Three day weekends can throw our sense of timing off all week. In this video we share a #smallpowerfulpractice to help you get back to feeling centered and in your routines as quickly as possible.
Changing patterns is hard. We are wired to find a groove that works and stick with it. Life would be impossible if we had to figure out what to do in every moment, if we had no memory or routines. Imagine: my eyes are open, what do I do now? OK, I stood up, hmm, I think I’m cold and I should put a bathrobe on, etc. etc. Instead we have this great capacity to categorize and compartmentalize which saves enormous amounts of brain space and energy. I can go through my morning routine without really thinking at all.
Clearly habits have their place. But the problem is that situations change. Our actions and reactions need to change with changing circumstances. And that requires us to make conscious choices instead of going with the preprogrammed option.
Understanding the progression of the change process can be a helpful tool. I use “awareness, acceptance, action” as a mantra. Awareness comes when it comes. Eventually we figure out, or someone points out, that an existing pattern is not working. Usually it’s not until the pattern is causing some sort of pain. The diet and lifestyle that used to work fine have added 20 pounds. Taking everything personally leads to resentment and reactivity. I’m sure you can come up with lots of examples where an old treasured pattern is no longer working.
I and almost everyone I’ve worked with have a tendency to skip the second step and go straight to action. You’ve identified the problem, now we implement the solution, right? Except that in my experience that doesn’t work. There has to be a stage in between where we really get down and dirty with what’s going on.
I used to think that acceptance meant just rolling over and letting something happen to me. Now, I understand that acceptance means living in reality. It means that I have to accept in my deepest core that the old pattern is not working. Basically I have to go through all the stages of grief to let go of an old pattern.
In my case, there are several foods that my body does not cope well with. My process goes something like this:
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
In a recent blog, we wrote that our brains are hard-wired for routine – we develop neural pathways that help us execute tasks without using a lot of processing power. A change in routine requires our brains to break out of these well-worn ruts - to use processing power to unlearn, and learn anew.
That’s one reason change is hard. What makes it harder, in some cases, is how we respond when we realize that change is necessary. We may have one, or both, of these reactions:
Fear-based reactions, such as these, shut us down to what’s possible. Fear can also induce some of our most primitive and powerful responses – fight, flight or freeze. Trouble is, these states preclude our executive functions (in the pre-frontal cortex, the seat of rational, analytical thinking), denying us the ability to put things into a more balanced perspective.
When circumstances change, we sometimes go rigid (the fear response) rather than adapt. The costs can be high in the workplace –
A November 2011 Harvard Business Review article said it well: “Instead of being really good at doing some particular thing, companies must be really good at learning how to do new things.”
The costs can be high in our personal lives as well. We spurn an adult child’s new spouse or partner, losing them both in the process.
If change creates unease for you (as it does for many), it can be useful to:
Thanks to its neuroplasticity, our brain can be our companion in adaptability. So, keep your grey matter in shape. Practice mindfulness to develop non-judgmental observation. Learn something new – take a course; read a book. Practice curiosity by adding these simple questions to your repertoire – “I wonder why…?” or, “I wonder if…?”
“The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher.”
Groundhog Day. Just last week, remember?
We were reminded of Bill Murray’s TV weatherman, Phil Connors, who ventures out to Punxsutawney, PA for that yearly event. At one point in “Groundhog Day”, Murray’s character realizes, “I’m living the same day over, and over, and…”
Once awakened to that fact, he changes his responses, his behavior, and his routines in the subsequent iterations of Groundhog Day. As he starts to discover the possibilities, he realizes, “We could do whatever we want.”
What’s Murray’s big motivation for change? He wants a date with Andie MacDowell, his TV station counterpart on this crazy assignment.
So, what lessons are in this wacky movie for us regular folks? A few, we think…
Habitual behaviors are powerful – they are, literally, neural ruts in the brain. Thank goodness. If we they weren’t hard-wired into our thinking, we would have to relearn all the simple daily tasks, EVERY day – brushing our teeth, driving the car, making coffee. That’s why the 5 elements, above, are so crucial for change. We are, after all, re-programming our circuits.
We are particularly fond of practices and instruments that build awareness. Mindfulness is simple, and very effective. You can listen to our audio meditations right on our webpage. http://www.holisticperformancegroup.com/mindfulness-resources.html
Instruments, such as MBTI, DiSC, and others, help us reveal and frame our behaviors, so we can leverage what’s working, and flex where necessary. We’ve seen so many folks get powerful “a-ha’s” after such an assessment.
We’ll close with more wisdom from Einstein:
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Here’s to going beyond your personal “Groundhog Day”!
January is the month of resolutions, which are usually about change. So often, we yearn for change when we are disgruntled or disappointed. And those feelings can propel us into action.
When change is desired, it's helpful to attend to our side of the street first, as it were. How? Ask these questions...
1. “What’s my part in this?”
Oh, geez, that’s no fun. True. Also true - though most problems are multi-faceted, it’s easy to cast the blame on others. So, to examine our part, we might ask ourselves “Am I co-creating the problem, either actively or passively?” If so, then how might I begin to adjust my side of things?
2. “What can I change?”
In an organization, or a relationship, there are factors we can influence, and so many more that we cannot. Knowing the difference is key. Our energy is misused if we attempt to change things we can’t.
But, that attempt can provide some odd rewards:
Often, a high level of energy or desire for change can create a compulsion to act. If that's the case, pause to ask:
“Must it be solved?”
“Must it be solved by me?”
“Must it be solved, by me, now?”
And, if you’re dying to take action, start with your side of the street - perhaps a change in perspective or attitude. Or, change your approach, your words, or your routine. It's a great start that works wonders. It has for me.
Change is the new normal. And, we are all living into this together – organizations as well as those they employ. So, we’re taking a quick look at how both sides can increase their workplace flexibility.
First this, from the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College:
“Flexibility enables both individual and business needs to be met through making changes to the time (when), location (where) and manner (how) in which an employee works. Flexibility should be mutually beneficial to both the employer and employee and result in superior outcomes."
Among other statistics cited by Sloan:
“When asked about the importance of informal flexibility in terms of their intention to continue working at the company (Bristol-Myers Squibb), the response is resounding: 71% say that it is 'very important.'”
In a recent Huffington Post blog , author Rose Stanley examines 5 flexible workplace approaches, urging organizations to be creative when they consider their options. Where does your organization stand on these:
But, what benefits accrue from such programs? Earlier this year, WorkplaceTrends.com, a membership portal for HR professionals, and CareerArc, a global recruitment and outplacement firm, published “2015 Workplace Flexibility Study.” Some of their findings:
Flexibility, as an organizational stance, is only part of the equation. Employees who are flexible do themselves a great service. According to America’s Job Exchange:
The Holistic Performance Group can help you become more “change-friendly”. We build organizational and personal resiliency through training, coaching and assessments.
I don’t know about you, but making decisions has often felt difficult for me. I used to get really stuck trying to look at a problem from all angles and figure out the best scenarios. Even now, I am definitely a person who prefers to make big decisions slowly, to have as much information as possible, and to weigh the possible outcomes.
Ultimately, of course, you can’t know the outcome of any decision. It’s always a leap of faith. I’ve written about this before, but today, I want to talk more about how to empower ourselves to move forward.
When I googled decision making and empowerment to get ideas for this post I got a lot of articles about empowering employees to be able to make decisions. I appreciate that concept. It has to do with trusting people, allowing them to take risks, and giving them responsibility for arriving at the end in a way that is natural for them. Many years ago, before we became business partners, Paul Kimmerling gave me this sage advice on how to be a good boss: 1) explain clearly what is expected; 2) give the tools to accomplish the goals; 3) hold to the expectations.
That’s great in the business realm, but how do you empower yourself (outside of an enlightened job) to move from feeling disempowered, overwhelmed and stuck, to moving forward with ease?
There are many tools for improving decision making skills including developing a systematic approach to evaluation, improving communication with other stakeholders, and building resilience and acceptance of change.
Another key is self-awareness. Self-awareness is a form of mindfulness, of paying attention without judgement. It allows us to know ourselves and our capacities, to know our strengths and the areas that need improvement. “Self-aware people make conscious decisions to enhance their lives whenever possible, learning from past experiences,” says skillsyouneed.com
As I’ve done the work to become more comfortable with myself, I’ve come to trust myself more, and decision making has become easier. In the same way that a good boss can give a coworker the confidence and the tools to make good choices, I can work on developing those for myself in all areas of my life.
A recent study has shown that self-awareness is good for the company's bottom line, too. "Self-awareness is the most crucial developmental breakthrough for accelerating personal leadership growth and authenticity...[K]nowing ourselves is possibly the principal sign of wisdom."
As I have come to know myself better, and to be more aware of my capacities, I have found myself frozen in the face of decisions a lot less often.
Decision Making Process: Choices and Outcomes
It is important to recognize that there are consequences for taking too long to make decisions in today's business climate. Today the amount of time required to conduct business has accelerated to the point where, in order to remain effective and viable, leadership must be able to make decisions based on information at hand and past experience in a relatively rapid time period. This means that organization of resources and services is key. For relatively inexperienced entrepreneurs, decisions can seem fraught with challenge. It may often seem as if the weight of each decision may determine the course of your company. In some cases that may be true. But what is most true is the kind of indecision which paralyzes - causing a business to stop in its tracks - might create a worse outcome than a decision that yields a dead-end.
Some suggestions for making decision making seem less portentous:
1. Listen to your gut; your instinct is there to lead you in the right direction.
An empirical study (Khatri and Ng, 2000) conducted on the role of intuition in strategic decision-making found support of the hypothesis that intuitive synthesis is greater in unstable than in a stable environment and that in an unstable environment intuitive synthesis is positively related with organisational performance. Furthermore, a study of entrepreneurial personality (Levander and Raccuia, 2001) found support that rationality has a lower priority than instinct in shaping entrepreneur’s behavior.
2. Know your strenths and capitalize on them .
Learning how to identify your strengths and then capitalize on them by acknowledging the strengths of your partners and colleagues can give your company the freedom to focus on its main challenges and opportunities, with people addressing the problems that require their strengths .
3) Remember that a decision may not result in a black or white answer but a shade of grey. Stay open to unforeseen outcomes.
4) Make an effort to embrace change; stay current within your field and society at large in order to have new ideas and information flowing in to help shape your decisions.
Mintzberg and Westley (2001) advise simply to ‘jump into the pool,' hence, to undertake an action. The feedback of the action will direct the further steps. Thus, ‘doing first’ is a way to evaluate possible alternatives, to see which one suits best the organisation and to continue following it. This approach is advisable when the situation is novel and confusing, and things need to be worked out claim Mintzberg and Westley.
Often our fear of decision making is that of making the wrong choice. If we learn from a choice we have made then it was a successful opportunity to fill in information gaps and react to them.
How are you choosing to find ways to make decision-making less stressful?
"If you put off everything 'til you're sure of it, you'll get nothing done."
Norman Vincent Peale