Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand for the past year or so (and who would blame you?) you’ve probably felt the effects of the big black cloud of negativity that’s looming about. I see it hovering in the buildings of the organizations I work with, reflected in the grim expressions of people on the street, and bolstered by the politicians and pundits we hear every…single…day. Even Pollyanna might have difficulty finding something to be glad about today.
So what are we to do? Give in to the negativity? No! Despite what’s going on around you, you have a choice as to how you respond to it, just like in this Native American legend.
One evening an old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy. "It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego."
"The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
I’m here to suggest that you feed the right wolf. Make a conscious effort to focus on the positive, and increase what Shirzad Chamine calls your “positive intelligence” (PQ). Not only will you be happier, you’ll improve your relationships, increase your success at work, and, let’s face it, be a lot more fun to be around!
Here are some ideas for feeding the right wolf.
-Think about one thing that is causing you a lot of stress. Now think of three ways you can turn that into an opportunity.
-Practice saying “Yes, and…” instead of “Yes, but…”
-Keep a gratitude journal. Each day, write down something positive about the day.
-Surround yourself with positive people.
-Turn off the news and turn on a comedy.
-Get away from your computer and go for a walk, a hike, a run or some other activity OUTSIDE.
-Watch kids at play.
And check out my latest podcast: Please and Thank You - words that are very easy to use.
Let’s make positivity (and politeness!) “trending…”
“You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.” – Joyce Meyer
Till next time,
Research shows that 75-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. Additionally, 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress and…(as if that is not enough) the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has declared stress a workplace hazard. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually! What is wrong with this picture???
We all know that a little stress is OK. It keeps our fight-or-flight juices working, and often helps us get the job done. And, we all know someone who lives by the motto: “I do my best work under pressure.”
However, too much stress can contribute to a laundry list of health issues, including headaches, nausea, high blood pressure, chest pain, and insomnia. Not to mention how being over-stressed (and no doubt cranky!) can impair relationships, decrease productivity, and increase the risk of accidents.
Having too much stress, or as we call it at Lumina Learning, being “overextended,” can even turn your positive qualities into negative ones. For example, someone who is detail-focused and analytical may exhibit “analysis paralysis” when overextended. Someone who is typically creative and social, may become impulsive and over-emotional under extreme stress. And the “people person” who brings harmony to every meeting may suddenly become stubborn and resistant. When Mr. Nice Guy turns into Attila the Hun, it’s time to get a handle on stress.
So…how do you do it? Start by taking some time to sit down and review your day, your week, your life. Where and when do you notice your body crying “uncle” via a headache, mood swing, or other physical signal? Can you identify particular responsibilities, activities, people that are stress triggers for you? Is it the unexpected that gets to you, the volume of work, the work itself, or the fact that you never seem to get a break?
Write your personal/professional stressors down and then select and prioritize three that you will work on to reduce. Do you need to have a “difficult conversation” with someone to resolve a lingering issue? Do you need to request more resources to meet a looming deadline you are worried about? Ask for what you need.
And, to get started on reducing your stress level in general, here are some stress busters for you.
Set boundaries. Establish a time after which you do not take work phone calls or respond to work emails, texts, smoke signals, whatever. Manage expectations about your “work hours.”
Be willing to say “no.” When asked to do something with a clearly unreasonable deadline, or without appropriate resources, explain the impact it will have on your current work. Offer alternative dates or suggest alternative resources.
Stop and pause. Do a personal check-in. Adjust priorities, if necessary. Take a break.
Breathe. Deeply and often. Consider meditation. Take a walk in the park or along the beach.
Laugh. I can’t recommend this enough. Find something to laugh about every day. It’s good medicine!
“Laugh when you can, apologize when you should, and let go of what you can’t change…Life’s too short to be anything but happy.” – Unknown
Till next time,
Chances are, you’ve spent some time since January 1 thinking about and/or talking about what your “resolutions” are for 2018. Admit it. It’s something we do automatically every year. And although some of us may have the same set of resolutions every year – lose weight, exercise more, drink less, earn more, travel more, work less – we are confident that THIS will be the year we keep them. But the fact is, it’s estimated that by February, 80% of resolutions have dissolved. Why do we keep doing this to ourselves?
Too often we focus so much energy on changing one aspect of our life that we totally neglect the other aspects. For example, there’s that promotion you want, so you put 110% of your energy into doing the work, gaining the visibility and finding the opportunity that will get you there. Pretty soon you’re skipping the gym, eating junk food at the office for dinner, and saying “no” to time with family and friends. “Vacation? Not happening!” And do you get the promotion? Sometimes. But at what cost?
There is a better way. We need to “shake up” our approach, put balance back into our lives, keep it simple, and, of course, insert some fun!
Let’s do an exercise. Close your eyes. No wait. Read this first. Then close your eyes. Imagine you are standing in the center of a circle – the circle of your life. There are eight sections in the circle, each representing a different aspect of your life:
5. Personal Growth
7. Significant Other
Now. Think about your life today and where – in that circle – you spend the majority of your time and effort. Is it in your career or business? Probably true for many of us. Is it worrying about your financial situation? Is it at the gym trying to forget about your career and your financial situation? What other aspects of your life are you neglecting in the process? Is your circle leaning significantly in one direction? Time for a change. If you truly want 2018 to be a better year, you need to get your circle back into balance. Here’s how.
1. Assess. Think about each of the eight aspects and how much attention you pay to them. Then rank each of them from 1 to 10 with 1 being “I pretty much neglect it” and 10 being “I spend most of my time and effort here.”
2. Review. What patterns do you see? What has been the impact – on you, on the neglected areas?
3. Recharge. Change the “out of balance” pattern by creating one or two SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) in each area of your life. These are not New Year’s resolutions that will dissolve by February, but reasonable goals that will help you pay attention to ALL aspects of your life.
4. Commit. Write the goals down. Put a due date on them. Share them with someone who will keep you accountable. Better yet, find an accountability partner who will recharge their circle of life and then you can keep each other accountable. It’ll increase the fun factor, too. And need I say that the fun factor is verrrrrry important?
5. Maintain. Keep checking your balance throughout the year to ensure that it doesn’t get off kilter. There will be times when you need to focus in one area more than the rest. That’s natural. But assess, review and recharge on a regular basis to ensure that you don’t let that one aspect of your life cause you to sacrifice the others.
Don’t resolve, evolve!
Here’s to a balanced and AMAZING 2018! I’m declaring this The Year of Shakin’ It up!!
Till next time,
Although it seems like just yesterday, way back in January I declared 2017 “The Year of Possibilities.” I challenged you to “Do at least one thing this year that will stretch your being…your thinking…your heart…your soul… Think about it. What will that be?”
I even gave you some tips to get you started:
Just DO IT already – go on that vacation, learn a new language, or do nothing for an entire weekend!
Stop multi-tasking – how can you see possibilities when you’re doing 3 things at once?
Pay attention to what’s around you – open your eyes to see what you miss when you’re on autopilot!
Listen…really listen – what is this wonderful, crazy universe trying to tell you?
Dream BIG – if you don’t dream for yourself, no one else will. Make a “possibility list.”
So…how did you do? What possibilities did you identify? Which of them did you turn into reality? Please share in the comments section below.
I’m happy to share that 2017 has truly been a Year of Possibilities for me – and that by following the above tips (yes, I take my own medicine) I turned a number of possibilities into reality. Here are three of them.
In July I went to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. This had been on my bucket list for years, and I decided to just DO IT! Did it stretch my thinking and feed my soul? You bet! It was so inspiring to see and learn about people who truly live their dreams.
By paying attention to what was going on around me, I learned that Bruce Springsteen was going to be performing on Broadway beginning in October. I’ve been going to Bruce’s concerts since 1975, but seeing him on Broadway would be a first. So you better believe I was going to turn THAT possibility into reality. I did and it was beyond my expectations! If you want to be good at your work, you have to take some time to feed your soul.
And by paying attention, really listening, and dreaming big, I embraced an opportunity in early November to stretch myself (and challenge my fear of heights) when a friend invited me to join her on a trip to Peru to see the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu. We climbed Wayna Picchu (ahem…elevation 8,924 ft.) which rises over Machu Picchu, and offers a magnificent view of the 8th Wonder of the World. And, trust me, I was terrified! Woo hoo! I did it!!!
As for eliminating multi-tasking, I’m still working on it, and getting better all the time.
If somehow this Year of Possibilities slipped by you, I hope you’ll take some time over the holidays to think about what you can do next year to stretch your being…your thinking…your heart…your soul…
“Talk about a dream, try to make it real.” – Bruce Springsteen
Till next time,
I just got back from my annual two-week vacation at the Jersey Shore. It...was...wonderful! I love the work I do, and am so grateful to be able to do this work, and I was ready for some down time to feed my soul. I think we all need to get away once in a while to relax and refresh. Yet it's astounding how many people don't take that opportunity!
In fact, in 2016, more than half of American workers - 54% - left vacation days unused, according to a recent survey by Project: Time Off, who studies American vacation habits. This means that 662 million vacation days were left on the table, and since some of those days had to be forfeited (since they couldn’t be rolled over, banked or paid out) American workers gave up $66.4 billion in benefits in 2016. Seriously?
Here are some more startling facts from the Project: Time Off report.
-Unused vacation days cost the U.S. economy $236 billion in 2016, due to lost spending
-That spending would have supported 1.8 million American jobs, and generated $70 billion in additional income for American workers
-If the 54% of workers who left time unused took just one more day off, it would drive $33 billion in economic impact
So why are Americans so reluctant to take vacations? Some often-cited reasons (ahem, excuses) are: heavy workload, lack of money to “go anywhere” and the perception that people who take time off are less dedicated.
It may also stem from the fact that the United States is the only advanced economy that does not require its employers to offer their workers paid vacation time. In their report, No-Vacation Nation researchers at the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that:
-Nearly one-fourth of U.S. companies offer no paid time off
-Those companies that do offer an average of only 10 days vacation per year
Compare this to European countries where employers are required by law to offer at least 20 days per year. And they expect their employees to take it! In Austria, the typical employee gets 25 days annual leave plus 13 paid holidays. Now that’s a vacation!
It amazes me that so many people in the U.S. who DO have the opportunity to take time off don’t take it. Even those working for companies that have unlimited or more generous than average time off policies.
Back to that 54%. If you’re in that category, you are missing out on myriad benefits from getting away from the office. And I mean REALLY getting away. Not just moving your electronics to the beach! Research shows that time away from work:
-Improves overall health
-Increases creativity (New experiences! Different scenery!)
-Provides for quality time with family
-Ignites neural connections (increasing your brain power, and that’s got to be good!)
-Increases productivity upon return
So what are you waiting for? You still have plenty of time before the winter weather sets in, and popular vacation spots are less crowded in the fall. Even if you take a “staycation” (note: without electronics), you’ll feel better for it. Your family will feel better for it. And, yes, the company will survive while you’re gone.
Till next time,
There’s a cartoon about perception that I use in one of my leadership development workshops. It has two men standing at opposite ends of a number – one at the top, and one at the bottom. One man points to the number says “six.” The other man points to the number and says, “nine.” Who’s right?
It’s all a matter of perspective.
Think about the last time you had a heated discussion with someone. (Given our current political climate, this shouldn’t be much of a stretch. Hence the reason I’m covering this topic!) Did you stay firmly rooted on your side “of the number,” or did you pause to walk around to the other side to try to look at it a bit differently? It’s hard, I know. We each live in a world of beliefs we’ve developed based on what we’ve observed, learned and experienced over our lifetime. Yet it’s worth the effort.
In his book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Peter Senge talks about the Ladder of Inference, which describes the thinking process we go through – usually subconsciously - to get from a fact to a decision or action. Visualize a ladder. Starting with reality and facts at the bottom of the ladder and then moving upward, we:
• Select from the facts based on our beliefs and prior experience
• Interpret what they mean
• Apply our existing assumptions, sometimes without validating them
• Draw conclusions based on how we interpreted the facts and our assumptions
• Develop beliefs based on our conclusions
• Take actions and form opinions that seem “right’ because they are based on what we believe
When we do this on a regular basis, we become so stuck in our thinking that we find it nearly impossible to consider a new, different or more collaborative way of looking at things.
I’d like to suggest that in the interest of more effective dialogues, better relationships and enhanced personal wellness, we all make the effort to get unstuck. All too often conversations are shut down because opinions vary, and no one wants to risk their stance by probing for a deeper understanding of someone else’s.
Here’s what you can do. Stop. Look. Listen.
Stop. Before you go scrambling up your perception ladder, stop for a minute to evaluate your thought process. Do you have all the facts? Is their source reliable? Are you making assumptions about the facts – or the other person – without validating them?
Look. Look for opportunities to learn about views different from your own. Observe different approaches to doing things. Even simple things, like making coffee, writing a report, conducting a meeting, painting a room. Being open to diverse opinions and approaches helps us understand that different is not necessarily wrong.
Listen. Turn down the heat when opinions differ by expressing an interest in why the other person believes as they do. Ask the question and then really listen to the answer. Be open to looking at the issue slightly differently once you’ve heard the reasoning behind their point of view.
The experience may change your opinion, or not. Or it may strengthen and validate it. Either way, you will have learned something.
“What you see depends not only on what you look at, but where you look from.” – James Deacon