Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Choice No One Can Take Away

When we face difficult times, it’s easy to feel helpless. The tough events which happen to us are so often not what we’d choose to happen, and leave us feeling stuck, out of control, and left to react. I don’t know about you, but when things aren’t going my way, I don’t always react in the best light. Yet, while circumstances are at times dictated for us, robbing us of freedoms we are used to — we do have a choice over one thing, despite the circumstances: how we’ll behave in the middle of it all.

Behavioral self-control is a competency of emotional intelligence, and can be defined as simply keeping our emotions, impulses, and actions in check…especially the ones which are disruptive, hurtful (to ourselves and others), and damaging.

People who are good at managing their behaviors — even in the midst of tough times — notice their emotions, often before they feel them. Sound impossible? It’s not. They’ve simply learned to read the warning flags their brains send to their bodies when, say, stressors come to call. Think about the last time you felt very upset, or, say, worried. How did it show up in your body? Did you get a headache? Sick to your stomach? Flushed? Dry mouth? Shaky? Learning to recognize your bodily symptoms of oncoming stress can help you prepare for it, so, instead of simply reacting, you can choose how you WANT to act. Take a moment to note your own stress signals and where/how they show up in your body.

Another characteristic of those with strong behavior self-control is that they are able to stay composed and unflappable in trying moments. By restraining negative reactions, which, left unchecked can make a tough situation tougher, they are able to remain positive during tough times. It’s so easy to engage in negative, reactive behaviors — damaging self-talk, badmouthing others, overuse of food/alcohol/etc. — when things aren’t going our way. What’s your vice when you are at odds with others and/or the world? Notice it, and spend a little time noting how well it is serving you. Though hurtful behaviors may seem to bring some relief or satisfaction in the moment, they often don’t provide many solutions for the long run. So take pause, and ask yourself, “What are my reactive behaviors, and do they truly help or make things worse?”

Something I find admirable about those with strong behavioral self-control is that when they are faced with hostility, opposition, or aggressive confrontations, they are able to remain cool, calm, and collected. Just because someone else is acting poorly doesn’t mean they have to, too. They are able to choose to stay focused so they can think and reason clearly, restraining the tendency toward agitated reactions which escalate things. This includes keeping their mouth shut until they can cool down, something I strive to do more often!

Those who struggle with behavioral self-control instead, react impulsively. They don’t resist temptations and give in easily when pushed or provoked. They are often quick to anger, defensive, and go to extremes when they are faced with conflict and stress. Sometimes this appears as negative self-talk, such as, “This always happens to me”, and “I always mess up!”, etc., but often comes out as hurtful behavior toward others — saying and doing things which cause harm, whether physically or emotionally. 

Developing self-awareness is a first step in building more behavioral self-control. Notice the moments when you tend to “lose it”, and make a list of the things which trigger your bad behaviors. Maybe it’s when you turn on the news, or when you have a conversation with that one certain person, or when you hear of yet another change you’re expected to ‘roll’ with. Look at each trigger and think about a few ways which you could act differently — more constructively —  than your current go-to reaction. For example, if you get agitated when watching a particular news program, notice which emotions you are feeling, and name them. Then notice which thoughts follow closely on the heels of those emotions (e.g., “I hate that leader — he is an idiot!”). From your thoughts stem your reactions. If your reactive  behavior is to badmouth a particular leader on your social media feed, notice how you feel when you do that. Then, take an honest audit on what damage that behavior may cause. For example, you may discover you are losing friends left and right (no pun intended), that no one follows you online anymore, nor do they want to chat or hang out with you as a result — and you would like it if they did. This could be an indicator that the badmouthing others is not working so well for you. What is an alternate reaction you could choose — a better way of responding to a news report which upsets you? Jot these strategies down so you’re prepared next time your trigger button is pushed — because it will be. How might you feel if you reacted that way? What alternate outcomes might that behavior bring about?  The thought is that the next time you are triggered, you’ll be ready with a new, more beneficial action to try.

In heated moments, taking an emotional audit is a simple exercise you can do on your own, or with a group you work closely with, or with a close friend or significant other.  Here’s how it works:  When you feel triggered, practice the pause. Literally — count to ten, twenty, thirty, to put a little time and space between the stimulus and your response. Then, before you react, ask yourself and answer these questions:

1-What am I feeling?

2-What am I thinking as a result of these feelings?

3-What do I want to happen in this moment (what would be an ideal outcome)?

4-What am I doing to sabotage this outcome?

5-What do I need to do or say right now to get the outcome I want?

While we can’t always control our circumstances, we can choose how we’ll act. That’s a choice that no one can take away. With practice, and yes, it takes practice, we can begin to carve out the path we want to take in the new year — not in trying to control things which are out of our control (which, interestingly, causes more stress than anything!), but by controlling what is IN our control — our behavior.

The Power of Positive Memories

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

The manner in which you look back on 2021 can have a tremendous impact on how well this next year unfolds. Consider reflecting on the things which went well for a successful 2022!

Did you know that the way you remember past events influences your current and future thinking? Research shows that memory is not just for remembering things. The same brain functions which are active when we remember the past are used when we attempt to sort through current happenings and dream about the future. Lisa M.P. Munoz, in a article entitled Linking the Past to the Future Through Memory, notes, “Scientists know now that the same brain processes we use to remember the past, also help us plan for the future and imagine different possible scenarios.” Donna Rose Addis of the University of Auckland notes the same thing as she says, “Memory appears to be intimately linked to our ability to imagine our futures.” She goes on to say, “Being able to imagine the future allows us to mentally work through potential obstacles in our minds and to troubleshoot how we might best cope with those [difficult] situations.” [https://www.psych.utoronto.ca/people/directories/all-faculty/donna-rose-addis] In other words, how we look back on the past has a direct impact on our current — and future — emotional wellbeing. If we allow ourselves to be flooded with the negativity of the past year, our brain reacts to current events in the same way. And our hopes for the future can be tainted accordingly.

Our ability to reminisce in a positive manner empowers us with the ability to think of and try out creative and strategies for problem-solving. It can also decrease worry about dreaded upcoming events. Do you know of anyone who struggles with worry?

A recent study in 2020 showed that 78% of Americans who took the time to reflect on cherished events  more comfort during stressful times. In an insightful survey conducted by OnePolls, researchers discovered this: “Those who reminisced often were more likely to strongly agree that they were hopeful for what the post-pandemic future holds (34%), compared to those who rarely (20%) or never (14%) looked back on past events.”

 [https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/positive-memories-have-been-lifeline-during-pandemic/]

“Revisiting the past brings back the joy of the good times and the comforting security of being reunited with loved ones. Happy memories remind us of when life was less complicated.” — Dr. Krystine Batcho, PhD

Unfortunately, humans have a tendency to focus on the negative. And while negative emotions have an important role in enabling us to experience the full gamut of the human experience, paying attention to only the negative decreases our resilience and stress management…competencies of emotional intelligence which are vital to navigating tough times.  And, sadly, this slant toward what has gone wrong also diminishes our ability to experience future positive emotions.

Take a moment to notice the things you’ve shared with your family, friends, and coworkers lately. If you can’t remember, go back and read through your social media posts of the last year. Do you most often speak of positive, encouraging events, or do your words depict frustrating, negative things? 

This is not about pretending nothing bad has happened or is happening in your life. Of course there are tough times, annoying, hurtful, excruciating moments, happenings you’d probably rather forget. The accompanying negative emotions are normal, and healthy, believe it or not. Allowing yourself to go through the grieving process around your losses, disappointments, and hopeless moments is vital to emotional health. Acting like everything is perfect, when it isn’t, can prevent you from learning from mistakes, building endurance, and becoming more resilient. This sort of pretending will only stunt your emotional growth.  

What we are talking about is spending ample time reflecting on the positives as well. To combat this bias toward negativity, we have to make an effort to notice and remember the good ‘ole times. Again, I get it: 2021 was tough. But if you look closely, you may be surprised to discover that good times were snugly tucked in to last year’s happenings as well. And according to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s broaden and build theory, we can increase the likelihood of experiencing future positivity by cultivating these positive memories.

So, here at the end of 2021, before you launch into the new year with your resolutions and goals, take a moment to stop, and cultivate your positive memories. Try to remember some of the good things which happened this past year. What made you smile? What accomplishments did you achieve? With whom did you connect more deeply? Which of your goals did you reach? What miracles did you witness? Which challenges did you tackle? Who made you laugh? What amazing encounters did you have? What beauty did see? What things made you curious? What joys did life bring? What blessings did you receive? What random acts of kindness were you privy to? Think about how you felt when you experienced these uplifting events. Pull out your journal or a notebook and jot them down, pausing to offer up gratitude for each and every word you write.

Even better, grab a friend or close colleague and share these stories of abundance aloud. Share them on your social media pages. Write a blog. Post an article. Don’t underestimate the impact your edifying accounts will have on others. Most of us like to hear stories about what’s going right in this world. This kind of sharing is infectious, and breeds positivity and feel-good emotions for all involved. Research shows that even brief autobiographical storytelling can significantly impact our psychological and physical health, with the positive results lasting months after the storytelling. [https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-web-violence/201309/resilience-and-4-benefits-sharing-your-story.]  

So, do want to spend the last days of 2021 in a way that will start the new year on the right foot? Take a moment — or many moments — to reflect on the happy times of last year and get busy sharing your stories with others. 

Gratefully, Yours

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

For whom do you feel a deep sense of gratitude? Have you let them know?

It’s that time of year where we’re reminded to offer up thanks. And why not? Developing practices of gratitude is one of the simplest ways to improve life satisfaction. Research shows that expressing gratitude not only benefits the person receiving it, but also the giver, with positive effects sticking around for months.

Psychologists Dr. Robert Emmons (University of CA) and Dr. Michael McCullough (University of Miami) conducted a study asking one group of participants to write about things they were thankful for during the week. A second group was to write about daily frustrations and a third group was asked to write about anything. After ten weeks of this, the researchers found that those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt more positive about their lives. Interestingly, they exercised more often and paid fewer visits to the doctor that the other groups! [https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12585811/]

Another significant study on the benefits of gratitude was conducted by Dr. Martin Seligman, Director of the Penn State Positive Psychology Center. He assigned study participants to write a gratitude letter and deliver it to the recipient. The participants who did this displayed a drastic increase in their happiness scores, and these happiness benefits lasted up to six months after they letter was written and delivered. [https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16045394/]

Gratitude is not only connected to reducing depression and worry-related anxiety, but boosts an overall sense of wellbeing and relationship satisfaction. When gratitude is expressed, the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with our ability to imagine our future, becomes activated, allowing us to ‘see’ more optimistic outcomes. Additionally, exercising gratitude increases activity in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain which controls functions such as sleep, eating, metabolism, and stress management.  Know of anyone who could use some improvement in those bodily functions?! [https://draxe.com/health/benefits-of-gratitude/   and https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/prefrontal-nudity/201211/the-grateful-brain]

In an article in Psychology Today, author Amy Morin outlines these seven benefits of gratitude:

1. It opens doors to new relationships

2. It improves physical health

3. It improves psychological health

4. It enhances empathy

5. It helps with sleep

6. It increases self-esteem

7. It increases mental strength

[https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude]

Still not believing it? Give it a try! Keep a gratitude journal for the next ten weeks. Or, take a moment to write a gratitude letter to someone who’s had a positive impact on you, and deliver it. If you can’t deliver it in person, set up an online meeting and read it aloud to them.

Then let us know how you are feeling!

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Integral Alignment

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

We are told to be ;people of integrity…but what does that mean?

The Deeper Meaning of Integrity

Integrity, a competency of emotional intelligence, can be defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles or moral uprightness. People of integrity do the right thing, even when no one is looking. They adhere to a set of high ethical standards. They are good. They are true. They speak the truth. They are honest. They are a step above the rest. They are trustworthy. They are reliable. Is someone you know coming to mind?

While the above descriptions are accurate, there’s an even deeper meaning which I think speaks best to the true heart of integrity, and it’s this: the state of being complete or whole [https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/integrity]. I’m talking about integral alignment: being unified and undivided, all parts of yourself working together as a cohesive whole. People who have integral alignment know who they are, and they like who you are — as do others–and their actions support rather than supplant. They don’t have to hide the parts of them which seem unacceptable, or feel like an imposter. They live in the open, in the light, and their behavior lines up with the words which come out of their mouth — even when no one else is around. They aren’t perfect — they make mistakes like everyone else, but they own their missteps and move forward, without shame. When someone walks in this type of integrity, each component (their values, morals, principals, words, actions, day-to-day behavior) are in alignment with who they are…or, maybe better said, who they aspire to be.

When Integrity is Lacking

When someone struggles with integrity, they are out of this alignment, and don’t behave in accordance with their values. They’ll often say they feel as if they are compartmentalized, with parts of them which need to stay hidden in order to be accepted. They tend to do what is most expedient rather than what is right, because they have not yet sorted out their own opinions and feelings of what is right and what is wrong. They don’t always do what they say they will do, and are unreliable. They tend to be followers, easily influenced by others, showing little independent thought. They will respond to the needs of the moment, often selfish in nature, and behave differently, morally and ethically, depending on the situation. They tend to look out for their own needs before the needs of others, and are apt to be dishonest. Telling little white lies to get out of trouble is a go-to behavior, and their virtues come and go on a whim. Their day-to-day actions don’t match up with the words which come out of their mouth. They are disjointed and others can’t quite get a good read on them.

Is someone you know coming to mind here?

Try, if you can, to not be hasty to negatively judge someone who is out of this integral alignment. Not everyone knows who they aspire to be, nor have they taken the time to establish their tried and true values.

Growing in Integrity

If you would like to develop more of integral alignment, a good place to start is to take the following inventory to gain clarity on various aspects of your integrity. Please complete the self-assessment portion, and then complete it again from the perspective of others with whom you are closest to — at work and at home. Of course, be honest as you respond to the prompts — it doesn’t make any sense to fudge your answers on an integrity inventory!, and remember, no one will see this but you.

Place a check-mark in one of the boxes on the right, with “5” being “I do this ALWAYS,” “4” being “almost always,” 3 being “often,” “2” being “occasionally,” and “1” being “I seldom do this.”

  Aspects of integrity  1  2  3  4  5
If I commit to something, I follow through on that commitment.     
I am truthful at all times.     
I treat people fairly, no matter their place in society or in the organization.     
I am open with others about my values and beliefs, but without being overbearing or preachy.     
I take the tough, principled stand without hesitation, even if it’s not popular.     
I readily admit my mistakes.     
I give true, accurate information in all encounters. I never bend the truth.     
I do what’s right, even if it’s not personally rewarding.     
I know my values and I live by them at all times.     
I “walk the talk” – I demonstrate high ethical standards in everything I do.     
I always follow through on my stated intentions.     
My actions are trustworthy in all my interactions.     
I treat all people with respect, both in my face-to-face interactions AND behind their backs.     
I accept accountability for my actions.     
I give credit to others when deserved. I never present others’ work or ideas as my own.     
I take a stand for what’s right, even when opposed.     
I act in accordance with my own stated values, beliefs and principles.     
I carry out the spirit as well as the letter of formal and informal contracts and agreements.     
I tell the truth without “beating around the bush.”     
I accept conflict as inevitable whenever two or more people are together, and I don’t avoid it, but rather I seek to resolve it to the benefit of all. I embrace the negative and resolve it.     

How’d you do?

Now, ask yourself, how would others — those you’re closest to, and who know you well — rate you on these same items? If you’re not sure, consider having a conversation with several of your colleagues or friends and ask them to share their insights on the above prompts about your behaviors in these areas.

Do your responses match up with theirs? If not, note in which areas there are discrepancies. If you’re really honest with yourself, do you agree with them? Why or why not? Take some time to journal or talk with someone about why the gaps between your responses and theirs may exist –without negative judgment toward either you or them, if possible. Note if these behaviors only show up with certain people, or with everyone you interact with. Decide which of these areas you’d like to grow in — then spend the next few weeks, months, focusing on either doing more of it, as needed.

Identify Your Values

Secondly, to develop more integral alignment, consider doing a values check to determine your top values. What is most important to you? What qualities do you admire most in others? Which attributes do you wish you had more of? Make a list of your top ten values. Then, ask yourself, am I living my life based upon these values?

One way to identify your values is to look at your calendar. What do you spend most of your time doing? How often do these values show up in the activities you choose to spend your time doing?

Another check is to look at how you spend your money. How much of your financial resources do you allot to these values? No shame if there’s a mismatch here, but do take note. Notice the things you are spending your time doing which do not align with the values you listed above, and note the items on which you spend money which do not align with the values you listed above. What could you do more of in each area to come into alignment? What could you do less of?

Moving Toward More Integrity

Again, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not living in perfect integral alignment. Shameful feelings won’t help the situation. Instead, own the areas of your life you want to change. Say them out loud. Write them down. Apologize to those you’ve hurt. Share with a trusted friend or colleague who you aspire to be. Seek the help of a counselor or coach. Create an action plan of things you plan to do more of, and things you plan to do less of. Ask someone to be an accountability partner, a person who will encourage you toward more integral behaviors, and alert you to the times you miss.

Then, get up and get started. Give yourself grace and plenty of room to grow. Forgive yourself of mistakes, celebrate your wins. Remember, the goal is not to be perfect in integrity, but to exhibit more integrity more of the time.

As you progress, pause to notice the areas in which your life feels more aligned, more whole, more complete. How has your integrity contributed to that?

A great resource to further development of your integrity is the book, Integrity:  The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality, by Dr. Henry Cloud.

Don’t Miss the View

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

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

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

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

But look at the picture above.

Despite the messiness, the vista was breathtaking. With a focus bent on the negative, I could have missed it.

It’s easy to complain, argue, bicker, and fight. It’s easy to criticize, make fun of, and use derogatory language and hurl insults toward things we don’t like. Or–consider a different option. We could shake our heads, then get busy picking up some trash. It’s not fun. It’s actually kind of gross. It hurts my back a little, too. But doable. Instead of scorning “them”, I realized I could choose to offer forgiveness to those who don’t know better (or maybe do and make a choice to care about things different from me). And all the while, soak in the stunning beauty which surrounds me.

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

And what are you doing about it? Are you helping pick up the broken pieces during these crazy times, or just kicking them around, making an even bigger mess? I know, the trash is real, and it’s ugly. And there are dangers associated with it, and things are not as we’d like them to be, and we’re scared.

But try to keep living, humanely, despite it all. It’s easy to kick around the anger, fear, and worry, spreading it to everyone you know. It’s harder to bend down and pick it up, and put it in its place.

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

Because we all end up in messes sometimes. And we all need others to help when we find ourselves in that messy place.

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

11 Characteristics of an Effective Ally

Article contributed by guest author Rosalie Chamberlain

There is much written these days about being an Ally and Allyship. They are necessary to elevate the visibility, opportunity, and equity for marginalized groups.

Allyship is defined as “a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people.”

It is an active process – not just a name or an idea.

An Ally is someone who actively works to end systemic inequity in organizations and communities, the country, and the world. They actively support members of marginalized and oppressed groups.

These 11 characteristics will boost one’s ability to be an effective Ally.

1. Self-Awareness

There must be deep awareness of one’s own biases, assumptions, limiting beliefs and pre-judgments that happen in an instant, mostly unconsciously. Biases create obstacles to being able to see the real needs, potential and circumstances of those in a marginalized group.

Understanding our own biases and the impact of inequity is the impetus to address and change policies, procedures, behaviors, and habits that are often taken for granted – policies that have a negative impact on underrepresented individuals.

Predetermined beliefs get in the way of active listening and can lead to Gaslighting – “trying to get someone…to question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories.”

2. Commitment

There must be full commitment to actively do the work needed to advocate and support. Without active involvement, it becomes another check-the-box statement with no action, which is too often the case.

3. Facing Reality

The reality we must face is that the playing field is not level. Giving everyone the same thing (equality) is not the same as equity, which means providing someone access to opportunities that they need to succeed.

4. Accepting One’s Privilege

An Ally uses their power/privilege to help others. Privilege can come in various forms, including seniority and/or being well-connected. If you are part of the white majority, you have an inherent advantage when you walk into a space. Accepting one’s inherent privilege is not denying privilege earned because you had to work hard.

5. Vulnerability

Allyship requires getting out of your comfort zone and getting comfortable with discomfort. It requires speaking up for someone even when they are not in the room.

6. Prioritizing

It requires stopping making excuses such as there is not enough time for allyship. I work with many clients in very fast-paced industries where time is a commodity. A mindset of insufficient time does not recognize that people are resources that need support.

7. Bias Interrupting

It requires knowing the difference between microaffirmations,  microinequities and microaggressions and being aware when these inequities and aggressions take place and stepping in and speaking up.

8. Courage

It requires courage to challenge the status quo and a willingness to get in the weeds to change systemic issues.

9. Accountability

We need more people taking on the role of Allyship. It requires individual responsibility and consistency. It takes top-down leadership, and it also takes action from the bottom up across an organization.

10. Empathy

Empathy opens the door for one to take action as though another’s struggle is their own – to work to understand to the best of one’s ability to say Enough!

11. Compassion

Compassion is the ability to see another person, understand their situation and pain and caring deeply enough to actively do something to assist in their circumstances.

Explore where you can make a difference, take action, and create change. Another’s success could depend on it!

3 Innovative Ways to Set New Year Goals

Article contributed by guest author Diana Lowe

Image for post

Every year we all follow the same pattern with new hope in the air and the feeling of a fresh new start to all the possibilities that lie ahead. It is only natural that we want to set new goals for the new year.

Sadly, as we also know that that fresh recommitment to having a different type of year only lasts for a few weeks into the new year. In fact, “Research shows that as many as 50 percent of adults in the United States make New Year’s resolutions, but fewer than 10 percent actually keep them for more than a few months.”

According to an article on FSU News “On average, 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. Research shows that on average, it takes approximately 66 days for a habit to become automatic.” Clearly, that 6 weeks in period is not enough time to change behavior.

The truth is that COVID-19 shook us up and we are still dealing with this “new normal”. Well I think nothing is normal these days at all if you ask me. But we are more like in an experimental laboratory trying to figure out what works for us and others.

Because of this uncertainty, I came up with 3 innovative ways you can still make goals regardless of your external circumstances and what may happen this year. After all, we can’t change our external environment unless we change our internal environment.

Think about it, goals are always about what I want to attain, acquire, or achieve from the outside, financial goals, team growth, etc. Instead, I invite you to try something different. Focus on goals from within. Challenge your weaknesses, confront your fears, and raise your skill level.

The first innovative way to “Set New Year Goals” is to make a “feeling” your goal. This is no easy feat, but with conscious effort, positive reinforcement, and accountability you would be changing your environment around you.

Let’s say for example you have the feeling that the world is against you. That means that every challenging event that you encounter would essentially be against you, either holding you back or keeping you down. If you changed your “goal” to focus on the feeling of being courageous in the face of challenges, you will encounter the challenge in a very different way, and take different actions. The key is to become more self-aware of your natural tendencies and what you’re thinking, your behaviors, and overall your habits.

The second innovative way is closely aligned with the first way. It is to become more acutely aware of your physical actions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Anyone who has practiced mindfulness can attest to the powerful transformation it can bring to one’s life and state of being. There are numerous studies on the benefits of mindfulness, and because it is a practice. It is something that we attempt every day.

As I write this I am practicing being present feeling my feet on the floor, my back against the seat, and the satisfying feeling of my fingers dancing on the keys. Mindfulness doesn’t have to be sitting still it can be just putting our attention to something right in front of us, or around us. Focusing on self awareness, mindfulness, and even awareness around other peoples feelings can and will change our outlook on a situation. It’s the act of being present, which is a gift.

And the third way is focusing on de-triggering yourself. What does that mean? A trigger is a “cause (an event or situation) to happen or exist.” So by a ‘trigger’, I mean an event or situation that can cause us to have an undesired negative reaction or response emotionally (it could even be physically).

We all have ‘triggers’ and the reaction can appear in many different ways and sometimes can be released at the most inopportune moments.

My clients tell me at work ‘triggers’ might be an off handed comment about their work, the feeling that they are talking and no one is acknowledging or listening to them, an email response that doesn’t come back in a timely manner, or even a facial expression by a coworker.

I notice, personally, I am triggered when I feel emotionally drained and then my little one does something that just is the straw that breaks the camel’s back, like refusing to eat what I have cooked! So it takes extra emotional energy to have that compassion. So instead I just learned how to de-trigger those moments.

This is a skill I work on with, with myself and my clients too. And we all have some sort of trigger that makes us feel like we lose it emotionally. Some people can be set off easily and for others, it takes more time but eventually, it comes out in some way.

Now in a workplace environment, in general, most professionals try not to emotionally lose it in front of others, but guess what? It leaks out! In your actions or lack of actions, your tone, your words, your facial expressions, etc.

And what some deem as “not losing it” others think “wow they really lost their composure”. By working on de-triggering your most stressful moments you can also affect your environment for the better, and your ability to handle whatever life throws at you.

There you have it, 3 simple and innovative ways to “Set Goals” for the new year, which allows you to grow in your personal and professional capacity.

What other innovative ways have you tried to “Set Goals”? I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Sources:

  1. https://www.samuelthomasdavies.com/book-summaries/business/triggers/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CA%20trigger%20is%20any%20stimulus,motivation%20and%20understanding%20and%20ability%E2%80%9D.
  2. https://www.westernconnecticuthealthnetwork.org/newsroom/article-listing/new-years-resolutions
  3. https://www.fsunews.com/story/news/2020/01/05/how-make-your-new-years-resolutions-last/2818222001/

7 Steps to Managing Stress with Personal Power

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

When is the last time you had to face something tough which caused stress? Last year — last month — yesterday — today?

Stress and being human go hand-in-hand, especially these days. And tough times most likely aren’t going away any time soon, so if you’re hoping for a stress-free life, best of luck with that. In an article published by the Medical West Hospital, the author says, “Stress is a normal part of life…and an unavoidable reality of life. But stress isn’t always a bad thing. It’s a natural, physical response that can trigger our fight-or-flight response. Stress can increase our awareness in difficult or dangerous situations, allowing us to act quickly in the moment. Without it, humans wouldn’t have survived this long!” [https://www.medicalwesthospital.org/preventing-stress.php]

The goal isn’t necessarily to get rid of all stress, but to have a toolkit full of resources to tackle it when it does arise. One of the primary tools which helps combat stress is the emotional intelligence competency of personal power.

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”
– Lou Holtz

Personal power is the ability to know you are able to meet life’s challenges with a sense of self-confidence. It’s that “inner knowing” that you have the ability to live the life you choose, even if it means having hard conversations and speaking your truth along the way. It’s an ability to tune into your own emotions and behave in a way that fits within your personal value system — even if it’s unpopular. And — it’s the ability to do all of the above in a way that builds relationships, not tearing them down.

In other words, exercising personal power is not about being confrontational, pushy, or ‘bulldozing’ over others. More often than not, this competency is exhibited in a quiet, sincere manner which others may not even notice at a glance. True personal power does not need an audience, but it receives a following.

Those who struggle with this competency of emotional intelligence lack confidence in their own judgement and shy away from tough conversations. They are avoiders and have difficult speaking their truth if they perceive it will not be well received. They avoid challenges and take the easy route when available. They are not risk-takers and often are unable to set boundaries with others which are appropriate…such as expecting to be treated with respect and being able to communicate that. When they do decide to speak up, their assertiveness can come out as offensive.

But what does personal power have to do with stress management?

First of all, personal power provides you with the confidence and ability to make changes when needed. You do not feel like a victim, but rather, in charge of your choices. If you’re in a stressful situation, your belief in self empowers you to boldly face the issues and make adjustments as needed. For example, you know when to push back hard when someone is trying to compromise your values (something which causes stress) and know when to let go (not sweating the small stuff). You believe your actions have an influence on the outcome and aren’t afraid to step in and deal with the situation.

“Do not wait for the green light. You are the green light.”
― Dr. Jacinta Mpalyenkana, PhD, MBA

Secondly, your personal power gives you the ability to maintain composure when stress arises and choose productive behaviors which diminish negative emotions connected to stress, rather than feed them with nervous tension, anxiety, irritability, etc. You recognize that stress is a part of everyday life and can provide an opportunity to grow, so, you do not fear it. You know how to calm yourself when stress arises and are not afraid to seek support from others when needed.

Finally, personal power enables you to combat stress because you are acutely aware of your needs and know how to respond appropriately. Instead of waiting for circumstances or others to ‘fix’ things for you, you recognize your emotions in the moment and, based upon what you learn from your emotions, choose healthy behaviors which help instead of hurt yourself, others, and the specific situation. You like yourself enough to take care of yourself, including practicing good mental health as well as eating well and exercising, all choices which help with diminishing stress.

Like all competencies of emotional intelligence, personal power can be developed. Here are some ways to rediscover your personal power:

1. Know yourself. What are your top 5 values? List these and journal a bit about why they are important to you. Rank them in order. If you are struggling with identifying your values, ask yourself what is most important to you. Think about things like generosity, or responsibility, or honesty, or ambition.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
– William James

2. Identify the things you excel at. Think back on past successes and focus on the strengths you used to get there. Try to remember how you felt when you accomplished this feat and how it affected others. Congratulate yourself for these achievements and remind yourself that you are capable of success.

3. Work on developing an “I can” thought process. That negative voice in your head no longer gets to be voiced or heard. Instead, when it tries to speak, combat it by shaking your head and saying to yourself, No, that’s not true.” Replace it with “I can, I will, I have, I am going to” and say aloud what you plan to do.

“You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.”
– Wayne Dyer

4. Stop apologizing for your thoughts and beliefs. When you are sharing your values with someone, the conversation should never start with, “I’m sorry, but…”! Learn to state your values, wants, needs, directly and succinctly, without apology. Your thoughts and beliefs reflect who you are. Be proud of that.

5. List out the areas in which you’d like to grow. In which areas of life would you like to make improvements? Take note of why you currently are not confident in these competencies…emphasis on currently. If you have experienced past failures, that’s OK. Everyone does. Forgive yourself and move on. If you’re having trouble noting the source of your struggles, enlisting the help of a close friend, counselor, or coach may provide insights into the things which are presenting themselves as hurdles.

6. Find a mentor. Who do you know who is good at the things you are not? See if you can arrange for a conversation with them and begin to learn from their successes and failures. Find books about people who have achieved successes, or about people whom you admire, and study the behaviors of those who excel.

7. Practice assertiveness in everything you do. Start small, with the ‘easier’ things, such as speaking up when a colleague asks what you want for lunch, or when your significant other asks what you’d like to do after work. Try to avoid saying, “I don’t care”, or, “Whatever everyone else wants”, and speak up for your needs and desires in the little things, often, giving yourself practice in personal power for when bigger issues arise.

As with all new skills, the more you exercise, the stronger you’ll get. If you’ve spent a lifetime of putting yourself down, or not standing up for yourself, know it may take some time to turn the tables and incorporate this competency of emotional intelligence into your everyday choices. Try taking at least one step each day as you move in this new direction, and be sure to accept your mistakes and celebrate your wins along the way. This way, you can be better prepared to handle the stress that lies ahead in 2021.

“When we get comfortable with our own strength, discomfort changes shape. We remember our power.”
― Jen Knox, The Glass City

Don’t wait: Choose NOW how will you respond to election results

Article submitted by Amy Sargent

The U.S. election has been a source of worry and stress for many around the world, and tensions and tempers are flaring. It’s as if our society has lost its manners and sense of decency in how to treat others. Those guiding words we heard our moms say back in elementary school, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it”, have flown out the window. Families and friends are destroying relationships over differences of political viewpoints left and right, and spouting loudly about it on their social media pages. Name calling, insults, and degrading others for their opinions has become par.

It’s completely understandable that emotions are running high. There is a lot at stake and the issues on the table will have an impact on life as we know it. Feelings like fear, frustration, isolation, anger, dread, confusion, and even disgust are OK. We are wired as humans to feel emotions based upon what we’re experiencing, so know the emotions you are feeling are completely normal. What’s not OK is choosing to behave in a way which contributes to the division.

Which brings me to the point of this article: it is important we plan now how we will respond to tonight’s results. The outcome may or may not land in our favor. If we wait to see how we’re feeling, then react, our responses have a good chance of being a little over the top, and hurtful, causing more harm than help. And more harm is the last thing our country needs right now.

“But feelings can’t be ignored, no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem.”
― Anne Frank

However, these poor reactions aren’t entirely our fault.

Photo of Head Bust Print Artwork

Our brains are wired to respond to strong emotions in a way that keeps us safe. When we experience stimuli, there is a part of the brain called the amygdala which acts as a filter of sorts and decides if the emotions we feel require us to enact immediate action for protection. It’s that fight, flight, or freeze response we experience when a particular emotion hits hard and fast. If the amygdala gets flooded with emotions, it releases a cascade of chemicals into our bodies, and we experience what Daniel Goleman coined as an “amygdala hijack”. [https://hbr.org/2015/12/calming-your-brain-during-conflict]. The brain perceives danger, so the amygdala hijacks the cortex, the reasoning part of our brains, enabling us to fight, “flight”, or freeze, in the moment, to keep us safe. Imagine stepping out into the street then suddenly noticing a car is speeding in your direction. It’s not a great time to reason through all the options — “Hmmm, should I stay here, or move forward, or maybe step backward?” In that situation, taking time to process all the options would be ridiculous. We need to take action immediately, and thanks to the amygdala, we can.

Group of People Crossing Pedestrian Lane in Greyscale

The problem though, is that the amygdala doesn’t always make a clear distinction between real danger and perceived danger. Here’s an example. When someone posts something we don’t like or agree with, on their social media page, and we feel a flood of negative emotions, the amygdala may perceive that as a real danger. In an instant, we think we have to take action. That’s when we shoot off that hurtful text or smart-mouth post to “protect” ourselves, the action that drives us later, as we lie in bed that night, to think, “Ugh, why did I say that?” Was that truly a dangerous situation? Not really. But we sure reacted like it was.

Think back on the last time you felt really, really angry. How did your body respond? Maybe your hands began to shake or you felt unsteady, or experienced a burst of energy where you wanted to punch a wall or scream at someone. Maybe you felt nauseous, your stomach churning, or maybe your heart raced. Maybe your throat got dry, or your arms went numb. Learning to recognize our unique physical symptoms of an amygdala hijack can help us act instead of react when our emotions flood, and save us from the heartache of regret that often accompanies poor behavior.

So think ahead to tonight. Depending upon the outcome, do you foresee you’ll be feeling some strong emotions? “Of course!”, you’re thinking. Maybe just by me asking that you already feel those triggers brewing. That’s good. Take a moment, now, to think through the possible outcomes of this evening and how you might feel. Which outcome will trigger you most? How will it trigger you? What will it feel like in your body? Why will it trigger you? And as you foresee the responses of others, what words might someone say which will most set you off? Which news stations will make you the crankiest? Who in your peer group will be the most annoying?

Now, consider another option. No matter the outcome, what if you could choose how you feel when you hear the results? What if you could choose how you respond, what you say, and what you do? What if you could consider how would you like to feel when you lay down in bed tonight, no matter the circumstances, and how you would like to respond? And what if you could actually make that happen?

“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”
― Roy T. Bennett

Though it may be normal for our body to react instead of act when we are triggered, there are things we can do to slow down and allow stimuli to pass through the amygdala and into the cortex where we can make decisions which make a lot more sense…and will serve us and others better in the long run. Here are a few to try:

Count to six (or sixteen, or sixty!) and allow the signal to move from the amygdala to the cortex so ‘reasonable responses’ can occur. If needed, literally count out loud, saying each number clearly and distinctly, focusing on the numbers rather than the stimuli.

Take deep breaths. Deep breathing acts as a soothing mechanism to ‘calm our nerves’. Fill the lungs with oxygen and release it slowly, then repeat, until the fight, flight, or freeze signals dissipate.

Change your scenery. In moments of hot emotions, the brain needs a fresh perspective. If possible, get up and go outside. Move to a different room. Pick up a book, turn on a favorite podcast, leaf through a magazine, anything to distract the brain (just for the moment) to give it time to get to a ‘cooler’ place.

Get some exercise. Physical movement floods the body with ‘feel-good’ endorphins which can boost our mood.

Acknowledge feelings. Emotions are vital intel as to what is going on inside. Stifling or stuffing down feelings only pressurizes them to explode later. Name the feelings and be specific. Determine the why behind them. Then thank them for letting you know something is off.

Reason with yourself. Are there facts which support the hot thoughts? Jot them down, and evaluate if they are truly the facts or fiction. Try using a tool such as the “Thought Log” to better process these heated emotions and thoughts.

Talk it out. We all could use someone to talk to when we’re upset. Maybe it is a close friend, family member, or a coach or counselor. Verbally processing the hot emotions and can slow down the hijack, especially if you choose someone who can remain neutral. Be careful, though, not to ruminate on the negative over and over. Talk it through then move forward.

Do something that brings joy. In the moment, we won’t feel like doing something fun. Oddly, there is something about us that seems to enjoy feeling miserable at times. But even when negativity is present, so is positivity. Remember that it’s not all bad. Getting out and doing something you enjoy can have a powerful impact on the negativity.

Don’t wait until tonight to see how you feel, then react. Now, before those hot emotions flare up, think through how you’d like to respond. What could you do to build up instead of tear down? What could you do to connect instead of disconnect? What could you do to be a part of our one nation, under God, indivisible?

“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”
― Oscar Wilde

I know, it sure would feel good to react based upon emotions. Letting our feelings take the steering wheel is a lot easier and, in the moment, seems to make us feel better. Poor behavior can feel temporarily satisfying. But what the world needs now is long term solutions, and our choices can be a part of that.

Each of us has the power, and responsibility, to manage our behavior and our relationships to unify our great nation, no matter how we’re feeling. We can use our emotions to empower us to make sound choices, rather than being slaves to them.

So if you sense tonight’s results will be a trigger for you, no shame, and welcome to the human race. Own it and plan your response ahead of time, before your emotions get the best of you.



Five Simple Ways to Develop Your Child’s Emotional Self-Regulation Skills

Article contributed by guest author Stephanie Pinto.

We’ve all seen those kids in the supermarket who meltdown when they aren’t allowed to have some lollies. The children who appear to bully others because they are so unhappy. The teens who mope around because they didn’t get invited to a party, and “it’s like, the end of the actual world”. For some of us, maybe that’s OUR kids. Maybe it was us when we were younger.

My point is, everyone has difficulties managing big emotions at one time or another. Even as adults we often need a friend’s shoulder to cry on, or a partner to confide in. We just cannot always solve things on our own. And hey, that’s okay.

Building emotional intelligence in kids requires a solid foundation of being aware of one’s own emotions. This allows them to start learning how to manage them appropriately. Let’s look at five simple ways to develop our child’s emotional self-regulation skills.

1.     Co-regulate to self-regulate.

We must allow our kids to co-regulate first – this means we allow them to stumble and trip, whilst navigating their emotions. We can’t expect them to regulate big emotions on their own. Be there for them when they need it. Allow them to cry and be upset – but come from a place of teaching and supporting. Show them ways to cope. Brainstorm how to solve the problem. Help them sit in the emotion without judging or hurrying. Hold space by allowing the flow of anger, frustration, or whatever is coming out. And tell them you will figure this out together.

2.     Model emotional regulation for them.

We are our kids’ best teachers. They watch us, without even realising, and pick up traits and habits that we display. Are we showing behavioural self-control ourselves? If we are modelling volatile, snappy behaviour when stressed, how can we expect our kids to keep calm? I like to model emotional language during and after emotional events too. “Wow I am getting so frustrated with this!”, “I was pretty embarrassed before, I think that’s why I snapped at you”. And of course, apologising. “Sorry buddy, I was feeling disappointed with something else, and I accidentally ignored you”. And lastly, modelling how you deal with emotions, goes a long way to helping kids learn what to do: “I know what I need, space and quiet time to calm down”.

3.     Develop their self-awareness.

At a really early age, we can teach our kids how to be aware of their body, thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Use parallel talk to help map out what they might be feeling or thinking. “Wow seems like you’re feeling overwhelmed”, “I can see you have lots of energy in your body right now”, “Looks like you’re starting to get anxious and jittery?” When we talk about what is going on for our kids (parallel talk) it helps them to identify it in themselves as they grow. It may seem unusual but kids won’t notice. With time you will start to notice your child monitoring their own feelings and what’s happening in their body – and this shows good self-awareness and emotional intelligence.

“Kids can actually be quite creative in finding their own calming strategies.”

4.     Brainstorm coping strategies.

Explore and build a toolkit of coping strategies for your child to use when they are feeling stressed. Kids can be really creative with finding ways to calm themselves, but initially they may need some prompting to discover strategies. Google has an amazing array of coping strategies posters available. Feel free to get creative and make your own with your child, cut and paste, colour in and list 10 to 20 things your child loves to do. Keep this somewhere handy e.g. on the back of their bedroom door or on the fridge.

5.     Making Mistakes is OKAY!

I include this in many lists and articles I write because it is so powerful! We must actively teach our kids that making mistakes is NOT bad, it is actually GREAT! Even as adults many of us fear getting something wrong and the judgement that comes along with that. When we can’t make mistakes, our creativity, happiness and confidence are stifled! Let’s celebrate mistakes that our kids make, and model being okay with our own errors or mishaps too. This allows our kids to better regulate negative emotions when things go wrong.

Which one of these 5 top tips will you use with your kids this week?