Posts Tagged ‘Self Management’

A lesson in emotional intelligence–from the critters

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

I built a little pond on my plot at my community garden last year. I’ve put a lot of loving work into it, gathering and arranging rocks, purchasing a bubbling solar fountain, and nudging plants to life around its perimeter. I collected cattails from a nearby stream and replanted them along with a few lily pads and other water plants. One of my neighbors even put fish in it which we both feed.

So you can imagine my frustration arriving every day to discover the rocks have been thrown in, plants are torn up and knocked over, and the pump is disassembled in pieces at the bottom of the pond. The foam pump float has been ripped apart, full of tiny fingernail imprints. Grrr! Who would do this?!

My garden neighbors have a wild child whom I caught several times last year playing in my pond, throwing rocks, trampling plants, etc. The parents would yell at him to get out but he paid them no mind. So my assumption–of course–was to blame this hellion for the daily destruction. I know it’s a small thing in the big scheme of life, but I found myself getting really cranky that these parents would not discipline their child enough to keep him out of other people’s stuff! All the ‘facts’ matched up: he is an unruly kid and needs to stop.

Just when I had developed a real attitude about the poor little kid (and his parents), I read an article about the damage that raccoons can do to a garden pond. Raccoons! And as I started looking a little closer at all the signs, I see now that it is obviously one of these masked critters who is the culprit and not the little boy! Especially because the parents assured me (yes, I spoke with them) they haven’t even brought him to the garden this summer! Here I spent a few stressful weeks dissing on these parents and the kid, in my mind, and even talked to the garden manager about it, in my ‘kindhearted righteousness’. So imagine my chagrin at the realization.

Which got me thinking…

Sometimes we make negative judgments of people when we really don’t have all the facts. We think we do. But we don’t. We create a story in our mind based upon our views and outlooks and determine it is the truth…when it’s just not. It’s easy to do. And it’s hurtful. And wrong. And it’s a good way to ruin relationships and assure our hearts will become bitter.

Have anyone you’re judging today based upon YOUR set of facts? Someone you KNOW is in the wrong, and has bad intentions…so you think. What if…what if you’re wrong? What if there’s a different perspective, some whys you might not be aware of, some facts you haven’t noticed, which are missing from the narrative you’ve so carefully crafted? I’d like to encourage you to learn from my mistake…and let’s all take a lesson from the critters. Give someone the benefit of the doubt. Quit pointing the finger. Accept that maybe your own closed mindedness may be the real ‘bad guy.’

I’ve got some apologizing to do.

Then I’m going to forgive myself.

Then I’m going to go water that garden.

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

 

It’s Lonely Near the Top: Challenges for Chiefs of Staff

Article submitted by guest author Ted Riter.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The role of Chief of Staff continues to grow in corporate and nonprofit America. While the responsibilities for this role vary from organization to organization, within organizations, and even between predecessors and successors, there are common challenges across the board for chiefs of staff. This paper presents both challenges for those in this field and recommendations for success as a Chief of Staff.

THIS STUDY

The background information for this study was gathered through interviews conducted November 2018-February 2019 with over three dozen current and former Chiefs of Staff. These Chiefs of Staff were in long-established corporations, startups, nonprofits, government agencies, and family offices[1]. They were in diverse fields, including high tech, pharmaceuticals, philanthropies, and higher education. Most Chiefs of Staff had served in their position for 12-18 months. Some had transitioned to other roles within the same organization or started their own ventures. A small number of Chiefs of Staff saw themselves as “career” Chiefs of Staff. Most Chiefs of Staff filled this role for a Chief Executive Officer. Some filled this role for other Executives or an entire C-Suite.

THE CHIEF OF STAFF ROLE

Chiefs of Staff are inspired and inspiring professionals, dedicated to the success of their Executives and their organizations They are eager learners, selfless with their time and energy, and masters of navigating sensitive situations. And, they are often placed in this role with great hopes, but little guidance or support for self-development.

Though a universal job description for Chiefs of Staff does not exist, Prime Chief of Staff, a leader in this field, breaks down the role of Chief of Staff into the following six functions: [2]

  • The Goalkeeper – Manage and triage workflow of the executive. Prioritize, delegate, and complete work on behalf of the executive.
  • The Operator – Add structure and process for better communication within the office of the executive as well as across teams. Ensure activities are running efficiently.
  • The Implementer – Drive business priorities from start to finish. Execute special projects or initiatives on behalf of the executive or the organization.
  • The Integrator – Create cohesion among teams and departments. Connect the dots across the organization for improved alignment and engagement.
  • The Proxy – Act on behalf of the executive for greater visibility and accessibility. Prevent bottle-necking and promote decision-making when the executive cannot be present.
  • The Advisor – Serve as a strategic thought partner, sounding board, and confidante. Inform organization strategy and decision-making.

These six functions are helpful when conceptualizing the role of a new Chief of Staff. Those interviewed in the field had a less nuanced view and responded:

  • I manage the staff – the CEO included.
  • My goal each day is to help connect people to people, people to ideas, and people to purpose. I spend 90% of my time helping people understand the “why.
  • I do a lot of listening and “pealing back the onion.” I’m the internal consultant/versatilist – I help every department scale.
  • I represent my CEO with special projects and make their life easier.
  • I am not chief of the staff, I am a chief connector

Chiefs of Staff routinely reported that their functions relied heavily upon both the needs of the Executive and their work and life experience. Mark Organ, Influitive CEO and thought-leader in the field of Chiefs of Staff, offers the following guidelines for hiring a Chief of Staff:[3]

  • A manager-level hire – This person would be responsible for typical administrative tasks like calendar management and booking travel, but he would also make important judgment calls on how the CEO should best spend her time and what meetings would be most valuable for her to attend.
  • A mid-career, director-level hire – This person may have 6-12 years of experience. He would be in charge of tasks like running town halls, preparing speeches and prepping the CEO for leadership meetings. He’s unlikely to take on any strategic responsibilities, however.
  • An experienced VP-level executive – This person is already an experienced executive who’s looking to become a CEO one day. She may meet with department heads to talk through goals and targets, and work on developing tactics for various parts of the business.

THE CHALLENGES

The Chief of Staff role is filled with challenges, some of which are unique to this position

Job Descriptions & Loneliness

Loneliness is not an uncommon experience for leaders. It often comes from a perception that they must “carry the burden” on their own. Chiefs of Staff report an added layer to this experience, often feeling that no one quite understands what they do in their organization.

In dozens of interviews, it was clear that day-to-day, no two Chiefs of Staff serve in the same role. Job descriptions vary greatly, and often do not even exist until long after the role is filled.

According to former Chief of Staff and author Tyler Parris, “…a chief of staff is a catch-all role, filled by someone with exceptional organizational and people skills, who handles all manner of tasks not covered by an existing member of an executive’s leadership team or administrative staff.”[4]

This difficult to define “catch-all role” can create confusion for executives, directors, and staff, especially when the role is filled for the first time.

Confusion around this role may result in pushback from those in the C-suite who see the Chief of Staff as a possible barrier to communication with the CEO. Staff might fear losing influence with the CEO and have uncertainty about their standing in the organization. This fear can easily be projected upon the Chief of Staff and lead to a creation of walls that hamper communication. Some staff members even outright express to the Chief of Staff, “I didn’t think we needed you.”

A consistent message from Chiefs of Staff, is that the most positive working relationships are based upon mutual agreements rather than expectations. One former Chief of Staff knew it was time to leave the role when it became clear that the CEO’s expectation was an 80/20 split between directly supporting the CEO and project management, while the Chief of Staff envisioned it as a 50/50 split.

Chiefs of Staff recognize that they have no real peers in their organization, unless they are in a larger setting with multiple Chiefs of Staff. The comradery that is often experienced in other positions may therefore be absent for Chiefs of Staff. A Chief of Staff for a Family Office shared that it “often feels like I’m on an island – it’s unlike any other job.” And, because of this isolation, one admitted, “I’m very frustrated. I don’t know how long I will be able to stay here.”

Even those Chiefs of Staff who excel in their position might feel unseen. One reported: “It’s very lonely. Because I’m so good at what I do, they don’t even see what I’m doing.” Another said, “I feel not seen and not appreciated.”

Many Chiefs of Staff spoke of the tremendous amount of privileged information they hold. This responsibility often makes it difficult to find colleagues and loved ones to confide in and count on for full support without breaking confidentiality. And, in fact, some Chiefs of Staff reported that their partners “know too much that is probably confidential.”

One Chief of Staff confided, “My CEO might be doing things that are unethical and I’m not sure what I can do about it.”

Social and Emotional Intelligence & Overwhelm

While the Executive might be a passionate leader with a big vision, the Chief of Staff often serves as a counter balance.

One Chief of Staff reported, “My job is to be an observer with my emotions removed, and then show what I see to the CEO, who cannot remove their emotions.”

This facility for social and emotional intelligence is critical for the success of a Chief of Staff, and yet not a skill that comes naturally to all in this role. As defined by the Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence, “Social and emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of our own and others’ feelings – in the moment – and use that information to lead yourself and others” [5]

Some Chiefs of Staff, lacking these skills, commented:

  • I internalized all my frustrations and then I changed the way I did things. For instance, I stopped bringing many things to the CEO.
  • I’m a people pleaser, so difficult conversations are a big challenge.
  • I have a hard time initiating the conversations and then letting them go.
  • I get frustrated because I see the change but am not able to do anything about it.
  • I’m often the least experienced person in the room and this kills my confidence.

Many of the Chiefs of Staff who struggled with social and emotional intelligence, reported feelings of overwhelm and burnout:

  • I sometimes work 90-hour weeks and rejoice when it’s down to 60.
  • I recently took my first vacation in 4 years.
  • I don’t know how long I can continue here.
  • A Chief of Staff has to thrive in chaos, and I don’t know if I can anymore.
  • I have no time for my own health and relationships, let alone personal development.

This toll of overwhelm might be a surprise for some in an organization. Some Chiefs of Staff report that others see their travel schedule with an Executive or a fancy restaurant reservation and imagine glamorous and exciting opportunities not afforded to everyone. While travel can be to exciting places and access to the Executive enviable, this is by no means vacation, and most Chiefs of Staff express a desire to curtail their travel and spend more time at home.

One Chief of Staff offered, “I am envied by many because it looks fun. At the end of the day, it’s not a glamorous thing. I’m one of the hardest working people in the organization.”

Chiefs of Staff leave their position for many reasons, including acceptance of a predetermined tenure end-date, and following bigger dreams. However, many are burned out with no more to give in this position and gratefully move on to other positions in the current or different organizations.

SOLUTIONS

Most of the Chiefs of Staff interviewed self-identified as “successful” in their roles:

  • They are fully supportive of their Executive.
  • They feel supported by their Executive.
  • And, they believe they are helping the overall success of their organization.

And yet, even many of the successful Chiefs of Staff expressed a need for more support. With this added support, the role of Chiefs of Staff will continue to grow and benefit organizations across the globe.

Fuzzy Job Descriptions

Creating a job description for a Chief of Staff, especially for the first person to fill this role, is both challenging and worth the effort.

In addition to the measurable responsibilities for a Chief of Staff, the hallmark of a good Chief of Staff-Executive relationship is one built on trust. A high level of trust enables the Chief of Staff to predict the Executive’s behavior, understand the decision-making process, and allow the Executive to focus on the biggest priorities.

Recommendations to Build Trust:

Create measurable outcomes and goals from the beginning: One Chief of Staff suggested making a list of the top 5 tasks for the week and delegating everything else.

Schedule private time for direct communication: One Chief of Staff recommended undisturbed meeting time one to two times per week to give the Executive peace of mind so they can focus on what is most important for them to be doing.

Practice vulnerability: Vulnerability is not typically welcomed in the workplace because it is associated with weakness. However, vulnerability is an extraordinarily powerful tool for building trust in any relationship, including between an Executive and Chief of Staff.

There are many exercises for safely expressing vulnerability. The simplest practice is to admit and own mistakes without assigning blame to others.

Loneliness

Since there is unlikely to be peer support for Chiefs of Staff within an organization, find those who “get it.”

Recommendations to Alleviate or Prevent Loneliness

Join an established Chief of Staff network: New opportunities for connection are being created through the efforts of Prime Chief of Staff and a current Chief of Staff herself, Caroline Pugh. Together, they are hosting events around the country and have created an online community of practice[6]

Create a Chief of Staff network: As the role increases in the business world, there are more and more opportunities to find or create a local network with Chiefs of Staff from all sectors of the workplace. Formality is not necessary.

Find a mentor: Chiefs of Staff are generous with their time and energy even when they have moved on to other roles, and they are often open to mentoring others.

Social and Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman, a pioneer in the field of social and emotional intelligence, teaches that leadership is based primarily (85%) on emotional intelligence and (15%) on IQ. Fortunately, emotional and social intelligence are also skills that can be honed through training.

There are four areas of concentration that can be trained for Chiefs of Staff to excel in their positions:[7]

  • Self-awareness – knowing your internal states, preferences, resources and intuitions.
  • Self-management – managing one’s internal states, impulses and resources.
  • Social awareness – awareness of others’ feelings, needs and concerns.
  • Social skills / relationship management – ability to create desirable responses in others.

Many Chiefs of Staff have a very high level of social and emotional intelligence. They report:

  • I’m good at learning new skills.
  • I’m fearless when it comes to failure – I hop into the ringer.
  • I’m not afraid to put out a shitty first draft; zero to one is easy for me.
  • I am very often the youngest person in the room and try to make age irrelevant in a meeting.
  • I like to sit in the back of the room and take it all in.

Recommendations to Build Social and Emotional Intelligence

Hire a coach: The coaching industry is growing even faster than the Chiefs of Staff field. Good coaches might have good answers to a Chief of Staff’s questions. The best coaches will have good questions to a Chief of Staff’s answers.

Budget time and funding for professional development: Training pays dividends. The best professional development has a component geared for Executives as well as Chiefs of Staff.

Overwhelm

Overwhelm can be a result of fuzzy job descriptions, loneliness, and poor social and emotional intelligence skills. And, there are practices to prevent overwhelm on and off the job.

Recommendations to Alleviate or Prevent Overwhelm:

Practice self-care: Physical exercise, meditation, healthy eating, and time off might sound trite. However, they are recommended by every successful Chief of Staff interviewed for this report.

Practice embodied leadership: Our bodies are excellent teachers if we are attuned to them. However, we spend most of our day in our heads. Through training in embodied practices that stretch our nervous system, Chiefs of Staff can better hold the disruption and stress of the day.

Train for clear communication: Difficult conversations are inevitable in any leadership position. Learning clear communication skills is an art form that will be of benefit both inside and outside the organization.

RESOURCES

 Books Recommended by Chiefs of Staff (with some surprises in the mix):

  • Being You, Changing the World by Dain Heer
  • Chief of Staff: The Strategic Partner Who Will Revolutionize Your Organizationby Tyler Parris
  • Daring Greatly and Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
  • Difficult Conversations by Bruce Patton, Douglas Stone, and Sheila Heen
  • Discover Your True North by Bill George
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  • Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message by Tara Mohr
  • Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Patty McCord
  • Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
  • Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
  • Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happinessby Forrest Hanson and Rick Hanson
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  • Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Factsby Annie Duke
  • Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
  • The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
  • Your Oxygen Mask First: 17 Habits to Help High Achievers Survive & Thrive by Kevin N. Lawrence

Books Not Yet In Print

In addition to recommending books, some Chiefs of Staff envision writing the following:

  • How To Do It All – Including taking care of yourself
  • I’m A Chief of Staff…Now What?
  • Paving the Way for Process
  • The Story of Creating This Place: Things that seemed so big, but in the end are pretty small
  • Things That Make Sense But Don’t Make Sense

 

FOR FUTURE CONSIDERATION

An Unexpected Finding

One of the unexpected findings of this study is that many Chiefs of Staff experienced difficult childhoods or other challenges in their formative years. Though this paper cannot make a direct link between a difficult childhood and success as a Chief of Staff, it is an interesting area for further exploration. When questioned about specifics, these Chiefs of Staff confided they were often the ones who mediated family disruption: Arguments, divorce, death, illness, crisis. Perhaps, the experience navigating these challenging situations made it easier to step into the Chief of Staff role and mediate the high stakes, big egos, and charged energy of the workspace.

Transitioning Into and Out of the Chief of Staff Role

As the role of Chief of Staff grows outside of government, it is becoming seen as a stepping stone to higher leadership positions.[8] Though a great proving ground for numerous C-Suite and VP positions, the transition is often not seamless. There is a training opportunity both in the time before stepping into the Chief of Staff role and upon exiting. There is also an opportunity for addressing the emotional impact of transitions felt by Executives and Chiefs of Staff as the relationships come to an end.

CONCLUSION

Chiefs of Staff are proving to be invaluable assets for Executives in business and nonprofit organizations, just as they have been for many years in the government and military. Those who participated in this study were smart, talented, energetic, and motivated for success. They were great ambassadors for their Executives, their organizations, and their roles as Chiefs of Staff.

As this position becomes more common, it is important to address the challenges unique to Chiefs of Staff and offer appropriate training and coaching to ensure continued success for both the role and for those who serve in these positions.

 

What is an open heart?

Article contributed by guest author Rick Hanson.

The Practice:

Put No One Out Of Your Heart.

Why?

We all know people who are, ah, . . . challenging. It could be a critical parent, a bossy supervisor, a relative who has you walking on eggshells, a nice but flaky friend, a co-worker who just doesn’t like you, a partner who won’t keep his or her agreements, or a politician you dislike. Right now I’m thinking of a neighbor who refused to pay his share of a fence between us.As Jean-Paul Sartre put it: “Hell is other people.”

Sure, that’s overstated. But still, most of a person’s hurts, disappointments, and irritations typically arise in reactions to other people.

Ironically, in order for good relationships to be so nurturing to us as human beings – who have evolved to be the most intimately relational animals on the planet – you must be so linked to others that some of them can really rattle you!

So what can you do?

Let’s suppose you’ve tried to make things better – such as taking the high road yourself and perhaps also trying to talk things out, pin down reasonable agreements, set boundaries, etc. – but the results have been partial or nonexistent.

At this point, it’s natural to close off to the other person, often accompanied by feelings of apprehension, resentment, or disdain. While the brain definitely evolved to care about “us,” it also evolved to separate from, fear, exploit, and attack “them” – and those ancient, neural mechanisms can quickly grab hold of you.

But what are the results? Closing off doesn’t feel good. It makes your heart heavy and contracted. And it primes your brain to be more tense and reactive, which could get you into trouble, plus trigger the other person to act worse than ever.

Sometimes you do have to hang up the phone, block someone on Facebook, turn the channel on TV, or stay at a motel when visiting relatives. Sometimes you have to put someone out of your business, work group, holiday party list –or bed.

In painful or extreme situations, it may feel necessary to distance yourself utterly from another person for awhile or forever. Take care of yourself, and listen to that inner knowing about what’s best for you. You may need to put them out of your life. And you can see for yourself if you need to put them out of your heart.

How?

When your heart is open, what’s that feel like? Physically, in your chest – like warmth and relaxation – and in your body altogether. Emotionally – such as empathy, compassion, and an even keel. Mentally – like keeping things in perspective, and wishing others well.

Feel the strength being openhearted, wholehearted. Be not afraid and be of good heart. Paradoxically, the most open person in a relationship is usually the strongest one.

Get a sense of your heart being expansive and inclusive, like the sky. The sky stays open to all clouds, and it isn’t harmed by even the stormiest ones. Keeping your heart open makes it harder for others to upset you.

Notice that an open heart still allows for clarity about what works for you and what doesn’t, as well as firmness, boundaries, and straight talk. Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama are famous for keeping their hearts open while also being very effective.
Seeing all this, make a commitment to an open heart.

In this light, be mindful of what it feels like – physically, emotionally, mentally – to have your heart closed to a particular person. Be aware of the seemingly good reasons the reactive brain/mind throws up to justify this.

Then ask yourself, given the realities of this challenging person, what would have been a better path for you? For example, maybe you should have gotten more support from others or been more self-nurturing, so you wouldn’t have been as affected. Or spoken up sooner to try to prevent things from getting out of hand. Or managed your internal reactions more skillfully. Maybe you’ve done some things yourself to prompt the other person to be difficult. Whatever these lessons are, there’s no praise or blame here, just good learning for you.

And now, if you’re willing, explore opening your heart again to this person. Life’s been hard to him or her, too. Nothing might change in your behavior or in the nature of the relationship. Nonetheless, you’ll feel different – and better.

Last, do not put yourself out of your heart. If you knew you as another person, wouldn’t you want to hold that person in your heart?

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.

What would bear lots of fruit?

Article contributed by guest author Rick Hanson.

The practice:  Water your fruit tree

Why?

My wife and kids tease me that the title of this practice is corny – and it is. Still, I like it. If you don’t nourish the things that nourish you, they wither away like a plant in dry stony ground.

Looking to the year ahead for you – a year that can begin whenever you want –what’s one key thing that will bear lots of fruit for you if you take care of it?

There is usually one thing – or two or three – that you know in your heart is a key factor in your well-being, functioning, and how you treat others. It’s often a seemingly small thing in the rush and complexity of a typical day. It could be getting that 15 minute break each day with a cup of tea and no interruptions . . . or writing in your journal . . . or feeling grateful for three blessings in your life before falling asleep . . . or asking your partner questions about his or her day and really listening . . . or taking your vitamins or eating protein with every meal . . . or getting home in time for dinner with the kids unless you’re traveling . . . or getting up an hour earlier each day to start writing that book. It could be finally now making that shift for which your heart has been longing.

For me, one thing that pops off the page is going to bed early enough to get enough sleep plus be able to get up in time to meditate. Doing this sets up my whole day and makes it better.

As you know, most New Year’s resolutions are worse than useless: they don’t lead to real change and we feel bad about not sticking to them. But if you think of this as feeding yourself, being good to yourself, giving yourself a big wonderful gift each day, nourishing something that will pay off big for you . . . well, it sure is a lot easier to keep treating yourself well in this way.

How?

What’s on your own short list of the things that would make a big difference for you? Perhaps you, too, would benefit from getting to bed earlier. Or from listening to someone for five minutes or more each day with no expectations. Or from regular exercise, meditation, or prayer. Or from dropping one bad habit, or from picking up that guitar again. Perhaps making art would make a big difference for you, or staying calm with the kids, or finally beginning to spend a few hours each week on starting your new business.

Take a moment to imagine the rewards to you and others if you did this one good thing for yourself tomorrow. How would you feel at the end of the day? What would be the benefits? And then imagine those benefits coming to you and others the day after tomorrow . . . and the days and weeks and months after that.

Of course, all you can do is tend to the causes; you can’t control the results. You can water a fruit tree but you can’t make it give you an apple. But no matter what happens, you know you have tried your best.

Keep coming back to the feeling of nurturing yourself. It’s OK to take care of yourself in this way. Try to feel the warmth for yourself, the strength to gently guide your future self – the one who will be doing this one good thing tomorrow, and the days after that – to keep watering this particular fruit tree.

And know that you can water more than one tree. But it helps to zero in on just one or a few things to focus on for a year.

And then a year from now, looking back to this day, you’ll likely be enjoying a beautiful sweet rich harvest!

https://www.rickhanson.net/writings/just-one-thing/just-one-thing-simple-practices/

 

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

 

How to live a beautiful life

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

Values or feelings in self-regulation?

Interesting read on the importance of values (not just feelings) when it comes to behavior change. Thoughts?

“…a focus on feelings without regard to values will more likely lead to addictions and compulsions than beneficial behavior. Consistent self-regulation requires focus on your deepest values rather than feelings.”

Read more at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anger-in-the-age-entitlement/201110/self-regulation

 

The Best Leaders are Learners

Article submitted by Lindiwe S. Lester, M.Ed., Ed.S.

The well-worn phrase “lifelong learner” is no joke when it comes to leaders operating in today’s quickly changing business landscape. Remember, leaders at every level, including managers, wield significant influence that can impact multiple levels of the organization. This means YOU are either maximizing or thwarting both business and staff performance (and satisfaction).

The best leaders realize the effect their leadership has on both departments and people; so they make it a priority to carve out time to keep honing their skills, i.e., remain in a growthmode.

Consider these two recently published data points: Only 10% of leaders have a learning plan and most people lack 20-40% of the skills needed to perform their jobs.[1]

People tend to get promoted into higher roles based on their successful performance in a previous role. How do they thoughtfully assess the new skills and requisite competencies for their new role?

Then we have those who are tenured in their roles. They ought to be considering, “Since I’ve been in this role for years, I need to figure out what this role requires of me today.”

The best leaders are learners. Lack of time is not an excuse when success in your esteemed role is critically important. Age or years on the job doesn’t mean learning and development stop, especially in a changing environment where the complex issues will likely challenge your current capabilities.

Coaching, leader development, and leader learning plans are proven tactics for those who desire to have greater currency, relevance, and authenticity as high-performing leaders.

Consider these questions: What are you reading this month? Who is providing you with genuine coaching and feedback? How are you uncovering blind spots that others see and are impacted by? How are you engaging your strengths in new and important ways? Where does your learning journey begin?

[1] Zenger Folkman, Bringing Science to the Art of Coaching, 2014 and HBR Ulrik Christensen, 9/29/2017

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