If you are getting really frustrated with yourself because, despite all the insights into personality traits and great communication techniques, and the awesome self improvement stuff you’ve learned that made eminent sense, when push comes to shove you default to old behaviours. Reading this could make all the difference…
We are all familiar with situations that snowball, where we go from feeling good to bad or bad to worse. Often these, we perceive, are caused by others. Others bringing an energy to the situation that sets you off in a downward spiral.
In the office I’ve dealt with my fair share of both aggressive and passive aggressive behaviour. At home, my partner and I have battled it out with the best of them. As a parent, the kids constantly throws me curve balls. Siblings not getting on, especially when one is distressed and the other is feeding off that energy, creates a whopping great negative vortex that has a really strong pull.
Learning to cope with children's unfiltered communications has much to teach us about our other experiences. In the midst of all the screaming “mummy mummy”, I’m often scrambling to remember all the brilliant advice I have read, written down and even practiced in saner moments. There comes a point though when the only release seems to be to yell and scream in response. This of course feeds the vortex further and down we all spiral.
Understanding the science behind why this happens helps. We now know thoughts emit energy, and that the greater part of your thoughts are recurring patterns that are running in your subconscious, the vast majority planted there early in your childhood and reinforced over and over again in scenarios throughout your life.
Once you are aware of this, particularly when you understand that early childhood experiences are imprinted mainly from body language, you begin to understand your default programming. The wiring that occurs from those early well intentioned lessons and discipline you received, often translated as you not being up to scratch in some aspect of your being.
This is not because of the words being used, or even the emotion behind them, which is likely intentioned from a point of love; some version of "it's for your own good". Young children, however, interpret body language above all else, which is usually rooted in a fear of the consequences for the child. This translates as bad energy, the impression they get is of being judged, they are not good enough, or are intentionally naughty.
Over and over again these early imprints get reinforced through experiences at school and all the other scenarios where, as a young child growing up, adults are in control of what you do and don't do.
As a result, as an adult you will often instinctively feel attacked and defend in some way if someone presents with bad energy. Your brain, sensing danger, goes into flight or fight mode and you are no longer able to access your conscious mind where all the wonderful new information about having a better interaction is stored, the old programming has kicked in.
So how do we evolve past the old programming into the new? Well, it is a process, one that you have to keep coming back to with your awareness time and again. It’s a process of unraveling all that early wiring that has been reinforced over and over in your experiences. While unraveling it, continue to focus on the new path you want to take.
How can you do this amid your brain kicking into flight or fight? My ‘ah ha’ moment came to me when my oldest daughter was losing the plot because she’d been told she wasn’t having another ice cream. In an attempt to bring her out of her spiral my partner was playing back to her the ludicrous noise she was making, like a braying donkey. Unfortunately it was making things worse.
“Don’t feed the energy”
Suddenly it struck me, don’t feed the energy. Simple. When my brain is starting to rapidly descend into flight or fight mode, that simple phrase is something I can hang onto. I hear it as clear as day. Now I have to admit that I can then feel a bit like a stunned mullet, wondering “what next”. Here is the beauty, nothing.
When we stopped feeding my daughter’s energy over that ice cream, the braying noise quickly stopped, the protests dwindled, we moved on.
What I’m not saying is ‘ignore’, this isn’t about moving from aggressive to passive behaviour, you can acknowledge through your body language, that most primeval part of us, that you hear what is being said, you just don’t have to respond to it, to get sucked in. Instead, let it be. When the energy lessens, move on.
Saying “don’t feed the energy” to myself snaps me out of it, gets me grounded. Sometimes I think I should distract the kids with other things, change the subject. Changing the subject too early though just sends a message that you don’t care what the other person is feeling, or a judgment that they shouldn’t feel that way. Instead, first let the current energy diminish like ever decreasing waves crashing on the shore.
In any environment that will feel uncomfortable at first, a bit like the ‘silences’ encouraged in coaching, sales calls, performance conversations and so on. Perhaps practicing in the office is best tried after practicing at home a few times. However, the principle works. Whatever you can do to bring yourself into observing the present moment – as opposed to being swept away with it – will be a triumph for your wellbeing, your day, and for the authentic you.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/136199332@N03/23891629443">Max Caulfield</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>
You expect that you should be feeling good, this is the break you’ve been hankering after for a while now. But you are feeling off, maybe stressed, maybe ill, maybe grumpy, maybe even depressed or picking a few fights. Whatever it is just isn’t sitting right with you. This is your break, you want to feel great, so how do you get over what you are feeling right now?
Here’s the deal, you’ve been running hard, possibly all year without any kind of a decent break. If you’re like me you may just be feeling a little like you’ve survived something, and it’s more than just Christmas dinner. You’ve kicked your body into a permanent state of flight and fight and, now, you have a change of routine for a few days and suddenly your body is looking for the threat it’s been busy running from and fighting all year long.
In essence, your body is detoxing from a whole bunch of stress hormones and your mind is disrupted from its usual patterns of repetitive thoughts that drive your actions and therefore your experiences and feelings each day.
Okay, so you’ve felt better but what can you do about it? Well, less of the ‘doing’ for a start.
The best thing you can do for now is carry on with your seasonal plans, but start noticing how things are making you feel. This might seem obvious, but it’s amazing how oblivious to our own lives we are for so much of our time.
For example, I’ve spent most of the last year having a painful elbow and wrist treated, thinking it stemmed from wrenching a muscle when I was moving furniture, which then trapped some nerves. Given the pain I was in, I dutifully followed the physiotherapist’s instructions on exercises to do at home. Over a period of months it slowly got better, the pain retracting from my elbow but remaining in my wrist.
Then the physiotherapist strapped up my thumb and wrist with some new muscle tape, slightly restricting my movement. With the tape on it suddenly made me conscious of every movement that hurt and I discovered quite quickly that the main culprit was my laptop. Really I’ve had a repetitive strain injury because of the posture I adopt when typing.
Now, I’m not completely oblivious to the pain I’ve been in while typing, I just wasn’t paying enough attention to realise it was the cause rather than a symptom.
Often we are so wrapped up in our drive to ‘do’, and distracted in our thoughts about what we are doing or have to do next, we miss all the signals going on around that indicate our wellbeing. Right now is your opportunity to simply tune in to yourself and pay attention to the causes of any disharmony.
Are those fights you are having with your nearest and dearest the cause of your mood, or simply a symptom of something else that is out of whack in your life? What are those aches and pains telling you? Do you really need to go on a diet, or do you need to address something else totally in order to get back into a healthier eating regime? Is that person at work really such a pain in the neck, or do your issues lay elsewhere?
Now is the time to start paying heed to what lies at the heart of your discomfort. Often you have to let that thought sit with you a while, you’re unlikely to have an epiphany about your career while reading this article. But you might in the next couple of days or in the next week, just start being aware of what is really making you feel bad.
Sounds obvious doesn’t it? It is, but it may also be that the first few things you notice are simply the icing on the top of the problem, so don’t jump into an action plan straight away, let it sit in case there is more to reveal itself.
We take so little time for ourselves, yet when we practice being mindful in this way we take great big positive strides in our life. This is the time of year many resolve to make changes, because when we see our life through different lenses we can’t help but be compelled to take action.
That will come, for now, just ‘bide wi yerself a wee bit’ – meaning to sit with yourself for a little while. Observe what is going on, it’s more than likely that the surface indicators are only that. There’s no use in taking rash action, just wait, see what else arises. Often it can take 6 or 7 looks at an issue to really get to the heart of it, so let it unfold.
Once you’ve done that, figuring out what needs to change is so much easier. But that is next year’s job, for right now, rest up, relax and unwind. As the new year approaches we Scots like to say:
May the best ye hae ivver seen be the warst ye'll ivver see.
May the moose ne'er lea' yer girnal wi a tear-drap in its ee.
May ye aye keep hail an hertie till ye'r auld eneuch tae dee.
May ye aye juist be sae happie as A wuss ye aye tae be.
May the best you have ever seen be the worst you will ever see.
May the mouse never leave your grain store with a tear drop in its eye.
May you always stay hale and hearty until you are old enough to die.
May you still be as happy as I always wish you to be.
Here’s looking forward to a healthier, happier 2016!
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
While we want our people to take a holistic view, most people in organisations are not treated as ‘whole’. The very construct of the organisation is designed to strip them down to a narrow view, then we want them to be holistic in their day to day interactions. It’s not unique to our adult experience, it starts when we are young. We teach our kids to fit in, follow the rules, yet want them to think for themselves.
What utopia looks like is an organisation where those interacting with customers, or designing interactions, feel that they own a win-win outcome in that interaction and that they have enough skill and acumen to achieve it. That means that they understand the big picture, are privy to the information they need and empowered to achieve the outcome. Sure, there are skills involved in that, but it all hinges on trust.
Talking to a tenured executive this week about the problems his organisation faces in delivering a great customer experience, he cites the common scenario of major stakeholders getting complaints from customers about the lack of help they’ve had from the organisation.
He finds himself bringing together different people, who have looked at things from their constricted viewpoint, their limited span of control, and having to mediate a solution from a more holistic perspective. One that serves the customer and the organisation. Sound familiar?
While ‘the customer experience’ has become a rather trite phrase, it is the thing that makes or breaks perceptions of an organisation when people have to interact with it. It’s the proof point of any brand you want to create and a vital barometer of your leadership. Whether an organisation exists primarily to make money, or is not-for-profit, whether it lives and dies by serving the needs and desires of individuals or is custodian or gatekeeper of a greater good, is irrelevant. All organisations benefit from a good reputation.
Standing in the way will be the basic construct of your organisation, even ‘flat’ structures tend to have hierarchies with the power at the top. The power isn’t just about the level of financial authority and decision making, it’s about the level of input and access to information – important context that can make all the difference for the person dealing with a change that is intended to directly or indirectly help the customer, or simply in the day to day conversing with the customer and ‘doing their job’.
The discussion in my recent article on how Profit, Purpose and Personal Fulfillment Can Thrive Together, focused on a new approach to organizational constructs. While this can only be driven by CEO’s and those they answer to, there is room in any construct for leaders to take an approach that allows their people to operate in a more holistic way, one that better serves them and the organisation.
The issue of trust is a starting point. To trust your people to deliver win-win outcomes, aside of the skills they will need to be equipped with, you have to trust them with information, you have to listen to their input, and they have to trust you.
When people trust you, they are willing to ask for help, willing to own mistakes. To gain that trust you have to firstly be willing to be vulnerable yourself, not infallible. Sure, you want to work with people who know what they’re doing, but to never make mistakes or to know everything?
For most of us showing any sign of weakness is out of our comfort zone. Our survival instinct, the part of our brain that switches to flight or fight when we are in mortal danger, has become the modus operandi for the way we live. Although most of us tend not to live in mortal danger for most of our lives, we are constantly using our minds in a way that mimics that instinct.
Notice as you talk to people that you are generally not listening to what they are saying. Yes you may be hearing the words that come out of their mouth, but you’re usually leveraging that to think about what to say next, rather than really understanding what is being said.
Here’s the reason, while you came into the world with an innate sense of what is right and wrong for you, from the minute you are born on this earth others think they know better. Slowly but surely you start to become less of who you were born to be and more of who others think you should be. This thing called ‘ego’ forms, your mind’s perception of you are. Almost immediately we start to fight or defend in some way, outwardly or silently.
Being vulnerable with the people you want to have trust in you is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. Leadership teams that can be vulnerable with each other can start to truly operate as a team and will be a lot more focused and successful as a result. But it is like wearing a very uncomfortable pair of shoes at first. As you get to know and accept your own fallibilities, so you will be able to listen to others and help them with theirs, freeing them to achieve the very things you want them to.
Trusting your people to do their job in a holistic way means treating them as whole people. Any step towards trust in your organisation, even one small step, will be one giant leap towards a better customer experience and better business outcomes.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/122099374@N07/16969244789">Dave Lewis</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>
We each think 60 – 70,000 thoughts a day, and apparently over 90% of those are just a repeat of yesterday’s. The same thoughts lead to the same choices, the same behaviours, the same experiences and, therefore, the same emotions; which then perpetuates the same thoughts…
This is what I learned as I was listening to Dr Joe Dispenz earlier in the week. He points out that our biology, neurocircuitry, neurochemistry, neurohormones, and even our genetic expression, stay exactly equal to how you think, act and feel.
None of this is new information, yet we are so consumed by our daily schedules we rarely take time to reflect and listen to ourselves.
When we think about trying to change the thoughts we have, it often feels overwhelming. Let’s face it trying to change just one thing is hard, but 60 - 70,000 things? However, as Dr Dispenza neatly points out, our feelings are directly linked to our thoughts and it’s a whole lot easier to change your experiences by taking charge of how you’re feeling.
About 5 years ago I attended a workshop though work where we were challenged to really think about some of our own internal dialogues. I remember sitting at a table where there were three of us who summed up a recurring thought pattern we owned as “idiot”. It’s fair to say we were a bunch of pretty driven people with little patience. It’s also fair to say that this is not the kind of thought pattern that was going to lead to the life we each dreamed of.
“feeling good has to be more important to you than anything else”
Probably like you, I take on these nuggets and then life (or the 58,000 or so thoughts/ reactions I have every day) carries me on a wave of autopilot. How do we break the pattern? Well it is pretty simply, feeling good has to be more important to you than anything else. Remember though, simple and easy are two different things.
There was a point this week when I was trying to get my two preschool children focused enough to get out the door to their respective daytime activities, in time for me to get to an important appointment.
Inevitably, just on the cusp of thinking I’d magically managed to keep the chaos contained in a fast flowing steam of activity that led to getting in the car and going, each daughter wanted something extra – unplanned – that was absolutely necessary to them (by this I mean completely unnecessary in the mind of a rational human being).
It’s at this point I no longer heard the calm in my voice, instead I heard a mix of anger, pleading and frustration welling up all at once. Again, inevitably this just escalates the situation. Now I feel bad, and I have a choice, do I keep sliding into those old thought patterns and just perpetuate more bad feeling, or do I nip it in the bud?
I chose the out-of-body surrender experience, disconnecting from any thought of time pressure, connecting with a feeling of having all the time in the world. My calm voice was back, I soothed the children trying to focus on how to help them feel good, and we soon got underway. Everything worked out; we were on time and fairly unscathed.
By contrast (in case anyone should get the idea I’m anything less than a very imperfect being), I slipped right back into those old thought patterns like a pair of comfortable old slippers that night when my partner arrived home asking me a ‘dumb’ question. Snap. Those 50 – 60,000 repeat thoughts all just clipping the ticket for the day and perpetuating exactly the opposite type of experience I wanted.
Eckhart Tolle is definitely on the money when he points out the appeal of animals, because there’s no veil of judgment that exists; which is what generally exists between humans. Every time we interact with another our minds are busy interpreting so many signals based on our past experiences.
Animals are simply closer to their natural state of being, there’s no intervention of the mind. They sense your energy but don’t judge it, they just accept it. Can you imagine if we could be disciplined enough to do that? Just suspending thought, stilling our mind, to simply be there for someone. It would change the quality of our experiences with others dramatically.
Obviously I was needing a big reminder this week to focus on the experiences I’m creating through my thoughts, because I accidently opened the YouTube app on my phone and heard Esther Hicks sharply telling me that while feeling bad is a part of the process of creating something great, I don’t need to spend so long in the contrast.
This is something most of us are very guilty of, we tend to put up with feeling bad far too much of the time and wait until an experience is mostly bad before really doing anything much about it.
Here’s the deal, we are all in the process of creating our own experience all of the time. Yes, starting right now you will have a mammoth amount of unconscious patterning that happens day to day. If your days aren’t filled with, let’s say, 80% feeling good, then there’s probably a hunger to feel better about life.
“Think of two thought patterns that you want to change.”
Chances are you’ll be blaming it on others and on situations. This is not helpful. Your experiences are not what happens to you, but how you respond – mentally and emotionally – to those things. At first, as Dr Dispenza suggests, just observe your feelings and thoughts on a couple of topics you know recur for you regularly.
In the heat of the moment it can be hard to make changes, but if you preplan for them you stand a better chance. If you know, like me, you’re prone to judging certain comments, looks or actions, and that the judgment creates a behaviour and therefore an experience that simply makes you feel bad, think about how you might respond differently – without judgment – in the moment, in a way that will make you feel good.
By focusing on feeling good more of the time, you’ll start to rewire your biology, neurocircuitry, neurochemistry, neurohormones, and even your genetic expression. Changing how you feel will change the way you think, which will change the way you behave, which in turn will change the quality of your life experiences immeasurably.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/34039290@N06/18662478972">water attack</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">(license)</a>
If you often feel disconnected or wish for more peace or meaning in your life, it’s probably a good indicator that the life you are living is not aligned with the one you – the real you – wants.
There are two versions of you. There’s the real you, the one that you get glimpses of now and again, particularly on a relaxing holiday. Then there’s the cosseted, task focused version of you that operates day to day, lost so much in your thoughts that you are disconnected from both the real you and the living breathing world around you; I’m not talking about the ‘news’ here, I’m talking about life.
Take your regular route to work for example, do you pay much attention to it? For over 3 years I had the good fortune to commute into the city via ferry, a passage through the islands of the Hauraki Gulf that lead into Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour.
Sounds idyllic. Yet there I was, ‘device’ in hand, responding to email after email, doing the weekly online grocery shopping in between, or buying someone’s birthday present, or making an appointment, or following up on a bill, suddenly remembering five other things I had to do and scheduling them in. Sound familiar?
On the odd occasion the ferry captain would pull over so we could watch dolphins or whales and, suddenly, attention shifted, people came alive and momentarily connected as we all took our devices to the back of the boat to photograph these beautiful creatures and post how lucky we are in our various social media forums.
In contrast, before I started writing today, I took a walk around the neighbourhood. I no longer commute, so I make a conscious effort to go out and get some exercise and connect with the world I’m living in. It’s a calm day, with only a very light breeze, enough to bring the scent of flowers if your senses are tuned in. It’s the kind of day that lulls you into a slower pace just to still the rustling of your clothes and hear the birds twittering and tweeting to each other, a much gentler form of social media.
Before I took the walk, I had deliberately taken a short time out to still my mind using a breathing practice. If I hadn’t, the walk would probably have been more like my previous commutes because there’s always more to do than time permits.
Incorporating a period where you deliberately still your mind each day is critical to finding peace and connecting with the real you. Of course, what I’m talking about here is ‘consciously’ switching off as opposed to numbing your mind through that bottle of wine, beer or any other mind altering substance. I’m not saying don’t have those, your choice, but those aren’t what I’m recommending in pursuit of lasting inner peace and happiness.
At first it’s not easy to just switch out of your usual cosseted state, you need to make the conscious effort, it takes focus. Schedule it in, whatever ‘it’ means to you, any activity that allows you to consciously switch off. For me, it’s meditation, yoga or a walk; for my partner it’s a bike ride in the mountains, a swim or a spa. Whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour, just do it regularly and you will be amazed at the results that follow.
For those of you a bit more scientifically minded, thanks to my osteopath, I came across the work of Dr Rick Hansen in Hardwiring Happiness this week, he has some great tips for really helping you leverage your more positive experiences, making the feelings and state of wellbeing associated with them last - and explains the neuroscience behind it all.
As you practice stilling your mind regularly, you’ll notice more. You suddenly catch yourself in the midst of your usual daily whirlwind and you take a moment to notice the world around you. It might be the expression on someone’s face that you hadn’t really been watching, or the carpet in a corporate corridor, or the beauty of a tree outside. Then you notice your feelings on the inside begin to slow down, feel less frantic, less stressful. You wonder why you hadn’t prioritized regular time to still your mind long ago, how did you miss this simple step you wonder.
As I was reminded today by a wise man, in regularly stilling your mind, you won’t necessarily become powerful, famous or rich, but you will feel at peace and connected to everything around you – including the real you. In this state you feel happier, your true passions come to light, your inner knowing provides the answers you’ve been seeking and, in all honesty, you’ll be a much nicer person to be around in an amazingly enriched world.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
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