeling in the moment is a good first step.

Ask yourself this

Now, using that information, here are a few questions to ask yourself which can help you discover which activities this weekend should hold for you:

  • Am I mentally tired? Mental exhaustion comes from too many demands, shifts in attention, and interruptions, usually when we have too many things going on at once. To restore your mental well-being, try to ‘turn off’ work when you get home.  Resist answering those emails that come in after hours and take the night off from working on that project. Find something that makes you laugh — maybe a funny movie, or an entertainer that cracks you up, or hanging out with fun friends.  Laughing can do wonders to release tired, negative energy.
  • What impact has screen time had on my current mood? How much time have you spent staring at a screen this week?  Most of us spend hours every day doing nothing but. Possibly it’s not the content of what you’ve been viewing (work-related issues or what others are eating and doing socially) that’s wearing you thin but the fact that it’s all been delivered via screen. This weekend, consider laying down your phone for the evening, well before you go to sleep, and make a point to not pick it up as soon as your eyes open in the morning. Try spending a block of time tomorrow (2+ hours at least) not looking checking your phone — longer, even, if you can. Taking breaks from our phones and computers can do wonders to lift our spirits.
  • Have I moved my body this week? Exercise produces endorphins which are natural pain and stress fighters. If you’ve been relatively inactive, the weekend may be a great time to get some exercise in. Go on a hike, hit the gym, or take a class at the local rec center. Just getting out the door and taking a walk can positively impact your mental outlook.
  • Am I  tired — or just bored? Sometimes we’re truly worn out mentally — but other times it’s  boredom, known as one of the enemies of happiness. To combat the rut of routine, try something new this weekend. Take a class. Try out a new restaurant. Drive down a road you’ve never taken before or visit a new museum or art gallery. Mixing up the routine can give you a psychological lift.
  • How many spiritual moments did I have this week? Tapping into your spiritual self can broaden your perspective and drive you to seek meaningful connection with something larger than yourself. This results in positive emotions like gratitude, peace, and wonder.  Spend some time in nature, go to church, take a meditation class, or engage in whatever it is that helps you feel connected to a higher power.
  • Have I had meaningful social interactions this past week? All humans need positive relationships to thrive…even if you’re an introvert! If your work keeps you isolated or you’ve had nothing but superficial conversations all week, the weekend may be the perfect time to connect on a deeper level.  Attend or plan a small dinner party, meet a friend for coffee, spend quality time with your family, or attend a new social group activity. Spend more time asking questions than talking, with the purpose of understanding where the other person is coming from. On the other hand, if your job is an extroverts’ dream, you may decide on some quiet, alone time this weekend.
  • How much sleep have I gotten? Most adults need 7-9 hours a night to feel rested. You may get by on less. But if you’ve been skimping on this vital activity, you’ll know it. Take some weekend time to darken those windows and get caught up. Go to bed early tonight. Turn off your screens well before bedtime and sleep in if you can. Relish an afternoon nap. Then do the same thing the next night.
  • How healthy were my food choices this week? Many who eat well during the week like to reserve the weekends for ‘cheat days’ — where there are no limits on what is consumed — it’s the weekend, right? And though a few cheat days here and there don’t seem to do a lot of damage, as long as your eating and drinking is not excessive, making good food choices can do wonders to boost your well-being.  If last week’s diet consisted of doughnuts and coffee, and the brownies the thoughtful coworker brought into the office, consider celebrating the weekend by eating healthy, nourishing foods instead.
  • What’s one thing I can do for someone else this weekend? Research shows that doing something kind for another boosts our mood and levels of positivity.  Think of someone who could use a kind word or encouragement. Give them a call, take them out to lunch, put together a care package and leave on their doorstep, or slip a $20 in an envelope and send anonymously.
  • What have I done lately that makes my heart sing? Do you even know what makes your heart sing? Ponder the activities make you feel giddy, excited, and happy–maybe it’s ice skating, or checking out local art, or playing your guitar. Whatever it is, reserve some time this weekend for that activity.
  • How messy is my personal space? Using weekend time to declutter and organize can give you clarity and create space for new ideas and innovations. They say that making your bed each morning starts your day off on the right foot. What other areas of your life could use some cleaning up?  If you despise cleaning and organizing, try inviting a friend to help and put on some fun, upbeat music while you work.
  • How much time have I spent outside? Spending time outdoors can relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Take a blanket down to the lake and relax in the sunshine, take a walk along a mountain trail, or dip your feet in the ocean. Open your windows and let the fresh breeze waft inside. And if you’re getting hit with bad weather, bundle up and go sledding or build a snowman.
  • How have I used my creative juices this past week?  Creativity reduces stress and anxiety, and is a great way to boost your mood this weekend. Take a painting class, build something in the back yard, try a new recipe. Go thrift shopping to search for abandoned treasure. Tapping into your creative self, freely and expressively, can diminish self-doubt and creates a sense of contentment.

You may still decide to binge watch your favorite show this weekend. But before you plop onto the couch, consider these questions and alternate weekend activities to ensure you feel rested, refreshed and rejuvenated come Monday.

 

 

 

Self-Talk: Antagonist or Ally?

Article written by Dr. Laura Belsten, Ph.D.

What have you been telling yourself lately?

Self-talk is very revealing. That little voice that sits on your shoulder and whispers into your ear can be either an antagonist or an ally. What you tell yourself goes immediately to your subconscious where it increases or decreases your anger, frustration or other emotions. Repeated negative self-talk leads to exaggerated and irrational thinking.

If you struggle with negative self-talk, try this simple exercise:

Directions: Put a check in the left-hand column next to any of the following statements you have said to yourself lately.

 __    They always take me for granted.

__    I’m always late.

 __    No one ever helps me.

__     Everyone gets paid more than I do. 

 __    No one listens to me.

__    It’ll always be this way.

 _ _   Everything I do gets messed up.

 __    I never get the credit I deserve.

__    They don’t appreciate how hard I work/how much I care.

 __    Fill in your own:                                                                                       

Now that you are more aware of your self-talk, ask yourself why you say those things. Pull out your journal and underneath each remark you checked, list some questions that you could ask to help you change to become less negative. (Example: if you are late, why are you late? Are you only late to meetings? Be as specific as possible).

Also list the things you can do to change the situation. For example, if you feel your work is not appreciated, could you create a list of accomplishments and bring them in to a meeting with your supervisor? If someone else is taking credit for your work, what can you do to become more assertive? Again, be as specific as possible.

Finally, for each negative message you receive from your inner antagonist, craft a positive, “ally” message to replace the negative voice. Remember the law of attraction: Whatever we focus on is what we attract. If we think in the negative, we’ll attract the negative; and most importantly, if we think in the positive, we’ll attract the positive.

How can you be your own best ally?

 

Starting the year on the right foot

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

It’s a new year, which means a blank canvas for new goals, objectives, and intentions. How can you be sure to get started on the right foot?

Being intentional is a competency of emotional intelligence. It’s that ability to act deliberately, moving in the direction you want to move, and knowing what it takes to get there. It’s possessing a sense of confidence that you’re able to control your own outcomes by acting ‘on purpose’. Living with intention is a great first step toward attaining the life you want.

People who are good at this are able to make decisions that match up with their goals and values. They are able to stroll past distractions and stay focused on the objectives. They are consistent in their efforts and are clear, to themselves and others, about what they want to see happen in their lives. Their actions are deliberate and full of purpose.

“Intentional living is the art of making our own choices before others’ choices make us.” ― Richie Norton

When we struggle in this area, we tend to shy away from setting goals. We allow ourselves to be tossed around by the prevailing wind of the day…often by others’ opinions of what we should or shouldn’t be doing. The outcomes we seek are not clear and we are easily distracted by lesser important tasks and duties.

“Control your destiny, or someone else will.” — Jack Welch

When we succumb to letting others design our morning, day, week, month, year…life…we end up with a strong sense of missing out. Acting as if we lack the control to design our lives can lead to depression and a feeling of insignificance. On the contrary, being intentional about how we live and where we’re going can bring about an amazing sense of accomplishment and self-worth.

“It is only those that live intentionally that can accomplish and come to the significance meant for them.” ― Sunday Adelaja

So how do you get started on the right foot down the path of intentionality in 2019? Here are a few tips to try:

  • Start by asking yourself, “What do I want?”  Think in terms of the ideal — not just ‘good enough’ — in all areas of your life — career, family, education, relationships, travel, finances, health, etc. Grab your journal and write down what each of those areas would look life in a perfect world. Give yourself permission to dream. If you’re struggling with categories, check out the CTI Assessment Wheel.
  • Create a statement of positive intention for each. For example, in the area of career, you could write, “I will approach work with a positive attitude each day despite the circumstances”, or “I will ask my employer for a raise in March.” Be  bold.
  • Believe that you can. Tune into the negative self-talk that you may be telling yourself and instead, replace those “I can’ts” with “I cans”. Positive thinking can go a long way in helping us reach our goals. Put a halt to negative self-talk immediately.
  • Build a support team. Share your goals and ideals with your teammates, colleagues, friends, and loved ones. Let them know you’d like their help in cheering you on as you head toward these goals. Knowing others believe in you can help when you start to give in to self-doubt.
  • Lay out a plan. This is when you get specific with your intentions. For each statement of positive intent, brainstorm ways to reach that goal. Cross out the ones that don’t make sense and narrow it down to 2-3 attainable steps. Bounce these off your support team and ask them for input. Set a timeline for each step.
  • Remove the distractions. What hurdles are in the way of you attaining your goals? Maybe you need to delete a social media app from your phone for a while or cancel your online movies subscription. Possibly it’s best that you empty out unhealthy foods from your fridge, or lay out your exercise clothes each night before you go to bed.  List the distractions that are in your way then come up with some ways to move those aside.
  • Give yourself a break. You’re going to have short-term fails, discouragement, and times when you miss. It’s OK. It’s normal to fall short here and there, but don’t let these stumbles knock you off course. Get up, brush off the dirt, and keep moving forward.
  • Celebrate along the way.  Don’t wait until you reach the final outcome as you work toward goals — celebrate each step along the way! Lost 2 pounds? Hooray! Wrote the first sentence of that book? Yay! Brainstormed some ideas of kindnesses you can do for your loved one? Awesome! Learn to congratulate yourself as you go along, and treat yourself with the rich emotions of astonishment, joy, satisfaction, giddiness, and jubilation which come with carving out the life you want.

Sure, you could let another year pass you by not putting your best foot forward and setting intentions. It would probably be easier and take less effort. But before you resign yourself to a life where you are subject to circumstances, consider taking just one small area of your life, setting intentions, and going for it.  The joy you’ll receive in the endeavor will most likely prompt you to continue to live out other areas of your life with intention, and in doing so, you’ll inspire others to do the same.

“We are not creatures of circumstance; we are creators of circumstance.” — Benjamin Disraeli

 

Personal Power

Article submitted by guest author Laura A. Belsten, Ph.D.

Personal Power. What is it? Do you have it? How do you know? Test yourself with this quick quiz. For each question, give yourself a score from 1 to 10 points, with 1 being “I never feel this way” and 10 being “I feel this way all the time.”

  1. I am fully aware of my professional strengths and weaknesses.
  2. I am in full control of my life.
  3. I know what I want and go after it.
  4. I understand and respect myself.
  5. I can make things happen.
  6. I have the ability to get what I want.
  7. I am decisive; I can make decisions despite uncertainties and ambiguity.
  8. I feel completely comfortable voicing views that are unpopular.
  9. I go out on a limb for what is right, even if it means jeopardizing my car
  10. I’m living my life exactly as I want.

Total your responses, and see where you come out in the categories below:

High personal power (91-100): You are among the elite who have a strong sense of your own worth and capability. You live life with an “inner knowing,” a calm conviction about who you are and your ability to get the things you want and need in your life.

Moderately high (81-90): You have a greater sense of personal power than most people. Moderate (71-80): You are doing well in some areas, but may need to work on a few others.

Look back at your lower scores. Is there a theme? Can you resolve to work on this?

Moderately low (61-70): You are exercising personal power on a more limited basis, and probably need to look at specific actions you can take to boost your scores.

Low personal power (60 and below): Don’t despair! This score simply explains why life seems overwhelming and difficult at times. As you work to increase your personal power, you will experience dramatic results in how you view, respond to and address life’s challenges.

People with a highly-developed sense of personal power believe they can set the direction of their lives. They define themselves from the “inside out” (I am capable, I am creative, I speak up and do the right thing) rather than from the “outside in” (I’m a corporate executive, I’m an attorney).

The opposite of personal power is helplessness or hopelessness, crippling self-doubt, and a lack of conviction to tackle life’s tough challenges.

Personal power is a critical emotional intelligence competency that reveals itself in strong  personal presentation, in the ability to confidently take on new challenges, and quickly master  new jobs or skills. People with high personal power are catalysts, movers, and initiators who don’t hesitate to take on controversial issues and stand up for what they believe despite opposition and disagreement. Quite simply, personal power is the degree to which you believe you can meet life’s challenges and live the life you choose.

Do you have a strong sense of personal power?

The desire to inspire

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

My very first boss made me laugh. Hard. As in, sometimes I’d have to leave the room to regain my professional composure because of one of his antics. And not only was he funny, he was a clear communicator, and praised my work with specific encouragement. He complimented me in front of others and took an interest in my personal life.  He and his wife treated me like family. In return, I was more than happy to work long hours, putting in extra effort whenever I could, and even babysat his children on numerous occasions in my free time.

He was an inspiring leader.

And in being so, I was motivated to develop a strong work ethic. We accomplished a lot of great things together. He made work fun and engaging and others were envious of my job.

Are you familiar with the attributes exercise? Take a moment and think of a person who has been an inspiration to you. It could be a mentor, or a teacher, a parent, or a friend…someone who has made an impact in your life. Jot down their name, then list the qualities about them that you admire most.

Now look at the attributes you wrote down.  Do these fall under IQ, intellect quotient, or EQ, emotional quotient?  It’s most likely that the attributes you noted are a competency of the latter, social + emotional intelligence. These competencies– self-awareness, self-management, other awareness, and relationship management — have a powerful impact on us.

One competency of emotional intelligence that has far-reaching effects on others is inspirational leadership.  It’s that ability to mobilize individuals and groups to want to accomplish the goals set before them. It comes in many different shapes and forms, and there are various methods (humor, being one) that feed inspiration. People who are inspiring are able to articulate goals clearly and stimulate enthusiasm for a clear, compelling vision. They have the ability to bring people together and create a sense of belonging. They know how to create  an emotional bond that helps others feel they are part of something larger than themselves.  They are able to invoke a sense of common purpose beyond the day-to-day tasks, making work exciting and something people want to be a part of.  Does this describe you?

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

Each of us is capable of increasing our ability to inspire others.  But there are some hurdles that can slow us down.  Which of these tends to trip you up?

  • You don’t have a clear vision for the future of your team/organization
  • You lose the big-picture view of the organization and get lost in the weeds
  • You aren’t a good team player
  • You are not passionate about your work or those you work with, thus aren’t able to create a sense of passion in others
  • You too often think your opinion is more important than others’ opinions
  • You tend to think work should be a “one-man-show” … you lead, they follow
  • You … (fill in the blank with your own stumbling block)

What’s great about emotional intelligence is that these competencies can be learned and developed.  If you’d like to become more inspiring as a leader, finding a social + emotional intelligence coach can be an asset.  As well, consider these tips:

  • Figure out what your vision is for your personal life as well as the vision of the organization you work with. Not sure?  Ask yourself, “What am I passionate about?  What is my company passionate about?”
  • Learn to put words to that vision and articulate it in a way that expresses your feelings around the vision.
  • Don’t be afraid to challenge the status-quo.  Be creative; come up with fresh and innovative perspectives.
  • Ask yourself what you admire in a leader (the above attributes exercise will help!) so you can develop your own definition of inspirational leadership.
  • Open up high-level discussions to include your team members and value their input as substantive and valuable.
  • Look for ways to create opportunities for ownership in your vision with your team members.
  • Give specific compliments and don’t hold back praise for work well done. Most people thrive on kind words.
  • Avoid micro-managing, and give capable team and group members latitude to move things forward without needing your stamp of approval on each step of the project.
  • Evaluate if you are living in integrity — do your actions match your values? People are inspired by those who live out their belief systems in their day-to-day activities.
  • Keep it fun.  People like to laugh.  A sense of humor can go a long way in creating an engaging work environment.

Here I am, twenty five years later, and I still remember the gift of inspirational leadership my first boss bestowed upon me. And now, as I lead my own teams, I find myself trying to emulate his style to hopefully inspire those I work with.  Inspirational leadership has far-reaching effects that can carry over to the next generation of employees. Let’s all commit to taking a step forward in this competency this week.

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” – Henry Adams

A jump-start to personal power

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

Personal power is a competency of emotional intelligence, and for some, can be a difficult one to embrace, especially if you’ve had a history of not speaking up.  But it’s never too late to stand up for our values, no matter how inexperienced we are at it.

I sheepishly admit I have never hooked up the cables to jump start a car battery. Whenever mine has died, someone else has done it for me. But there was a young college-aged girl standing by her old, beat up Chrysler at the rest area this morning looking worried so I offered to help.

As we lifted the hood to look for her battery, which surprisingly was not in plain sight, a skinny, greasy-haired man came over and laughed, making a snide comment about girls trying to do things they can’t. I noticed he hooked the first clip to the wrong car…if it matters… I thought it did. I questioned it and he retorted , “You really think you know more than me?” I hushed not because I felt dumb but because I really didn’t want to touch any of the car parts and was glad he was getting his already-dirty fingernails dirtier. But then he looked me up and down and said, “By the looks of you you’ve probably never used a tool in your life.” I bit my tongue, not really seeing how any tools would be involved in this, but when he next made a rude comment about my dress, my pre-coffee-slept-5-hours-in-the-car brain took the wheel and I said, “You’re being rude and derogatory, and you need to stop”. His eyes flashed and he said, “Fine, good luck jumping it yourself”, threw the cables on the ground, and stomped off.

I apologized to the girl for chasing off our only help but said being spoken to that way is not cool. She nodded and said he was making her feel uncomfortable. So we googled the make of her car since she didn’t have a manual and together found the elusive battery ports, hooked it up (switching around the cable he’d put on), and following the online directions, had her car running again in a few minutes. We high fived and I smiled and jokingly said, “We’re rock stars!,” and she agreed.

One small step for man, one giant leap for womankind.

Then we each got in our cars, bonded by our shared success, with a new notch of confidence under our underused tool belts, and headed down the freeway in opposite directions, two solo female travelers making our way home.

How to live a beautiful life

Article contributed by Amy Sargent
Someone told me yesterday that my world sounds so easy, so fun. She even went on to say she wished she had my life.  I took it as a compliment–as it was–but I had to laugh. My life, really? If she only knew…!
Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” — Abraham Lincoln
It’s all about perspective. I don’t lead any more of a charmed life than the next (nor am I any worse for the wear than the next).  I am simply learning the art of reframing. Like when we snap a photo of a beautiful nature scene, and notice it’s not centered, or an unwanted object is marring the setting, we open our photo editing software and crop to get a new perspective. In reality, the undesirables are still there but we’ve reframed it, so our focus is on the beauty instead of the blemishes.
We must do the same to live a beautiful life.
This month I’ll admit I’ve experienced an enviable lifestyle. I have drunk in the scandalous scent of lavender and lilacs, watched the orange-pink sun rise in the morning’s first light, and squinted in the glimmer of sun rays dancing on a shimmering lake. I have heard the sweet harmonies of my daughter’s voices and watched their speedy legs run across the finish line to victory. I’ve spent enjoyable evenings with dear, sweet elderly women and laughed at their stories of days gone by. I’ve relaxed by the turquoise pool at my cozy apartment, baked warm, fresh homemade bread and enjoyed drinks on a patio with a dear friend. I’ve spent quiet, peaceful alone time on a long morning run contemplating life and the exciting options spread before me. I received a surprise refund from my cable company. On Mother’s Day, I hiked along a sparkling stream with my girls and saw two magnificent moose in the wilderness of a national park. Yes, it’s been a month to be coveted.
Yet in this very same month, I inhaled a lot of second-hand pot smoke (not my favorite thing in the world), which wafts up from our inconsiderate neighbors below. I could only get a glimpse of the sunrise for the tall concrete buildings that block my morning view, and watched discarded Styrofoam cups floating on the surface of a dirty lake. I heard my daughters declare they felt ugly and watched them cry with disappointment after not performing as well as they’d hoped in their races. I’ve spent exhausting evenings with frail, old ladies who admitted they are ready to die. I lived in a cramped apartment with an overcrowded pool full of screaming kids and slept in a too-small twin bed that made my back ache. I baked my own bread in attempt to save money because I was worried about bills. I felt lonely, doubted my purpose in life, and felt fat while attempting a slow morning run. I got a notice that I owed more than I thought on a credit card bill.  On Mother’s Day I spent the entire morning alone while my girls took their stepmother out to brunch.
Same month. Same events. Two perspectives.
If we only tune in to the ugly parts of our lives, which we all experience from time to time, what an ugly life we’ll lead!
Realistic optimism is a competency of emotional intelligence and something we can all learn. It isn’t about pretending tough times don’t exist or being a naive Pollyanna; it’s learning to hone in on the positive and not on the parts of life that drag us down.  It’s easier to do the latter, trust me, as I’ve spent hours, days, and weeks over the years wallowing in my miseries. The difficulty of our struggles can feel so heavy that they diminish our ability to see clearly. But no matter how dark it may look, remember that right alongside those woes is a world of wonder. To ‘see’ requires a shift of focus.
I have friends whose daughter is in a battle for her life, and in each moment they don’t know if she is going to make it. I have another friend who has lost use of her legs, racked with pain, and can’t get outside to see the pink blossoms on the springtime trees. Yet all three of these saints somehow remain positive and joyful. Their noble, hope-infused mindset inspires me beyond words.
“Life is like a sandwich! Birth as one slice, and death as the other. What you put in between the slices is up to you. Is your sandwich tasty or sour?” — Allan Rufus
As you tumble out of bed on this fresh, new morning, and begin to go about your day, get out your editing software! Refuse to let the negatives define your day or even worse, your life. Of course your trials are heavy and difficult. I know. But beauty and blessings are right there too, light and lovely, awaiting your discovery. Now is as good as time as any to begin to learn how to reframe so you can get busy living a beautiful life.

How can I help?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

They bought me a car.

It happened a number of years ago, as I was putting myself through grad school, going to classes at night and on the weekends, working two jobs during the day, and somehow trying to find time to spend with my three kids as a single mom. Times were a little tough financially though we always found ways to make ends meet and have fun while we were at it. We’d driven our tired, old red Subaru, “Bessie”, into the ground. She was limping along, radiator problems and engine troubles, and was held together by duct tape in several places on the bumper. Some dear friends of mine found out — friends I had known in college and hadn’t seen for 15+ years — and called me up one night and said, “We’re buying you a new car.  Go out and figure out what you want, then let us know. We’ll cover everything.”

Who buys someone a car?!

The simplest way to explain it would be to say that servant leaders focus on identifying and meeting the needs of others rather than trying to acquire power, wealth and fame for themselves.” — Kent Keith, former CEO of Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership

Have you ever met those people who just seem to think of others first? Those that want to make a difference in others’ lives and pursue opportunities to impact others for the better? Having a service orientation is a competency of those with strong emotional intelligence. People who possess this amazing quality anticipate, recognize, and meet others’ needs. Not only do they notice when someone is in need — they respond. Those who are strong in having a heart to serve others seem to understand what others are lacking before the need arises and have an uncanny ability to grasp the perspective of others, quickly, and readily take action to help. They creatively look for ways to make others’ lives more comfortable — and do so with a willing attitude.

I want to be like this.

Many of us, on the other hand, tend to focus on our own objectives most of the time. We don’t exactly want to go out of our way to help someone and often think, “This isn’t my problem”, or, “They should’ve made better choices so they wouldn’t be in this predicament”. If someone needs our help, we may offer “easy-way-out help” — solutions that don’t require a great deal of time, effort, or money on our part. We tend to not want to go above and beyond for others, unless there’s something in it for us.

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” –Charles Dickens

Why would we want to develop an attitude of service? One reason is that it simply brightens the other person’s day…and not just theirs but of those around them! For example, if someone at the bus station doesn’t have enough money for a ticket, and you step in and buy them one — most likely they’ll tell their friends/family later that day about the awesome thing that happened to them today, spreading the cheer. Give the check-out lady a compliment on how you appreciate your positive attitude and most likely she’ll exhibit that positive attitude with the next customer — and the next. Helping your coworker on a task which feels overwhelming to them will relieve them of the stress they’re carrying and result in less stress they bring home to their loved ones. Doing kind things for others can be the very thing that turns someone’s bad day into a good one. And knowing we’ve turned someone’s day around can only lift our own spirits.

When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” — Maya Angelou

Another outcome of having a heart of service is that it transforms us. Servant leadership helps us switch from an outlook of lack to an outlook of abundance. In Nipun Mehta’s article Five Reasons to Serve Others, published in YES magazine in 2012, we learn that when we begin to serve others, we discover the “full range of resources” at our disposal — not only financial gifts but our time, presence, and attention — and can begin to discover  opportunities to serve – everywhere — enabling us to operate from a place of abundance instead of scarcity. Abundant-thinking helps us build trust more easily, welcome competition, embrace risks, and stay optimistic about the future…all great qualities for a leader to possess.

In Robert Greenleaf’s book, Servant Leadership, he outlines ten principles of servant leadership.  Which of these could you stand to improve in?

  1. Listening
  2. Empathy
  3. Healing
  4. Awareness
  5. Persuasion
  6. Conceptualization
  7. Foresight
  8. Stewardship
  9. Commitment to the growth of others
  10. Building community

You may not feel you are wired for service oriented-leadership, but there are simple steps you can take to enhance your relationships with an attitude of service.

  • Become a better listener.  Listen for meaning and suspend your judgments and opinions unless asked. Most people are longing to be heard and understand — just tuning into others when they speak can help with that.
  • Be available. Carve out time in your schedule to “be” with others, simply enjoying the time with them. And put down that phone while you’re at it!
  • Offer compliments. Kind words are such a gift! A proverb says, “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Be on the lookout for sincere compliments you can offer another.
  • Make a giving list.  Think of the people who you regularly interact with — and ask yourself, “How can I help?” Jot down their names, and beside their name, write down one thing you could do for them to satisfy one of their needs, hopes, or dreams. It could be buying them their favorite coffee or inviting them to lunch.  Then go do it!
  • Keep your promises. You might not think of this as a way to give to others, but being true to your word, reliable, and someone others can count on is an act of service in and of itself.

I felt like the luckiest and most-loved girl in the world the day my friends bought us the car. Their kindness had a powerful, positive impact on our family, and ever since we have looked for ways to give back to others, so they too can experience the joy we did. You may not ever have the financial means to buy someone a car…most of us don’t…but we can find small and simple ways to serve others in our everyday lives.

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”  — Albert Schweitzer

5 Habits That Let Emotionally Intelligent People Adapt To Anything

Article submitted by guest author Harvey Deutschendorf.

The ability to stay flexible and open-minded in uncertain times isn’t just a personality thing. It also depends on what you do.
5 Habits That Let Emotionally Intelligent People Adapt To Anything

[Photo: Jurica Koletić/Unsplash]

Adaptability has always mattered in the workplace, but with automation on the march and many industries experiencing major upheavals, it may be a more crucial skill now than ever. Whether you’re an entry-level employee or the CEO of a company, knowing how to cope with change and uncertainty is pretty much nonnegotiable.

By now it’s hardly news that emotional intelligence is key to thriving in the future of work, thanks to the habits and behaviors it encourages. Here are five that highly emotionally intelligent people tend to practice–which anyone can tap into in order to adapt to change.

 

 

1. THEY RECOGNIZE WHEN THEY’RE GETTING TOO COMFORTABLE

When confronted with change, most people decamp back to their proverbial comfort zones. It’s a natural first instinct–staying with what you know–not to mention the easiest. But over the mid- to long-term, it can make you rigid and inflexible.

Emotionally intelligent people aren’t immune to this knee-jerk reaction. They simply tend to more aware when it’s happening. That’s the crucial first step toward overcoming the urge to stay with the tried-and-true and move instead into uncharted territory. After all, awareness precedes any possibility of action. Simply knowing your typical behavioral patterns and emotional drivers gives you an advantage in dealing with sudden new variables.

Brené Brown put this aptly in her 2015 book Daring Greatly: “Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement,” she writes. “Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”

If you can’t first recognize when you’re clinging to cozy habits–and, in Brown’s words, “engage with” your discomfort at the idea of changing them up–you’ll never find a way to break with the old.

2. THEY ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR NEGATIVE EMOTIONS

Change brings up feelings from both ends of the emotional spectrum: excitement and anxiety. In their just-published book The Power of Vulnerability, authors Barry Kaplan and Jeffrey Manchester point out the obvious perils of the latter: “The fear will tug at your sleeves and attempt to pull you back into a spiral of second guessing.” Their advice? Don’t try to suppress that anxiety. “Acknowledge it, be thankful that the presence of the emotion keeps you grounded, and then move through it.”

No one adapts to change and uncertainty by trying to ignore how it makes them feel. Recognizing your negative emotions is the prerequisite to managing and moving through them successfully. Not sure just how to do that? Here are a few ways to start.

3. THEY SOLICIT AND CONSIDER MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES

Instead of insisting on their way or looking for just one right way, emotionally intelligent people understand that their own point of view is merely that–and they aren’t discouraged by the knowledge that their beliefs have inevitable biases and limitations.

Grasping this reality is essential for considering new ideas, including those that may be totally contrary to whatever you’ve believed in the past. Needless to say, adapting to change requires approaching new and untried initiatives with an open mind, and a willingness to take risks on them. (It’s one reason why recruiting expert Yewande Ige recently shared with Fast Company that she asks every job candidate, “Are you willing to be wrong about your opinion on the world?”) Instead of increasing friction in the workplace, emotionally intelligent people serve as the lubricant for ingenuity to flow more freely in fast-changing times.

4. THEY READ NONVERBAL CUES

Amid any change, there’s likely to be resistance that can sabotage the process if it isn’t dealt with. Some may want to be seen as being open to new things and yet feel very differently inside. Emotionally intelligent people intuitively understand how group pressure might compel others not to voice their misgivings. So they try to predict wherever unspoken reservations might be lying dormant, then draw them out productively.

This takes an awareness of verbal nuances as well as nonverbal cues. It might sound like an odd habit for cultivating adaptability, but making a conscious effort to practice reading others’ body language can help you home in on and address what what your coworkers are feeling. This won’t just sharpen your own emotional intelligence, it will also help you win your colleagues’ support so you can all adapt to new circumstances together.

5. THEY DON’T REACT HASTILY TO SETBACKS

Anyone trying to succeed in a fast-changing environment will encounter surprises, setbacks, and failures. They key isn’t avoiding those obstacles, it’s handling them effectively. Emotionally intelligent people don’t automatically revert to the old way of doing things as soon as a new approach falls short. Instead, they typically avoid reacting until they’ve had a chance to think things through and decide how to move forward. Often doing nothing (for now) is better–and more difficult–than doing the wrong thing too quickly.

The key is being able to sit with a problem long enough to think through the best way forward. It takes patience, composure, and listening skills to bring everyone together and come up with a solid group consensus. Instead of looking to lay blame for setbacks, they’ll be focused on solutions.

 

How to experience holiday cheer when you’re single and alone

Article Contributed by Amy Sargent

The telltale signs of the holiday season are here – colorful, twinkling lights, shoppers bustling, melodic music in every store, people smiling, and laughing, holding hands and kissing, joy and peace everywhere you look. It sure is lovely. But is this your reality?

As much as we may long for the picture-perfect scene from a Currier and Ives painting, honestly, it can be a tough time of the year. More accurate may be a slowdown in business causing financial strain, which can lead to frustration, worry, and depression, and boy do these have an impact on our relationships. Arguments over petty issues, impatience, and ugly words we can’t take back are so easy to fall prey to when we’re stressed. Before we know it, the merry Christmas season can become a time of fights, loss of love, breakups, and marital strain. Which doesn’t exactly make for a holly jolly Christmas.

In an article printed in the Healthline newsletter, the author writes:

Depression may occur at any time of the year, but the stress and anxiety during the months of November and December may cause even those who are usually content to experience loneliness and a lack of fulfillment.” (Holiday Depression, https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/holidays#1). And what is the biggest predictor of holiday depression? Social isolation.

Maybe you’re one of those people who is blessed to be in a healthy, happy relationship, surrounded by positive friends and family. If that’s the case, I’m so glad. Really. It’s the ideal, without doubt. Enjoy it, relish it, and continue to be thankful for the riches that abound around you.

But if you’re one of those who finds yourself alone, the holiday season can be difficult. Feelings of isolation, loneliness, uselessness, lack of purpose, and just plain sadness can envelope you and before you know it, you find yourself on Team Grinch. Personally, this season I’m experiencing the delightful duo of empty nest syndrome and a painful breakup, and I’ll just say that decorating the tree this year wasn’t exactly what we see on the Hallmark channel movies. Replace the perfect, smiling couples in lovely Christmas sweaters, falling in love as they hand each other ornaments, with this picture-perfect scenario: a weary, single mom struggling with the tree base, (the tree only tipped over twice before I got it up!), lights in tangled knots and missing bulbs, throat tightening over each ornament that reminded me of earlier days with the kids, a glass of wine in hand with tears streaming down my face. I wonder if Mr. Currier and Mr. Ives would’ve like to paint a picture of that?!

I don’t tell you this to evoke pity. I have a blessed life. I have three lovely children who adore me and try to get home on the holidays. I have an extended family that supports me and a daddy that holds me as the apple of his eye. I have an engaging profession, brilliant colleagues, dear friends who love me, a safe place to live, all the necessities of life, and a whole lot of positive thinking. As alone as I feel at times, I know that it is temporary. The pain of loss will eventually move along and be replaced with joy soon enough. I’m not negating the hurt – it’s tough and I’ve let my share of tears flow. But I know this won’t last. However, not everyone can see the light at the end of the dark, Polar Express tunnel.

If you’re one of the charmed ones this season, surrounded by loved ones, please take a moment – or two or three or ten – to be on the lookout for your friends who may be struggling. Please, especially check in on your single friends. Invite them over for dinner, take them out for drinks, buy them a cute pair of snowman socks and drop a surprise gift at their doorstep. Think of things you can do to make sure they feel loved, included, and cared for. It’s easy to take it for granted when you’re not alone, but remember many single people don’t have that special someone who is thinking of them this time of year, and if you don’t look out for them, no one will.

 “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” – Mark Twain

And if you’re one of those of us who are alone, you’ve got some homework, too. Sorry, but you don’t get to wait around for someone else to reach out to you. First, be sure to tune into how you’re feeling. Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of how you’re feeling, in the moment, and to use that information to manage behaviors. Don’t hide from those feelings of sadness, desperation, anger, or disappointment. Don’t bottle them up – instead, let them serve you. Our emotions are terrific indicators of what’s going on inside, so listen up. This may sound counter-intuitive, but if you’re grieving, grieve. If you’re hurting, hurt. If you’re worried, worry. Pretending we don’t feel the way we feel won’t get us anywhere. Experience your emotions– cry it out, punch your pillow, journal, write that email then delete it, whatever you need to do that’s safe and non-damaging to express how you’re feeling – then get up, wipe your tears, and get out. Spending too much time alone in social isolation will increase feelings of depression and increase your awareness of being alone.

Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.” – Daniel Goleman

I know you don’t feel like it (the pulls of Netflix are strong), but you’ve got to make yourself get out, with the purpose of getting the focus off yourself and onto others. Slip into a fun holiday dress or tie. Stop in the coffee shop and buy a stranger a drink. Sign up for a social event with groups like Meetup to meet new friends. Volunteer at the food bank. Take a walk along the brightly-decorated downtown streets. Press $10 in someone’s hand and wish them happy holidays. Buy gifts for your friends and take the time to wrap them in beautiful paper with ribbons and string. Invite a friend to a movie. Host a holiday gathering at your house…and if you’re short on funds, ask everyone to bring an appetizer or drink to share. Wear a silly Santa hat and make people smile. Build a snowman. Leave an extra-large tip for the waitress. Go to the Christmas parade. Invite some friends to go sledding. Find an outdoor ice skating rink and wobble around on blades. Attend the local tuba concert (yes, these exist!). There are so many fun events around town this time of year just waiting for you to enjoy! I know, it’s not what your dreaming of, being cuddled up by the fire with that special someone as Bing croons Silver Bells, exchanging gifts from Jared’s. I get it. But getting out and around others and doing fun activities will do wonders to lift your spirits and get your focus off yourself. Sure, you’ll cry again when you get home, but at least you’ll get a reprieve from the self-pity and enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday season with others for a few moments.

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.Charles Dickens

I can only recommend the above activities because it’s what I’m doing this holiday season. I’m still sad, and alone, but am having bits and pieces of fun in between the tears. And my outlook for the future is getting brighter with each strain of Baby It’s Cold Outside I hear.

Of course, if you are feeling depressed and/or are experiencing overwhelming negativity, thoughts of inflicting harm to others or yourself – or suicidal thoughts – seek professional help immediately. Don’t mess around with that one. Sometimes we can’t pull ourselves up out of the slump alone and we need the help of others. No shame there – but don’t hesitate if your pain has taken a turn down a dark path. Get help.

Whether this is turning out to be the best holiday season ever, or looking a little bleak – we can all experience the joy of the season with a little extra effort in looking out for one another, reaching out to others, and living outside of ourselves. Whether you’re alone or with that special someone, you can practice kindness, a giving heart, and selfless love this season. Why not give it a try?

 

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