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.
If you’ve taken any training with us you know that we often give you little exercises like a breathing mindfulness practice, or simply crossing your arms differently than you normally do. To see a short video of one of these practices, please visit our youtube channel. youtu.be/4pI16xV6ka8
These practices can take only a few seconds but they can make profound changes in your life. A large part of that has to do with brain chemistry. You’ve heard of fight, flight, or freeze. When we are stressed our brains go into survival mode. Our bodies automatically engage the sympathetic nervous system – heart rate increases, adrenaline is released, our guts tense, and we get ready to defend ourselves or run away as quickly as possible.
The problem with modern life is that our brains don’t know the difference between an imminent saber tooth tiger attack and too many deadlines and not enough time to get everything done. The stress response is the same.
When our brain and body is in emergency mode, creativity and problem-solving shut down. (Seems counter-intuitive to me, but I didn’t design the system :) ) These small practices we give you can literally reset your brain chemistry in a matter of seconds, allowing you to enter the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) that helps us rest and recover instead of fight or flight. When the PSNS is engaged, the heart rate slows, muscles and gut relax, and breathing returns to normal.
These little practices that we give you can short circuit the emergency response. Studies show that taking a few deep breaths engages the PSNS. Smiling while you’re doing it gives even more benefit. Visualizing that you are closing down all the open “tabs” in your brain, actually helps you concentrate. Spending ten minutes thinking about things you’re grateful for not only changes your brain chemistry, it helps you feel more satisfied with your life.
If you’re like us and love to geek out on brain science and its relationship to living the good life, this article explains a lot of the physiological stuff that happens when you take a few slow deep breaths. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/neuraptitude/201602/the-science-slow-deep-breathing
Using these little practices even once can totally change your day. But using them regularly, over time, can add up to feeling more comfortable, fulfilled, and resilient in your life, even without changing any external circumstances.
“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.”
Several years ago when I started this entrepreneurial journey, I was terrified. I had asked the Universe for a job that would be flexible enough to allow me to work from home, that would make enough money to support my farming habit, and that would be about helping people directly. I wanted to be able to see the transformation in my clients’ lives.
A few months after I put that request out there I heard about health coaching for the first time. It seemed like a perfect match for me so I signed up for a certification program. I was hoping that the school would show me how to build a business that would support me both financially and spiritually, but I had no idea what that would actually look like or feel like in actual practice.
I was literally shaking, but I knew that I knew how to do school so I told myself to just read the intro materials. Then do the first lesson. Over the next year, I followed the instructions, successfully completed the program, and worked with my first client. I loved it! Health coaching really did seem like the business I wanted to be in.
Then I discovered that I had to market my business if I wanted to get more clients. I had to put myself out there and be seen. I had to take consistent actions to move towards my goals. This was so different than anything that I had done before that I was almost paralyzed. Almost. But I’m very tenacious once I commit to something. I realized I couldn’t do it on my own and had to find a lot of help. I hired a business coach and joined an online community of entrepreneurs who were building service businesses based on more than just the financial bottom line. And I recruited some partners.
Today, it still requires taking some deep breaths to take some of the necessary actions to make the connections and move forward. And I am still pushing my own boundaries. Constantly. But I’m no longer terrified of it. Along the way I have heard that entrepreneurship is a great vehicle for personal growth. That has certainly been my experience. In small ways and big ways I’ve had to change almost everything I thought about my capacity to do things.
Living a life dedicated to growth is almost always uncomfortable because I’m always doing new things, stepping out of my comfort zone to get to the next level. I had a yoga teacher once who explained it like this: life is like a yoga stretch. You want to go to the point of stretching yourself, to the point of discomfort but not pain. Then you sit there in the stretch until it becomes something you’re easily able to do.
Some of the things I’ve learned on this journey: to be compassionate with myself and others; that mistakes are how we learn what doesn’t work; that if we approach any issue with curiosity instead of judgement it becomes an opportunity; to be willing to be vulnerable; to ask for lots of help.
An oft used metaphor says we should keep putting one foot in front of the other. But that implies linear motion, as well as a certain tendency towards trudging. I prefer to think of it as a dance. Sometimes my feet go forward, sometimes they go sideways, sometimes backwards, but I’m always moving, changing my perspectives and improving my flexibility.
I’m a romantic. I want life to be magical. And I’ve learned that that means I have to step outside my comfort zone and dance.
Have you ever seen a movie where someone’s car stalls on the train tracks? The train is coming and they just sit there trying to restart the car over and over again. And you’re yelling at the screen, “Get out of the car!!”
It often seems that the more stress we are under the harder it is to be flexible. We get attached to one track of thinking. It’s really hard to stop and examine the options.
One solution is to prepare in advance. A good baseball player is supposed to think before each play about the possibilities, to think, “Based on the current situation, if this happens, then I will do this. If the ball is hit to me, then I will throw it to third base because there’s a person on second. If the ball is hit to right field, I will back up the third baseman for when the throw comes in,” etc. etc. Watch a professional baseball game and you will see that everyone moves as soon as the ball is hit because they know that if they’re not catching the ball they’re supposed to be doing something else.
A casual ball player assumes they will know what to do when the play starts and so they are often either not in the right place at the right time or have to hesitate when they get the ball because they’re not sure what to do. This is one of the reasons why a pickup softball game has a lot more errors and running around and is usually higher scoring than a professional game. When things are moving fast it’s hard to stop, assess, and make a reasoned choice.
How can we apply this lesson in daily life? Well, maybe if we know that a certain person always reacts to new ideas with push back, we can be prepared to wait while they process it and then approach them again in a couple of days. I once had a boss who would say no to my ideas and then a month later say, hey why don’t we do this, as if it was his idea. I knew it wasn’t intentional; he didn’t remember that I suggested it first. He just needed to work his way around to it. If I got my ego out of the way, I could see that if we got there in the end it didn’t matter how.
Of course, we can’t always be prepared for every eventuality. So what else can we do to be better able to handle the curveballs?
I find my thought processes are most rigid when I am very attached to either the way that I am doing something or my expectation of the outcome. Like the person on the train track who is so stuck on the idea that the only way off the tracks is in the car.
I used to have a really hard time changing plans. Once my thoughts were moving in one direction it was really hard to change them. On one occasion a friend asked me to join them for dinner after work. I had already made plans to stay home and take care of a few chores. I was so committed to my plan that I hesitated for a really long time before answering and gave the impression that I didn’t really want to go. In fact, I was trying to decide how important it was to stick to my original plan. Finally, I did go and have a good time, and the chores got done eventually.
I’m better about this sort of thing now. For one thing, I’ve learned that it’s ok to say I had plans and I need a few minutes to think about it. I have also worked hard on not being so attached to my preconceived ideas.
The person with the stalled car on the train track is in trouble because they are so stuck on the idea that they arrived there in the car and the only way out is in the car. Other solutions include getting out of the car and running away; getting out of the car and pushing it; and getting out of the car and asking for help.
Expectations, attachment, judgement: these are the enemies of flexibility. Acceptance, preparation, and humility are some traits we can cultivate to more us towards less stress and more joy as we move through life’s challenges.
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.
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
Whether in the workplace, or beyond, community fosters our most powerful affiliations and births some of our biggest challenges.
We may work for the same organization, but the communities within it can have vastly different values. It is not unusual for sales and marketing to say that the development folks are too fixed on perfection and process. “They’ll make us late.” Conversely, engineers assess the client-facing folks as a bit rash and facile. “They just want a half-baked product.”
It also happens in small communities, like home, for example:
“She’s got to examine every option – she gets lost in the choices.”
“He’s so impulsive; he acts without thinking it through.”
Who’s right? Both. What’s missing? Perhaps lack of appreciation and the ability to flex.
Appreciation starts with self – what are my strengths and how can I leverage them? In what contexts might they be counter-productive? Building self-awareness is crucial. With it, we can capitalize on what makes us great. And, identify where we can refine our approach, as in those challenging scenarios, above.
In learning about the advantages and short-comings of our own style, we also gain insight into that of others’. The lesson: no one’s got the corner on the all-time perfect approach.
But, awareness needs motivation for change to occur. How much do I want this relationship to work? Am I willing to shape my presentation to be well received, to build greater understanding?
If you need to find what the payback is for you, these might help:
· You negotiate a release date with an acceptable level of completion
· Your partner/spouse finds you more willing to understand their perspective
· That new prospect says that “you’re on the same page” and signs.
· The volunteers on your neighborhood committee think your presentation hits home. They move forward with your new idea.
Sound like success? We think so.
The Holistic Performance Group can help you build self-awareness and give you practical strategies for productive communication. We use a variety of assessments that provide insight into personal communication style, conflict resolution, and influencing strategies.
Some definitions of custom and tradition are ; an inherited pattern of thought or action or a practice of long standing. One of the things I have had to do as I have walked through the various stages of my life is come to a place of self awareness that allows me the opportunity to investigate thought and behavioral patterns. In order to actually stay in line with my goals and desires I need to regularly practice self examination. The systems I have used to do that have varied over time and place becoming traditional and then shifting into new customs as the old practices no longer suit my changing lifestyle or values.
Movement is one way to enrich that process and practice. I have incorporated various mindful movement techniques over the years to help implement my self investigation practices. For example: the act of mindful walking brings me back into right relationship with my breath and my body, thus calming my mind and helping me formulate my questions to myself regarding my actions and attitudes.
I have used sacred dance as another way to "cleanse the mental palette" in order to focus on those old customs I have been adhering to which no longer serve me. The process of releasing long held patterns and practices is not an overnight endeavor. Yoga and Tai Chi are practices which can be implemented anywhere with relatively small space requirements. Choosing a movement practice that is appropriate to where I am physically helps me to reach my aims mentally as well.
In order to have a good grounding in who, what and where I am, I have to use a number of different tools.
Traditions and customs help center me in a specific time and place in my life and also afford me the opportunity of benefitting from my predecessors knowledge and wisdom. When I avail myself of some the historic traditions and customs I am presented with I can benefit from applying hard earned life lessons to my present day. I have to remember that flow and fluidity need to be present in my application of traditions. Its important to recognize that rigidity can lead to stagnation and flexibility can inform change. If I remain light hearted about my pursuit of self knowledge and desire to remain centered in life's flow - opportunites to implement variations on a theme will seem like opportunity rather than endings.
When my sister-in-law was six years old she was punished at convent school for being a smartass. When the nun said that God made everything, Anne, like the great scientist she would grow up to be, decided to test the hypothesis and asked if God made the clock on the wall. The teacher rapped her knuckles with a ruler. But she could have said, "Well, God made the tree grow that the wood came from, and put the metal in the earth, and gave humans the capacity to figure out how to turn those into something useful for themselves."
My purpose here is not to debate theology. The story has always stuck with me because it seemed to me that the teacher was so focused on her own agenda that she missed an chance to really grapple an important point with a young mind.
About.com defines a teachable moment as, “an unplanned opportunity that arises…where a teacher has an ideal chance to offer insight to his or her students. [It] is not something that you can plan for; rather, it is a fleeting opportunity that must be sensed and seized by the teacher.”
Being a good teacher (or coach, or co-worker, or friend) requires a lot of mindfulness. Sometimes we’re stuck in our own picture of how things are supposed to go. Sometimes we miss that subtle cue that someone is asking a really important question that we weren’t expecting.
And often, the moment which is missed is one that we were really looking for – that chance to go deeper, to have a more meaningful conversation about how the world works and what that means for our own personal experiences. To make a connection.
So, how can we be more ready to catch those delicate fleeting moments? We can work on mental, emotional, and physical flexibility through practices like yoga, meditation, eating right, and getting enough sleep. We can improve our active listening skills, which includes really listening instead of composing your response while someone is still speaking. The Holistic Performance Group (HPG) can help build those skills.
We can look for non-verbal cues like body languages and facial expression to determine the level of engagement. If someone is very interested or excited about something maybe we should discuss that for a while.
You may not think of yourself as a teacher. But in any interaction there are occasions for curiosity and exploration. If we are open to them we can not only improve our communication and relationships, but we all might learn something.