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2020 Reflections – A year of paradox

A Reflective Space

This has certainly been a year of paradoxes. During those initial stages of hearing about the emergence of this virus, along with the other natural disasters that had occurred e.g. the Australian bush fires , the Indonesian flash floods, the volcano in the Philippians, the locusts in Asia-East-Africa-India-Middle East and the earthquakes that rocked China-India-Iran-Russia-Turkey-the Caribbean, left me feeling a little like a reprimanded child being sent to her room for an extended time out. Except, it felt like we were all being sent to our rooms by a really angry mother who was just done talking, when the virus hit.

I really likened the various levels of lockdown around the world to that.

I remember when raising my own children, I would talk and shout and yell and eventually my patience and sense of humour would fail and they would be sent to their rooms. Like all parents who has raised more than one child will attest; there is always one child who is more defiant and more stubborn and less compliant that the others. This is kind of how I have viewed what the world has experienced this 2020.

 

As with all families, big and small we have seen the varying levels of compliance and petulance [globally]. We have seen some come out of their rooms to resume life, only to fall back into miscreant behaviour and sent right back. We have seen the school yard bullies grab and  refocus  our attention for their own purposes, and we have headed the call for help from those less fortunate among us.

 

Frustration levels have inched up as fatigue sets in [doesn’t that sound a bit like the holiday season at your house]. We love our family but sometimes they leave us wondering if the same blood runs through their veins as does ours. Sometimes their thinking and attitude and behaviour gives us pause to wonder who these people are and how they can think the way they do?

 

So here we are! 2020 has rattled us all in ways we could never have imagined could happen. The foundation of our lives has been called into question and many of us have found ourselves reflecting on the things that are important to us and digging deep to find levels of resilience we were not sure existed.

 

For some of us this year has been filled with opportunity for others adversity. I think and really want to believe that either way we have all learnt lessons about ourselves and others that we would otherwise not have learnt. So, I would invite you to reflect on those lessons and not let them be in vain – we owe it to ourselves and to those who have gone before us.

As we prepare to bid farewell to this year I invite you to reflect with me on some of the lessons I have learnt and perhaps you had similar lessons.

My Reflections

We are not in charge: probably a lesson we all learn at some point in our life, and probably know intuitively, yet somehow we live our lives contrary to this. When mother nature loses her sense of humour and snarls and father time stands back and lets her – we the children of the universe need to take a minute to heed these parents.

 

None of our orientations matter when we face ourselves: Our money or lack thereof, sexuality, religion, political affiliations or any other differentiator we have come to believe separates us, means nothing when we face our own mortality. Death is the ultimate leveller, and it is a solo journey we must all travel.

 

Everything is about the perspective we have: If you were asked five years ago “where you thought you would be today” – I can guarantee you got it wrong; we all did. All our plans, hopes, dreams & aspirations for what this year would be like have all been upended. Reprioritization was the order of the day, and for some this was viewed through the lens of opportunity for a do-over and for others it was viewed through the lens of catastrophe and loss. Whichever lens you used to view the world, ultimately, some things will have changed for you and now the view you have is very different from what it was in January.

 

Gratitude keeps a positive attitude: Trials and tribulations we know are part of life. However, when our lives are thrown into disarray and we have no-one to lash out to or blame for the circumstances we find ourselves in. When those meaningless rants about whose fault it is, falls on deaf ears and we realise that no matter how many times we wag our finger at “those people” who brought this to our shores, we eventually stop and recognise that “we are were we are” and no about of ranting is going to change that. In these moments we learn that there are those who have lost so much more than we have, and still they smile and face their days with grace and gratitude – so what is our problem anyway?

 

Reflection keeps us real: For many of us, reflection is very difficult because through the humdrum of our busy lives we just never learnt how to do this in any meaningful way. No matter how you take time to reflect ,whether it is in the shower, on a run/walk, through journaling or any other space, take some undisturbed time to just think about you and your day that is either ahead of you or behind you. Reflect on the good moments and the moments of frustration. Reflect on what brought a smile to face or the contribution you made to someone less fortunate than yourself and remember how that felt. Then go and repeat that – for it is in those moments of service to humanity that we feel most alive and most valued.

 

Remember who you are: Being true to who we are and what we believe is often our greatest struggle. We get caught up in the priorities of life, work, raising a family, launching a career. Our lives hurtle by and we look at our children and wonder when they grew up. You know you were there but somehow the passing years have faded into a blur of activities. One day you stop and realise that those cuddly, sweet smelling little bundles are all grown up; and you are that many years older; and for the life of you, you cannot remember when or how it all happened.  Take time to ask those tough questions – Did I use my time wisely? What is stopping me from achieving my goals? What went well today? What did I learn today ? What did I teach today? Do I have negative emotions today – what are those and Why?

Truly think about these before you answer.

 

Learn and grow: I used to tell my students “We are always a student and sometimes a teacher” especially when they were feeling either despondent at not being able to grasp a skill I was teaching or when they were helping someone else practice a new skill. You see I have found that we should strive to learn 1 new thing everyday, no matter how random or arbitrary it may seem. Learning helps us to stretch our thinking and expand our curiosity and when we are curious we learn best. Wisdom is not reserved for the select few but rather is something we can all give ourselves by reflecting on doing things better, giving ourselves insight and learning how to be better and live more fulfilling lives.

 

Become who you needed: This was a tough one for me but incredibly valuable when I finally got it. We often spend many years agonising about relationships that did not go quite as we had hoped for. We lash out at parents or siblings or any other family members for what they did or did not do for us. We resent teachers who told us what we would or would not achieve. Then one day we realise that we are not that person anymore. We have achieved, we have the relationships we want, and the anger we harboured towards family members has dissolved, often into some form of tolerance or perhaps indifference. ON reflection we realise that we became the person we needed when we were growing up and we find we make very different decisions, which are often contrary to the ones we were raised on. Be proud of those changes because you are consciously making different decisions which serve you better. Self-awareness is a thing.

 

Leaking pipe or irrigation system: This was another incredibly illuminating moment for me. I always considered myself a fixer and proudly so. Always working from the premise that things are broken and therefore in need of fixing. Peoples’ thinking , their decision making, their capacity for progression. This was, for many years my job – to help people make informed decisions about their career and their future. I likened this to a water pipe and consistently felt as though I was fixing leaks along this pipe and I felt exhausted. I could no longer rally the emotional capacity to continue doing this. Then, one day, I was invited to consider an alternative view – I was invited to consider that perhaps this life was in fact not a water pipe that needed fixing but rather an irrigation pipe that needed to have the holes in it, to allow the water to drip/spray out. It took a minute to consider this and after a short time of consideration and recalibration I felt the relief. In that moment I realised that not all things need to be fixed and more importantly not all things that appear broken are broken.

2020 is rapidly coming to an end and as I reflect on the year that has past and share my lessons with you I wonder as I am sure you do too what 2021 holds in store for us.

I foresee a year of opportunity ahead for those who chose to see the opportunities, which for now may lie hidden. We have been given a chance to reflect and recalibrate and evaluate the things that are most important to us – our loved ones, the time we have to live, learn and serve humanity, the opportunity to be kind and generous to those who are in need of it. We have an opportunity to heal our world and repair the damage we (humans) have done to oceans, rivers, lakes, forests, air and all other areas of our environment. We have the chance to look into the mirror and realise that this world will flourish without us here, so maybe it’s time to dial back our arrogance and realise we are guests on this earth and start behaving as such.

Mother nature and Father time remain our loving universal parents BUT we have not been reprieved of our wrong doings.

What have you learnt from this year and what do you foresee the year ahead being for you?

mom & baby - working

How to reduce screen fatigue in 8 easy steps

mom  & baby - working
The truth about Working from Home

How to work from home – with breaks from the screen, exercises for the eyes and body, and tips for reducing the need for excessive online meetings.

Since COVID-19 arrived, record numbers of staff are working remotely have been inundated with web conferences, online meetings, and webinars using various online conferencing software such as Zoom, Google Meets, Google Hangouts, Facetime, Skype, Teams and many more. These excellent tools have helped us to keep in touch and adapt our ability to continue to keep large and small businesses and educational institutions operational to varying degrees during lockdown and quarantine.

For some the ability to work from home has been pure bliss and a dream come true for  others it has been  an absolute nightmare. Whichever end of the spectrum you are on, like it or loath it, the reality is that for the foreseeable future [at least] remote working is the current reality aka the new normal.

So how have you dealt with and managed with your remote working circumstance?

Have you established a routine for yourself and faced your remote working circumstances as if you were still going to the office OR have you taken a more relaxed approach?

Do you get up and get dressed and face your day the same as you would if you were going into an office or do you wonder around in your pj’s or other comfortable attire and only adorn a respectable business appropriate blouse or shirt when you know you have another online meeting to attend?

Have you created a dedicated workspace in your home or has your bed become your new office?

Have you started feeling less and less inclined to actively participate in online meetings or do you show up mindfully and purposefully because after all you still have deliverables and deadlines?

Have you begun to resent the alert that indicates you have yet another team meeting  to attend and WHY can’t they just send you an email?

Do you show up for your team meetings prepared to engage with your colleagues because even though you are working remotely you recognise the need to interact and stay connected to your team?

Have you found yourself glossing over emails and not purposefully engaging with the content and making mindful decisions based on those emails?

Is your energy levels and body language and facial expressions evident that you have lost the ability to engage and are operating on autopilot?

 

We know that too many online meetings and too many hours in front of the screen can be detrimental to our mental and physical health.

While we can not escape the seemingly endless list of online meetings and lectures, we can try to achieve a little bit of balance in our day-to-day work-life.

This article will cover: 
  • The symptoms of screen fatigue
  • Exercises for the eyes and body
  • Why online meetings are tiring and how to reduce them
The symptoms of screen fatigue

So much information is transmitted digitally, and when the brunt of your job is information processing on a screen, fatigue can certainly set in.

Screen fatigue is a medical diagnosis called asthenopia. Asthenopia occurs as a result of staring at a computer, tablet, or phone for extended periods of time. Screen fatigue has multiple symptoms including headaches, pain around the eyes, dry eye, blurry vision, tired or watery eyes, tiredness, difficulty keeping your eyes open or focused on the meeting, sensitivity to light, and even vertigo. Asthenopia has also been called digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome (CVS) and can be exacerbated by reading digital texts for extended periods, working in dim light, or excessive exposure to the kind of blue light emitted by screens. Some people even report an intense feeling of apathy and anxiety after excessive online meetings.

Like all medical conditions there are ways to minimize the effects and manage your health if you are beginning to feel the effects of CVS.

Here are a few that might just help you:

Glasses. Screen fatigue glasses are available so check with your optician or retail outlet if you think you could benefit from a pair.

Take a Break. If you were in the office you would get up and go to the bathroom or printer or have a quick chat to a colleague, perhaps even take a smoke or coffee break, go out for a quick lunch-time errand. So what is stopping you from doing the same while working from home? While you may not be able to walk over to chat to a colleague  you can still get up  and do something else for few minutes; grab a cup of coffee, maybe put on a load of laundry, perhaps a couple of quick laps of walking around the garden or up and down the driveway, maybe even do some gardening if that is your thing.

Reduce Glare. If you sit in a workspace that has constant glare from windows or lights, you may consider rearranging your workspace. If you can reduce external glare from the screen, your eyes will not have to readjust as often, while you are working. Antiglare screens are also available for this purpose.

Adjust Display. The brightness level of your computer screen can also factor into the fatigue your eyes experience. Go to the settings and find the brightness level. You can adjust it to a lower brightness, which will reduce the harsh light streaming from the screen.

Stay Hydrated. Proper water intake helps reduce eye strain, itchiness and irritation. Sometimes when we perform work that isn’t physically strenuous we easily forget the importance of drinking water. Get in the habit of keeping a bottle at your desk and refilling it as soon as it’s empty.

Exercise. Just to be clear, we want you to keep your job. We also want you to stay healthy and able to engage in this new environment, so take time each day to do some sort of physical activity for at least 30 minutes. Your physical and mental health is your priority.

Limit your screen time. Use the built-in features on your phone to report, monitor, and limit your screen time. Apple IOS and Android phones track which apps you use most frequently and how long you are on your screen. With those details, you can make changes to limit exposure and work more efficiently. Perhaps you are spending too long commenting and scrolling through LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, which can result in more on-screen hours than desired. If your phone does not have these features, there are plenty of apps that do. These apps are typically based on the Pomodoro technique and allows you to work in 20-minute intervals while blocking all websites, pop-ups, alerts, and messages across multiple browsers and prevents certain apps from working. You can focus on one task at a time so you can finish that to-do list and have plenty of time to incorporate off-screen activities into your day.

Practice the 20-20-20 rule.Try looking at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. Excessive time in front of a screen that is close to your face can cause screen fatigue. If you alternate looking at something up close and far away, you can help combat it (Marcin, 2017). Looking out the window or going for a quick walk can help.

Why online meetings are tiring 

Meetings are important to connect with teams, share knowledge, and build rapport. During these unprecedented times though, meetings are also a way to keep connected with our colleagues, as we learn to navigate our way into  a new and often very different world of work. We have all at some point in our work-life wished to just be able to work from home and avoid those horrid morning commutes through endless traffic and school runs which were just endless. If we remember why we wanted to that  when we could not have it a t that time; now might be a good opportunity to revisit those wishes and call to mind those reasons which seemed so far from reality at the time. What did working from home look like to you? What did you think it would be like? What was so appealing about working from home for you and has your opinion changed at all?

There is a lot of talk lately about cognitive load and for good reason. We are in the midst of a pandemic and as managers and leaders must be aware of the trauma employees continue to experience. Anxiety is high and many  people have or are  experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder in the past few months. Others struggle with the chaos of children and spouses at home. People have more on their mind and plate than ever before, and many are at their tipping point. Requiring staff to be online with cameras turned on multiple times a day is insensitive to the situation at hand. According to Sander & Bauman (2020), online meetings increase our cognitive load. We need to work harder to process non-verbal communication when working on-line and to try to concentrate, simultaneously hoping there are no home distractions (i.e. barking dogs, noisy lawnmowers, honking horns, screaming kids). At times our online virtual backgrounds fail, revealing a cluttered room on the screen.

There is no doubt that online meetings are here to stay. However, we can control the negative effects by reducing meeting frequency and what times they are scheduled.

Creating a shared, detailed agenda ahead of time using a Google doc can cut down on meeting length. Participants can comment or edit beforehand to make the meeting smoother and more efficient. Additionally, using a messaging platform can help reduce the need for meetings by allowing for team communication in real-time. Lastly, a quick touch-base phone call is often the best means to communicate. A call also reduces the stress of having to get dressed up, clear your calendar, and declutter your surroundings. The added benefit of being able to go for a walk and get away from the screen can make phone calls an appealing option. Zoom, Teams  and other online meeting platforms are great tools. But just because we have all these bells and whistles doesn’t mean we need to use them.

Trust your team, check in when needed, but do not require a cognitively burdened employee to be in back-to-back meetings all day.

lady mountaineer

Why Believing in Yourself Matters

lady mountaineer
I can do this

When facing a challenge, do you feel like you can rise up and accomplish your goal or do you give up in defeat? Are you like the famous little train engine from the classic children’s book (“I think I can, I think I can!), or do you doubt your own abilities to rise up and overcome the difficulties that life throws your way?

Part of becoming Resilient is learning to Believe in Yourself

What Is Self-Efficacy?

Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in their ability to succeed in a particular situation. Psychologist Albert Bandura described these beliefs as determinants of how people think, behave, and feel.1

Self-efficacy plays a role in both how you feel about yourself, as well as  whether or not you successfully achieve your goals in life. Self-efficacy is part of the self-system comprised of a person’s attitudes, abilities, and cognitive skills. This system plays a major role in how we perceive situations and how we behave in response to different situations.

Albert Bandura, suggests that self-efficacy is “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations and belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation.

Self-efficacy can have an impact on everything from psychological states to behaviour to motivation.

Why has self-efficacy become such an important topic of discussion. As Bandura and other researchers have demonstrated, our belief in our own ability to succeed plays a role in how we think, how we act, and how we feel about our place in the world.

Self-efficacy also determines what goals we choose to pursue, how we go about accomplishing those goals, and how we reflect upon our own performance.

Virtually all people can identify goals they want to accomplish, things they would like to change, and things they would like to achieve. However, most people also realize that putting these plans into action is not quite so simple.

An individual’s self-efficacy plays a major role in how goals, tasks, and challenges are approached.

People with a strong sense of self-efficacy:

  • Develop deeper interest in the activities in which they participate
  • Form a stronger sense of commitment to their interests and activities
  • Recover quickly from setbacks and disappointments
  • View challenging problems as tasks to be mastered

People with a weak sense of self-efficacy:

  • Avoid challenging tasks
  • Believe that difficult tasks and situations are beyond their capabilities
  • Focus on personal failings and negative outcomes
  • Quickly lose confidence in personal abilities

How Does Self-Efficacy Develop?

We begin to form our sense of self-efficacy in early childhood through dealing with a wide variety of experiences, tasks, and situations. However, the growth of self-efficacy does not end during youth but continues to evolve throughout life as we acquire new skills, experiences, and understanding.

There are four major sources of self-efficacy:

Mastery Experiences

“The most effective way of developing a strong sense of efficacy is through mastery experiences,” Bandura explained. Performing a task successfully strengthens our sense of self-efficacy. However, failing to adequately deal with a task or challenge can undermine and weaken self-efficacy.

Social Modeling

Witnessing other people successfully completing a task is another important source of self-efficacy. According to Bandura, “Seeing people similar to oneself succeed by sustained effort raises observers’ beliefs that they too possess the capabilities to master comparable activities to succeed.”

Social Persuasion

Bandura also asserted that people could be persuaded to believe that they have the skills and capabilities to succeed. Consider a time when someone said something positive and encouraging that helped you achieve a goal. Getting verbal encouragement from others helps people overcome self-doubt and instead focus on giving their best effort to the task at hand.1

Psychological Responses

Our own responses and emotional reactions to situations also play an important role in self-efficacy. Moods, emotional states, physical reactions, and stress levels can all impact how a person feels about their personal abilities in a particular situation. A person who becomes extremely nervous before speaking in public may develop a weak sense of self-efficacy in these situations.

By learning how to minimize stress and elevate mood when facing difficult or challenging tasks, we can improve our sense of self-efficacy.

Examples of High Self-Efficacy

So what exactly does high self-efficacy look like? You can probably think of some examples from your own life including areas where you feel a great deal of efficacy.

Some examples of strong self-efficacy include:

  • A man who is struggling to manage his chronic illness but feels confident that he can get back on track and improve his health by working hard and following his doctor’s recommendations.
  • A student who feels confident that she will be able to learn the information and do well on a test.
  • A woman who has just accepted a job position in a role she has never performed before but feels that she has the ability to learn and perform her job well.

Self-efficacy can play an important role in how people manage their health, nutrition, and illness. For example, having a strong sense of self-efficacy can help people who are trying to quit smoking stick to their goals.

Maintaining a weight loss plan, managing chronic pain, giving up alcohol, sticking to an exercise schedule, and following an eating plan can all be influenced by a person’s levels of self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy can benefit a person’s sense of well-being in a number of ways. For instance, remaining optimistic and confident in your abilities, even when things become difficult.

Individuals with high self-efficacy tend to look at difficulties as challenges rather than threats. They tend to be more intrinsically interested in the tasks they pursue. Difficulty and failure don’t mean defeat; instead, these individuals double their efforts and look for creative and innovative new ways to overcome.

Issues with Low Self-Efficacy

People who are low in self-efficacy tend to see difficult tasks as threats they should avoid. They also tend to avoid setting goals and have low levels of commitment to the ones they do make.

When setbacks happen, they tend to give up quickly. They don’t have much confidence in their ability to achieve and they are more likely to experience feelings of failure and depression. Stressful situations can also be very hard to deal with and those with low self-efficacy are less resilient and less likely to bounce back.

Evaluating your Self-Efficacy Strength

There are a number of different scales that are used to evaluate levels of self-efficacy.

For a quick, informal assessment of your own self-efficacy levels, consider the following questions:

  • Do you feel like you can handle problems if you are willing to work hard?
  • Are you confident in your ability to achieve your goals?
  • Do you feel like you can manage unexpected events that come up?
  • Are you able to bounce back fairly quickly after stressful events?
  • Do you feel like you can come up with solutions when you are facing a problem?
  • Do you keep trying even when things seem difficult?
  • Are you good at staying calm even in the face of chaos?
  • Do you perform well even under pressure?
  • Do you tend to focus on your progress rather than getting overwhelmed by all you still have to do?
  • Do you believe that hard work will eventually pay off?

If you can answer yes to many or most of these questions, then chances are good that you have a fairly strong sense of self-efficacy. If you feel like your self-efficacy could use a boost, consider some of the following strategies for improving your sense of efficacy.

Building Self-Efficacy

Fortunately, self-efficacy is a psychological skill that you can foster and strengthen. Start by looking for ways that you can incorporate these sources of self-efficacy into your own life.

Celebrate Your Success

Mastery experiences play a critical role in the establishment of self-efficacy. This is the single most effective way to create a strong sense of self-belief.

When you succeed at something, you are able to build a powerful belief in your ability. Failure, on the other hand, can undermine these feelings, particularly if you are still in the early phases of building a sense of personal efficacy. The ideal sorts of successes, however, are not necessarily those that come easily. If you experience a lot of easy success, you may find yourself giving up more readily when you finally do encounter failure. So work on setting goals that are achievable, but not necessarily easy. They will take work and perseverance, but you will emerge with a stronger belief in your own abilities once you achieve them.

Observe Others

Vicarious experiences obtained through peer modeling is another important means of establishing and strengthening self-efficacy. Seeing others putting in effort and succeeding, as a result, can increase your belief in your own ability to succeed. One factor that plays a key role in the effectiveness of this approach is how similar the model is to yourself. The more alike you feel you are, the more likely it is that your observations will increase your sense of self-efficacy.

Seek Positive Affirmations

Hearing positive feedback from others can also help improve your sense of self-efficacy. By that same token, try to avoid asking for feedback from people who you know are more likely to have a negative or critical view of your performance.

For example, your doctor telling you that you are doing a good job sticking to your diet plan can be encouraging. Feedback from friends, mentors, health practitioners, and people who you respect can help you feel greater confidence in your own abilities.

Positive social feedback can be helpful for strengthening your already existing sense of efficacy, but negative comments can often have a powerful undermining effect. Social feedback alone is not enough to build your self-belief, but it can be a useful tool when you need a little extra encouragement.

Pay Attention to Your Thoughts and Emotions

If you find yourself getting stressed out or nervous before a challenging event, you might feel less sure of your ability to cope with the task at hand.

Another way to boost your self-efficacy is to look for ways to manage your thoughts and emotions about what you are trying to accomplish.

Do you feel anxious? Looking for ways to ease your stress levels can help you feel more confident in your capabilities. Do you find yourself dwelling on negative thoughts? Look for ways to replace negativity with positive self-talk that promotes self-belief.

Developing a strong sense of self-efficacy can play an important role in almost every aspect of your life. Life is full of challenges and high levels of self-efficacy can help you better deal with these difficulties more effectively. Your belief in your abilities can predict how motivated you feel, how you feel about yourself, and the amount of effort you put into achieving your goals.

If you want to know about how to build your own Self Efficacy pop over to the contact page here and book a free chat with me.

Are you guilty of Using these 14 phrases?

Don’t Patronise Me!!!
Phrases You might  Use That Unintentionally Minimize/Patronize Your Co-workers

Whether you are in charge of managing a team, head of a department or are in a role where you are required to participate frequently in meetings, responding to fellow coworker’s ideas and contributions in a way that is respectful is important.

Not only does it position you as a team player, it also shows you are collaborative and easy to work with – which is what we all strive to be at work, right?

“Well, think of the positive side.” “It can’t be as bad as all that.” “At least you have XYZ to be grateful for!”

Sometimes, the language we use can have consequences we didn’t intend for. Silver-lining types have probably had the occasion to learn this over the course of the pandemic — or at least, that’s been true for a friend of mine.

After a co-worker shared with her the toll COVID-19 had been taking on her mental health, my friend quickly went for her go-to response; attempting to cheer-up her co-worker by pointing out things to feel optimistic about. As well-meaning as this may be, her approach was not well received. Although her co-worker stayed silent at the time, she later wrote to her indicating that the response had felt dismissive and minimizing.

 

Often times you are not looking for a “fix” from the other person. You simply want to be heard.

Although COVID-19 has given us more opportunities to be unintentionally dismissive or patronizing , it is a type of language that most of us have, at some point, been guilty of using. Here are some phrases you may have used at work without realizing it was minimizing or even patronising to your co-workers.

 

  1. “I don’t think it’s that serious.”

If the other person is coming to you with a concern, this response essentially calls their concern invalid.  Try this alternative instead: “I see your point! Here’s how I’m thinking of it…”

 

  1. “Let’s just talk about it offline.” 

Context here counts. Sometimes, this age-old meeting line is totally appropriate, especially to keep meetings on track. There are time when some items will be worth separate conversations. However, if the way in which you use this phrase essentially silences the other party and ends the conversation, it is worth rethinking that response.

 

  1. “I’ll take care of it; it’s just easier if I do!” 

To indicate that working with the other person is more trouble than it’s worth; even if that happens to be true; this is  not  the best relationship-building tactic especially if you want to get collaboration and cooperation going.

 

  1. “It doesn’t matter to me.”

If your opinion is being sought, that is a compliment  and should be treated with the respect it deserves. While some people find it difficult to accept compliments ever those veiled in requests for input by way of voicing an opinion, showing interest in the person’s query, rather than brushing it aside will garner much more respect. Try this alternative “Lets talk about this a bit more shall we” or “If you want  my opinion then we can certainly discuss my view on this matter.”

 

  1. “You think you are busy? Wait until you hear what is on my plate…”

This one should be pretty self-explanatory. Any language that suggests you are one-upping the other person is worth avoiding.

 

  1. “I’m still not following you.”

Having trouble catching their meaning? Try this alternative: “Could you give an example?” or “Could you put that another way?”

 

  1. “You did not have to do all that.”

Maybe they did not have to, but at any rate, they did. Recognize and acknowledge the contribution and move on.

 

  1. “Sorry, that is not a priority for me right now.”

You should absolutely protect your time and to-do list. However rather than blatantly inferring that the other party isn’t or can’t be a priority, try simply going the route of: “This is great! The soonest I’m able to help with this is this date.”

 

  1. “You can do better than that.”

This phrase may seem harmless, but as Jerry Han, Chief Marketing Executive of PrizeRebel explains, it’s problematic for two reasons.

“First, it sounds like the kind of thing a parent tells their child,” he says. “Second, it invalidates and criticizes the other person’s work, idea, presentation, etc.”

Instead, Han suggests a more constructive alternative. “‘This looks great, but I think we can do even better. What do you think?’ This compliments the other person, shows you are on the same side (using ‘we’ instead of ‘I’) and gets them to suggest improvements.” It sends a more empowering message.

10. “Right… Now back to the matter at hand.”

On one hand, Han recognizes this phrase can be useful in meetings, as it can help teams stay on track and focus on the subject at hand. “On the other hand, saying it like this completely ignores and invalidates whatever was being said previously,” Han explains.

“Instead, write down the gist of what the other person is saying, then promise to get back to the subject later,” he suggests. “I like things like, ‘that is a great idea, but I think it falls outside the scope of this meeting. Why don’t we discuss this 1-on-1 later?’”

  1. “I actually like that idea.”

This is another tricky phrase that seems positive but is not. “This places the focus on you and away from the person who gave the idea,” says Edgar Arroyo, President of SJD Taxi.

“It can sound like a back-handed compliment, because it may give the impression that  generally you think the person does not give good ideas, so you are surprised that they have provided a good idea.”

Arroyo recommends simply using “That is a good idea” to express your approval.

  1. “Everyone knows that…”

Starting a sentence with this phrase can make others feel belittled. “Nobody really knows what another person knows  and saying that can make the other person feel dumb or that they are missing out if they did not know something.”

Arroyo suggests “Use ‘You may know that…’ as a more neutral way of acknowledging that you are talking about something that people may know about but does not make assumptions.”

  1.  “Good luck with that!”

“This phrase can come off as very condescending because it may indicate that you generally expect the other person to fail, but they may succeed if they have good luck,” Arroyo explains. “It can also indicate that the person does not have the skills or capability to generate results.”

Arroyo suggests a positive reframe. “You can say, ‘Feel free to let us know if you need any help,’ if you think the person is taking on a difficult task,” says .

  1. “You’re missing my point.”

“Someone who says this is implying that it is the other person’s fault for not understanding what has been said and that they are in fact being clear,” Arroyo explains. “However, the speaker could be at fault for not making their point clear enough or easy enough to understand for everyone.”

“It might be better to say, ‘Let me try to rephrase this to make my meaning clearer.’ This shows that you recognize that you also have a part to play in helping the other person understand you and that you are making an effort,” says Arroyo.

How many of these are yo guilty of using?

Share your list in the comments section below.

Helping Hand

What are Career Limiting Beliefs, Habits & Behaviours

Helping Hand
I can Help you

Career limiting habits (CLHs) are, repeated behaviours that keep us from greater success or enjoyment in our careers. These apply really to all aspects of our life. Research has shown that most of us are aware of our career limiting habits but have not made much progress in addressing them.

 

What are self limiting Behaviours in the context of our careers

This behaviour is when you hear that little voice start talking to you out of doing great things.

Self-limiting beliefs in your career includes thinking

you are too inexperienced for a job, or a promotion opportunity

believing you shouldn’t take a risk because you’ll fail,

thinking it is too late to change careers or find the job/career of your dreams

thinking or believing you don’t need more money because you are comfortable.

 

Self-Limiting Behaviours & Beliefs That Hinder Your Career Success

  • Seeking perfection. There is no perfection in life. The highest we can aim for is excellence.
  • Pleasing everyone. This is humanly impossible. While you can certainly please some people some of the time, you cannot please everyone all of the time.
  • Controlling people and things. This is not a fun nor a healthy way of living.

If you want success to find you attractive and be associated with you. You need to avoid doing these 7 things.

  • Procrastination – an automatic, negative, problem habit of needlessly postponing and delaying a timely and relevant activity until another day or time. This is often a result of being afraid of failing at the tasks that they need to complete. or even start.

There are four main types of avoidance archetypes, or procrastinators: the performer, the self-deprecator, the over-booker, and the novelty seeker. Figuring out which group you’re in can help you break out of your procrastination patterns

  • Fear of Failure – when we allow fear to stop us doing the things that can move us forward to achieve our goals.

This fear often stems from childhood, perfectionism, ego and over-personalization, and a lack of confidence.  At the root of failure and the fear of failure is shame, which is a very unpleasant emotion associated with feeling like one is a bad person, or has a flawed or defective self. It also brings up fears of what others will think of us post-failure.

  • Ignorance – can appear in three different types: factual ignorance (absence of knowledge of some fact), object ignorance (unacquaintance with some object), and technical ignorance (absence of knowledge of how to do something). Ignorance can kill you! Lack of knowledge, stupidity and deception of yourself and others are all life denying and can destroy happiness and meaning in your life.

 

  • Lack of Purpose –We need to have a purpose in our lives. Purpose gives us direction, it motivates us, it gives reason for our existence. It also helps make decisions, both minor and major. Discovering one’s “purpose” in life essentially boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself, and bigger than those around you. It’s not about some great achievement, but merely finding a way to spend your limited amount of time well.

 

  • Lack of Courage – You need courage to begin something. … Courage is the secret sauce that allows you to act despite your fears. Courage gives you the ability to put aside your fear of failure and take the first steps. Courage helps you overcome the fear of rejection and engage your stakeholders.

 

  • Fault Finding – to criticize someone or something, often after deliberately looking for mistakes. When we find fault with others, we tell ourselves that there is not much work to be done regarding our own shortcomings.

Faultfinders are almost always tell others, in one form or another, what he or she should be doing. When you make demands on other people, you send the message that you not only disagree with them, but that they have violated some standard. That is misleading.

 

Lack of Self-belief – An inability to believe in o ne-self due to Low self-esteem  characterized by a lack of confidence and feeling badly about oneself. People with low self-esteem often feel unlovable, awkward, or incompetent.

 

 Get Rid of Your Limiting Beliefs

If you need help removing any of your self Limiting Beliefs that are keeping you from the Success you know you can have then why not Book some time in my Calendar and lets chat and find our How I can help you Remove these limiting beliefs for good.

Resilience

Resilience – Super Glue of the Psyche

tree of hope

You know you are having one of those months when the crow’s feet have turned into vulture’s claws, when your sense of humour has completely failed you and you feel like you are stuck in some bizarre combination of the twilight zone and groundhog day.

You get times like that don’t you? My current blame du jour are the retrogrades, that those in the know predicted would throw all unfinished business and all that has been emotionally papered over, into deep fractures.

Change is one of life’s inevitabilities and as much as we are digging the vintage vibe or doing the ostrich thing to the stuff we can’t bear; change is the only constant.  We are all having to dig deep these days. Not just profoundly into our pockets but into our psyches too, to help mend and make do and get through in these volatile and uncertain times.

Redundancy, relationship crises, health issues and financial worries are becoming an increasing life burden for all of us. When the future is foggy, we struggle to find an anchor to keep us from feeling like we are drifting aimlessly and uncontrollably. We want black and white answers when those 50 rainbow shades offer an overwhelming and altogether unsexy prospect.

So, the buzzword to hold on to is Resilience.

Simply put, it is the ability to dig deep within ourselves to find that reserve of energy and resolve we need to help us through the tough times. Resilience is a skill and it can be practiced just like practicing to play a musical instrument or a sport.

Easier said than done for many, especially when you feel like jelly and you find yourself on shaky ground. Where is that strength you need to draw upon?

It is right there at the core of your being. You must have faith in your own instincts and abilities which will help guide you along the way. Digging deep into hitherto unknown reserves of self is what Japanese author Haruki Murakami writes about in his book on spirituality, philosophy and marathons What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

Keeping the goal in mind and consistently reminding yourself that things will get better; as you take baby steps each day towards it. Coaching is great for this. Ordinarily we seldom, if ever, need to dig that deep for our everyday lives. It is however, worth creating systems which you can turn to when you feel the ground shaking and your nerve is heading for the Exit with someone else’s coat.

Here are a few coaching tips to help consolidate Resilience.

  • Maintain good relationships with your family and friends. Accept their help in times of stress. Offer help to those who are less fortunate than you are – and YES there are always others in a worse situation than you are. Give generously and earnestly, especially when you feel you have little to give. We feel at our best when we are able to help those less able than ourselves. The smallest act of kindness done in earnest will open the door of abundance.
  • Try to look at the big picture of life and avoid viewing difficult times as insurmountable. Take small steps toward your goals and take one day at a time. Avoid the pitfall of trying to solve tomorrow’s problems today. Deal with what you can deal with today, do it well – tomorrow is not guaranteed. Stay focused on what you can manage today, right here, right now. Remember there are things you can control and there are things you cannot. So do what you can do, manage what you can manage and keep moving forward.
  • Accept that change is a part of life and acceptance of what is – is key. Keep working toward your goals every day, and keep asking yourself “What can I do today to move in the direction I need to go in? Small consistent acts in the right directly get results.
  • Maintain a positive view of life and visualize what you want. When we feel like our resolve is fading, often times our energy levels tend to wax and wane as well. It is critical at these points to take care of yourself. Eat well, sleep and exercise to keep yourself healthy – even if you only do a quarter of what you would normally do. This is especially important during times of stress. There will always be an obstacle or hurdle that we will need to navigate in our lives. Learn to navigate these hurdles with confidence in your own abilities is key. Fear and anxiety will always rear their heads – it’s perfectly okay to recognise that you are fearful or anxious. The trick however is to not allow it to paralyse you into inaction.
  • Make the Decision to Prevail. This too shall pass. As the Good times come and go so too, do the Bad times. Nothing is permanent – as sure as day follows night these periods of volatility and uncertainty will pass.

 

Being resilient does not mean that we do not experience difficulty or distress, emotional  pain or sadness. Resilience involves the behaviours, thoughts and actions that we can learn and develop to navigate the emotional distress. Learn and practice self-compassion and recognize that everyone suffers. Being gentle and kind to yourself is a much more effective road to healing. If your best friend were going through a rough time you would be kind and gentle with them; NOW go and do the same thing for yourself.

Another sure-fire way of developing some psyche superglue is to hire a coach. Book your 30-minute trial telephone session today by emailing me at renatafester@career-coach.co.za

 

 

Coaching Package to Choose From

During these unprecedented times we all need a little help. Here are a few packages which may tickle your fancy and provide some help along the way to redefining your normal.. If any of these sound like something you may be interested in doing click here to connect with me and we can schedule a FREE consultation session with no obligation.

If this is not what you are looking for let me know how I may be of Service and we can tailor make a packed to suite your unique needs.

Click here to connect with Me  

4-Week Coaching Packages
4-Week Coaching Packages

Coaching

Change your thinking

4 Short Stories that Will Change the Way You Think

The past week has been an interesting one, filled with both joy and sorrow.  As is want to happen the new week arrived in all its magnificence and serendipitously, I found these Four Stories that gave me pause to reflect. These are old familiar stories and you have probably read them before with slightly different people and contexts however the lessons remain the same.

Change your thinking
Change your Thinking

Story #1:  All the Difference in The World

Every Sunday morning I take a light jog around a park near my home.  There’s a lake located in one corner of the park.  Each time I jog by this lake, I see the same elderly woman sitting at the water’s edge with a small metal cage sitting beside her.

This past Sunday my curiosity got the best of me, so I stopped jogging and walked over to her.  As I got closer, I realized that the metal cage was in fact a small trap.  There were three turtles, unharmed, slowly walking around the base of the trap.  She had a fourth turtle in her lap that she was carefully scrubbing with a spongy brush.

“Hello,” I said.  “I see you here every Sunday morning.  If you don’t mind my nosiness, I’d love to know what you’re doing with these turtles.”

She smiled.  “I’m cleaning off their shells,” she replied.  “Anything on a turtle’s shell, like algae or scum, reduces the turtle’s ability to absorb heat and impedes its ability to swim.  It can also corrode and weaken the shell over time.”

“Wow!  That’s really nice of you!” I exclaimed.

She went on: “I spend a couple of hours each Sunday morning, relaxing by this lake and helping these little guys out.  It’s my own strange way of making a difference.”

“But don’t most freshwater turtles live their whole lives with algae and scum hanging from their shells?” I asked.

“Yep, sadly, they do,” she replied.

I scratched my head.  “Well then, don’t you think your time could be better spent?  I mean, I think your efforts are kind and all, but there are freshwater turtles living in lakes all around the world.  And 99% of these turtles don’t have kind people like you to help them clean off their shells.  So, no offense… but how exactly are your localized efforts here truly making a difference?”

The woman giggled aloud.  She then looked down at the turtle in her lap, scrubbed off the last piece of algae from its shell, and said, “Sweetie, if this little guy could talk, he’d tell you I just made all the difference in the world.”

The moral:  You can change the world – maybe not all at once, but one person, one animal, and one good deed at a time.  Wake up every morning and pretend like what you do makes a difference.  It does.  (Read 29 Gifts.)

its all about Perspective
Perspective

Story #2:  The Weight of the Glass

Once upon a time a psychology professor walked around on a stage while teaching stress management principles to an auditorium filled with students.  As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question.  Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”

Students shouted out answers ranging from eight ounces to a couple pounds.

She replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter.  It all depends on how long I hold it.  If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light.  If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache a little.  If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor.  In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”

As the class shook their heads in agreement, she continued, “Your stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water.  Think about them for a while and nothing happens.  Think about them a bit longer and you begin to ache a little.  Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralyzed – incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.”

The moral:  It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses and worries.  No matter what happens during the day, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down.  Don’t carry them through the night and into the next day with you.  If you still feel the weight of yesterday’s stress, it’s a strong sign that it’s time to put the glass down.  (Angel and I discuss this process of letting go in the Adversity and Self-Love chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

Story #3:  Shark Bait

During a research experiment a marine biologist placed a shark into a large holding tank and then released several small bait fish into the tank.

As you would expect, the shark quickly swam around the tank, attacked and ate the smaller fish.

The marine biologist then inserted a strong piece of clear fiberglass into the tank, creating two separate partitions. She then put the shark on one side of the fiberglass and a new set of bait fish on the other.

Again, the shark quickly attacked.  This time, however, the shark slammed into the fiberglass divider and bounced off.  Undeterred, the shark kept repeating this behavior every few minutes to no avail.  Meanwhile, the bait fish swam around unharmed in the second partition.  Eventually, about an hour into the experiment, the shark gave up.

This experiment was repeated several dozen times over the next few weeks.  Each time, the shark got less aggressive and made fewer attempts to attack the bait fish, until eventually the shark got tired of hitting the fiberglass divider and simply stopped attacking altogether.

The marine biologist then removed the fiberglass divider, but the shark didn’t attack.  The shark was trained to believe a barrier existed between it and the bait fish, so the bait fish swam wherever they wished, free from harm.

The moral:  Many of us, after experiencing setbacks and failures, emotionally give up and stop trying. Like the shark in the story, we believe that because we were unsuccessful in the past, we will always be unsuccessful. In other words, we continue to see a barrier in our heads, even when no ‘real’ barrier exists between where we are and where we want to go.  (Read The Road Less Traveled.)

Changing Seasons

Story #4:  Being and Breathing

One warm evening many years ago…

After spending nearly every waking minute with Angel for eight straight days, I knew that I had to tell her just one thing.  So late at night, just before she fell asleep, I whispered it in her ear.  She smiled – the kind of smile that makes me smile back –and she said, “When I’m seventy-five and I think about my life and what it was like to be young, I hope that I can remember this very moment.”

A few seconds later she closed her eyes and fell asleep.  The room was peaceful – almost silent.  All I could hear was the soft purr of her breathing.  I stayed awake thinking about the time we’d spent together and all the choices in our lives that made this moment possible.  And at some point, I realized that it didn’t matter what we’d done or where we’d gone.  Nor did the future hold any significance.

All that mattered was the serenity of the moment.

Just being with her and breathing with her.

The moral:  We must not allow the clock, the calendar, and external pressures to rule our lives and blind us to the fact that each individual moment of our lives is a beautiful mystery and a miracle – especially those moments we spend in the presence of a loved one.

Your turn…

How do you think differently today, than you once did?  What life experience or realization brought on a significant change in your way of thinking?  Please leave a comment below and share your story with us.

How to build resilience and cope with stress

Resilience is not ignoring your situation

What is Resilience?

We all demonstrate resilience in some form or the other at some point in our life. This is a very ordinary and normal process we all go through when we need to rebuild our life.

Being resilient does not mean that we do not experience difficulty or distress, emotional  pain or sadness. Quite the opposite the road to resilience is often paved with considerable emotional distress.

Resilience involves the behaviours, thoughts and actions that we can learn and develop to navigate the emotional distress.

We have all dealt with the death  of a loved one, loss of a job, serious illness or some other traumatic event that has left an indelible mark on our life. These are all very challenging  life experiences and many people react to these circumstance with a flood of strong emotions and a sense of uncertainty. Eventually though they adapt well over  time to these life-changing situations and stressful conditions. What enable s them to do so? It is resilience –  the ongoing process that requires time and effort and taking a number of steps to enhance and build their resilience.

Here are Six Strategies that can help you Build resilience

Change the narrative

When something bad happens, we tend to relive the event over and over in our heads. We step onto this merry-go-round and we rehash the pain the event has caused. This process is called rumination; it is the proverbial cognitive spinning of the wheels, and it doesn’t move us forward toward healing and growth.

The practice of Expressive Writing can move us forward by helping us gain new insights into the challenges in our lives. It involves free writing continuously for 20 minutes about an issue exploring your deepest thoughts and feelings around it. The goal is to get something down on paper. You do not necessarily want to create a memoir-like masterpiece.

Research conducted back in a 1988 study found that participants who did Expressive Writing for four days were healthier six weeks later and happier up to three months later compared t those who did not write or those who wrote about superficial things. The act of writing allows us to slow down our thinking and forces us to confront ideas one by one and give them structure, which may lead to new perspectives.

 

By doing this we are actually crafting our own life narrative and gaining a sense of control. We are also able to find the Finding Silver Linings which requires us to list at least three positive things about the experience or the lessons we learnt through this process. This helps us to become more engaged in our life post the event and increases our optimism over time. This in turn reduces our depression levels suggesting that looking on the bright side is something we have to practice regularly.

 

BOOST YOUR CONFIDENCE

 Face your fears

The practices above are helpful for past struggles, ones that we have gained enough distance from to be able to get some perspective pn. What about those knee-shaking fears that we are experiencing in the here and now?

The Overcoming a Fear practice is designed to help with everyday fears that get in the way of life, such as the fear of public speaking, heights, or flying. We can’t talk ourselves out of such fears; instead, we have to tackle the emotions directly.

The first step is to slowly, and repeatedly, expose yourself to the thing that scares you—in small doses.

For example, people with a fear of public speaking might try talking more in meetings, then perhaps giving a toast at a small wedding. Over time, you can incrementally increase the challenge until you’re ready to nail that big speech.

This kind of “exposure therapy” helps us change the associations we have with a particular stimulus. If we have flown 100 times and the plane has never crashed, for example, our brain (and body) start to learn that it’s safe. Though the fear may never be fully extinguished, we will likely have greater courage to confront it.

Practice self-compassion

Fears and adversity can make us feel alone; we wonder why we are the only ones feeling this way, and what exactly is wrong with us. In these situations, learning to practice self-compassion and recognizing that everyone suffers, can be a much gentler and more effective road to healing.

Self-compassion involves offering compassion to ourselves: confronting our own suffering with an attitude of warmth and kindness, without judgment. The Self-Compassion Break, is something you can do any time you start to feel overwhelmed by pain or stress. It has three steps, which correspond to the three aspects of self-compassion:

  • Be mindful: Without judgment or analysis, notice what you are feeling. Name it and acknowledge it.  Say, “This is a moment of suffering” or “This hurts” or “This is stress.
  • Remember that you are not alone: Everyone experiences these deep and painful human emotions, although the causes might be different. Say to yourself, “Suffering is a part of life” or “We have all felt this way at some point in our life” or “We all deal with some kind of struggle in our lives.”
  • Be kind to yourself: Put your hands on your heart and say something like “I give myself compassion” or “I accept myself as I am” or “I will be patient with myself during this time.”

If being kind to yourself is a challenge which it can sometimes be. Consider how you would respond if your best friend were going through what you are going through. How would you respond and support your best friend; what would you say or do for your bestie? Now go and do that for yourself.

Once we start to develop a kinder attitude toward ourselves, we can crystallize that gentle voice into a Self-Compassionate Letter. Just as yo would write words of understanding, acceptance, and compassion towards your best friend write those same words to yourself in a letter.

In the letter, you might remind yourself that everyone struggles, and that you are not alone; if possible, you could also consider constructive ways to improve in the future.

Meditate

As mindfulness gurus like to remind us, our most painful thoughts are usually about the past or the future: We regret and ruminate on things that went wrong, or we get anxious about things that will. When we pause and bring our attention to the present, we often find that things are…okay.

Practicing mindfulness brings us more and more into the present, and it offers techniques for dealing with negative emotions when they arise. That way, instead of getting carried away into fear, anger, or despair, we can work through them more deliberately.

Strong feelings tend to manifest physically, as tight chests or knotted stomachs, and relaxing the body is one way to begin dislodging them. There are thousands of meditations techniques and practices available.The Body Scan is one of the many you can use to focus on each body part in turn—head to toe—and can choose to let go of any areas of tension you discover. Being more aware of our bodies and the emotions we are feeling might also help us make healthier choices, trusting our gut when something feels wrong or avoiding commitments that will lead to exhaustion.

 

Cultivate forgiveness

If holding a grudge is holding you back, research suggests that cultivating forgiveness could be beneficial to your mental and physical health. If you feel ready to begin, it can be a powerful practice.

Both Nine Steps to Forgiveness and Eight Essentials When Forgiving offer a list of guidelines to follow. In both cases, you begin by clearly acknowledging what happened, including how it feels and how it’s affecting your life right now. Then, you make a commitment to forgive, which means letting go of resentment and ill will for your own sake; forgiveness doesn’t mean letting the offender off the hook or even reconciling with them. Ultimately, you can try to find a positive opportunity for growth in the experience: Perhaps it alerted you to something you need, which you may have to look for elsewhere, or perhaps you can now understand other people’s suffering better.

If you are having trouble forgiving, Letting Go of Anger through Compassion is a five-minute forgiveness exercise that could help you get unstuck. Here, you spend a few minutes generating feelings of compassion toward your offender; s/he, too, is a human being who makes mistakes; s/he, too, has room for growth and healing. Be mindful and aware of your thoughts and feelings during this process, and notice any areas of resistance. Research suggests that letting go and forgiveness rather than ruminating on negative feelings or repressing them cultivates compassion, more empathy, positive emotions, and feelings of control.

That is an outcome that victims of wrongdoing deserve, no matter how we feel about the offenders.

Develop mental agility

It is possible, without too much effort , to literally switch the neural networks with which we process the experience of stress in order to respond to rather than react to any difficult situation or person. This quality of mental agility hinges on the ability to mentally “decenter” stressors in order to effectively manage them. “Decentering” stress is not denying or suppressing the fact that we feel stressed, rather, it is the process of being able to pause, to observe the experience from a neutral standpoint, and then to try to solve the problem. When we are able to cognitively take a step back from our experience and label our thoughts and emotions, we are effectively pivoting attention from the narrative network in our brains to the more observational parts of our brains. Being mentally agile, and decentering stress when it occurs, enables the core resilience skill of “response flexibility,” which renowned psychologist Linda Graham describes as “the ability to pause, step back, reflect, shift perspectives, create options and choose wisely.” We often tell our children who are upset to “use your words,” for example, and it turns out that stopping and labeling emotions has the effect of activating the thinking center of our brains, rather than the emotional center a valuable skill in demanding, high-performance workplaces everywhere.

 

What is an Ideal Self and How to achieve it?

Who is your hero?  ‘I thought about it and answered…”it’s me in ten years time”. Ten years late I was asked the same question by the same person Who is your hero? ‘Again I thought about it and answered…”it’s me in ten years time” – Mathew McConaughey

What Exactly is an Ideal Self?

An ideal self is an ideal future version of “you” that encompasses your personality, beliefs, values, and behaviour under various conditions. It can be summarized in the following way:

My ideal self is who I want to become… the best version of myself in every situation.

The “ideal you” is, therefore “you”. However it is not the person you are today, but rather the person you are striving to become tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and so on.

This ideal self is not a state of perfection; it is not a fixed destination or a finished product. In fact, it is far from it. This ideal self is constantly evolving and changing, and as such is somewhat elusive in nature.

Your ideal self should always be several steps ahead of who you are today. When you do become that ideal version of yourself at some point in the future, the ideal version of “you” at that point should have changed. Therefore you should still be in pursuit of this ideal self.

This is, an important progression because it leads to healthy growth and development. It is also the process of continuous improvement.

If one day you were to catch up to your ideal self, that is possibly the day when life would lose all meaning. When there is nothing greater to strive for, and with no new challenge on the horizon you would end up in a state of stagnation from that point onwards. There would be no motivation to grow or to improve yourself and as a result, life would become perfect for you. That, of course, does not sound so bad, right? Well…It is not so good either. It is not good because reaching a state of perfection leads to boredom, restlessness, and a less than satisfying life.

All this, sounds quite counter-intuitive. Becoming everything you have ever wanted to be sounds like bliss. And yes you would be right. It would be as if all your dreams had come true. You are however, not that person today. It is the journey towards becoming that future person that will bring you fulfilment. It is, therefore, not the destination but rather the steps you take to get to that destination that makes life incredibly fulfilling, enjoyable and fun. Moreover, it is the process of learning, growth, and development along that journey that makes life truly worth living.

Given all this, it is quite clear to see why our ideal-self must be elusive in nature. It must change over time because you are  recreating yourself daily through your choices, decisions, and actions. Every thought you indulge in leads to a decision, which leads to an action. These actions form the habits and rules you live by and that shape your future life and behaviour. In fact, every experience you have changes you in some way. These changes might be slight, however, these always impact the kind of person you are striving to become (your ideal-self).Many small changes over a period of time will lead to big changes towards  the vision you have for your future self.

Your ideal-self, of course, encompasses the many roles you fulfil. You might be a parent, a sibling, a teacher, a sports coach, a leader, an employee or employer. Within every one of these roles there exists an “ideal you”. You might, be striving to become better at any one of these. As a result, you are working towards this ideal version of who you would like to one day become, and this helps keep you growing and developing yourself in that role. This is true for any role you fulfil.

Our growth and development in each role is the fuel that keeps pushing us forward through every decision we make and action we take. As long as these ideal versions of ourselves are somewhat out of reach, we will keep striving and pushing forward. This ideal version of you is what fuels your motivation.

This is all good-and-well , however, at times we end up walking along the wrong path because we succumb to other people’s expectations. These people shape how they would like us to be within the specific roles we fulfil. This, of course, might not be such a bad thing. Sometimes we just don’t have enough clarity to understand how we can grow and develop ourselves within a specific role. However, at times giving into other people’s expectations can lead us down a less than optimal path.

The key is to take on board what is helpful and allow that to shape your ideal self. Everything we take on board we  must make our own. In this way will we fully accept what we need to do to bridge the gap between where we are and where we desire to be.

Take a moment to decide if…

You know exactly who You are…

You accept who you are right now…

You seek to become a better version of yourself…

You commit yourself to growth and development…

When you know who you are today (your self-image), and when you fully accept this person, that is when you can commit yourself to becoming a better version of yourself, which of course comes through the process of growth and development.

That, in a nutshell, is what  the ideal-self is all about. It is about striving to become the very best version of yourself within every role you fulfil.

So what if you are not sure? What if you don’t quite have the clarity you need to bring that ideal- self to life?

Well, that is what the following four-step process to help you consciously begin shaping your ideal-self is for.

Often we desire to be better at certain roles and/or areas of our lives, however, we never quite take the time to clarify what “being better” actually means to us.

We tend to be vague about the things we would like to improve upon. Therefore, we never truly build enough momentum to carry us forward to this desired destination.

Avoid falling into this trap by going through a four-step process that will help you shape your self-ideal the same it helped me – with purposeful intention. These steps are designed to help you lay down a path from where you are [your current self] to where you desire to be [your ideal self], thereby bridging the gap between the two.

Step 1: Analysis of Your Current and Ideal Self

Your first task is to get to know yourself at a deep level. Yes, this means warts and all. It means acknowledging parts of yourself that you are pleased with and being honest about parts of yourself that tend not to live up to your personal standards and/or expectations. Ask yourself the following questions:

What do I value most about myself?

What would I like to leave unchanged moving forward?

What don’t I like about my current behaviour?

What aspects of myself would I like to alter?

There will naturally be parts of yourself that you are quite happy with and would not want to change, however, there will be other parts where you see room for growth and improvement.

Think about situations where you face adversity, conflict, making mistakes and dealing with difficult emotions. These are challenging situations that may or may not bring out the best in you. Consider these situations and ask yourself:

How do I typically handle adversity?

How do I respond when I make mistakes?

How do I tend to handle conflict?

How do I deal with difficult emotions?

Reflect on “how you are” in these situations and consider how you might be able to improve in these areas. Your answers to these questions will  lay down the foundations for your ideal-self.

Now, let’s take a look at that ideal-self by exploring the kind of person that you would like to become. Consider your answers to the previous questions, then take a moment to step out of who you are and project yourself into the future.

See and Feel the Ideal You then ask yourself:

What kind of person am I?

What standards do I like to uphold?

What do I believe about myself?

Here you are building a picture of “you”. This is not who you are now, but rather someone who you would Ideally like to become in the future.

Now consider breaking this down even further by completing the following statements:

I want to be a person who is…

I want to be a person who keeps…

I want to be a person who lives…

I want to be a person who doesn’t…

I want to be a person who solves…

Going through each of these statements will provide you with a much clearer picture of the kind of person you envision yourself becoming in the future. Now your task is to simply follow through with making these positive changes.

The only thing mission now is WHY?

Why is it important to make these changes?

In order to make change stick, you must have a “good reason” to make this change in the first place. There must be enough motivation for you to change, or otherwise, your efforts will be fleeting. What is Your WHY?

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