Posts Tagged ‘grit’

Becoming a Change Agent

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

“If you do not create change, change will create you.” — Unknown

A change agent is a person who initiates, promotes, and supports a new way of doing something, whether it’s the use of a new process, the adoption of a new structure or bringing about the transformation of an old way to a new one. In business, some are given this title to bring about the necessary change within an organization, whether it be in management processes or structure or a shift in the business model. But whether or not it’s in your job title, in some form or another, we all are called to be agents of change.

If you are change resistant, it may surprise you to learn that change happens whether you like it or not. Take aging, for instance, that process which happens to us all which is associated with biological, behavioral, physiological, and social processing changes. In her article entitled, The Science of How Your Body Ages, Nicole Saporita explains how change is continually shaping our bodies. Her words? “Aging is happening on a cellular level at every moment”. [https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/wellness/a27630177/aging-process-signs/].

And as your body reshapes itself, day by day, so does your brain. Dr. David Eagleman, neuroscientist, believes that our brains arrive in the world unfinished, and it takes a lifetime of experiences to further wire it. In his words, our brains are “rewriting themselves all the time.” You can read more about this at https://www.gettingsmart.com/2015/09/we-are-wired-to-learn-change-and-engage-the-brain-with-dr-david-eagleman/.

And I don’t think there is anyone who can disagree that the world around us is changing at rapid, if not alarming, speeds.

Being able to catalyze change when needed is a competency of emotional intelligence. People who have this ability demonstrate the mental agility needed to consider new ways of doing things. They recognize the need for change, picking up on early signals and signs which communicate a shift is needed. They are willing to take ownership of change initiatives, and when barriers arise, are quick to figure out ways to move them out of the way. They are open to challenging the status quo and aren’t afraid of resistance or opposition. Not only do these change agents champion change, they are able to inspire others to join in its pursuit.

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”Benjamin Franklin

Don’t feel bad if you’re not strong in this area — many are not. How can you tell? You most likely are happy with the status quo and find yourself saying often, “But this is the way we’ve always done it!” or, “Things used to be better in the old days…”. You may have a bit of a closed mind when it comes to innovative ideas and those new employees with all the fresh ideas? They may really get on your nerves. While it’s normal to resist change, this fixed mindset can result in a failure to be adequately prepared for the future and keep up with changing times.

How do you know when it’s time to make a change? One of the primary signals of a necessary transition is the feeling of being stuck. Often in life, we hit places where we feel like we aren’t making a difference, or can’t, or feel as if life is just a series of dull routines which have no significant outcomes. You may feel bored. Frustrated. Disheartened. When you are experiencing that ho-hum feeling, it can be an indication that change may be just what the doctor ordered. And though there are some things in life you just can’t change, as we mentioned above, there are many choices we do have to bring about change.

“Resistance to change should be a thing of the past if we could develop growth mindsets and create organizations with growth cultures.” ― Paul Gibbons

Consider these simple changes which may create some movement for you in a new direction:

1-Change your scenery — It’s time to take a break from looking at your phone and computer. Most of us can agree we spend way too much time looking at screens. Get up, take a break, and get a fresh perspective. Work from a different room in your house, set up an outside desk if possible, or simply face a new wall in your home office. Take a walk down a path you’ve never explored. Drive along a different route than usual. Try a new restaurant. Read a new book. Take a weekend trip to somewhere new. Altering your surroundings can be an easy first step toward embracing change.

2-Change your media intake. Do you have the news on 24/7? Or always listen to the same podcaster with the same opinions? Try a new source of news, or listen to a podcast with a unique perspective. Even bolder, try turning off media for a while, or make a decision to stop scrolling on social media for a period of time. Listen to an audio book instead, chat with a colleague, or crazier yet — try enjoying some silence. Sometimes our best insights come when we create space to really hear.

3-Change your social interactions. Making new friends may be tough right now, but new connections can boost your spirits and spur a growth mindset from the sharing of ideas. Join a local social group, or a special interest group (kayaking, birding, book club, social justice, etc.) and join their next virtual meeting. Get to know a colleague better who shares a similar vision. Make a point to deepen a connection with a family member or neighbor, or simply ‘show yourself friendly’ with the next human you come into contact with.

4-Change your order of operations. We tend to develop routines and stick to them, and this can be a great asset toward accomplishment of goals. But don’t be afraid to mix things up once in a while, to stay open to new perspectives. For example, instead of always sitting at your office desk for work, try working from a coffeeshop or a shady spot in a nearby park. Instead of always eating at 5 pm, try a late-night dinner. If you always go on a run for exercise, consider trying a new sport or activity. Changing up the routines can fire new neurons in your brain which can boost creativity and innovation.

Learning to embrace change (and even initiate it) can add value to your life, bringing about advantages such as personal growth, flexibility, strength, and resilience…all qualities which help us get to the other side of tough times.

“So I beg you to think of change more positively. When we say “This is a game changer,” that connotes something good and positive.” — Allen Karl

In his article, 20 Reasons Change Is Good For You, Allen Karl outlines a number of benefits of change. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Change helps avoid stagnation
  • Change forces us out of comfort zones
  • Change introduces adventure
  • Change conserves energy (it takes more energy to fight change than to embrace it)
  • Change brings about learning
  • Change enables you to see possibilities
  • Change provides fresh opportunities
  • Change forces you to move in a new direction
  • Change can help you overcome fears
  • Change is a harbinger of possibilities

[https://www.allankarl.com/everything-must-change%E2%80%A620-reasons-why-change-is-good/?]

If becoming change agent is a competency you’d like to develop, you may find John Kotter’s book, Leading Change (Harvard Business School Press, 1996) , a good place to start. Kotter came up with eight steps to bring about successful change. You may want to start with number one and work your way up, or, notice which step you’re stuck on and brainstorm ways to gain traction in just that area.

  1. Create a sense of urgency
  2. Collaborate with others and build teams
  3. Establish the vision
  4. Communicate clearly to win your team’s buy in
  5. Empower team members to take action
  6. Figure out ways to celebrate short-term wins
  7. Build upon gains to push forward
  8. Anchor the change so it sticks

What is one area of your life which needs a change? As you ponder each step above, jot down a few notes around how each could move you closer toward your goal. As with most things in life, change can only happen when you begin. So start small, with one, forward-moving step.

What will you do today to initiate forward movement in an area of your life?

“Only in growth, reform, and change, paradoxically enough, is true security to be found.”Ann Morrow Lindbergh

Navigating the storm

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who do you know like this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sail on. You’ll be glad you did.

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

Sinking Boats and other lessons in Resilience

Article contributed by guest author Patricia Conlin.

As I close off another summer and prepare to send my boys back to school for another year, I remember some lessons that I relearned that are reminders or what is important to all of us on resilience.

This summer, I spent a lot of time at my cottage. It’s beautiful up there and more so because my father, who passed away in 2017, built the entire cottage including most of the furniture. I have fond childhood memories of our adventures and time together as a family each summer at the cottage. I’ve always noticed that at the cottage, everyone is more relaxed and life is full on food, games and swimming in the lake which is pure heaven. In July, I decided to buy a new boat for our water access cottage. I was also getting pressure from my boys to get a bigger motor to use with skis, knee-boards and tubes up there for even more fun so I caved in and made the purchase. I brought the boat up with my boyfriend who is a seasoned cottage owner so I didn’t bother getting involved in the whole boat launch prep. We went to a new boat launch and everything seemed to be working well. I was left with the boat in the narrows to drive a very short distance to the marina while my boyfriend parked our car few miles away. Unfortunately, we had forgotten one very important thing….to put in the plug! So I found myself mysteriously dragging on the bottom and then beating myself up for being an incompetent driver and not navigating well and then blaming myself when I heard a thud and knew I had damaged the motor somehow. I finally got out of the narrows somehow but my boat was dragging oddly at the back. I managed to get to the marina dock but was shaky. We loaded up and I was to too embarrassed about my driving to tell my boyfriend that the boat was dragging. The whole way over to the cottage I was silently cursing myself for wrecking the boat. When we docked and saw all the water coming in, we quickly figured out the real problem. We took immediate action and got the bilge pump working, drove the boat around the lake until massive amounts of water drained and then found a plug in the glove compartment. We realized after trying to fit it in many times that it wasn’t the right plug. Luckily, we managed to plug the holes with some of my Dad’s old plugs in his shed but had to take the boat back to the dealer to fix the prop and get a proper plug the next day as it was still taking on some water. The dealer paid for the prop damage because he realized they hadn’t fitted the plug properly but told us to always check the plug before we launch.

Good advice!

What lessons did I learn from this adventure? Well, isn’t it true that most of us jump to making false assumptions not only about ourselves but about others in a stressful situation. Also, why are we so hard on ourselves when things go wrong? Is there a way to reprogram our thinking to better manage during times of crisis, conflict or problems? We all have these so called garbage thoughts but the secret is to not listen to them too much or at least talk back to them. As Business Professionals we receive a lot of negative feedback at times and it can be draining and often we start beating ourselves up when we hear negative words from others. Too much work, too little, difficult staff, difficult client, deadlines etc. all add to our stress cooker day. And then we go home and face home challenges with kids, parents, chronic health issues, lack of time etc.

How can we navigate more successfully?

One word-RESILIENCE.

I have spent years becoming more aware of my thinking patterns and how they impact my performance. During the boat launch adventure, I was aware of my negative thinking so was able to review it objectively and learn from it quickly instead of holding on to the negativity. I went back to the cottage and relaunched the boat successfully the following weekend to gain skill, reinforce a positive outcome and gain confidence in my ability to manage as a new cottage owner. In other words, I learned from my failure. I was even in a way grateful for the failure because it taught me to be careful and I have taken more time to learn about boats and boat launch techniques for next year.

To be resilient we need to stop beating ourselves up and instead be more aware of our thoughts, emotions and actions and work to course correct them for a more positive outcome on a regular basis.

What do you think is the single most important factor in success as a Business Professional-Resilience?

This one soft skill is what I believe has made me successful over the years despite huge upheavals in my life the past 10 years and something that you can work on each day for more success in work and in life.

Here are a few key ways to boost your own inner resilience to achieve more Success this Fall:

No alt text provided for this image

 

  1. Catch your negative thoughts – When you become aware of a negative thought, ask yourself – Is this true? Often it is not true. Even if it is true, ask yourself, is there a way to create a positive outcome or accept the reality of a situation and learn from it without beating yourself up. In the past, I have had very demanding clients. Sometimes, they would be extremely critical and I would start to feel badly about myself. I would question my abilities. However, as I have learned this technique, I have consistently been able to separate fact from fiction. Instead of reacting or retreating because I felt badly, I have learned to respond to the comment or situation with confidence to improve the outcome every time. A way to do this is to move from an emotional state to a rational state and write down the key elements of the situation and how best to respond. For example, a client decided he hated all our work for no reason. He was negative about everything. It hurt yes but I caught the negative quickly. I responded with empathy for his frustration but then wrote a detailed note full of facts on what we had done so far, a comment on what our expectations are from him as a Partner (yes you heard it! Don’t let anyone disrespect you-EVER) and facts on the project, recommendations and an action plan. In short, I regained my power in the relationship by standing my ground and not letting my own negative thoughts weaken me of impact my performance. He started responding more positively and we successfully completed the project to his complete satisfaction.
  2.  Believe in yourself – Yes, sometimes we screw up. Sometimes, we overreact, say dumb stuff and do dumb stuff. So what. We are human. Any solid relationship that can’t take a little humanness, isn’t worth it. Be real. Believe in yourself and know that you are doing your best. When you aren’t doing your best, give yourself a kick in the butt and do your best. When we hear bad news or miss revenue targets, we sometimes go into a performance slump. The number one reason we stay in a slump is because we stop believing in ourselves. So always believe in yourself. When you screw up, pay attention. Why did it happen? Did you get off track somehow or were you not paying attention to signs from a candidate or client? A vital soft skill which I teach others to cultivate is self-awareness and other-awareness. I have saved and made many placements using awareness and honing this skill. If we are caught up in doom and gloom, we exude that instead of the confidence we need to be successful. So when you make a mistake, consider it a lesson or a redirection and keep going confidently towards success.
  3.  Fail and fail again – Life is about falling down and getting back up. It’s hard to become resilient if you never fail. Failure hurts but that pain teaches better than success. Failure hones skills, teaches humility, gratitude and strengthens are resolve. It helps us become resilient. So don’t beat yourself up when you fail. Tell others. Learn from your mistakes. None of us are perfect and the concept of perfection is impossible to achieve. We need to teach our kids and others to strive to improve every day while celebrating what we have accomplished already. Success comes from trial and error and those who are too afraid to step outside their comfort zone will not be able to achieve the success they seek. I love telling stories and my best stories come from my so called failures. My screw ups and mistakes turn into fodder for humour and lessons. Laugh at your failures then get up and try again!
  4.  Stay healthy – Working hard takes energy. Resilience comes from a healthy mind, body and spirit. It can be fun to party once in awhile or gorge on junk food, but a consistent neglect of your health will impact your performance over time. Contact me for easy tips on boosting energy and getting a better sleep.
  5. Learn – Adopt a continually learning mindset instead of staying fixed in your ways. Do this at both work and home. Find hobbies or passions your enjoy out side of work. For me, it’s ever expanding vegetable garden challenges, new recipes, my upcoming podcast series or finding time to practice a language skill and have been teaching my boys basic life skills that they will need like cooking, cleaning (yes, this one is a struggle…J) and cottage maintenance. Always work to improve your skills at work as well by learning more about tools, trends, and ways to better interact with clients and others. I have found that learning new skills builds our resilience muscle. As a Business Owner, I have worked hard to expand my revenue streams in Talent Solutions with growing divisions in RPO, Leadership Coaching and Training, Corporate workshops, Transition services and speaking which makes each day exciting and highly engaging.

I am getting ready to speak at NAPS again this Fall in Texas for their Go Big or Go Home conference. My talk will go into more detail on how to be Mentally Prepared for Anything. Resilience is key to our success and a soft skill we can all develop.

How to Better Manage Your Stress

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

Do you know anyone like this?

“Stress level: extreme. It’s like she was a jar with the lid screwed on too tight, and inside the jar were pickles, angry pickles, and they were fermenting, and about to explode.”  —Fiona Wood

It’s a great visual. My brothers and I used to come home from school on hot, August afternoons when Mother was canning bread and butter pickles. They were angry pickles. The acrid odor of vinegar engulfed the entire kitchen and we’d sprint, eyes watering and throats tightening to keep from gagging, out the back door in pursuit of a breath of fresh air. The thought of being around a jar of fermented pickles ready to explode today is enough to send me running.

Imagine your stress-induced emotions as acetous pickle juice just waiting to explode from a pressure-filled jar. Maybe it’s how you’re feeling right now…as if you’re on the brink of detonating into an eruption of anger, or find yourself jetting quickly toward an emotional melt-down. Prolonged stress can do that to the best of us. And while stress most likely won’t be going away any time soon, we can learn to make choices which will help us better manage it.

The Negative Impacts of Stress

Stress is a normal part of everyday life, but if we don’t learn to get a handle on it, it can wreak havoc on our mental and physical health. Based upon results of a stress study done by the American Psychological Association, 66% of people regularly experience physical symptoms of stress, and 63% experience psychological symptoms. Because our natural stress response is not designed to be continually engaged, we must find ways to shut it off.  Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered that prolonged stress disrupts the balance in the brain, throwing off the normal cadence of brain cell communication. (https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-stress-affects-mental-health/) A study done by Columbia University Medical Center researchers found that negative impact of stress could be likened to smoking more than five cigarettes a day! (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2250106/Stress-bad-heart-smoking-cigarettes-day.html).

“Learn how to cope, sweet friend. There will always be dark days.” — Kris Carr

Your Stress Triggers

Developing awareness around your stress triggers is a good place to start.  Grab a journal, ask yourself these three questions, and note your responses:

  • Which situations occur on a regular basis which cause you to feel stressed?
  • Which people in your life could you name as sources of your stress?
  • Which circumstances turn routine situations into stressful situations? (For example, do you feel more stressed when you haven’t eaten, or when you’ve overeaten? How does sleep (and a lack of) affect your stress levels? When you let your worries run rampant, do you find you’re feeling more stressed?, etc.).

If you can become aware of your triggers, there’s a good chance that you can avoid escalations, shifting behaviors before they turn toxic.

What are you feeling?

Do you recognize what stress feels like in your body? Those who have strong stress management skills are able to detect rising stress before it reaches a dangerous level. Physically, you may experience headaches, fatigue, or shoulder pain. Other common symptoms are stomach aches, excessive sweating, back pain, and a racing heart. Behavior-wise, you may find you are taking a habit to an extreme, like overeating or excessive smoking. You may find you’re short-tempered, grinding your teeth, or driving too fast. Emotionally, you may find you are bothered by unimportant issues, getting the cry-feeling more often, or feeling depressed and dejected. Cognitively, you may have trouble thinking clearly, or struggle to translate your thoughts into clear words. You may find it hard to concentrate or find yourself more forgetful than normal.

Learning to recognize how stress rears its ugly head in your body is something you want to tune into.  Next time a stressful situation arises, take a moment to notice what you’re feeling and write it down.

“Everyone has the ability to increase resilience to stress. It requires hard work and dedication, but over time, you can equip yourself to handle whatever life throws your way without adverse effects to your health. Training your brain to manage stress won’t just affect the quality of your life, but perhaps even the length of it.” –Amy Morin

Stress Reduction Techniques

Though you may not be able to make the stressful situation or person go away, you can learn how to control your own responses. Here are some techniques you can try to reduce the feeling of stress. Which of these could you undertake, in the moments when stress arises?

  • Practice gratitude.
  • Take long, deep breaths.
  • Exercise.
  • Get some extra zzzz’s.
  • Remind yourself that this too, shall pass.
  • Rediscover your sense of humor and laugh.
  • Listen to relaxing music.
  • Spend some time in nature.
  • Meditate.
  • Become a realistic optimist and focus on positive outcomes of the current situation.
  • Have a good cry.
  • Forgive…yourself and others.
  • Eat healthy food and resist junk food/stress eating.
  • Do something you find to be fun.
  • Slow down.
  • Practice boundaries (learn to say no when needed)
  • Forgive others’ poor behavior.
  • Refuse to let irrational ideas and thoughts swim around in your head.
  • Visualize yourself in a peaceful place.
  • Pray or other spiritual practices.
  • Quit procrastinating and tackle some items on your to-do list.
  • Call a friend who is able to put you at ease.
  • Fill in the blank (what works for you?) __________________________.

Create an Action Plan

Now that you’re aware of your triggers, understand what you’re feeling, and have a few techniques to use,  it’s time to create a plan. Grab a journal and write about these prompts:

1-The stress symptoms I need to notice and pay attention to are:

2-My current stress triggers, including both situations, people, and circumstances, are:

3-How do I currently deal with these stressors?

4-What’s a better way I could respond to these stressors?

5-What is one technique I can incorporate to remind myself to engage in stress management, as I begin to recognize my symptoms?

6-When do I anticipate the next stressful situation to happen?

7-What will I do when it occurs?

If you’re struggling with creating an action plan, consider teaming up with a social + emotional intelligence coach to walk alongside you.

I get it–changes are hard–but remember the jar of pickles. Who wants to be splattered by pungent negativity every time you lose control of your emotions? Sure, it’s tough to adjust how we respond to the stresses of life, but well worth the effort to learn to open your jar of emotions slowly and carefully so you and others can enjoy its contents.

“You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.” —Steve Maraboli

 

When Disappointment Hits

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  — Ancient Proverb

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

If you’re human, you’ve most likely experienced the feeling of let-down when something you hoped for didn’t work out. Maybe it was that perfect job you wanted but didn’t get, or that relationship that finally seemed like the right one yet fell apart, or an offer you made on your dream house which wasn’t accepted. Maybe it was the chagrin of watching your teammate get promoted instead of you. Whatever the reason for your disappointment, the feelings of despair that accompany it can wreak havoc on your soul.

Unfortunately, when disappointment hits, we tend to turn inward and allow our self-doubt to be triggered.  “What’s wrong with me? Why does this always happen to me? It’s because I am ____ (fill in the blank with your go-to negative quality)!” are just a few of the responses that may be going round and round in your head.

“There are some things in this world you rely on, like a sure bet. And when they let you down, shifting from where you’ve carefully placed them, it shakes your faith, right where you stand.” ― Sarah Dessen

Though disappointment can be difficult, there’s no reason to let it leave you disillusioned. If you’re in the middle of a heart-sick event, here are some things you can do to help with the healing process:

  • Feel what you’re feeling.  Instead of trying to stuff your emotions inside, or pretend you’re not hurt, allow yourself to feel. Name the emotions you are feeling and accept them as part of the process. It’s OK to let the tears flow. “Crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system and restores the body to a state of balance.” (https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/is-crying-good-for-you#1). So grab the box of tissues and open the floodgates!
  • Write it out. Grab your journal and write about what went down. Include as many details as possible, and as you describe what happened, use “I” statements, telling the story from your perspective. Describe the feelings it evoked. Can you make a connection to what you felt and why you felt it? Write about that, too. Sometimes just getting it all down on paper can help you make sense of the event.
  • Talk it out.  If appropriate (and safe!), and your feelings are in control, you may want to have a conversation with those involved in the offense. Lay your judgments aside and try to have an open mind to their viewpoint. Try to use “I” statements when talking about the event (“When you said this, I felt…”, etc.) and ask them questions for clarity. Avoid name calling, yelling, and finger-pointing. Remember the purpose of this conversation is to come to an understanding of both sides of the story.
  • Find a friend. Often it’s helpful to have someone outside of the situation to talk to about the upset. Find a trusted friend, counselor or coach, to discuss your feelings. If you can, try not to defame the other person(s) involved, instead, focusing on the role you played in the situation. Having someone else listen, nod, and say “I see why you’re feeling that way”, can bring much comfort and assurance that you’re OK.
  • But be careful with whom you talk to. It’s one thing to find a trusted friend or counselor for support, but be wary of sharing the story over and over with everyone you meet, opening up the opportunity to trample upon those involved. There’s no need to make the situation worse by spreading it around. You may think it makes the other person involved look bad, but it’s really a negative reflection on yourself. Posting about it on social media, especially before your heart is healed, is probably not a good idea, either.
  • Try not to ruminate. It’s easy to replay the scenario of disappointment over and over in your mind, which only will reproduce the negative feelings you’re working through. It happened. Once. No need to keep reliving the event if it’s not serving you well to go through it again and again. When you find yourself ‘going there’ in your mind, try moving your thoughts to something more uplifting.
  • Avoid always and never. When disappointment hits, it’s easy to think “this always happens to me”, or “this will never get resolved.” If you can, eliminate these two words from your vocabulary and recognize that this particular instance is a one-time event. Instead, focus on possible positive outcomes.
  • Don’t play the blame game. When we feel bad, blaming someone else for the incident can seem like an effective pain reliever. However, research says differently:  “Unlike other games, the more often you play the blame game, the more you lose.” (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201509/5-reasons-we-play-the-blame-game). This goes for yourself, too. Yes, own the role you played, but don’t go down the road of letting blame turn into shame.
  • Accept that it happened.  What’s done is done. Though you may wish you could roll back time and make it go away, accepting that it happened–and putting it in your past– will help you move forward. We all make mistakes — you do, others do, and we all are capable of hurting each other with our words and actions. Accepting that disappointment is a normal part of interacting with others can help relive the anger and resentment you may be feeling.
  • Choose your ending. Ask yourself, “How can this help me grow? What is one thing I can now do that I couldn’t before the incident? What did I learn and what will I not repeat? How can this have a positive effect on my empathy? In a perfect world, what would my next steps look like?” Though the event is probably not one you would’ve picked out for yourself, you can choose how the story ends.  Brainstorm all possible positive outcomes, and if you’re struggling to come up with any, ask a trusted friend for help. Sometimes those on the ‘outside’ can see the bigger picture and remind you of reasons why this may be a good thing in disguise.
  • Forgive — yourself and others. Easier said than done, I know, but deciding to move on will bring you the peace of mind you need and deserve. Forgiveness isn’t about pretending it didn’t happen, but letting go of the need to punish yourself or others for the wrongdoing. “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” ― Alexander Pope

I get it. It’s tough to experience disappointment. But we can do hard things. And the rewards of working hard to move through and on past your disappointment will be well-received.

“Disappointment will come when your effort does not give you the expected return. Failure is extremely difficult to handle, but those that do come out stronger.”―Chetan Bhagat

When the Rain Comes

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

This afternoon, at the garden, I kind of on purpose got caught in the rain, which turned into an all out downpour. I knew it was coming–I could hear its distant rumblings and smell its warning in the stirring breezes, but I kept on digging…until it hit. And it hit hard and fast. By the time I took refuge in the nearby gardening shed, with the shovels and rakes and wheelbarrows, swathed in the scent of freshly cut grass and newly-turned soil, I was drenched to the bone, hair dripping and clothes stuck to my wet body. I happily sat on an upturned bucket in the makeshift shelter and watched the torrent of rain soak our garden plots, splashing upwards in the newly formed puddles, transforming the dry, dusty soil into a wet, moisture-rich haven, mother’s milk for the tender, newborn plants struggling to survive their first weeks of life. Everything turned a brilliant green.

The lightning flashed, the thunder rolled, and I couldn’t help but wonder: if plants need a good drenching from time to time, wouldn’t it do us good, too? Maybe it’s my frame of thought after witnessing baptisms at church the other day, or maybe it was from watching all the people out near the street hurrying, shoulders hunched, hands over their heads, attempting but failing to flee from the rain. It’s our first instinct — Run! Cover up! Hide! It makes sense: rain ruins our clothes, smears our makeup, flattens our hair, and washes away all the outward appearance we work so hard to put on and wear all day.

When the lightning lessened, though it was still raining, I went back to my gardening, mud sticking to my Crocs and working its way in between my toes, dirt speckled the back of my legs, my hair a damp mop, until I got chilled and sought the comfort of my warm car. I glanced in the mirror and saw a bedraggled plain girl looking back at me, makeup long gone and hair in tangles, dirt smeared on her face… but eyes wild with wonder. I felt alive, giddy from the craziness of being out in the elements.

I think staying out in a rainstorm is like life itself — we can run and hide when the storm hits or stay out there and learn how to weather it, soak it in, and though we may get a little beat up in the process, come out on the other side more alive and resilient. It’s easier to cower, keeping our lives all neat and tidy and dry and safe, but then I think we miss out on the adventure riding on the edge of the wind and the rain, beckoning us to try something new, step out in faith, bear through tough times…and grow.

When you fall flat on your face: 9 steps toward resilience

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

Whether or not you are a fan of college track, it’s hard not to be inspired by Heather Dorniden’s unbelievable 600 meter run at the 2008 Big 10 Indoor Track & Field Finals. The celebrated runner for the University of Minnesota had completed two laps of the three-lap race and was leading the pack, as was expected due to her stellar earlier performances. But we all know how quickly adversity can hit. With only 200 meters to go, she tripped and fell hard, face-down on the track, quickly finding herself in last place and a good 25 meters behind the others. But here’s where the miracle happened. Instead of calling it quits, she sprang to her feet in a full-out sprint, and in a most-amazing finish, passed each of her competitors, one by one, and crossed the finish line in first place!  I get chills every time I watch it. To be honest, it makes me cry. If you haven’t seen it, watch (and cry with me) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjejTQdK5OI

Wow, right? It’s rare to find someone with such a dedication to a single-minded purpose combined with the tenacity and grit to make it happen.

When you fall flat on your face, what do you do?

Lou Holtz, an American college and professional football coach, says this: “Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone who has overcome adversity.”

Grit, or resiliency, is the ability to show perseverance and diligence in the face of setbacks.

People who are resilient are able to cope with disappointments and can overcome obstacles that slow others down. But not only can they cope — they are able to bounce back from adversity and often come out ahead of where they started.  Exhibiting grit is not about surviving but thriving.

If you’re human, you’re going to experience disappointments and setbacks. But do you notice how some people seem to jump over the hurdles set before them, while others allow the hurdles to stop them short? Those who struggle with grit tend to see failures as permanent, usually due to inflexible thinking. They tend to dwell in the past, ruminating about previous mistakes and difficult times to the point of getting ‘stuck’. It’s like when you meet someone who’s telling you about their ex-husband, not excluding a detail of all the bad things he did, and how he hurt her, and the marriage — then you come to discover the divorce happened 20 years ago. From the conversation you’d think it happened yesterday. People who lack grit also experience a great deal of negative self-talk. They think and say things like, “How could I be so stupid?“, or “You’ll never fix this one!“.

Setbacks are difficult. Having grit isn’t about being Pollyannaish and pretending the pain of the failure isn’t real, because it is. Experiencing any type of loss hurts.  And we need to take time to grieve. But at some point, we get to determine if we want to bounce back or let this setback be the end of us. Even if you’ve caved in the past, developing resilience is possible for anyone willing to make some small steps in that direction.

“Your choice:  victim or victor.” — Unknown

One step at a time

Many factors can contribute to developing grit, but all it takes is one step at a time to start moving in a positive direction. Which of these will you start with?

  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle.  It is very difficult to have grit when you lack sleep, are exhausted, or overly-stressed. Building in periods of rest and renewal (and fun!) into your life can help develop a resilient outlook when tough times hit.
  • Seek support and surround yourself with friends and family who encourage you.
  • Read stories/watch videos of others who have overcome failures and turned their mess into a mission.
  • Tell yourself, “This too shall pass“. Though the effects of setbacks can feel devastating, the event itself actually is temporary.
  • Challenge your negative self-talk. Using a tool such as a Thought Log” can be a helpful way to sort out negative thoughts from reality.
  • Ask yourself if you’re trying to control something you cannot. Often the circumstances can’t be changed, but your outlook can.
  • Focus on your strengths. Not sure what they are? Try an emotional intelligence assessment to help you determine the areas of life you excel in.
  • Drop the expectation of perfection.  We all mess up. Accept that you may have missed, forgive yourself, and move on.
  • Work with a  social + emotional intelligence coach to become more flexible and adaptable. Often a rigid mindset can prevent us from seeing setbacks as opportunities for growth and change.

When it comes to resiliency, perspective is everything.

If you’re struggling with seeing setbacks as anything else but absolute and complete failure with no hope for the future, stop and ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is the worst thing that can happen?
  2. How likely is it that this worst thing will happen?
  3. What is one thing I can do to stop it from happening?
  4. What is the best thing that can happen?
  5. What is one thing I can do to make that happen?
  6. What is the most likely thing that will happen?
  7. What can I do to handle the most likely thing that will happen?

It hurts to fall flat on our face. And the easiest thing when we do is to lie there and refuse to get up. But we humans are wired to be resilient. We have the choice to rise, sprint forward, and finish the race. What will you do?

“True grit is making a decision and standing by it, doing what must be done.” –John Wayne

A Fresh Start

Article Contributed by Amy Sargent

I’m always amazed how at the end of the year so many with disheartened hearts post about how ready they are for the coming year. Something about the end of December gives us renewed hope in the reset button which, with the dropping of the shiny ball in NYC, will assure us of a fresh start for the year ahead.

As I strolled along the sunny California seashore over the holidays, I realized that I too needed a fresh start. The last few months of this year I felt as if I was swimming, frantically, just to keep my head above water in churning, turbulent ocean, and by mid-December, caught a wave that dumped me into the sand like a discarded, broken shell. There I lay, exhausted and discouraged, on a lonely beach, thinking someone, something would scoop me up as their prized treasure, with the same delight a beachcomber has when he eagerly retrieves that perfect shell half-buried in the sand. Instead, I felt as though the sea had disappeared and in its place a hot, dry desert, barren of the refreshing waters of life I so enjoy, spitefully appeared. And ever since I have been wandering. My mouth is dry and my feet are burning and I am tired. Tired, of walking, walking, walking and getting nowhere, not finding that oasis I so long for. And I know many of you are feeling the same.

What I noticed at the beach this week is that at the end each day, as the sun sinks low on the horizon, the used-up, trampled-upon sand is littered with imprints of all shapes and sizes: bare feet footprints and dog footprints and shoe footprints, a stripe from a beach chair leg being dragged along, a flattened swath where a beach towel lay. Seaweed strewn across water-logged driftwood with a million bugs swarming the dark green mass. A forgotten plastic shovel and an abandoned sandal. A seagull pecking at a dead, rotting fish. Discarded sand castles, their towering walls dismantled and washed away by the relentless waves. And broken shells. Lots of them. It’s a summary of the day’s happenings, the highs and lows, the ups and downs, the wins and losses. Each of us has a colorful backstory and I reflected upon how we spend most of our life trying to hide it from others, some of us doing a rather good job in the facade. But the beach tells all. You can’t take a step there without leaving a trail.

We got up early the next morning and strolled alongside the gentle surf. The sun was new and bright as its clear light cast its first rays across the sparkling waters. And the beach! I was awed by the transformation that had taken place in the night. The once-littered sand was washed smooth by the powerful waves of the high tide. Yesterday was gone. As far as I could see, a clean slate lay before me, eagerly awaiting today’s adventures to leave their mark. I felt alive and giddy and full of hope and wonder for what the new day would bring. I found a tiny perfect sand dollar in the sand.

It’s beautiful how the beach gets a redo each morning. A fresh start.

A few days later, we arrived back home after a long, tiring car ride. The kids left to go to their dad’s, and as I sat here alone in my little apartment, I again felt the dark tug of this year’s disappointments, disillusionment and discouragement grasping at my sun-kissed heart, wanting to pull me back down into the dark waters. Something about it was familiar, and I realized how easy it would be to slip right back. For some reason it is easy to hang on to our hurts, and return to that familiar place of pain, even though it’s so far from the brightness of where we really want to be.

But I don’t want to go back there. I can’t. I refuse to look at last year’s beach littered with disappointments, discarded dreams, and discouragement another moment. Let’s resolve, together, to let the night’s waves work their magic and gift us with a clean canvas, eagerly awaiting our first strokes of paint. Let’s let the past be past and look ahead with anticipation and hope and wonder. Let’s revel in the beauty of the unknown that each new day holds and not get caught up in the fear of what may be. Let’s start walking, boldly, letting our tender feet feel the inviting warmth of the soft white sand spread before us, and let the adventure of a new year unfold. I’m stepping forward. And I hope to see your footprints in the sand next to mine.

May your 2018 be rewarding and joy-filled. Happy New Year!

How I failed in my first year of business

moneyArticle contributed by guest author Aimee Teesdale

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

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

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

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

I became obsessed with the outcome:

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

I got impatient:

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

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

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

I compared myself to other people:

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

I procrastinated:

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

I refused to plateau:

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

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

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

Growing in personal agility

changeaheadArticle contributed by Amy Sargent

When I was first divorced I was very self-conscious going out alone in public. I remember I went to a restaurant, Mimi’s Cafe, in attempt to do something fun on my own like you’re supposed to. It was nothing short of disastrous. I felt like everyone there stared and noticed that I was alone and wondered why?, then had quiet, hushed discussions about how unfortunate my situation was. Of course they weren’t even thinking about me at all, but that is how one’s thought processes are muddled after being married for years then suddenly alone. It’s as if a part of your very being is missing, amputated, and you are going out in public half exposed, naked, like in a bad dream. I choked down my French onion soup and fled as soon as I paid the bill, hot tears streaming down my cheeks, shamed with the acute awareness of my awkwardness in this new, changing situation.

Personal agility is a competency of emotional intelligence, and it was obvious at the time that I had very little of it.  People who are strong in this area are able to manage shifting sands with ease — heck, they can even anticipate the need for change before it comes about!  And not only can they manage it, they have learned to embrace change, and are quick to look for the benefits and positive outcomes that will most likely come about because of the shift.

Oh, what a far cry from my night at Mimi’s!

How is your personal agility?  If you’re like me, you may notice that you tend to deny, ignore, and resist the need for change.  You can feel your discomfort levels rise when you sense a shift occurring.  A common place it happens is at the office. You’ve been doing something one way for a long time, and it works, quite well thank you very much, then someone new comes in and scrambles things up.  New initiatives!  New platforms!  New managers!  And not just new — “new & improved”.  Why can’t we just keep doing things the way we were when the old way worked just fine?

The reality is we are engaged in an ever-changing, advancing environment that is not slow-as-molasses Mayberry, North Carolina, where the old ways of doing things are always the best ways of doing things. Unless we are willing to stretch and step out of our comfort zones, we’ll quickly define ourselves irrelevant and most likely, down the road, out of a job.

If you struggle in this area, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward the adventure of personal agility:

  • Accept that change happens–it always has and it always will.  And like it or not, there’s not a thing you can do to prevent it from occurring.
  • Allow yourself to feel.  The normal human response to change is denial and resistance.  If you’re feeling these, congratulations, your human! But you just don’t get to stay there.
  • Ask questions.  The more you can learn about and understand the changes, especially the why’s behind them, the more you can begin to wrap your head around what your next steps will be.
  • Acknowledge what is in your control and what is not. Focus on the things you can control (your attitudes and reactions) and not on the things you cannot (other people’s attitudes and reactions).
  • Adjust. This is where the hard part kicks in.  Whether or not you agree with the changes, your behavior (how you respond to the change) can be modified.  You’ll want to commit to keeping an open mind and maintaining the ‘big picture’ as you shift your perspective.
  • Accept the help of colleagues, friends, coaches.  Actively seek out people who can help you through the transition and encourage you to see things in a positive light.  Most everyone has had to adjust at one point or another in life, and hearing their stories of how they were resilient can serve as great encouragement.

Fast-forward fifteen years and here I sit at a table in the open, outdoor square of my little neighborhood, fringed with restaurants and bars and stores, and lots of people. Teenagers looking at their phones, trainers hunting for Pokemon, teetering toddlers climbing on the steps with parents hovering close by. A random camera guy taking photos of people and things, an old couple in matching shirts resting their weary shopper legs, lovers kissing, and friends and families eating dinner. I am sitting here alone, in a little dress with my hiking-sandaled feet kicked up on a chair, seeking a moment of respite at the end of 9 hours in front of a computer screen. I’m sipping on a glass of wine, relaxed and content.  I am people watching (obviously). I don’t care if they notice me or not. I look them in the eyes and say hi. Or don’t. I chat with a four year old with messy hair about the truck in his hand and smile at his mom. I feel confident. An attractive lady and her older boyfriend walked by and then she turned back, looked at me and said, “You look so cool sitting there sipping your wine with your red bicycle. Like a scene out of Paris. You just need flowers.” I added, “and a very handsome Frenchman.” They laughed and walked on, and I thought to myself, “You’ve come a long way, baby.”  The ease of the entire situation was a banner of success in my fifteen-year pursuit of learning to adapt to change.

Then with the next sip of wine I inhaled too quickly and choked, so violently that I gagged and the wine threatened to come out my nose. I tried to suppress my cough, shoulders shaking in odd spasms, tears dripping down my face. So much for the chic, Parisian look of cool collectiveness.  Though my personality agility is definitely on the upturn, I’m obviously still awkward as all get out.  But at least nowadays it’s a confident awkwardness.

“It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but those most responsive to change.” — Charles Darwin

Upcoming Classes