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.
Founding father and revolutionary trouble-maker Benjamin Franklin once said, “nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Ben’s wit rings true, but many of us would also say that just as certain is stress at work. Project deadlines and overwhelming workloads keep us bogged down and anxiety levels up. But does it have to be this way?
Stress: The Third Certainty
When looking at an average workforce you can see a variety of skills, education, experience, and cultures. Each staff comes to work experiencing the same environment in different ways. Some dread the day’s list of obligations, while others welcome them.
Stress permeates every second between 9:00 and 5:00 in one cubical, but their neighbor is empowered as tasks are completed. So what is it that cause some of us to feel stress about getting our jobs done while our co-workers are all too eager to step up and take extra responsibilities?
The truth of the matter is simple. Simon Sinek puts it like this: “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.”
The Impact Of Our Worldview
So what does this mean? Well, our values and beliefs, developed through early life, have provided us with an unconscious sense through which we view the world and our place in it. There are fundamental beliefs that we develop throughout life which help us navigate our understanding of the world.
Additional reading recomendation: Anxiety, Stress, and the Analogy of the Shoes
As a general rule, these beliefs are fundamentally altruistic due to the social nature of humanity. Basically, we have written into our DNA a survival concept of socially minded behavior. By doing good for others we help our culture, our realm of safety, and our ability to thrive.
Our worldview (ie, our collection of beliefs) then acts as a roadmap for our purpose. If we are consciously connected to that purpose and are able to articulate it, we are able to gain fulfillment by pursuing our passion.
In other words, those who go to work eager and leave energized are doing so by connecting to their purpose. Similarly, those dreading work and leaving exhausted are not connected to their purpose. This is the fundamental separation between stress and passion.
Changing Stress Into Passion
When we are connected to our purpose, and our actions are produced by our purpose, we become intimately connected to what we are able to produce because we have put a part of ourselves into it. We become passionate about our work and how we are able to impact the world around us.
If we struggle through our work, disconnected from why we are doing it in the first place, then we are developing a culture of stress and resentment. However, if we are able to connect our purpose to our occupation, the way in which we approach our responsibilities will be out of passion rather than obligation.
Personal fulfillment does not necessarily require the right job to fit our purpose. Personal fulfillment requires us to live through our purpose, despite the job we do. Understand what drives you; what energizes you. Understand how you can emulate that energy in every aspect of our life. It’s not necessary to have your purpose fulfilled through remarkable actions.
If you like this article, then check out: Inspiring Words: Frankl Will Make You Rethink Your Purpose
Our lives are made up of a multitude of moments. It was calculated that the average person makes approximately 5,000 choices each day. Connect your purpose – your passion – to every choice you make, and see how you inspire those around you. See your fulfillment rise each day.
Stress at a job is a choice we make each day. By reconnecting with your purpose, you can allow yourself to find passion in the work that you do. Allow yourself to be fulfilled. Strive for personal greatness in every choice and action, no matter how small.
Do you have any thoughts, suggestions, or questions? Leave them in the comments section below!
Do you need help finding your purpose? We can help! Click here to get in contact with us!
I don’t read as many leadership and management books as I would like, but when I do I’m picky. Often if the subject matter doesn’t hook me and pull me in, then I’m quick to move on. I really love to read. It’s just that I have a hard time reading anything that doesn’t inspire or incite conversation. More than that, I seem to prioritize everything above reading. But reading is like exercise. It can be hard to get started, but you’re always happy with the time you spent.
So, how do we become more motivated to read while reading words of substance? Well, this is what I’ve learned.
If you’re trying to improve, then you’re wasting your time reading anything with which you can’t connect. Whether it’s writing style or opinion, find the books that speak to you and challenge you.
To help you get started, the following is a list of the 5 leadership and management books that taught me the most about leadership and success. I’m constantly returning to each one of these books for reference and reminders. Each one of these books helps teach techniques and perspectives to bring out the best in your co-workers and staff.
Written by Simon Sinek, this book changed the way in which I looked at business and effective leadership. This is the first book that I recommend to anyone looking to improve their leadership skills or reconnect with their passion. The book focuses on businesses that have established themselves as more than what they do. The greatest companies in the world are those connected to why they do what they do.
Sinek uses examples like Apple, Microsoft, and Southwest Airlines to drive home the lesson that companies who act out of their purpose make more impact and are more successful than those companies focused on the bottom line.
The book, while redundant at times, makes a very important point about business. Making ethics-based decisions will more often lead you to success.
In this book, the author, Adam Grant, explains his research and findings of our actions with regards to our social environment. He describes in detail that the human race can be separated into three types of people: Givers, Matchers, and Takers. Throughout this book, Adam builds an argument that shows how Givers, due to their interactions with others and how they motivate themselves, are the most successful overall in their professional careers and personal lives.
Written by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton, this fantastic book discusses the results from a massive Gallup Organization research project. The project identified 34 distinct talents that, when properly encouraged, become essential strengths for a workforce. With this information, Buckingham and Clifton set out to spread their belief that companies must focus on developing the unique strengths of their staff rather than fix their weaknesses.
Developing an online test, they help companies identify the top 5 talents of each employee. They then guide leadership and management in the best ways to lead their diverse workforce. Along with this book, I would strongly recommend StrengthsFinder 2.0. It is an updated explanation of the Gallup research and the strengths finder test.
Also written by Sinek, Leaders Eat Last is a remarkable look at what it takes to be a true leader. Specifically, Sinek looks at what separates those in leadership positions from true leaders. He uses multiple examples from companies and the military to explain how true leaders are given the immense responsibility to protect those under their care.
It doesn’t take an individual in a leadership position to lead. True leadership is found in the way you take care of those around you and the trust they have toward you.
In People Styles at Work, Robert and Dorothy Bolton describe how unique our communication styles can be and how many struggles we face in the workplace can be traced back to a misunderstanding of communication. Robert and Dorothy lead the reader through the process of understanding what communication styles are and how to identify your own and those of others. When leadership and management teams are able to better understand the communication styles of our coworkers, we can more effectively communicate our needs and ideas.
Do you have any leadership and management book recommendations? Please put them in the comments section below!
I recently had a very insightful conversation with a friend of mine about ambition and executive promotions. While speaking about each of our own desires for our work lives, he made a very interesting statement. His statement was both simple and profound. What he said is something that many people think, but they may never have been able to express in words.
As the conversation turned to people with the desire for promotion, he said that he feels a disconnect with those who want to climb the executive ladder. Where others are focused on moving through positions in a business toward their final goal, his goal was to do the job for which he trained and not pursue those supervisory promotions. I feel like his statement brings to light an often neglected issue regarding occupation and success.
I believe that his statement brings to light an often neglected issue regarding occupation and success.
The Issue of Ambition
The corporate world has developed a culture where promotion is an indication of one’s level of success. “If you don’t want to be promoted, then you don’t have ambition,” of “If you don’t pursue upper management, then you’ve already failed.” Whether it is the pursuit of more money or more power, the corporate world has placed their definition of success as the only definition.
Ambition is measured by the individual’s desire to grow in wealth and authority. The problem with this perspective is that not everyone can, or even wants to, find themselves in a managerial role. Also, for those not dreaming of the corner office, their strengths very easily become overshadowed and neglected in this kind of environment.
When a work culture defines ambition as the pursuit of promotion, the strengths of the workforce not fitting that mold goes to waste. The company focuses their resources on identifying and grooming prospective executives and leaves everyone else in the dark. After all, if they have no “ambition,” then why spend our time and resources on them? The biggest issue with this philosophy is this: not everyone can be a manager.
Yes, the practice of using the motivation of a promotion is age old and a common tool to increase someone’s productivity. However, after a while, the management will have to provide the promised reward or risk losing the staff. Not to mention, if the entire workforce is made up of individual striving for managerial positions, then turnover will skyrocket.
Luckily, not everyone feels the push to upper management. Business culture needs to adapt and recognize that staff that remains in positions seen as “rotation jobs” deserve their chosen careers to be recognized as vital to the organization.
Revitalizing the Work Culture
How does this adaptation take place? However idealistic as this sound, it does have merit. The entire culture of the business, how success and ambition are defined, needs to be renovated. A business is made of individuals with unique strengths and passions.
If a business not only wants to survive but thrive, it must build a culture that empowers its workforce to work from out of their talents. In order to do so, positions in the company can’t just be used to groom future executives. If an individual’s strength and fulfillment come from making a career of that duty, then honor that. No one will be able to fit that position better than someone who feels fulfilled doing so.
Ambition takes many forms. The desire to focus on money and power may be easy to pursue. It’s only the great companies that desire to empower their workforce and make a lasting change. They recognize that position doesn’t matter. It is how you use that position that makes the difference.
Whether you’re a parent wanting to instill positive habits in your child or a manager trying to improve your employee’s productivity, you are familiar with the seemingly futile attempts to maintain a positive mood and motivation of someone under your care. It may seem that no matter how positive you are and how much positive feedback you give, a slump in productivity follows all too soon after.
Is your workforce lazy? Do they only work hard when watched? Does anything I say make a lasting difference? Am I just bad at boosting morale? The answer might be more simple than you think; as simple as the definition of a word.
When talking about motivation, two words are often thrown around. However, when I hear the words used, I often think of the line from Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” These two words are praise and encouragement. Most often, these words are used interchangeably. However, there is a distinct difference between them that is essential to improving and maintaining morale in a family and in the workplace. The distinction between each is best represented in the relationship between a parent and their child.
Most often, these words are used interchangeably. However, there is a distinct difference between them that is essential to improving and maintaining morale in a family and in the workplace. The distinction between each is best represented in the relationship between a parent and their child.
Praise is a finite jolt of motivation that is dependent on your continued input. Like the carrot on the stick, as soon as that positive input ends, so does the motivation. Often praise acts like a drug. The first interaction is astounding.
A manager experiences an observable change in their workforce that may last for weeks. However, after the initial experience, every subsequent occurrence of praise is less impactful and shorter lived. Often a time comes when that praise isn’t effective at all. This means that to maintain an effective level of productivity by only using praise, the manager needs to develop new ways to show praise.
After a while, “good job,” just doesn’t cut it. The carrot needs to change to something bigger and better. Worse still, praise only motivates similar behavior. If the manager is looking for innovation, praise will not produce as desired.
Encouragement, on the other hand, maintains motivation with minimal effort on the part of the manager. The word encourages literally means to instill courage. Being the moral strength to persevere, courage is something that is mustered from within to accomplish feats.
Instead of the carrot on the stick, encouragement creates a power plant of motivation within the individual. A reminder of what fuel to use is all that is needed. However, in order to truly provide encouragement, you must have the knowledge of the individual’s unique strengths.
Without speaking directly to their talents, the encouragement is just as short-lived as praise. As a manager, it is imperative that one takes the time to understand the strengths of each staff under their care. Individualizing each employee allows for greater connectedness between staff and supervisor and provides more opportunities to foster motivation and productivity from the employee.
Encouragement requires the intimate understanding of your staff’s unique strengths, providing the added benefit of knowing where talent can be found. Encouragement requires this knowledge because it is out of this strength that the unending motivation emanates.
So, when does a manager use praise or encouragement?
Using Your Tools
Praise, as stated previously, provides short bursts of motivation and productivity. This productivity is often lacking innovation, but motivation and productivity can be found in short bursts. This means that the best use of praise is at the beginning of a working relationship.
While learning about your staff’s strengths and talents, praise will lay the groundwork for what is appreciated in the work environment. It is also helpful when teaching new tasks to staff. Essentially, praise is the kindling to start the fire. And, if praise is the fire, then encouragement is the wood.
After the skills have been taught and groundwork laid, use the insight you have about your staff’s strengths to shift to the substantial fuel to maintain motivation and fulfillment. Now that they understand how to do their work, encouragement connects your staff to why they do their work and what they bring to the table. Remind, challenge,
Remind, challenge, inspire, and empower your staff by adapting your words and behaviors to foster greatness out of your staff. Everyone resonates to a different input; don’t force your staff to become inspired by your managerial techniques. Instead, adapt your managerial techniques to nurture inspiration in your staff.
In goes without saying that we all have unique strengths and weaknesses. Depending on the position we hold at our company, our strengths are being utilized or neglected. Similarly, there are those who are made to be managers, and those who would better serve being managed. Every role is invaluable, but without a manager who knows how to lead and inspire, their staff will become dispassionate and lose motivation. For those in supervisory roles, the following 6 traits have been repeatedly found in managers who foster creativity and unending productivity within their staff.
1. Owning up to mistakes
Many managers fall into the trap of needing to seem infallible. The fear of losing authority or the respect of their staff causes the over protective behavior of denying or explaining away a failure all too common. They might find themselves concerned that if they admit to one mistake, they may not be seen as qualified to lead. On the contrary a manager who is open about their faults displays authenticity and acts as the example of trust for his/her staff. Instead of avoiding acknowledging your mistake, the next time you run into an issue display your problem-solving skills as a lesson for everyone else.
2. Embracing that there is always more to learn
The unique perspectives of your staff will be an unending resource of knowledge. You will always be able to improve as a supervisor. Be willing to learn and hone your skills. Your staff bring vibrant experiences and education, and many are just waiting to be realized by upper management. Be humble enough to realize that you do not have all of the answers, and you never will. Remind yourself that innovation comes from the ground up. As Alfred Adler said, “everything can also be different.”
3. Treating staff as more important that any other asset; especially the customer
A common mistake that entire companies make is to place the customers or the shareholders higher than the employees. “The customer is always right” is a perfect example of this fallacy. Following this method of thinking, every employee’s abilities, talents, and personality is restricted. Inspiration is limited and innovation staggers because the fear of failing in such an environment means losing their job. Managers who inspire their staff create an environment where the employee is the most important asset to the company. Their ideas and unique perspectives are what bring vital change. If you want your customers to feel cared for, make your employees feel cared for. A fulfilled employee will emanate authentic passion to help your customers because they feel cared for themselves.
4. Acknowledging and fostering talent
As stated earlier, every employee is a unique, vibrant, and an invaluable source of ideas and knowledge in their skill set. Each individual does their job a little bit differently. Focusing on different aspects of a job and having methods of accomplishment as unique as their personalities, it is a sign of a fantastic supervisor that each strength is honored and the staff’s job be molded to empower those individualized strengths. Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton write in their book Now, Discover Your Strengths, that positions should not be characterized as pass-through roles, thus promoting people out of their talents. Be willing to customize positions to the strengths of each staff. Honor each position and those who function remarkably in those roles.
5. Being a constant reminder of purpose fulfilled
Every company has a purpose. Every successful and high-functioning company knows their purpose and makes decisions fueled by that purpose. Remarkable managers are intimately connected to that purpose and act as a living reminder of why their staff come to work in the first place. As Viktor Frankl stated often, human beings thrive when their purpose is known. Without purpose, action is meaningless. However, if purpose is known, an individual can endure the most extreme of hardships and thrive. Similarly, staff who are struggling to maintain motivation are best supported by a manager who reminds their staff of the purpose behind their work. This manager would empower and encourage their staff by connecting their employees to a larger purpose than themselves.
6. Using your status for the greater good
Outstanding managers are true leaders. Leaders are those who forge the path for those who follow. They use their tools to create an environment that is safe and nurturing for those in their care. Managers who truly lead know that their authority and position call for them to protect rather than control. Like a shepherd, an invaluable manager fosters an environment of freedom and empowerment that allows the staff to work out of their strengths and personalities. If there are rules in place that diminish the productivity and talents of their staff, it is up to the manager to change those rules. What the manager creates will set forth a self-fulfilling prophecy, for the good of the company or to the detriment of growth and productivity. It is their responsibility to use their status to foster a healthy work environment.
If you wish to learn more about how to lead with effectiveness and through inspiration, please follow the links below to some fantastic sources of insight.
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.