The Importance Of Courage And Leadership

The Importance Of Courage And Leadership

Courage. This is the one thing that you're not told when you sign up for a leadership job or go for an interview.   Leadership, or going first always takes courage. And it means often you'll be highly uncomfortable. To be the first person to call something out or to offer an idea, you always run the risk that you could get rejected, that people could laugh at you or that people could not take up your idea.

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Amplify Your Greatest Strengths

Amplify Your Greatest Strengths

Last year I went for a radio interview and as I was just about to go on air I said to the announcer, "Do you have any tips?" And he said, "Can you just bring twenty percent more of your personality?"

At the time I thought that he must have found my style a bit bland and beige and monotone, but I asked about it later and he said,

"For you to make an impact, for anyone to make an impact, you need to be amplifying the great qualities that you have, twenty percent more."

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Leadership is for Everyone - Go First, Be More

Leadership is for Everyone - Go First, Be More

Are you a leader?

Only 10% of people in a company will answer yes to this question. But what if you were to consider a different question?  Do you identify with any of the following characteristics?

Flexible and adaptive, Kind and compassionate, Thinks differently, Inspires others, Curious. The majority of people would say yes to at least one of these.  It may surprise you that many business magazines report these exact characteristics as the ones that will be required of leaders, both now, and in the next decade. 

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Critical Questions for Leaders in Today's Times

Critical Questions for Leaders in Today's Times

Today’s leaders are living and leading in unprecedented times. Never before has a generation of leaders been required to navigate the level of complexity, uncertainty and change, and it’s escalating fast. Modern day leaders are writing the text books (in fact the history books) and paving the new way as they walk it. And there are new questions all leaders should be asking themselves. Find out what they are here.

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Courage, the Most Important Leadership Virtue

When's the last time you felt uncomfortable as a leader? It's probably a question you haven't been asked before but the answer speaks to the quality and impact of your leadership.  Because when you accept the invitation to be a real leader, you are accepting the condition of feeling uncomfortable.  Every single day.  At the basic level the definition of a leader is someone who goes first.  A leader forges a path forward and inspires people to follow.  Twenty years ago this task was simpler but in today's complex, fast changing and unpredictable work environment, this takes courage.   In today's environment there is no leadership rule book.  In fact we are the first generation of leaders to be leading in such disruptive times.  Never before in the history of leadership has this type of environment been navigated.  Leaders of today are writing the rule book for the future.  They are leading in an environment where you often can't see the destination.  All you have is a flashlight that reveals a couple of metres ahead.  And that's uncomfortable.  Because your brain craves the certainty.  Like most leaders today you will have tough decisions.  And sometimes these decisions impact negatively on people you care about, and even yourself.  And that's hard.  Even coming up with new ideas can push you out of your comfort zone because you risk failing.  Building relationships, an important part of a leader's job also comes with the risk of being rejected.  That feels uncomfortable too.  

Aristotle said that "courage is the first of human qualities because it's the quality that guarantees the others." Without courage you can't make a difference.  Without courage you can't have the right conversations that lead to change.  Without courage you won't even get off the starting block as a leader.  But it's how you show courage that's the important point here.  For some leaders in the past courage has meant showing up in their armour, protecting and perfecting.  That's not courage, that's hiding.  And people don't connect with a leader like that.  Rather courage is acting in the face of fear.  Sitting with the discomfort but working through it, not around it.  Showing up fiercely and completely, bringing your vulnerabilities, imperfections and inadequacies, but not being driven by them.  We all have this capability inside us but it's often not expressed at work.  But it's come to the forefront in some area in your life whether that be standing at the top of a ski slope wondering how you'll make it down or waiting for a phone call from a loved one with news of a health crisis.  We all have courage and need to bring this attribute to the workplace.

In times of change leaders need the courage to persist.  To stand up again after a knock back or to find another way after a path has been closed off.  They need the courage to think differently. And they need the courage to have the difficult conversations they have been avoiding.  

Courage and comfort will never be friends. If you are comfortable, chances are you aren't learning, growing  or forging a new path.  If you are comfortable you are probably not really leading.  So say yes to something that makes you uncomfortable every single day.  It might be a project that you would normally say you are too busy for. Or it may be as simple as sitting in the front row when your preference is for the back.  Because when you say yes to discomfort, you are saying yes to true leadership.  When you say yes to courage, you are saying yes to your team.  And most importantly when you say yes to sitting with discomfort rather than avoiding it, you are saying a big yes to yourself.  A yes to living an inspired life.

5 Critical Principles for the Modern Leader in Today's Complex Times

 

When I accepted my first leadership position I was fresh out of university.  It involved the challenge of managing a team that was geographically dispersed throughout the State.  It was a big job but at the time it didn't phase me.  I had studied human resource management and leadership at university and naively believed it would give me all the answers.  But it didn't.  I was suddenly responsible for staff that were three times my age, who didn't like bosses and had all types of personality quirks.  In fact, all came with their challenges.   Challenges I hadn't read about in my text books.  I fumbled my way through and focused on the only thing I knew.  Outcomes.  I was great at achieving outcomes and I achieved many during my time.  But when the achievement glow wore off, I began to notice a sense of unease amongst my staff.  I was determined to "do" something to solve it and I arranged a team building session with personality testing hoping all might be revealed.  But it turned out the person who learnt the most was me.  "I cant believe the test revealed that I am 100% outcome focused and 0% people focused.  It must be wrong!" I exclaimed as I walked into our session. But the look on their faces showed that the information was in fact pretty accurate.  They shifted uncomfortably in their chairs but over time started to reveal feelings of being micromanaged, not listened to and sometimes treated as a means to an end.  This was my wake up call.  I thought I was a nice person doing all the right things.  And I'm sure I'm not alone in having faced a similar scenario.

Today's business environment is characterized by fast paced change, uncertainty and unpredictability.  Never before has a leader had the high volume and complexity of things to juggle, process and navigate.  And that's why a leadership rule book no long exists. The only thing a leader has to rely upon is themselves. And more importantly the wisdom that's generated from the combination of their heads and their hearts.   So what do leaders have to guide them in these complex times? The following  principles will help.


1. Leadership is more about "being" than it is about "doing"

When I was first a leader I was <em>doing</em> all the right things.  Having staff meetings, giving feedback, doing performance appraisals and all of the things I know are good leadership practice.  But something was missing.  I wasn't <em>being</em> the person that my team would want to follow.  I was wearing leadership as a badge of honour rather than living it as a role of service.  I cared more about the outcomes than the people who were achieving them.  A leader inspires people to bring their best to work.  If you are not <em>being</em> that person then all the "doing" in the world will not help.

2. Lead Yourself before you Lead Others

Never before has self awareness been such an important attribute of a leader. Many of the habits that have worked in the past will not work in today's environment.  Letting go of the ones that don't serve you and adopting new personal mindsets are key to inspiring others.  If you cannot identify mindsets for success and change your way of thinking, you will have little chance doing it for other people.

3. Be Vulnerable

Leaders in the past have felt the need to be perfectionists.  To have all the answers and to put up a protection shield that made them look unshakeable and invincible.  But these leaders didn't often inspire.  And their followers could see straight through the facade.  Operating from a threat state, always looking over your shoulder in case you get caught out as a "fake" is exhausting.  And it doesn't motivate anyone.   Being comfortable being yourself and being transparent with your feelings, fears and challenges is one of the most powerful acts a leader can undertake.  

4. Adopt a Beginner's Mind

If a friend has a business problem, often you can see an obvious solution. Not because you are smarter but because you are bringing fresh eyes to the situation. When you carry around the baggage of past experience, it filters your thinking.  A leader who recognizes that they are not an expert are more likely to listen, to learn from the people they leading, to see things a fresh and therefore come up with more creative solutions.

5.    Change your paradigm

Many common leadership  practices are adaptions of ones that arose from the industrial era when the command and control paradigm was the foundation.  They had their place when work was largely routine but they are no longer relevant in a fast paced, changing business environment.  Instead of viewing work and people as something that is predictable and therefore controllable, it is more useful to view it through the lens of a living system.  A garden for example has the characteristics of being unpredictable, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, it is highly adaptable and all pieces work together without having a central point to direct, measure and manage.  Much like the qualities of people in today workplaces.  As a leader of a living system your most important role is to step back, observe, align to purpose, create the environment, switch people on, weed out the issues and ensure overall connectivity.  Sometimes the best thing you can do as a leader is get out of the way and allow your people to thrive.

Times have changed and as leaders we need to be the first ones to change with them.  And the good news is when you start to let go and embrace a new way, you may just find that it is more satisfying and rewarding!

The Evolved Business Woman

When I was eight years old I campaigned to my Grade 3 teacher to join the football team. After months of arguments, he relented and approved my attendance at the afternoon training session.  After the third lap of the oval I decided football was boring and went home.  My actions were never driven by a strong desire to play the game of football.  I simply wanted to share in the privilege of having Friday afternoons off to move my body and meet kids from other schools.  At that time being a boy in the football team was the only way to do that.

I thought my days contemplating gender inequities were over but on reflection they continued when choosing my career path.  At university I chose a major that few girls selected.  Upon graduating I wanted to work in male dominated organisations. When I look back, the decisions I made were not coming from my heart but from a drive to show the world that I could compete with men.  I mastered my skills of logic, direct communication, black and white thinking.  My intent was to stand out amongst men.  But what I was really doing was blending in with them.

And I don’t think I was alone in this quest.  Women before us have fought hard to have what we have today in the workplace.  And there is no doubt that women working in today’s times are in gratitude to be the first generation to be the “lucky women”.   We have the right to work, to have babies and be able to enjoy career paths and to be listened to and respected as equals.  But I often wonder in this much needed fight for equality did we somewhere lose ourselves in the process? Did we join Grade 3 football when really all we wanted to do was dance?

Because now more than ever before women are feeling the weight of their responsibilities, the heaviness of their burdens and the dullness of their lives. Despite having now ticked many things off our “wish list”, we are now working harder than ever, juggling more responsibilities and pushing ourselves to the point of longing for holidays, alcohol or anxiety tabs to take the edge off.   And in some cases we are sacrificing our lives for jobs or methods that aren’t actually true to us. Have we got where we wanted only to realize that we had to sacrifice all of the ways that come second nature to us as women?  It’s an interesting time to stop and reflect:

Has the modern woman who has come so far lost her way?

Because if the answer is yes, that’s a problem.  A major problem.  Because right now , this world needs women.  But not just any women.  Women who can fearlessly lead with their hearts.  Who can bring their beauty and inspire through the fullness of their sensual female qualities.  Women who are soft enough to soothe the pain of the men around them.  Women who are bold enough to soothe the pain of the world.

The business world needs women.  But the call can’t be answered from a place of exhaustion, overwhelm, burden and stress.  It cant be answered from a place of ego, control and fear.   Nor can it be answered by a man in a woman’s body. To answer the call, the female way must be fully embraced again.   A way that has been shunned, criticized, mocked, buried for as long as our mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers can remember.  We’ve copied the male way in the workplace because that was the only model of success.  We’ve developed our male characteristics like judgement, analysis and logic.  Because they were the qualities that were rewarded.  We left our flowing skirts and beautiful jewellery on their hangers at home and instead opted for suits, padded shoulders and bland colours.  Because toning things down would be the only way we’d be taken seriously.  We looked in judgement at fellow sisters who were emotional, passionate and told them “that’s not the way you succeed in this world”. 

I don’t think I’m alone in having designed and lived a life based on avoiding the criticism of men.  Or being a woman who at some point in their lives have lived in complete fear of being themself.  We were fooled by the allure of the male way.  But now the impetus is here to finally be ourselves.  Because there are already some amazing men doing business. It’s time to support them and bring something new.

“I put my armour on every day as I leave for the office”  she told me and one day as I walked the city buildings I could see this reflected in so many others.  Bodies tight, jaws clenched and frown lines reflecting the weight of the resentment.  The joy of being a woman is nowhere in sight between the hours of nine to five.  Women are confused.  Because there have only been two models that have been presented to us.  The first one is the aggressive woman who judges, belittles, is in control and lives in her (highly intelligent) head, who can leave her emotions at the door and you will never see her heart.   The other one is the emotional, irrational, out of control, unprofessional, a bit crazy one.  It’s time for a new model.  Because as women we have the potential to be so much more than either of those.  To bring in a style that shows you can have a successful business and still have ease, joy and flow.  A business that balances numbers with deep care.  One that can still be abundant without harming the earth and the people who live on it.  You know this model.  It is deep inside of you.

I am sending out a call to all of the business women of this world. Not because I am pointing a finger of blame or accusation,  but because deep down I know that to wake up the corporate structures of the world, we need to first wake up their women.   Starting with me. And you. And whoever else knows in their heart that this invitation is for them.

 

 

The 5 Fears Successful People Kick to the Curb

Your brain’s threat response is as old as the human race. Because it evolved to deal with a life so different to that which many of us face today, you could almost call it outdated.  As your survival tool, it still does a number of things that made a lot of sense in the lives of our ancestors.  But the unfortunate side effect is that many of these default threat responses hinder your efforts to thrive. Now your brain searches not just for direct threats to your physical safety, but it is alerted by many common experiences that have been linked over time to your physical survival.  This is where some intervene and are taking things into their own hands.  Those who live a life of fulfillment and success are a wake up to the outdated moves their brain makes. They feel the fear but make the conscious choice not to be paralysed by the following common threats:

1.Fear of Failure

It’s probably the most common and crippling mindset that can prevent people from achieving success. Fear of failure is seen in artists who never finish their piece of work, because they don’t believe it will ever be perfect. Business people put off important decisions, waiting for more information and the perfect conditions that never actually come. Partners stay in unsatisfying relationships because they fear they have missed the boat and are too old to start again on the road to love. Young children avoid trying something new, in case they get it wrong and bring disappointment to the eyes of their parents. But here’s the problem.  Learning and growth is at its peak when you are out of your comfort zone.  If you don’t learn to fail, you’ll fail to learn.  And learning is a precursor to success in any form.

2. Fear of Losing Control

We all know one. The friend who organises your social events down to the last detail, but irons out all the opportunities for spontaneous fun. The boss who wants the report to look a certain way, and doesn’t listen to new ideas. The parent who has their children in every sort of after-school activity and operates the household like a military camp.   The brain loves certainty but thriving people make an important distinction between what they can and cannot control. They direct their energy towards the things they can control, and respond to resistance by looking for alternatives, not just sticking to the path they prefer. They are able to let go of control, even if it does not feel particularly comfortable. And ultimately, they recognise the only thing they really do control is themselves.

3. Fear of Standing Out

The old adage of ‘safety in numbers’ is where this one stems from.  If you blend in you won’t get noticed and potentially rejected.  If you go with popular opinion, you wont get criticized.  If you live a life of mediocrity, you won’t be judged.  But at what cost?  Standing out offers you the chance to be heard. Whether it’s a conversation around the dinner table where you do not shy away from stating your beliefs, or an international stage where you put a case for change, embracing opportunities to stand out is worth the risk. It doesn’t always lead to applause and acclaim. In fact, it well might fall flat and people will roll their eyes. But you won’t get eaten by wolves and there will still be people who think ‘Good on you.’   Your willingness to find your voice and be authentic can open new doors, deliver life lessons, and bring the sort of peace of mind and satisfaction that comes from living a full life.

4. Fear of Missing Out

Have you had that twisting feeling in the pit of your stomach, when you hear news that someone has been recognised for something that you have been aspiring to yourself?   Maybe a manager has praised another team member for a good idea and you’ve said to yourself ‘I was thinking about something like that’ while you stare daggers at the praised staff member. Or someone launches a product in your industry that your clients are raving about, and you feel the niggling fear that you have missed the boat. Or maybe you have just heard that your friend is getting married or having a baby, and the fact that it hasn’t happened for you taints your happiness for her. It’s like someone else’s success and happiness, reduces your chances.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Start swimming in your own lane and realize that there is enough to go around for everyone.

5.  Fear of Facing the Truth  (or the victim mentality)

‘Why do these things always happen to me?’ This question is a sure sign that the victim mentality is at play. In your circle of friends and associates you probably see examples of the victim mentality more than you realise. A friend who continuously goes for ‘bad boys’ then wonders why she keeps getting hurt. A mate who complains he’s badly done by at work, but has said the same thing about his last three jobs. Or the person who whinges about always running late, and blames the government: not enough public transport, poor roads, too much traffic.

When someone believes that external factors are responsible for their dissatisfaction and that someone else is to blame for the position in which they find themselves, they are embracing the role of the victim. Believing themselves to be powerless to change their circumstances, frustration, anger, confusion or distress is directed outward, and onto any target other than themselves.  Victims waste time and energy living in the past.  This is better directed to taking responsibility for your share and focusing on your personal power to change the situation.

 

 

 

8 Tips for Dealing with Stress and Overwhelm

In today’s modern world, distractions are growing, busy-ness is increasing, stress is climbing and people are feeling more overwhelmed than ever before. Information overload, the rapid rate of change and increased role expectations are all contributors. These trends are unlikely to slow down so having the tools to manage your response to these conditions is critical.  Here are 8 tips for moving you from stress and overwhelm to calm.

Tip 1: Breathe, Pause and Reset

If a typical day is rushing from one task to the next, chances are by the end of the day your head is a jumble.   Thinking about the next task whilst still reflecting on the last one and juggling all the other things on your to do list is probably becoming an every day habit.  Even lunchbreaks may be filled with activity, eating lunch at your desk and having no recollection of what it even tasted like.

Sometimes you need to step back to move forward.  Your breath is a powerful calming force.  It helps empty out all the thoughts in your head, resets your stress response and allows you to move calmly forward.  Simply connect with a breath for up to 6 seconds, and practice it regularly throughout the day!  Going outside and breathing in fresh air will give you even more benefits.

Tip 2: Idle time

Your attention needs time to rest and recover.   Superior performers regularly take breaks throughout the day and this has often been attributed to their success.  Even if you can’t have extra breaks in your day consider what you do in all your idle moments throughout the day.   For example, when you are on public transport, waiting for a meeting to start or even waiting for your morning coffee.  Instead of pulling out your mobile device and using the time to be more “efficient”, take the time to let your attention rest.  Look up and connect with others. You’ll be surprised how productive you are for the rest of the day.

Identify idle moments throughout the day and resist the temptation to fill them with activity.

Tip 3: Focus on one thing at a time

It’s hard to resist the temptation to multitask when you are overwhelmed by your to-do list.  But the benefits of multitasking are a myth.  In fact it takes one and a half times longer to do a task when you are juggling a few.  Instead of dragging your attention all over the place,  pick one task and do it with excellence.  Switch safely between tasks rather than moving to something new while you are still thinking about the previous thing.

Tip 4 Focus on what really matters

Your attention is a precious and limited resource.  You physically can’t pay attention to everything .  Your attention is designed to be spent on the things that are important but often it is stolen by whatever screams the loudest.  Reflect on the following two things.  Firstly think about the five things that really matter to you in your life.  Next think about the 5 things that grab your attention most of the time.  Are these lists the same? If not, how can you achieve a better balance.? Moment to moment ask yourself this powerful question “what is most important to me right now?” and pay attention to that. 

Tip 5: Focus on what you can control

A large portion of thoughts are spent on things that you can’t control.  This includes being frustrated or trying to change other people’s actions or worrying about all the things that might (but probably wont) happen.  When you spend your time thinking about things that you cannot control or influence, it is wasted time and attention that is taking you away from what matters.  Often the only thing you can control is your own actions or reactions so focus there.  Ask yourself “Can I control this?” or “can I influence this?” and if the answer is yes then do something about it.  But if the answer is no, it’s time to let it go.

Tip 6: Focus on what nourishes you not depletes you

The term “pay attention” implies that you get something back.  For example when we “pay” a shopkeeper we get goods back in return.  Every investment of your attention should give a return.  When your energy is depleted, carefully consider what you are focusing on.  Focus on the things that energise and uplift you like the present moment, connecting with people., positive approaches and purpose or how you make a difference.

Tip 7:  Establish a calming morning routine

The first part of your day sets the pathway for how your day unfolds.  If you jump out of bed mentally running through your to do list then jump in the shower rehearsing conversations you need to have and then have breakfast whilst answering your emails, it is likely that your day will continue at this frantic, busy pace.  Instead why not try easing into your day mindfully.  Turn activities like drinking your cup of tea, showering or even making lunches into a mini meditation.  And why not ban technology for the first hour of your day?  It’s guaranteed to make a difference.

Tip 8: Busy Ban

Ask anyone the simple question “how are you?” and chances are their response will be “busy.”  Busy has become a badge of honour that we talk about, brag about and even compete over.  But what you focus on grows.  If you think or speak about how busy you are all the time the problem becomes bigger.  You’ll be surprised how things can slow down by simply changing your perspective.

 

You can have a profound effect on your stress and overwhelm levels by simply looking at it in a different way.  Try these 8 tips over 8 weeks and see how your mind and your external environment changes.

Fear is a Gift

“Parasailing! Are you crazy?” the inflection in my voice said everything.  Sitting at a café on the beach, we were watching people ascend into the sky over the great blue ocean.  “I’m scared of heights….not to mention sharks!” I continued.  I don’t know how it happened, but 10 minutes later I was in the queue and there was no turning back.  And the voice inside started.  They don’t look very experienced.  I’m not sure if it’s safe.  It’s a bit windy too.  Maybe tomorrow might be a better day.  Fear had taken its grip and I could feel myself pulling away.  Had it not been for my over-enthusiastic friend, I would’ve been long gone. Trembling in my seat, I looked for reassurance from the operator.  Maybe if I had all the information, I could relax.   “Is it safe?  Has anyone ever fallen ?  What happens if I land in the ocean?”  He brushed me off with an annoyed tone “in my 30 years experience, there has NEVER been an incident.  It is perfectly safe.”  So I stepped up to the rope, they hooked me up and away I went. 

And as I went up, I marveled the expanded view of the horizon.  It was a magical sight I’d never experienced, because fear kept us apart.  I looked for the fear, expecting it to visit.  But it never appeared.  Connecting with this glorious view drew me out of my head and that voice of fear was now silent.  There was nothing except the stillness of the air, the sound of birds and …..SNAP! Just as the rope reached its full extension, it happened.  The thing I feared most.  That thing that hadn’t happened in 30 years.  It happened to me.  The rope snapped and I began my descent into the ocean.  But as I did so, something unexpected happened.  I let go.  There was nothing I could do.  I wasn’t in control.  All I could do was relax and enjoy the ride.  So I did!  And what a great ride it was.  The operators came speeding along moments after I hit the ocean.  “Don’t panic! Don’t panic!” they said.  Laughing like a child who’d just gotten off a rollercoaster I replied “I’m not panicking.  Can I do that again?”

What an unexpected gift I received that day!  I learnt to let go.  Who knew that when you let go, you could be surprised by how perfectly things unfold.  And furthermore I inadvertently discovered a way to overcome fear.  Stop focusing on it!  When I disconnected from the horror movie playing in my own head and connected with what was around me, the voice of fear was silenced.

Fear can be your greatest teacher.  It’s useful to remember that its purpose is to keep you safe.  It’s your friend.  You need to thank fear for pulling you back from the edge of the road when a car is speeding around the corner.   But your brain’s fear mechanism is also very diligent and will raise a red flag not just at physical threats to your survival, but threats to social belonging, status and your comfort zone.  Don’t try something new, you might fail! Be careful about expressing your real opinion, you might get rejected! Quick grab that or you might miss out!  If you always followed the warning of your fear response, you would miss a lifetime of learning, growth and magical experiences.

Fear is a sign to pay attention.  But there is a second step.  You must determine what you need to pay attention to.  Because it may mean pay attention and quickly shut the door so you are safe again.  But it may also mean you need to pay attention to something inside of you that needs to be unlearned or healed.  That day, my fear was not a warning of a life threatening risk.  It was a warning that if I continued to live my life trying to control every step, I would be headed down a path of stress and worry.

So next time you feel fear, realize that it is a gift.  Take a moment to say “thank you brain”.  It’s doing its job to keep you safe.  But then ask yourself “what do I need to pay attention to here?”  That’s where you begin unwrapping the real gift.

 

7 Types of Thinking to Give Up Immediately

Have you ever met someone for the very first time and seconds later you cannot recall their name? Or maybe you have had the all too common experience of arriving in your garage with little recollection of the journey home.  All of these everyday common occurences indicate that the average person is spending a large portion of their lives lost in thought.   

It’s often been referred to as the monkey mind and many people can probably relate to the analogy of a playful child.  The truth of the matter is that your brain loves to play.  It is “on” every moment of the day.  And if there is nothing entertaining it in the outside environment it often resorts to playing indoors. 

But what’s it playing with? You might be surprised to know it’s largely negative and useless thoughts.  There are 7 typical thoughts that commonly capture attention and steal it away from the important things in life. 

1.     What If’s (or living in the future)

 “What if” thinking sucks your attention down a dark hole.  Your life experience shows you that you cannot predict, control or anticipate the future.  So why do you do it? Your brain is like a threat detecting machine constantly scanning the external environment for potential harm.  The trap comes when you create stories around these potential threats in the mistaken belief that thinking about them will protect you from them.  In fact it does the opposite.  You can invest so much time and negative energy in something that is not even real. When you are inside your head planning a future you cant control, you have less attention to give to the things unfolding right in front of you.

2.     Reruns (or stuck in the past)

Have you ever had a conversation that’s just gone around and around in your head? The more you replay it, the more confused you get, the more you “see” in the conversation, the worse you feel.  Punishing yourself and for what ?  Something you can’t change.  Reflection is useful to learn the big lessons in life. Re-running becomes destructive when you keep going well after that lesson has been learnt.  So many people find themselves stuck in the past.  Going over and reliving something that they can’t change and in the meantime depleting the attention that could be given to something that could create their future. 

3. Habits (or stuck in a rut)

You may not know this but every person has been training their brains since the day we were born.  Once you have practiced something over and over again, your brain lays down pathways.  That’s how we learn but that’s also how we create ruts. Your brain will always take the path that requires less energy.  It does not know what’s right or wrong for you.  It just practices what you’ve told it to do.  And it gets very, very good at it.   So if you worry on a daily basis or get frustrated on a daily basis, you will quickly become a master of your own misery.

4. To dos

Let’s face it so many people have a “to do” list running in their brains from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed (and sometimes it wakes you up too!)  But the list is what you think “should” be happening today not what really “is” happening.  And that’s where stress arises.  You are rarely stressed about the one thing you are doing in this moment.  Stress is created from the things you think you haven’t done, should do or are doing next.  And the result is that you usually end up doing nothing!

5. Fears

Fears have steered the brain since the earliest of times.    The fight or flight mechanism has been alive and well since our ancestors dodged predators and had to compete for resources.  In today’s modern world your challenges are different but you still have the same brain.  It will try to stop you from taking opportunities when you might fail.  Even though failing is the precursor to learning and success.  It will convince you that you need to control the future.  Even though you know that you can’t and letting go is the more effective option.  It will persuade you to blend in and stay with the crowd.  Even when standing out, being authentic and finding your voice are your truth. 

6. Self Talk

Chances are your inner critic is alive and well 24 hours a day like a radio station that plays softly in the background.  And while your attention is hijacked with this script, the negatives are all you will ever see.  By focusing on this radio station of negative self talk, confidence is slowly depleted. What you focus on grows.  And the more you focus on “I’m not good enough” the more you become just that.

7. Viruses

If your own negativity wasn’t enough, you also catch the negative thinking of others! Negativity spreads like a virus. And conversely happiness is contagious! And thanks to neuroscience research there is a scientific explanation to why this was happening.  Every person has a set of mirror neurons whose role is to detect thoughts and emotions in others and experience them as if you were experiencing them for yourself.   Don’t let your attention be hijacked by someone else’s problems.

Your attention is limited and when it is soaked up with useless thinking there is little left to give to the things that really matter.  Give up these 7 types of thinking patterns and see how your life benefits from living in the present moment.

 

 

 

 

5 Habits of Present Minded People

Being present, being in the moment, living in the now. You hear the terms often aspired to but it’s more than some elusive state that people can only aspire to.  Present minded people do things differently.  Here are 5 habits that they incorporate into their life on a daily basis that you can try too:

1.     A Grounding Morning Routine

The first forty five minutes of the day set the pathway for your attention to follow for the rest of the day.  If you start your day scrolling through your cell phone, mentally running through your to do list and rehearsing conversations that may (but probably wont) happen, then it is likely that you’ll continue your day with a busy mind.   Instead why not try easing into your day. Take a few deep breaths before your feet touch the floor or be present when drinking your morning cup of tea or coffee.   Treat the first part of your day like a mini meditation.  And better still if you have even five minutes take to a cushion, close your eyes and connect with your breath. It will make the world of difference to your day.

2.     Doing one thing at a time

Most of us grew up in an era where multitasking was encouraged.  But then the science caught up and showed that this much loved practice had a downside. Multitasking reduces productivity and damages your brain. But it’s also addictive. You might find it hard to focus on one thing at a time, but rest assured it is much more productive, enjoyable and rewarding.  Approach each task with excellence, like you are being tested on it.  And when you need to move to the next task do so through consciously switching your focus rather than dragging it to the next thing while still thinking of the previous.

3.     Enjoying idle moments

Idle has been given a bad wrap.  But it doesn’t mean lazy.  It simply means to rest.  Idle time is not wasted time. Attention needs space to rest, recover and reorient itself. When you’re waiting in line, waiting for a friend, or waiting for the light to change, resist the temptation to check your messages. Idle moments allow attention to dive deep, reflect, be creative and gain insight.  Look up, connect with the world and take a few deep breaths.  Watch your productivity skyrocket! Contrary to what your business mind says, you need to step back to move forward.

4.     Exercise impulse control with technology

The dominant senses to distract your attention are sight and sound and mobile technology plays on both.  If your day is filled with constant interruptions consider another way.  The art of paying attention is the art of wise choices. When email and message alerts intrude, see them as a chance to give your impulse control some exercise. Be the master of your technology, not a slave to its demands.  Ask yourself “what’s important right now?” and recognize that it wont always be the thing flashing and buzzing the loudest!

5.     Connect regularly with nature

Fresh air,  the sun on your face and the deep green of tree leaves. Nature has a way of awaken your senses and forcing you out of your head.  Instead of deferring natural pleasures to the weekend, think about how you can incorporate the connection with a slice of nature into each and every day.  Even five minutes can give you the invigoration you need. 

There are many distractions during the day and temptations to send your mind on a crazy, busy journey but through establishing some simple habits you can start to thrive in the present moment.

4 Tips for Dealing with Negativity

This time of year is filled with joy, love and peace. But with the light often comes the darkness. Too often negativity that also arises.  Negativity can start with one look, comment or act. Then it spreads like a virus. Whilst many people aspire to live a positive life, it is difficult to avoid crossing paths with negativity.  Here are 4 tips to keep you sane if negativity strikes this festive season. 

Tip 1 Fresh Eyes

Here they come again.  What are they going to whinge about this time?  The scenario is often played out in our heads before it even happens. Familiarity breeds complacency (which can become contempt!). Instead why not try bringing fresh eyes to the people, places, tasks and situations to which your brain has become particularly accustomed. Do this by bringing to mind the thought “see it/him/her with fresh eyes” then use your sense of sight to pay attention with a clear, curious and open mind to what is actually there, rather than viewing it/them through the same old pathways in your head.

When you see the person or situation without the baggage of past experience, you might actually be surprised by what’s there.

Tip 2: Spread Viruses You Want to See Grow

The discovery of mirror neurons supports the concept that thoughts and emotions are contagious.  Every person’s brain has neurons that mimic or mirror what another person does.  These mirror neurons detect someone else’s emotional state and actually reproduce those emotions, creating an instant sense of shared experience. 

If you’re being infected by negatives, it is even more crucial that you take a moment to make very clear and intentional choices about where you give your attention. Because positive emotions are also contagious. Even a smile from a stranger can change your mood, but it is attention that allows this force to flow from one to another.  This does not mean you have to discard all negative people from your life, but you must make a conscious choice to not let their perspective grab your attention. In fact you can even be a force for good by thinking more about the viruses you spread to others.

Be a role model for the emotions, mindsets and actions you are seeking in others.   When you encounter a negative situation, focus or attitudes you want in the situation and cultivate that within yourself.    When you find yourself wishing any situation is other than it is, give what you think is lacking.  In order to identify areas that you could cultivate, ask yourself “what is missing right now?” and then focus on being that yourself.

Tip 3: Pause Often

Emotional responses in your brain are rapid, often driving you to action before you’ve even had the chance to “think” about what you’re doing. When dealing with neagativity it can sometimes seem like the rational part of the brain lags the emotional part.

This leads to all sorts of destructive behaviours, such as overreacting to someone’s comments, or even worse, to what you assume they meant. You cannot change other people’s actions but you can certainly change how you respond and gain control over whether it trips you up.

By training your brain to pause regularly, you strengthen your ability to regulate your emotional reactions, allowing time for your rational brain to catch up.

A pause enables you to bring the power of your whole brain to a situation. Rather than being a victim of your emotional reactions or your busy mind, you get the chance to make more conscious decisions about how you will respond.

The Pause is a simple exercise that involves introducing a very short “mental intermission” when you are overtaken by emotion or overwhelmed by neagtivity. So here’s how it works:

1.     Acknowledge the rising emotion and say to yourself “time to pause”

2.     Direct your attention to one of your senses for the length of one breath in and out (about 6 seconds)

Tip 4: Boosting Positive Emotions

Happiness and positive emotions are no longer an airy fairy concept.  There is a science of happiness. It tells us that 40% of your happiness is within your control and not dictated by life circumstances. It tells us that the ratio of positive to negative experiences required to perform well is 3:1. It tells us that when you focus on your strengths rather than dwelling on your weaknesses you are 12.5% more productive. It seems that wherever you look, positive emotions drive performance, success, and fulfillment.

It is more nourishing for attention to play in a field of possibility rather than a den of despair. Being positive opens attention widely to the world. You become more curious and interested, more caring and responsive, and more easily connected. But a focus on negatives reveals very different behaviours. Not only is the observable activity in the brain very different, but the chemicals that flood the body have a very different effect. Negativity triggers feelings of stress, fear or even anger.

Being positive is a choice that becomes easier and easier. It’s about recognizing that what you give your attention to in any moment can shut you down or open you up. There’s no doubt which feels better, and there’s no doubt which connects you with those things in life that matter the most. Thoughts, people, places, books, movies, rituals, habits, food, exercise, behaviours, emotions, intentions, and activities infect your attention and define your life.