Posts Tagged ‘Self-awareness’

13 Ways to Be More Collaborative

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

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

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

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

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

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

It comes down to choice.

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

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

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

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

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

Easier said than done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The History of You

Article contributed by guest author Paige Dest.

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

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

What will be the history of you?

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

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

Managing Work-Related Stress with EQ

Article contributed by guest author Deb Westcott.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is critical to being able to manage stress. Out of all the major EQ competencies, the most powerful tool at your disposal is self-awareness. It allows you to know what your body is telling you, as well as be mindful of how you are adapting internally to outside stressors such as headaches, muscle tension, unsupportive self-talk, worry, and fatigue.

Here are 8 simple things you can do from the comfort of your own desk to combat stress every day:

1. Deep Breathing
The no. 1 most important and most successful stress reducer— resets your body and produces a physiological response.

2. Engage Your Senses
Listening to music, using scented lotion or candles, looking at vacation pictures, playing with stress balls – all of these actions reduce cortisol and increase oxytocin, which disrupts the stress reaction in your body.

3. Visualize a Happy Place
Seriously! It changes your mindset and hits the “restart” button in your body.

4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
A long phrase for listening to where your body is hurting and actively working on relaxing those muscles, one by one. Roll your shoulders, stretch your arms above your head, touch your toes.

5. Laugh
Laughing not only releases endorphins and fosters brain connectivity— it tends to be contagious!

6. Take a Break
(Okay, so there’s one of these that you shouldn’t do at your desk.) Stand up, walk outside, and let your eyes focus on something in the distance. A change of perspective can do you good!

7. Self-Awareness
Stop, listen to what you are saying to yourself, and make sure it’s supportive and positive.

8. Change How You Communicate With Others
Say no, set boundaries, be assertive, and ask for help.

Unless we are present, our bodies and minds react to stress. Knowing ourselves and creating a pro-active plan to reduce stress is our best tool.

Letting Go of Past Resentment for Higher Production

Article contributed by guest author Patricia (Tish) Conlin

What injustices have you suffered in your work as a Business Professional? Are you harboring resentments right now over slights or mishandled situations? We all experience negative emotions in our work and they are painful for sure. As hard working professionals, respect can often be hard to win with clients and staff alike and negative stereotypes can influence others’ treatment of us at times. Whether you have chosen your field of work or have fallen into, we all acknowledge that the casual rejections and ups and downs of any business can overwhelm even the most successful of us. Do you think it is easier to bury the negative emotions of past hurts or project failures deep inside than to face them? Guess what? Those past resentments that you are holding onto are impacting your energy and success today so you need to let them go so you can focus on the present instead of living in the past.

I remember a few years ago working on a huge ERP Recruitment project with a large U.S Client project. It was an incredible success for a year. Then the client got bought out by a bigger company and soon informed us that they were hiring an internal recruitment team and my team all felt doomed. Sure enough, within weeks of working with the internal recruiter, he started consistently rejected our candidates even the rock stars. I was working with our team of recruiters in both Canada and the U.S and there was enormous frustration involved. Everyone started to complain and there was a lot of anger, frustration and resentment. One of the recruiters became almost aggressive with the internal recruiter and the animosity increased. I noticed that things were heading in the wrong direction and was happy when she asked me to take over. What I did to turn this around was not rocket science. I started by separating the internal recruiter’s actions from him as a person. I developed a rapport with him and learned about his life and interests by asking genuine questions. I learned more about his past work and reasons for joining the current company which gave me insights into his decision making confidence. We shared stories and ideas and even laughed together. Then,  I started questioning his decisions to reject our candidates without rancor. I used compelling facts to reconfirmed their skills and track records and create a win-win for both sides. As trust built between us, he started selecting candidates for interviews. Eventually one was hired and the relationship started to become positive and productive. This was not magic. I have built a successful recruitment firm over 20 years because I learned the simple lesson that it never pays to get angry at the other party’s behavior just as it never pays (metaphorically and actually) to hold onto resentment.

If you are able to observe yourself every day and notice that you becoming more tense, irritable or angry on a regular basis, ask yourself what set you off. Sometimes a lost deal or rejected offer can really hurt and it is normal to feel frustrated but if you go to work consistently in a bad mood, you are doing yourself, your staff and your business a real disservice. If we’re honest with ourselves, past wrongs committed by people we expected to respond better aren’t easily forgotten like our normal everyday problems. Betrayal seeps into the bones and carves a well of toxic thoughts and feelings. Anger feels like an effective answer to betrayal, and it takes a lot of pain and suffering to raise your own little army of resentments. Unfortunately, that army is actually a bunch of crafty warriors that are attacking YOU and destroying your ability to let go and move on to better circumstances. Letting go of resentment can be incredibly hard but is incredibly powerful and will help you shift back into higher productivity at work and in life.

Below are some great tips to shift out of resentment and get back to being productive and

  1.  GAIN PERSPECTIVE- It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when your unresolved feelings begin snowballing into anger and blame. Be aware of or record your feelings in writing. Revisit later and see if those feelings make sense in the bigger picture.
  2. LET IT GO – They probably forgot already. Consider the perspective of the one who hurt you. This person is not sitting gleefully reliving how they once affronted you. More likely, they were unaware they did you harm or totally forgot. No amount of emotive rage will change the past. It’s natural to go through stages of grief when you’ve been hurt in some way. Let yourself go through them. Then let it go.
  3. TAKE THE HIGH ROAD – Taking the high road feels amazing. By now you’ve probably noticed that resentment hasn’t gotten you anywhere. That’s because you’re putting your energy and resources into nursing animosity instead of more fruitful endeavors. When you discuss the situation with the person who wronged you, focus on win-win outcomes for both to build a better go forward. Try to understand why the other person responded the way they did and whether stress or specific circumstances caused the reaction. Bring empathy and understanding to the discussion is hugely helpful. If there is a pattern of disappointment or lack of trust, opt to move on graciously instead of making a scene. It never is worth while holding onto a client or any relationship where trust has been permanently breaches.

To avoid resentment, set clear and realistic expectations with clients, candidates and staff/managers to start. Think of what you want and what they want and how both parties can achieve their goals successfully. Remember the below quote when a situation is taking charge of your moods:

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.” —Hermann Hesse

I’m inspired to help other Business Professionals achieve their true potential. Why? I’m passionate about the business of living fully and achieving personal and professional goals that are meaningful. During the decades of owning and running a leading Talent Solutions company, I have witnessed countless people suffering from burn-out, chronic illness, severe stress, depression and anxiety. I’ve experiences the joy of the ups and the agony of the downs in our business and decided to use my decades of experience and training as a successful Business Professional, Black Belt Martial Artist, Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Emotional Intelligence Trainer to develop specific training and coaching programs that address the soft skills needed to create lasting success. These (6 Session video and audio) on-line courses help you learn how to increase energy, improve performance and build more resilient, focused and engaged teams and are available at www.tishconlin.com

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” ~ Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

 

3 Quick and Easy Mindfulness Practices to Help you Stay Sane while Parenting a Twice-Exceptional (2e) Child

Article contributed by guest author Dayana Sanchez.

One of my intentions is to help parents of 2e children, not just to survive, but to thrive. If you are the parent of a gifted or 2e child, you have a big mission in this world. It is not an easy one. It is ongoing hard work, day after day.

How can you keep up with the ceaseless demands of life in addition to figuring out how to support the needs of your uniquely gifted child? Therapies, extracurricular activities, tutoring, play dates, IEP meetings, and the list goes on. How do you take care of yourself in the midst of it all? What practices do you have in place to help you stay centered and grounded?

Your role in the development of your child’s talents is a big deal, and the world needs you. If you are thriving, your child will do so too. Take a moment to imagine a world in which your child is flourishing and contributing their gifts to society. Pretty awesome, right?

I’d like to share some daily mindfulness practices that help me stay grounded in the midst of anything. I believe in these practices so much that I’m certain they would make anyone’s life easier. Whether you have gifted children, 2e children, or no children, incorporating these simple mindfulness practices will help you manage stress, release tension, and navigate the daily challenges and difficulties of life with more ease and clarity.

While the word mindfulness may make you think of long hours of painful cross-legged sitting, you don’t have to be an experienced meditator to reap its benefits. Mindfulness is a portable practice. It is something you can practice any time of the day and even on the go.

I like this definition by Jon Kabat-Zinn because he is a scientist who has been doing research on the benefits of mindfulness for decades. Simply put,

“Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

So, the trick here lies in purposely paying attention to whatever is happening around you, in your body, or in your mind. You choose what to pay attention to. As long as you are consciously bringing awareness to whatever is happening in the present moment, you are practicing mindfulness.

When there is a gifted child in your family, life can get very hectic, and it can be easy to get lost in a frantic atmosphere that builds up stress and agitation on a day-to-day basis. By creating mindful routines within your regular routines, you exercise your attention muscle and cultivate more awareness in your life. This opens up space within you that allows you to move away from reactivity and be more present and available for your child, your family, and yourself.

Try incorporating these practices one by one or all at once. Your choice. Make it fun and stay with it. If you forget to do it one day, just pick up where you left off and move forward. Mindfulness is also about being kind to ourselves, so make it an experiment and try not to put pressure on yourself. Explore, see what feels right, and get ready to enjoy the benefits.

Create a Daily Ritual

I started experimenting with a morning ritual inconsistently for a few days and began to notice its benefits almost immediately. Since I started doing it every day, this has been a game changer. This practice is one of the things that have made the most impact on my daily attitude and mood.

So, what happens during a daily ritual? It is up to you. The idea is to intentionally set aside a few minutes during the day, every day, to become present and connect with yourself. First, make a conscious choice about what you want to create as part of your ritual. You can use it for some self-reflection, intention/goal setting, or to enrich your day with some inspiration to influence your state of mind positively.

You could write down some questions to ask yourself and post them in a place where you are likely to see them every day, ideally, at the same time. These could be questions that would help you tune into what’s going on in your mind, your body, or within your emotional landscape. Although it is not necessary, writing some questions or affirmations ahead of time will help you with your intention to engage in your ritual every day.

A daily ritual doesn’t have to be in the morning. You can have one at night or during the middle of the day. Just choose a time when you are more likely to stick with it.

There are a couple of advantages of having a ritual in the morning. Have you ever tried laying in bed for a few minutes before the pressures of daily life come rushing in? That feeling of newness and excitement about what the day will bring is something we can only get in the morning.

The first thing you do as soon as you wake up will set the tone for the rest of your day. I have been guilty of the horrible habit of grabbing my phone and checking my emails first thing in the morning, but we don’t know how bad something is for us until we stop doing it and replace it with better habits.

If it is possible for you, take some time every morning to slowly transition to your physical world. Take advantage of those first few minutes of a brand new day when your brain is still producing alpha waves. Stimulation of these waves has been linked to boosting creativity and reducing depression. This state of transition can be a great opportunity to tap into our inner wisdom and is a perfect time for a daily ritual.

Do Nothing

Life has periods of doing and periods of non-doing. It cannot be all about doing, doing, and doing some more. Living this way is not sustainable because we eventually crash and end up losing a lot more time recovering.

Taking care of yourself and your emotional well-being is like maintaining a car. If you are using your car recklessly, not paying attention to what it needs, and constantly draining the gas tank, your car is going to end up in the shop sooner or later, which can be pricey and dangerous.

The same goes for the way you treat your mind and body. Making time for rest is a necessity. Often, in our action-oriented culture that values multitasking and over-achieving, rest seems like something we should be ashamed of. It’s almost as if we have to hide to take a break. But rest is not only our right; it is our responsibility.

Those of you who have traveled on a plane before have heard this time and time again: In case of a flight emergency, you need to put your oxygen mask on yourself before helping your child put theirs on. Not the other way around. Pay attention to your needs so that you can have the mental and physical energy to pay attention to your child’s needs. Take time to replenish and make it a regular practice.

To practice not doing anything you have to set time aside for it. You only need two to five uninterrupted minutes during your day. Schedule it on your calendar and make your family aware of this. If just the thought of this is too overwhelming for you, try to start with a few days a week. Treat this time as something sacred and whatever you do, do not feel guilty! This takes practice.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” ~ Blaise Pascal”

And what are you supposed to do when doing nothing? If you have never practiced doing nothing, this may seem strange at first. The Taoists call this ancient art of doing nothing, Wu Wei, which means “the action of no action.”

You can start by going in your room and taking a moment to sit still for a few minutes. Relax your shoulders and start to slow your breath down. Begin to notice where there is tension or tightness in your body and do some light stretching if it feels right for you. Continue bringing more attention to your body and physical sensations. Let the breath be your compass. If you find your mind drifting away to thoughts of obligations, commitments, or other things, just gently guide your attention back to your breath. Notice the pauses between your exhalations and inhalations. Focus on the ebb and flow of your breath. Simply observe.

You can set a timer and just notice what happens during this time. The art of doing nothing should be effortless, so the only effort required is in finding the time to do nothing.

Have a Daily Check-In

Another short and simple practice to incorporate into your daily routine is taking a moment to check in with yourself. At any time of the day, we can pause and intentionally bring our awareness to our body, surroundings, feelings, emotions, or breath. You can practice this anytime, anywhere; while waiting in line at the grocery store, after dropping the kids off at school, during dinner, etc.

Simply stop for a moment and observe. What is happening in your mind at this time? Are you going over that ever-increasing to-do list or are you present with whatever is happening around you?

You can set a reminder or an intention to remember to do this every day. I have a daily reminder on my phone where I ask myself, “Am I present?” Most of the time, I am not. Having the reminder serves as a tap on the shoulder to become present, even if it’s only for a moment. With practice, our periods of being present become longer and longer.

You don’t have to be perfect at this. In fact, no one is. I believe being present is the ultimate challenge for us human beings. So, when you do find yourself being present, pat yourself on the back because you are doing some profound work. This is the kind of inner work that can help you find more clarity and harmony in your life, which will be reflected in your daily interactions with your family and loved ones.

Mindfulness invites us to observe things as they are without any judgments of how things should be. It is a powerful tool that can reveal to us our behavioral and thinking patterns and the ways we typically interact with our environment and with those around us. It can also provide a great deal of information about how we relate to ourselves as well as the kinds of inner dialogues that tend to inhabit our minds. While these revelations may not be entirely fun or pleasant at the beginning, the good news is that it gets easier the more we do it. The more mindful we become, the easier life becomes.

After giving these practices a try, let me know what you start to notice in your life. New and unexpected things may emerge for you. Feel free to reach out if you need some guidance on how to apply this or if you would like to learn more about mindfulness. I have been practicing it for more than ten years, and I’m very passionate about bringing mindfulness to families and children.

How to have an emotionally intelligent weekend

 

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

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

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

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

“No weekend, all weakened.” — Toba Beta

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

Check In

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

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

Ask yourself this

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

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

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

 

 

 

Putting a stop to poor behavior

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

Have you ever reacted poorly to a situation that you regretted later?

Yeah, me neither.

Of course I say that tongue-in-cheek. If we are human and breathe air, we all have reacted in a way that could’ve left something to be desired, probably more times than not. When our ‘hot button’ is pressed, it is easy to slip down a path of hurtful, destructive behavior.  In the moment, reacting out of frustration or anger ‘seems’ to be the right thing.  But later, you know the sick feeling that sets in. Whether it’s when you’re cut off in traffic, or being disrespected by your manager, or during an argument with a loved one, it’s easy to allow someone else to trigger our bad behaviors.  But we are not helpless to our poor choices. Notice I used the word allow.  Others can’t make us act poorly — that’s on us.  We get to decide how we allow ourselves to react in difficult situations.

I don’t know how many people I’ve heard say, “This is just who I am” in response to being called out on poor behavior.  As if there’s nothing that can be done because it’s who they are, down to their DNA wiring. And that’s usually where the excuses follow: “My dad was this way”, or “that person made me mad”,  or “she disrespected me”, “I felt lonely”, or “it’s the only way I’ve known.” Think of the excuses you’ve heard when you’ve called someone out on poor behavior.  Or think of the excuses you use when someone calls you out. But reacting poorly does not need to define who we are — it defines what we do…actions, responses, behavior.  And the good new is, behavior can be changed.

Behavioral self-control is a competency of emotional intelligence and one that has a powerful impact on the quality of our relationships. Those who are strong in behavioral self-control are able to manage their impulsive feelings, even when distressed or in trying moments.  In times of pain or conflict, they can think clearly and remain ‘cool under pressure.’  They are able to restrain negative reactions that can be hurtful to themselves and others, and make the choice to not escalate the problem when attacked or provoked.

Those that struggle in this area — which is most of us — tend to react impulsively and respond to struggles in a non-constructive way. They tend to get involved in inappropriate situations because they don’t think they can resist temptations, and become angry, depressed or agitated when faced with stresses that trigger hurt feelings.

“He who blows his top loses all his thinking matter.” — Chinese proverb

If you’re one to tends to act poorly when under stressful or hurtful situations, take heart. Again, this is not who you are but how you’re acting.  Making an effort to  shift ways of thinking and behaving is something we are all capable of.  Self-awareness is a good first step. Do you recognize poor behaviors in your past?  Do you recognize any trends (are you doing the same sort of things when the same sort of negative events are encircling you)?

Once you’re aware and decide that you’d like to make a shift, consider asking yourself these questions to move toward more healthy reactions:

  • What are my triggers? Write down the incidents and feelings that cause a negative response.  These may be the same situations in which you act on impulse, and it is good to name these.  At this point, don’t try to figure out why they are hot buttons–just write them down to get them out in front of you.
  • What am I feeling?  In these trigger moments, what are you feeling and where in your body are you feeling it?  Does your heart race?  Do you get a headache?  Do you feel shame?  Do you feel angry toward someone not involved in the current situation? Do you feel sick to your stomach or do your hands start to shake? Do you feel depressed or discouraged?  Start noting what you’re feeling in these moments of tension.
  • What am I telling myself?  Positive self-talk is vital to making a shift from poor behaviors to more constructive ones.  Note what that little voice whispers to you in the moments of stress.  Some common negative self-conversations are: “This [insert poor choice] is what I get  because I’m a bad person”, “I’ve worked hard so I deserve [insert poor choice]”, or “I always mess this up, so what does it matter if I [insert poor behavior]?” Be honest on this one — learning to hear your negative self-talk and stopping it when it happens can help you rewrite your behavioral story.
  • How do I react? Write down any typical behaviors you’ve engaged in when you feel those feelings and hear that negative self-talk.  Do you drink too much? Do you lash out at someone else?  Do you hide and withdraw from relationships? Do you seek out unhealthy relationships just to feel connection? Do you go shopping? Be honest with yourself and note the route you usually choose when your triggers are set off. Again, being aware of these is a great place to start.
  • How do these behaviors make me feel? In the moment, poor behaviors can give us a temporary ‘lift’ — but the guilt and regret that sets in shortly after often take away that high and can lead to self-loathing and depression.  Make a 2-column chart and label the first “what I do” and in the second “how I feel”.  It’s helpful to see the correlation between behaviors and the resulting feelings.
  • What damage have I caused? Take a moment to write out the cost of the hurtful behavior.  It may be “I blew my budget again”, “I had a terrible hangover”, “I’ve ruined my chance at a promotion”, or “I’ve broken someone’s trust”.  Whatever it is, the best thing at this point is to own it by recognizing damage done.
  • How could I respond differently? Again we’re back to choice — we get to choose how we respond.  For each of your triggers, write out an alternative response that could potentially bring about more positive results.  Knowing there are other choices to make can help when your button is pushed next time…and there will be a next time.  Coming up with new ways of responding is a way of preparing yourself for those future struggles.
  • How will I feel when I choose a better response? Self-worth, proud, happy, confident, etc. Come up with your own words, write them down, and post them somewhere you can see them every day.

Finding a trusted friend, counselor, or coach to help you stay accountable as you embark on this new path can be a great resource. Just speaking your intentions out loud to someone can help with awareness next time it happens. You don’t have to do this alone.

Finally, learn to forgive yourself. You’re going to mess up — we all do — and even though you had good intentions on reacting better, you’ll still find yourself saying or doing something you wish you hadn’t have from time to time. Apologize where needed, ask yourself the above questions again, spend some time talking to  friend, coach, or counselor, then get out there and try again. Author Steve Goodier says this:

“Bring it up, make amends, forgive yourself. It sounds simple, but don’t think for a second that it is easy. Getting free from the tyranny of past mistakes can be hard work, but definitely worth the effort. And the payoff is health, wholeness and inner peace. In other words, you get your life back.”

Some hurtful actions may have greater consequences than others, and you’ll have to deal with those. Poor behaviors, especially those you do on a consistent basis, can destroy friendships and break down relationships. Some relationships will need to be put to rest because some behaviors are too painful for the other person to deal with or forgive. But don’t let that keep you from getting up the next morning and trying again.

Remember that making shifts in a new direction isn’t something that happens overnight, and it’s not easy. It’s hard work, exhausting at times, and you may hit places of doubting whether or not you can ever behave any differently.  Stay in the fight. Your progress may be slow, but well worth the effort.  Your sense of self-value, knowing that you have control over how you act, is empowering and will open you up to healthier, happier relationships.  You got this.

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world, as in being able to remake ourselves.” — Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

Tips to Maintain Passion and Stay Focused at Work

Article contributed by guest author Patricia Conlin.

(Adapted from original posting in October on EMinfo.com)

Without a burning daily sense of purpose, sometimes we start to get lazy or even worse give up on personal and professional goals. When we are driven by purpose, we can navigate through set-backs and challenges better than if we are just motivated by the need of paying bills or buying a new car. What is your purpose? What purpose will get you out of bed on chilly days or dreary days or slow days? What will fuel your passion to pick up the phone, connect with an old customer, reach out to a service provider or book a weekend conference to connect with fellow colleagues? It is well worth the time to think about some of your key values that you want to incorporate into your work, develop your own personal mission statement as well as setting financial and personal goals. I have said many times that writing down goals is powerful and even more powerful is visualizing yourself achieving them for a few minutes every day. Our brains can be hard-wired for success by daily action steps as well as lifestyle upgrades that help us maintain high levels of energy to achieve our goals.

Here are some tips to maintain passion and stay focused at work to be the best you can be:

1. Stay inspired

Any meaningful project or work takes a large amount of daily focus. Before setting goals, ask yourself why you should do it and what will keep you motivated. It is for your kids, husband, wife, friend, community or dog? What emotions do you imagine feeling when you succeed? Pride, joy, peace, excitement, confidence? Find ways to make the journey towards your goals more fun, like allowing your creativity and imagination to flourish while involved in your work. Look for ways to put your unique stamp on your work or to change the way your approach things daily to avoid falling into the rut of uninspired and poor effort.

2. Create small daily goals or action lists

Create a daily “to do” list that is achievable and works towards both short-term and long-term goals. It’s always helpful when you have your list of tasks beside your computer so you can always see it, and check off completed tasks for a sense of accomplishment. You can keep daily lists in a handy binder so you can see it or use your PC or mobile device if you prefer that way. Remember to also create quarterly and annual goals (and even 5 and 10 year goals) and refer to them on a regular basis.

3. Prioritize Work Projects daily

The first hour at work is where most people are productive. This is because all energies are yet to be spent. So put all the taxing, difficult and challenging tasks on your agenda during the first hour. Follow these with the high priority calls and then end with those routine administrative tasks that you find boring. Do this and you won’t be stressed with important projects at the end of the workday.

Another potentially time consuming and distracting activity is email. Let’s face it: We all get a lot. It’s likely a heavy mix of personal and work correspondence, promos and some spam. One good way to a whole day spent on emails is to have a separate email address for work and one for your personal email. Have them both powered to filter all emails for junk. Once you have free time on hand, check emails again and unsubscribe from senders who you could live without. Make sure you limit your email time to set hours during the day as well so you aren’t distracted during phone calls or typing in the background!

4. Make phone use a priority

Phone conversations can build powerful bonds between you and others and can help sway a client to use your service. When you make a regular habit of phoning others, they feel more engaged and will open up more for better long term relationships. Personal calls during work hours can take away from focus and productivity and should be kept to breaks or lunch hour if possible. If you receive an unexpected call with important news and need to think about how to respond, try writing down all the details and telling the person that you will call them back later to give yourself time to better prepare a response.

5. Keep your desk de-cluttered and comfortable

Many people find working exhausting even if it’s done seated most of the time. An uncomfortable work environment will make working more difficult so don’t lose precious time and be distracted with discomfort. Get a really good chair with great back support. Also make sure you get up every 20 minutes to stretch to avoid cramps and fatigue. Try to avoid staring at your computer for hours so you avoid eye strain. Keep clutter to a minimum as it can prove to be distracting. To stay focused at work, only have the things you need neatly piled on your desk and put the rest away or file it where you can find it when required. Leave personal belongings on a separate space nearby.

6. Stay away from social networking sites

These sites aren’t meant to be checked all the time. So discipline yourself to log in only when you have extra minutes free. There’s a strong tendency that you’ll stay much longer than planned with most social networking sites. Not only will it defeat your purpose of staying focused at work, but there’s plenty of information there that could get your mind unnecessarily irritated or occupied which will distract you from your daily goals.

7. Stay properly hydrated

Drinking water isn’t only healthy, it refreshes you as well. Once you feel the first sign of fatigue or hunger, a glass of water can push them away. Getting up to go to the water cooler helps stretch your legs and refocus for the next task. Recent studies indicate that up to 80% of the population doesn’t get enough water which leads to chronic dehydration and fatigue!

8. Eat healthy protein rich snacks

Like having water close by, healthy and protein rich snacks will settle a hungry stomach and balance blood sugar levels for a boost in energy. Nuts, seeds, yogurt or protein bars are some good options and if you have a sweet tooth, opt for dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate as an upgrade.

#Success #Passion #Potential

 

Ready or not, here I come

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

Do you remember playing hide-and-go-seek?

My brothers and I spent countless summertime evening hours in our grassy backyard, hiding.  The old ash tree was base, and the person who was “It” would begin counting, to 200 by 5’s, face buried (no peeking) in their hands against the tree.  The rest of us would scatter, seeking out optimal hiding places where we’d never be found — behind the scraggly cedar bush, up high in the apple tree, lying flat beneath the grapevine, crouched behind the old shed. And then we’d wait.  The suspense built as “It” got closer and closer to 200, and once there, he’d turn away from the tree shouting a triumphant, “Ready or not, here I come!“, and the search was on.  One by one, “It” would flush us out of hiding, and we’d engage in a race for the tree with hopes of reaching base first.

Sometimes, or rare occasions, I’d choose a particularly amazing hideout.  I would hear the others’ screams of surprise and mock-terror as their hiding places were discovered and the race for base ensued. I would sit still, not moving a muscle, barely breathing, proud of myself that I’d found such a good spot, though my crouched legs began to ache. I became aware that I was quite alone in the dark. It didn’t take long for the thrill being the last one to be found to turn into frustration, boredom, and isolation.  I was separated from the others running around, laughing and chatting together, while I just cowered there doing nothing. The longer I stayed in hiding, the less fun I had and the more fun everyone else was having without me.  I knew it was time to come out of hiding and make a break for home base.  But–was it worth it?  What if I was tagged before I made it home? I knew I could leverage my strength of speedy legs, and if it came down to an all-out sprint, I’d win. But only if I had the element of surprise.  I’d hover there, silent and still, poised to run, contemplating when was the best time to make a dash for freedom. Finally, when I couldn’t take the seclusion anymore, I’d leap up and fly as fast as my feet would carry me toward the old ash tree.

Does this story have a point?

It does.

Hiding works for a while but after too long it gets old.  We as humans desire to be seen, known, and understood, but oddly we are very good at hiding.  Especially from ourselves.

“The vast majority of adults have never met themselves.” — Mokokoma Mokhonoana

Accurate self-assessment is a competency of emotional intelligence.  It’s having an inner awareness of our strengths and limitations…knowing ourselves fully. It takes honesty and at times, a brutal truthfulness about where we shine and where we stumble. It often requires us to uncover, peel back, and reveal who we really are, no matter how this exposure make us feel about ourselves. But discovering our true selves, especially the not-so-pretty parts, can be downright scary.  What if we don’t like what we find?  What if others don’t like what they find? It often seems much easier to find a place to hide and stay there, crouching, in the dark.

This great cover up takes many shapes and forms.  Some of us hide ourselves in too much work. Others hide behind success, or a lack of success. Some of us take comfort in plastering a smile on our faces and never speaking our truth. Some hide behind humor, or drama, or complacency. We all do it in some shape or form.  No matter how developed your emotional intelligence is, it’s likely that some part of you is shrouded.  And it’s your choice to stay there.  But until you leap up and make a break for it, you may never reach the freedom of home base.

Are you willing to take a hard look at your blind spots? Vironika Tugaleva, author of The Art of Talking to Yourself, says this: “To know yourself, you must sacrifice the illusion that you already do.” I know, it’s easier to lay low, and not delve into our areas of growth.  Out of sight, out of mind.  That’s better, right?

Though it may seem easier to hide, staying hidden, unknown, and unseen becomes excruciating if it lasts too long. Hiding leads to a lack of self-awareness and separate us from knowing ourselves, and being a part of community, two factors that take a toll on our emotional health. In an article entitled, How Your Self-Awareness Affects Everything You Do, author Phillip Clark says this: “Altogether, self-awareness contributes to a leader’s emotional intelligence, which plays a critical part in their ability to effectively convey messages, recognize motivations, understand emotions, and manage relationships.” (https://www.thriveglobal.com/stories/26329-leadership-behavior-self-awareness).

Knowing ourselves fully by coming out of hiding may be one of the toughest things we do. But it’s the only way we can develop a sense of accurate self-awareness and be fully engaged in our relationships.  So how do we make the break for home base?

1-Identify why you’re hiding.   One good way to unveil the whys is to look at your fears, and list them out. Our fears can indicate what is important to us — what we fear we might lose.  Journal about what you are afraid of.  Maybe it’s a loss of financial freedom, or feeling insignificant, or failure. No matter how ‘silly’ they may sound, allow yourself to admit these fears are there.  We all have them and figuring out what they are is a great first step.

 “To know a species, look at its fears. To know yourself, look at your fears. Fear in itself is not important, but fear stands there and points you in the direction of things that are important. Don’t be afraid of your fears, they’re not there to scare you; they’re there to let you know that something is worth it.” — C. JoyBell C.

2-Recognize and name your hiding places. You know where they are — you’ve most likely been crouching in them for years.  Mine is entertainment — when I’m laughing, and having a good time, I can pretend my stress and anxieties don’t exist. And if I fill my time with enough entertainment, then I’ll never have to face my fears, right? If you’re having trouble pin-pointing your hiding spots, ask a trusted friend.  Often the areas that are blind spots can be brought into the light with the help of someone who is close to you.

All of us make mistakes. The key is to acknowledge them, learn, and move on. The real sin is ignoring mistakes, or worse, seeking to hide them. ” — Robert Zoellick

3-Weigh the risks. The hiding space you’ve created may be quite comfortable at this point, but you’re going to have to risk leaving it to discover the real you.  Ask yourself, “What’s the best thing that could happen if I leave?  What’s the worst thing that could happen if I leave?’ A simple way to work up some bravery is to list out your strengths and areas of growth. For each, write down an example of when that strength or area of growth showed up in your life, to determine if it’s real or just something you’ve concocted in your head.  Ask yourself, “Are there real examples of when these strengths or areas of growth appeared, and if so, what were they, when did they happen, and with whom?” Take a good look at these, then try to make peace with them.  We all have our good qualities and not-so-good qualities, and sometimes seeing them on paper help put them into perspective.

In life, we must choose to quiet ourselves and go through a period of reflection, an instance in time for evaluating our strengths vs. our weaknesses, an interval in time for recognizing the real from deceit, a moment in time for making necessary life adjustments for personal welfare. It’s through such, we begin to know ourselves.” –D. Allen Miller, author of Scarlet Tears

4-Leverage your strengths. Like I knew my speedy legs would carry me to home base, your strengths can be the very thing that help you run toward the freedom of accurate self-assessment. For example, if you have good people skills, are you using those relationship strengths to connect with others? Do you eat lunch alone or sit with your colleagues? Are you using your interpersonal skills to build rapport with coworkers and team members, or keeping them all to yourself? Take a closer look at your strengths and brainstorm ways you could begin leveraging them. Our greatest successes tend to come from putting ourselves in a place where we can express our strengths.  It’s important you know what they are and how to use them. If you struggle with this, enlisting the help of a social + emotional intelligence coach may help.

The better you know yourself, the better your relationship with the rest of the world.” –Toni Collette

5-Go.  At some point, you just have to make a break for it.  No one else can make the decision for you to come out of hiding.  But it’s the only to grow in this area of accurate self-assessment. It’s up to you whether you will — but ready or not, you’ll be on your way to seeing yourself a little more clearly and opening up the opportunity to connect more deeply with others.

He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”  — Lao Tzu

 

 

 

 

Do you have a blind spot?

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

I knew I was in trouble within the first 50 yards.

It was mid-summer and I’d been riding for a good two months. In early spring, I had taken up the new-to-me sport of mountain biking, learning the basics from an experienced friend then getting out there and hitting the trails as soon as the snow melted. I embarked upon easy, rambling, single-track paths that cut through scenic groves of aspen, across meadows, and into deep mountain forests, with very few inclines or technical spots to maneuver through. These were beginner trails, but I was having so much fun I kind of missed the fact there were differing levels of terrain. I so enjoyed the breathtaking views and healthy ‘burn’ in my legs from pedaling for an hour at a time. I was feeling like a rock star navigating these routes with ease. So, I did what any brand-new rider would do (not): I registered for the Winter Park Mountain Bike race series.

The first race of the series was an altitude ride, starting at 8500 feet, approximately 10 miles long with an elevation gain of 2500 feet. I had a decent bicycle, a hard tail, but one that was much more lightweight than my previous hand-me-down bike, and with my thrift store biking shorts and colorful, sleeveless top with pockets in the back, I felt well-prepared for the competition. Water — check. New cleats on my shoes — check. Energy snacks in pocket — check.  There was a chill in the air on morning of the race, and I couldn’t tell if it was from the cool temperatures at elevation or from the pre-race jitters. I was excited to be a part of the athletic, well-toned crowd of participants that gathered at the start, giddy that I’d so quickly become a mountain biker!

The starting gun exploded, and we were off. The first 50 yards were uphill, and within minutes my legs were weak, my lungs were screaming, and I found myself immediately falling to the back of the several hundred women riders. Huh?  I’d been training…!? And in the back is where I stayed. Within the first couple of miles, I was exhausted, mentally and physically, a jumble of embarrassment, fear that I might not be able to finish, and sheer physical fatigue. I fought off the cry-feeling as I struggled to tackle the steep hill climbs, the rocky, uneven paths, the stream crossings, and the lack-of-oxygen at elevation. I wrecked. I wrecked again.  A woman who looked to be well over 80 years of age whizzed by me, as did a young girl with a pink dinosaur helmet. I lost one of my cleats which enabled one of my furiously-pedaling feet to fly off the pedal each time I hit a bump — which was every few seconds. I couldn’t help but have the “da da da, da da, da” tune spinning ’round in my head, visualizing the Wicked Witch of the West frantically pedaling through the tornado on her old bicycle. On one sharp corner, I sailed right off the trail, landing in a tangle of brambles. As I attempted to climb one particular hill, I came to a complete stop and had to walk my bike the rest of the way. I got stuck in the muck of the water crossings and even did an “end-o” when I hit a large rock square on, landing flat on my back, knocking the wind out of me, as the few riders behind me quickly swerved to not run me over. It was obvious: I was in way over my head.  My leg was bleeding, my fingers ached from my death-like grip on the handlebars, and my mental well-being was, well, not so well. I was completely overwhelmed. As I passed one of the last water stations, I could hear the volunteer deliver a static message on the walkie-talkie as they started packing up the table: “That’s the last one”. Wow. Last place. Me — last? I never get last place! This thought again triggered the cry-feeling. After what seemed like an eternity, I saw the arch of the finish line ahead, glistening like the Emerald City. Very few spectators were left, as the riders they were cheering on had finished long before me. I crossed over the chalked white line, lay down my bike, collapsed in the grass, and cried.

Accurate self-assessment is a competency of emotional intelligence. It’s that inner awareness of our strengths and limitations, an ability to discern what we can and can’t do. People who have it have a good clue what they can accomplish — and what they cannot. They tend to be reflective and learn from past experiences. They are aware of their surroundings and where they fit in.

It’s something that was absent before my race, and very present at the end.

In her book Insight, Tasha Eurich makes a surprising finding after conducting a series of surveys: “95% of people think they’re self-aware, but only 10-15% truly are.” And the causes of this ‘miss’? Blind spots (those hidden areas where we need to grow), the ‘feel-good effect’ (we feel better when we see ourselves positively and ignore our faults), and what she calls ‘cult of self’, which is our tendency to be self-absorbed. (https://www.amazon.com/Insight-Surprising-Others-Ourselves-Answers/dp/0525573941/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1534976016&sr=8-1&keywords=tasha+eurich+insight)

Regarding my mountain biking skills, prior to the race, I was obviously NOT in the 10-15 percentile. I missed. Badly. And I reaped the consequences. The humiliation and absolute, overwhelming exhaustion I experienced, not to mention how sore I was for the following week from the bumps and bruises on both my body and my ego, served as a healthy reminder of my lack of accurate self-assessment.

Where do you fall in that percentage? Are you truly self-aware of your strengths and limitations?

There are some indicators in those who struggle with this competency. They tend to want to appear right in the eyes of others and compete instead of cooperate. Teamwork and collaboration skills may be low (one of the areas I struggle with!). They often won’t ask for help and exaggerate their own contributions and efforts. Those that are low in this emotional intelligence competency often set unrealistic, overly ambitions, unattainable goals, and push themselves hard, at the expense of other important aspects of their lives. Sound familiar? I see it now. I had no business entering that race — but at the time my over-inflated view of my skills and abilities took precedence.

“Because your brain uses information from the areas around the blind spot to make a reasonable guess about what the blind spot would see if only it weren’t blind, and then your brain fills in the scene with this information. That’s right, it invents things, creates things, makes stuff up!” — Daniel Gilbert

Hopefully your ability to accurately self-assess will provide valuable insight that prevents you from entering a mountain bike race that’s beyond your capability. But you may notice it crop up from time to time in other areas of your life. Maybe you commit to spending more hours on a project than you actually have. Maybe you catch yourself bragging on an accomplishment, so you look good, or are caught embellishing stories to make them sound more grandiose. Maybe…you fill in the blank. Most likely, after the fact, you’ll realize where you missed.  And if you don’t, someone will probably let you know.

Who knows, you may be that close. You could be uncovering a blind spot or two away to take your career to the next height…” — Assegid Habetwold, author of The 9 Cardinal Building Blocks: For Continued Success in Leadership

Is there hope for those of us who struggle with this competency? Of course. We’re talking about behavior, and behavior can be changed. We often just need a signal, a warning flag, an alarm which goes off when it’s time to make a shift. How to develop this sort of intuition? For starters, try these steps:

  • Assess.  Consider taking a social + emotional intelligence assessment, or the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or a 360 multi-rater assessment to learn more about your strengths and areas of growth.
  • Learn. Read a book, sign up for a workshop, or enroll in a class to learn new things. Be open to gaining fresh insights and perspectives to develop a mindset of ongoing growth and improvement.
  • Ask. Reach out to friends, colleagues, and those close to you for feedback. This is a tough one, especially if you don’t like hearing anything negative about yourself. But often the reflections of others are the only way to recognize a blind spot.
  • Reflect. Look back on past choices you’ve made, especially those that caused angst, and journal about what went right and what went wrong.
  • Monitor.  Observe and watch what others do, when they’re successful and when they fall. A Zen proverb says, “It takes a wise man to learn from his mistakes, but an even wiser man to learn from others.”

It’s always a good idea to consider teaming up with a social + emotional intelligence coach to ensure you make progress as you head down the trail to more accurate self-assessment.

Though simple, these steps may just be what you need to move into the 10-15% of self-aware people in this world. And it may save you from unnecessary bumps and bruises that blind spots can cause — which some of us, ahem, no names mentioned, were not able to avoid.

We all have blind spots – those areas for improvement and growth. As painful as it can be to admit we’re doing things we never wanted to do and saying things we never wanted to say, it is this acknowledgement that enables us to take the first step toward change. Be gentle with yourself. Be real with yourself. Take baby steps.” — Rhonda Louise Robbins

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