It’s amazing how much confidence some companies place in all staff training events. By spending thousands of dollars on renting a large conference room, booking an expert presenter, giving at least half of a day worth of staff pay, and enough snacks and coffee to keep everyone conscious, the management believes that all their staffing dreams will come true. They think productivity will rise, morale will improve, and the development team will be patenting the next innovation within the week. While there’s merit in continued improvement, the strategy of mass training misses the point of skill development in many ways.
Of course, there are many skills that benefit every single one of us. The ability to communicate clearly, to learn new tasks, and to take feedback with humility are just three of examples. Every staff can benefit from coaching and training in these areas of their jobs. Thus, an all staff training session on these topics can benefit many while saving considerable time.
The Problem With All Staff Training
The issue is that the majority of companies take this statement to mean that any and all skills can, and should, be trained in this manner. Basic skills to complete a task can be trained as a group because there’s little deviation in how you might want a job done. However, developing the skill to become a pacemaker takes more than just basic, universal skills.
In order for someone to stand out in their position, they need to have talents in more areas than just the basics. Unique talents spur on innovation. Differences in approach improve processes and change perspectives. To stand out, we need to have one of these ineffable traits, and group trainings don’t teach us those.
Group trainings don’t train individuals on how to develop their unique talents. That takes deliberate action, individual training, and coaching that focuses on the staff’s unique strengths over any other trait. So why do so many companies fall into this group training trap?
The Allure Of All Staff Training
The greatest lie in professional development is that you improve yourself by correcting your weaknesses.
See, companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on improving their workforce in waht they belive to be necessary skills. They believe that if no one makes mistakes, then production will improve.
This line of thinking does nothing but create a jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none workforce. It creates a culture where taking risks is inappropriate, because you’re trained on how things must be done. Any deviation can impact production. While this may mend the perceived cracks in the facade, “exceptional performance” will never be an attributable trait under such a strategy.
How To Achieve Exceptional Performance
Instead of practicing damage-control with your staff by attempting to improve upon their weaknesses, reinvest your time and money into something more productive. Try to identify the unique talents of each staff member. Then, give them targeted trainings that make those talents into strengths. Recognizing the inborn talents of your staff and devoting your resources to those areas yield a greater return on investment than any attempt to rectify weaknesses.
Recognizing the inborn talents of your staff and devoting your resources to those areas yield a greater return on investment than any attempt to fix weaknesses. Not only will your staff be providing a better, more consistent performance when they work from their strengths, they will become fulfilled by the work that they do.
As I’ve said before, by connecting with the purpose behind what we do, stress becomes passion and fatigue becomes fulfillment. A company that focuses on a collaboration of strengths is able to focus on continued improvement and success instead of avoiding catastrophes.
Remarkable businesses require remarkable staff. The only way to develop remarkable staff is by identifying their strengths and amplifying them. Successful companies focus their trainings on empowering the unique strengths of their workforce. So be a successful company.
The Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto yourself” is a very selfish ideology.
While it may help us navigate good and helpful behavior from damaging behavior, the recognition that in order to be good to others, we must first think of ourselves and our preferences, highlights a tragic aspect of our culture.
Thinking Poorly Of Our Abilities
This perspective of the golden rule comes from a belief that human beings can’t do good without something mandating the good behavior. It’s pretty much saying that we are completely unable to think outside of ourselves. Therefore, to get as close to ‘goodness’ as possible, someone has made a list of rules or laws to show people that, although you can’t be good, at least you can be nice.
This method of pseudo-altruism fails to take into account the moral, ethical, and cultural beliefs of others. The mantra to ‘do unto others as you would wish done unto you’ may aid in guiding routine behavior. For example, “I want others to respect my views” makes complete sense. However, it doesn’t provide guidance on how to respect another’s origins and deeper convictions.
For one person it may be beneficial or culturally acceptable to outwardly challenge another person’s negative behavior, while another person may find such action to be obtrusive and insulting.
I wonder… What would happen if we changed the Golden Rule to read, “do unto others and they would wish done unto themselves?”
Amending The Golden Rule
I’m not saying that you need to discard your values. Rather, this change is recognizing that it’s possible to adapt your behavior towards others in a way that indicates your conscious regard of their life standards.
In the same way that a bilingual individual talking with a monolingual individual would speak the common language between them, this change to the golden rule provides a foundation of altruism instead of egocentrism.
All of this is vitally important in an office setting. This is where we separate someone in a leadership position and a true leader.
True Leaders vs. Leadership Positions
True leaders recognize that, while opinion and conviction can be relative, goodness is universal. A leader acts toward the betterment of others, recognizing that without fulfilling an individual’s convictions any action is futile.
Those lacking leadership abilities often provide support or direction from an egocentric perspective. Thus, they quickly become frustrated as their efforts produce few, if any, positive results.
True leaders recognize that it’s by acting out of the connection that binds us together that true change is possible. This is only accomplished by understanding each individual’s strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, and convictions, so as to speak directly to who they are.
These leaders act out of a belief that it’s not about forfeiting our convictions. They believe it’s about rallying others under the greater purpose that connects us all. It’s through the expansion of that sense of belonging, indiscriminately, that true forward movement and success are possible.
Encouragement is an individualized and empathetic practice. Without having the humility to set our perspectives aside and truly experience the world as others do, we cannot begin to provide the support and encouragement each human being deserves.
This amended golden rule allows for the dignity of each person to remain untarnished. It allows for the significance of each person to become amplified as it should be.
Have any thoughts, questions, or suggestions? Leave a note in the comments section below!
We all have those moments at our jobs; in our teams. Mutual understanding about each person’s strengths and weaknesses navigates the team through shifts in the industry landscape and large projects that stretch each person to their limits. The flow of the office makes it feel like a second home and a second family.
Until one day.
This Staff Member Struggled
It may be a new hire entering the workplace, a shift in the workforce that adds a new team member to the mix, or a change in leadership causing the work culture to shift in a way that one of your teammates does not approve. No matter what the case may be, your teammate, new or old, now has one main feat to overcome. Above and beyond the orientation process for new staff, learning new vernacular, and finding a way to keep their head above water with their tasks, this individual must now discover how they fit into the team system.
For the majority of staff in the past, the process was smooth; with only a few speed bumps. However, this staff member struggled. Greatly. The struggle became so unbearable that the other members of the team began to feel it.
The Effect of One Person
It can be stunning how much impact one individual’s struggles can impact the entire team system. As a leader, you may ask yourself if you made the right choices, or if this struggling individual is speaking the truth that no one else wants to hear.
Your certainty about your place as a supervisor may falter, making you question even your own abilities. You may even begin to wonder if the culture you have fostered and nurtured is as healthy as you think it is. In these moments, the last thing that will help you is to feed into those thoughts.
Don’t take a teammate’s struggle with the workplace culture as evidence of an unhealthy environment. Rather, use it as an opportunity to confirm that your purpose is still clear and that the team is still functioning on the same wavelength. If you find that adjustment is required to reconnect with your company’s purpose, then appreciate the staff for bringing the issue to light and respond accordingly to rectify the issue. However, if you find that, outside of this one employee, the company continues to thrive, then act as a support for this struggling individual in their discovery that they will be happier in another venture.
If you find that adjustment is required to reconnect with your company’s purpose, then appreciate the staff for bringing the issue to light and respond accordingly to rectify the issue. However, if you find that, outside of this one employee, the company continues to thrive, then act as a support for this struggling individual in their discovery that they will be happier in another venture.
Purpose Creates Passion
When a company is connected to their purpose, passion is produced. This passion causes others to make one of two decisions: Either a) they agree and become likewise empowered by the mission, or b) they disagree and create friction. In the second case, the employee must determine if this friction is something that they can live with and will help them grow, or if the difference is too great and they must part ways. Occasionally, these individuals will become stuck; jaded against a work culture that drains them of their energy. This unwillingness to acknowledge that they are
In the second case, the employee must determine if this friction is something that they can live with and will help them grow, or if the difference is too great and they must part ways. Occasionally, these individuals will become stuck; jaded against a work culture that drains them of their energy. This unwillingness to acknowledge that they are
Occasionally, these individuals will become stuck; jaded against a work culture that drains them of their energy. This unwillingness to acknowledge that they are a better fit elsewhere ends in a resignation that can be painful and challenging to recover from.
How A Leader Should Act
It’s right for a leader to maintain focus in these challenging times. Although disagreement is uncomfortable, it’s better for the company and the employee that both parties remain authentic to themselves; even when it means going their separate ways.
Work cultures willing to disagree foster growth and passion for the work being done. The downside of this authentic workplace culture is that not everyone believes in the same thing. Really, the only way to maintain an agreeable culture is to agree with everything but stand for nothing.
Notice that I described this culture as agreeable but not fulfilling. This is because without standing for something, purpose cannot be realized. We are creatures of purpose so if we took and struggle with no apparent purpose, then there is no fulfillment to be had. Sadly, there are countless companies and relationships that behave in an agreeable manner; stealing away any opportunity for their staff to be fulfilled by the work that they do.
The Trouble With Inauthenticity
Like a budding relationship, the two people are focused solely on getting the other person to like them. So they lie. It’s not to be inauthentic; often it isn’t even realized until later. However, at that point, they have to make a decision to either continue with the charade or risk losing the other person by coming clean.
Many times they fake it because they care more about having the other person like them than being authentic. So goes the life of an agreeable company courting new or struggling employees.
In most ways, these agreeable companies are harder off than the clearly struggling firms. While dysfunction is a sign of an unhealthy business, universal agreeability is a sign of a dead company. Within a struggling agency friction occurs, discussion of the struggles take place, and honest recognition that something needs to change is a daily occurrence. Just as in a healthy company, but perhaps with more wrong turns and off road traveling.
So, if there is a scale from 0-10 (10 being best) where struggling teams, agreeable teams, and healthy teams are ranked, the agreeable team is listed as 0; not the struggling one. This is because struggling teams are past denial and recognize there is dissonance. We don’t fight for one side or another if we are maintaining apathy.
By arguing, we are taking a stand; drawing a line in the sand. If everyone is apathetic toward the issues, then nothing gets done. At least in a dysfunctional system, there is movement; there is passion.
Passion is present in the struggle. When words become sharper, and methods are defended or attacked, passion is permeating the room. When a struggling team is fighting against an issue, an agreeable company doesn’t even realize there is an issue in the first place.
So, use those times when your staff struggles openly as proof of your passion coming to fruition. Determine the health of your company; not by whether or not they argue, but how those arguments take place.
Each company and each team has their own work culture. In these cultures, every employee stands behind the purpose of their work. Not every culture functions the same. And so it is the responsibility of the employee to be honest with themselves – to pursue a culture where they will thrive, and it is the responsibility of the leadership to maintain the wisdom and awareness of the qualities of those who do fit their culture.
Beyond all else, be true to your company’s purpose. It is your compass and your map, steering you toward your final goal.
In the desire to provide you with wisdom pertaining to professional fulfillment and leadership development, I have decided to begin a series of posts where I bring you books, videos, and podcasts which I have found to be particularly insightful.
So, to begin this new topic, I have a fantastic TEDx talk by Larry Smith. Larry is an Economics professor at the University of Waterloo. With such dry and, at times, dark humor, Larry makes a compelling argument for those who leave greatness up to chance and make excuses for why they didn’t pursue their dreams earlier, if at all. Nearing 3 million views, this powerful presentation will challenge your fear of taking the leap to pursue your passions. I hope you find it as empowering as I do!
If you would like to learn more about Larry Smith, you can click here to read an interview done by Forbes.
This video is copyrighted by TEDx Talks. All videos are insightful. Find more here.
What are your thoughts about finding a fulfilling career?
Leave your thoughts, suggestions, and questions in the comments below!
“I have an open door policy for all my employees.”
We hear this all of the time from leaders. But what does it mean to have an open door policy?
What does it look like?
Is there a good way and a bad way of practicing this policy?
In order to answer these questions, I have compiled a checklist for making the most of practicing an open door policy while avoiding the pitfalls.
1. Consistent reminders
Never assume that your staff understands the sincerity of your policy. Whether it is because they never think their question or thought is worthy of taking advantage of your open door, or they simply forget that the policy exists, consistently remind your staff of your open door policy.
Don’t assume that your staff is always under the impression that you can be approached. Make a note of it at the end of meetings, thank the staff that has taken advantage of the policy and use that staff as an example. There is no reason to have an open door policy as a leader if your staff doesn’t remember to use it!
2. Close your door when you’re unavailable.
One way to undermine your attempts to practice an open door policy is to keep your door open no matter what. Every job has tasks that require 100% of your attention for an extended period of time to accomplish.
If you require not being interrupted, then show that by closing your door. Leaving your door open while you are unavailable will confuse your staff and add unnecessary ambiguity to what you or open door policy really is.
So close your door if you need to focus and open it back up once you finished your task. This will show that when your door is open you really are available while also acting as an example of healthy boundaries at work.
3. Get up and move
An open door policy is just as much a metaphor as it is a literal behavior. Show your availability by taking a walk around the floor or standing in your doorframe. Your physical presence can act as a reminder that you are there for your staff; available for questions or conversations.
However, be sure to take care knowing how this is coming off to your staff. This behavior can easily backfire; overwhelming staff or making it seem like you don’t trust them. This can be managed by asking yourself the purpose behind any questions you ask your staff.
Focus conversations at this time on light topics or reminders that would have been sent through e-mail. You are attempting to reach out to your staff and show them that you are not only often available to speak in person, but you prefer it to the separation caused by Internet communication.
Essentially, you are exemplifying the behavior you would like to receive.
4. Allow a wide range of conversation topics.
This is either music to your ears or the dreaded downside of the open-door policy. Just as it was stated in #3, the purpose of the open door policy is so that your staff may enter your office and talk with you. This, however, comes with its own drawbacks; especially if you are not one for idle chitchat.
Along with the routine job-related questions, it is not uncommon for staff to utilize your open door policy to ask you questions that may be better referred to other employees or simply communicate on a personal level. Depending upon your communication style you will either redirect the majority of these interactions, welcome them or be ambivalent.
No matter your personal communication style, respect the fact that your staff is regarding you as someone whom they can approach about these subjects.
5. Use it to develop relationships
Take time to understand where your boundaries are so that you are aware of what you are, and are not, comfortable talking about and with whom. Remember, idle chitchat is not idle if the relationship is being strengthened by the contact.
Many work environments expect approximately 80% productivity. This means that out of every 8 hour work day, staff are expected to complete 6 solid hours of work. This 2-hour lax time takes into account the need for taking breaks and building camaraderie. Be sure to allow yourself time to not only be productive with work tasks but be productive developing relationships with your staff.
Remember: You are a leader, and a true leader’s responsibility is to those whom they lead. An open door policy is an invaluable practice that can help develop a trusting and supportive culture. Maintain awareness of your actions and continue nurturing your workplace culture.
What are your experiences with using an open-door policy?
Leave your stories, suggestions, and questions in the comments below!
This week I want to share with you one of my favorite scholars. The author of 2 #1 New York Times Bestsellers, and 7 published works in all, Brené Brown is a professor at the University of Huston Graduate College of Social Work where she completes research to further her understanding of authenticity, leadership, shame, and vulnerability. Brené’s TED talks have been viewed several million times, inspiring viewers the world over with her expertise.
Brené Brown on empathy
While Brené has some fantastic videos, podcast interviews, and books, I have decided to show an example of her work in the video below which focuses on the difference between empathy and sympathy.
I hope you enjoy the video and find inspiration to do more good to those around you!
If you would like to learn more about Brown and her work, I have listed some of her works along with her main website below.
Video Copyright of RSA
How many times in your life have you found yourself passionately pursuing something? Be it a life-long dream, or a newly found interest. And how many times have you found yourself, pursuing those dreams, only to become derailed? Sometimes it is a significant shift in our lives that demands our attention. After which we simply lose sight of what we were pursuing. Other times we may simply lose the fire we had when we started. Either way, it often leaves us yearning to pick up the reigns again.
Sadly, reigniting that fire can seem incredibly challenging. We feel that we need to start from the beginning; forgetting everything we have done up to this point. This has happened to me on multiple occasions. I want to share with you what I do to get myself back to that point of action; passed the feeling of being overwhelmed and reconnecting with the motivation I had before.
These techniques are helpful in multiple arenas. Whether you resonated with the situation above, or are simply wanting to keep the motivation you already have. Try these techniques and adapt them to your personality.
Be specific with your goals
I have lost count how many times I have heard a client say,
“I just want to live a healthier life,” or, “I want to live comfortably,” or, “I want to spend more time with my family.”
While these goals are not bad with respect to their fundamental quality as aspirations, they are often the cornerstone to a resolution that fans to the wayside and is quickly abandoned. This is because we need specific, tangible goals. If we can’t picture what life would be like after accomplishing the goal, then it is too vague and will not give you the motivation you will need for success. Instead of simply wanting to live a “healthier” life, make a list of behaviors and characteristics that you would identify as part of a healthy lifestyle. Once we have done this, we can move to our next technique.
Picturing your future self; act as-if
Often we think about what it would be like to have find ourselves where we want to be. The problem is that we constantly forget about what has to happen in order to accomplish our goals. Instead of thinking about how much you want to be a better you, think about what this better you does and then do those things. In other words, act as if you are already as successful, or healthy as you want to be. Does the healthy you exercise 3-4 times weekly or more? Then start doing that. Does the successful you take chances to live through your passions? Then take the steps needed to take the big leaps of faith. Until we realize that the behaviors of our “more successful self” are integral to the lifestyle we want to live, we will never get to where we want to be. Act as if you are as you want to be, and you will be amazed how your life will change.
Take one task at a time
There may be many aspects of your life you would like to change or improve upon. Be sure to focus on one task at a time. It may seem as though it will take so much more time this way, but you need to change your perspective to see the bigger picture. Investments in your lifestyle are like investments in passive income. Time, energy, and focus are required in massive amounts at the beginning. But, if you invested properly, the end result would be longer lasting and more fortuitous. By not putting the time in at the beginning, you will spend more time in the long run just trying to maintain your pursuit of your goals rather than the obtaining of them.
One thing can lead to another
Remember, we are always improving. Simon Sinek tells a story of a time when he gave a presentation to a group of entrepreneurs. He asked them to raise their hands if they have met their original financial goals that they made first starting off. Most of the people threw up their hands. Sinek then asked them to raise their hands if they feel successful. Only a select few kept their hands up. This is because the goals we set for ourselves behave like mile markers rather than destinations. Every goal teaches us something and leads us to the next step. Do not lose heart if you don’t feel as successful as you assumed after achieving something. This just means that you are meant to do more. Keep going. Keep improving.
Understand the purpose
Finally, whatever you set out to do establish an intimate understanding of why you are doing it. The purpose of our actions is vastly more important to our sense of fulfillment and accomplishment than whatever payout we receive. If you begin to lose motivation, or you lost your motivation long ago, reconnect with why you are pursuing the goal in the first place. Purpose, above all, is what drives us. Without it we lose our direction and reason for action in the first place.
Viktor Frankl once said, “those with a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how.'” If we lose our connection to our purpose and forget what motivates us, we can become lost. So remain connected to your goals. Understand them. Deepen your connection to what drives you. Achievement and fulfillment are only found when we act out of our purpose, and purpose is the truest form of motivation.
I had a meeting between a business and their client the other day. The client felt slighted and unsupported by the company while the company felt disrespected and abused by the client. The client and the company would take turns complaining about the other party’s behavior, and the accused party would deny any such behavior.
It is a conflict with which many of us are familiar. A family member hurts our feelings, and we spend hours, even days, arguing about who hurt who worse. What I have come to believe after working with families, individuals, and companies in these situations is that the current conflict has only a small role to play with regards to the greater issue. The key is to identify what that role is, and why it is important at this moment. Here are some techniques I utilize when working with conflict.
First and foremost, avoid attributing blame. Just don’t do it. This is the number one time waster and relationship killer when in conflict-management mode. Two outcomes are possible from attributing blame. Either the blamed person stands by their action and resents the accusation, or they deny that it ever happened or the validity of your feelings about it. Either way, no one comes out feeling better about the situation. Instead, set the past aside. You need to focus on the present and the future in order to have progress, and blame has no place in either.
Next, it is important to be direct and say what is actually wanted. When you want to order at a fast-food restaurant do you go to the counter and say, “I don’t want pickles and I don’t want cheese,” and get frustrated when they don’t give you exactly what you want. Of course you don’t. You tell the employee exactly what you want. “I want a burger with lettuce and onion, hold the pickles and cheese.” In the same way, when you are asking others to change how they interact with you, avoid saying what doesn’t work and instead focus on listing what does work. This isn’t to say listing actions to avoid is a waste of time; on the contrary. This is invaluable information for the listener. However, if we do not focus on giving others examples of what makes us feel loved and appreciated, then we are just giving them examples of what not to do, only aiding in narrowing the possible ways to behave. Give them a hand and just tell them outright what works.
The next task is to give each other time to understand what is actually being communicated. While we may be speaking the same language, communication styles can make it seem like we are from different worlds. This is because every individual has a unique worldview; their collection of beliefs, goals, and values. Often the environment in which we grow, styles of communication are taught inadvertently. What is offensive or damaging in one environment may be the status-quo method of communicating needs in a healthy and direct way. Because of this, it is vital that time is taken to fully understand what each party is trying to communicate. Often the conflict develops out of differing communication styles.
Finally, maintain a heart of empathy and respect. Each one of us has a vibrant and dynamic life we live. We have all learned ways to survive and thrive in this often too confusing world. Remember to respect every opinion as valid and vital in the progress of a healthy family or business.
There are difficult clients and difficult agencies in business. In our personal lives, there are difficult neighbors, friends, and even family. No matter the conflict, no matter those involved, there is blame to be shared. So set the blame aside and focus on constructive ways to move forward and avoid creating similar hardships in the future.
If you would like to learn more about these techniques and the conflict-management process, I have listed two helpful books below for your reference. They have been invaluable and are utilized in numerous academic settings. In future posts I will discuss these books in depth.
Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg
People Styles at Work… And Beyond by Robert Bolton
We all struggle to concentrate at one time or another. It can be a frustrating ordeal to not be present and focused. Whether in meetings or spending time with family and friends, if you don’t feel like you can concentrate or be present, it can feel like you are getting absolutely nothing done. For some of us it may be a chronic issue while for others it may occur intermittently. No matter where you find yourself, the following list of 7 tips may help you improve your focus and reduce “brain fog.”
1.Get enough sleep
There is a reason this is the first tip. Our quality of sleep impacts nearly every aspect of our lives. From physical health, to food intake, to our ability to focus. If we do not get the right amount of sleep, then we will be lagging behind in every other aspect of a healthy lifestyle. In an article written by Claire Scullin for the journal for Occupational Health, she states that just one night of poor sleep can negatively impact our productivity at work by 57%. This means, generally, that we complete more in less than 4 hours while consistently sleeping well than we do in a normal 8-hour shift after a night of poor sleep. Sculpin also wrote that when we are tired our body produces more hunger hormones (Ghrelin) and less satiety hormones (Leptin). This means that when we are tired we eat more, and often poorly. Which leads us into our second tip.
2.Eat a healthy diet
With the growing literature on the effects of healthy eating habits and obesity epidemics, more focus has been placed on what we put into our bodies. Roger N. Walsh, a professor in the Psychiatry & Human Behavior School of Medicine and the University of California, writes that a significant link has been found between obesity and cognitive function as well as significant impact of our daily diet on our overall mental health. For a diet that is beneficial for our cognitive functioning as well as our physical health, Walsh says to follow these rules:
1. Eat a “rainbow diet.” Focus on gorging on colorful fruits and vegetables. This includes blueberries, strawberries, avocados, broccoli, spinach, and anything else that makes your plate vibrant.
2. Eat deep-seawater fish like salmon. High in Omega-3 oils, it is a fantastic source of lean protein without boring yourself with chicken every night.
3. Do your best to reduce unnecessary calories. This is good for your overall health, focusing consumed calories on healthy sources, as well as good for your wallet. By keeping yourself from stopping for a snack at a gas station or a fast-food restaurant you will save yourself a significant amount over even a week’s time.
3.Organize your tasks
Many times we lose focus during a task simply because the amount information we are trying to take in is enormous. Instead, take the time to break your tasks down and organize them in a way that makes sense to you. A simple form of this is to make a to-do list that separates every single step of a process. Organizing a task helps you maintain focus by keeping a tangible understanding of exactly what you are working on. You also give your brain motivation to concentrate because your body releases dopamine as you progress through tasks. This means that watching as your to-do list gets completed literally gives you a high.
You don’t need to achieve enlightenment to benefit from this simple and refreshing activity. In their study printed in 2007, Chan & Woollcott found that meditating as little as 6 minutes a day can have a positive impact on your executive functioning. This means meditation improves focus, emotional regulation, self-awareness and alertness, among many other benefits. They also found that it doesn’t matter how much practice you have meditating over the years. Rather, the positive impact of meditation on your executive functioning is determined by how much you meditate each day. This also means that the more time you spend meditating each day, the better it is for you. So don’t concern yourself with how little or how much practice you have meditating; just start.
In their 2009 work, studying exercise’s impact on individual’s memory and affect, Stroth, Hille, Spitzer, and Reinhardt of the University of Ulm in Germany, found that adding a routine of three 30 minute running sessions each week significantly increases the individual’s positive affect, or positive mood. They also found that those who completed the running sessions showed improvement in their visuospatial memory, or their ability to remember specific objects and their relation to other objects. This indicates that as little as 30 minutes of running three times a week could help improve your overall mood and spatial processing and memory abilities. Not to mention feeling better about yourself for being healthy!
6. Get a mental health check-up
I am a passionate proponent for metal health management. I strongly believe that regular appointments with a therapist are just as important as our appointments with our primary care physicians. Mental health awareness has been growing, and with it a deeper understanding of just how much our mental and emotional health impacts our overall wellbeing. From physical ailments such as headaches and nausea, to mental functioning including fatigue and poor concentration, our mental health can impact nearly every aspect of our lives. Having a trained professional help provide unbiased, educated feedback can have a significantly positive impact on every one of us.
To learn more about mental health, and ending the stigma of establishing a mental health provider, visit the following links:
7. Spend time outside
Over the centuries, we have spent increasing amounts of time indoors. With the invention of computers and smart phones, we have been exposed to additional blue-light, which can confuse our circadian rhythm and can impact our quality of sleep. Our bodies crave natural sunlight and the benefits that can only be found outdoors. Studies have shown that waterfalls release negative ions, which clean the air and have an anti-depressant effect. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that spending time outside had an effect similar to meditation; improving memory and concentration by as much as 20% by spending an hour outdoors each day. While you may be able to find negative-ion machines for use indoors and sunlamps (which are necessary depending on where you live and if you are impacted by Seasonal Affective Disorder), do yourself a favor and get outdoors whenever you can.
Most of all, spend time on yourself. If you don’t treat your body and mind with respect, who will?
Chan, D., & Woollacott, M. (2007). Effects of Level of Meditation Experience on Attentional Focus: Is the Efficiency of Executive or Orientation Networks Improved?. Journal Of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 13(6), 651-658. doi:10.1089/acm.2007.7022
Scullin, C. (2015). Top tips for better sleep. Occupational Health, 67(7), 16-17.
Stroth, S., Hille, K., Spitzer, M., & Reinhardt, R. (2009). Aerobic endurance exercise benefits memory and affect in young adults. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 19(2), 223-243. doi:10.1080/09602010802091183
Walsh, R. (2011). Lifestyle and mental health. American Psychologist, 66(7), 579-592. doi:10.1037/a0021769
Today I had a challenging day at work. It wasn’t that I had difficult projects or clients that were demanding. I didn’t have more calls than normal. For the most part, it was one of the quieter days at the office. Today was challenging was because I was anxious.
There wasn’t an obvious reason why I was anxious, I just was. I found that the more that I tried to ignore it, the worse it got. At one point it felt as if I were going to crawl out of my skin. It was an infuriating experience, which ironically made me more anxious because I was frustrated about it. I thought to myself, “why is this happening? It’s not like anything frustrating has gone on.” That’s when I had an empowering realization.
When you feel anxious or angry or sad, you don’t need a reason to make you feelings legitimate. The simple fact that you are feeling that way is reason enough to take care of yourself. So after fighting it for a while, I decided to go into my “toolbox” from my mental health days. I closed my office door and turned all lights very low. The only source of light I had on was the salt lamp that gave off a soft orange glow. I turned on one of my meditation apps on my phone, moved my desk chair to the corner, and laid face up on the floor. I turned on a landscape sound on my phone – some lost lake where only bugs and loons come to rest – placed my phone on the floor, and close my eyes. I laid there just listening. At times I felt the anxiety ebb and flow. when it would grow stronger, usually when I hear footsteps coming towards the door, I shut my eyes and took a deep breath. I then would listen more closely to the sounds emanating from my phone. After what felt like an hour of increasing peace, I decided that I had given myself the time that I needed to bring myself back where I wanted to be.
I felt lighter when I returned to my work. I was able to focus on the tasks at hand. I would not have been able to do that if I have not given myself the time I needed. Instead, I would’ve suffered through my anxiety. Completing poor quality work when my clients deserve my best. It is important that we remember that when we are taking care of ourselves we are taking care of those around us. If we are not at our fittest, then those around us cannot trust that we will be able to give our best when we need to. So, if not for ourselves, then we must learn to take care of ourselves for those around us because those around us deserve our best self. The only way to give that to them is if we treat ourselves the best that we can.
Fulfillment in a career choice has as much to do without feeling like we are giving to others as it does working in an environment that allows us to take care of ourselves how we need to. We are unique beings capable of unimaginable things. Just as unique are the things that make us feel better; that help us heal. Laying on the floor of the dark room listening to landscape sounds and meditating may seem like a waste of time to others, but to me it’s healing.
Many motivational speakers talk about accepting ourselves for who we are. Who we are as unique beautiful and vital to the world around us. But just as vital is our ability to honor ourselves by accepting what makes us feel better and what brings us to 100% so that we can do the very best at whatever we do. I encourage you to take some time and think through these self-reflection activities. At times, these questions may seem simple. At other times, they may challenge you. Often the answers can change. Not because we’re lying to ourselves, because each situation requires adaptation. It is about understanding the soul of the question and the soul of the answer. So take time answering these questions for yourself. Come back to them even after you have answered them.
- Think about times in the past when you felt rejuvenated. The feeling when you wake up you know that you had a fantastic night of sleep. What happened? Take time and think about multiple occasions when you felt rejuvenated. Write them down on a piece of paper. Described the situation. Who was there? What was going on? Okay emotions are you feeling? What was make you feel those emotions? After you’ve written these down to your satisfaction, Lynn read over all of them. What consistencies do you see? Often what ties stories like these together can be an underlying feeling; not immediately apparent to the naked eye. If you’re struggling to understand what about the situations is important to you, chartMaker list of things that are important to you. Values, spirituality, politics, Family, etc. After doing that, look back on your stories and see how things are important you Tyann to them.
- Think about times that you felt weak, anxious, angry, depressed. Ask yourself the same questions that you did for the previous process. After you’ve asked all those questions and answered them, compare and contrast stories of rejuvenation to your stories I’m negation. Does anything pop out to you? What can you learn from what you have seen in these stories? What can you find in the stories that tell you what builds you up and what tears you down?
- Once you start to actually understand the things that truly fulfill, rejuvenate, and strengthen you, ask yourself how are you can replicate these activities. Are there small things about the stories of rejuvenation that are pivotal to helping you feel stronger and rejuvenated in any situation? For example, I feel the most relaxed when I’m out in the Forest or at the lake. Having soundscapes of rushing water or sounds of buzzing bugs and trees with leaves kissing each other through the wind all helps bring some of that peace to wherever I am. On top of that, the sheer fact that I am doing something that has no other beneficial purpose to the world than to take care of myself helps me feel validated and worth the time it takes to take care of myself. What are some things that you can do that make you feel this way? Do not deny yourself true fulfillment and rejuvenation because it may seem silly to others. Honor yourself. You are your greatest advocate.
Remember that the better you are at taking care of yourself, the better you will be at giving back to the world. Less time will be spent tending to your own wounds. Do not deny yourself the ability to manage your emotions and you will not deny others the chance to know the true, unique, strong you.