Archive for Self-Development

Slammed!

Three years ago, I published a blog titled Too Busy? I was reminded of this as I got the notice from SOREDI that Slammed: Succeeding in a World of Too Busy author and friend Randy Harrington was the featured speaker at the upcoming 2018 Southern Oregon Business Conference. The blog still rings true, and I am delighted to revisit it along with Randy’s fantastic book.

Here’s what I wrote in 2014:

How did you answer the last time someone asked, “How are you?” I’ll bet it was something like:

  • Oh, I’m slammed!
  • I’m so busy!
  • Crazed!
  • Buried!

Recently a colleague told me she was “doing a trapeze act until the monster project is finished.” The week before, she was “wrapping up a gargantuan project.” Sounds impressive, but what does that even mean?

It seems that people have confused their own busyness with importance, value or worth. If I’m this busy, I must be in demand. I must have a thriving business. I must be very successful.

Think about the perception that your busyness creates for others. Have you created a personal brand as a very, very busy person? What does this mean? When I think “busy,” I think harried, rushing, frantic—and probably not necessarily effective or of great quality. More Tasmanian Devil and less effective leader or loving family member.

The sad thing is this perception of busyness is harming how we connect and how we interact with one another—both with colleagues and with family and friends. We forget to make time for important things like mentoring a new professional (they wouldn’t dream of asking for help from such a busy person). Or we may miss an invitation to a niece’s piano recital or basketball game because everyone knows “Aunt Chrissy is too busy.”

We have a choice in how we perceive and how we show up in the world.

I have chosen NOT to be busy busy busy. I prefer to think of myself as happily making my way toward my personal and professional goals. I take time for things that need time. I savor. I enjoy every moment that I can. I am grateful.

While I may have as many time challenges as the next person, I choose to represent myself (and think of myself) as a happy person who is in control of my life and not being run ragged by myriad demands and pressures. Ask me how I am, and chances are I’ll answer, “I’m great.”

Slammed

In Slammed: Succeeding in a World of Too Busy, Randy and coauthor Carmen E. Voillequé provide solid advice on reframing your “slammed-ness.” Below is an excerpt from the book.

We have to start thinking about where we are today and at the same time where we want to be tomorrow. If we can fence off the triage work in our minds for a moment, what does that give us permission to dream of for a new future? This act should be fun. It should feel like a breath of fresh air. It should be motivational.

Here’s a short list to get you started:

  1. Schedule exercise, meal prep time, yoga using your Outlook or smart phone calendar right alongside your meetings and conference calls, and try color-coding them to stand out. This will elevate health to the same level of importance of “worky-work.”
  2. Stop competing with other people for who has the most stress; just stop having those conversations. It really is that simple (ok, yes, but not easy!). And when people do complain about too much stress from being Slammed, make it an all stop moment where a solution will have to be found.
  3. Encourage and learn from others who seem to have figured out how to align time to their values and not the other way around. Rather than feeling a sense of judgment or jealousy, ask them to be your mentor in learning to avoid the trap of task saturation.
  4. Explore your artistic side. Any kind. Anywhere. It doesn’t have to be the next Picasso—even a quick doodle on your meeting agenda can be a source of inspiration! Art helps everything. Go see it. Make it. Read it. Doesn’t matter. Feed that part of your soul regularly.
  5. Include all development work as an accomplishment/goal in your professional growth. Don’t shy away from the fact that you are committing to be more healthy, happy, engaged and productive.

Most importantly, the way we talk about being busy has to change. “I am Slammed” is no longer in your vocabulary!

It’s time to change your vocabulary and how you approach your situation. Start with a positive mindset. As happiness guru Shawn Achor likes to point out, people get happiness backwards. Getting that monster project done will not make you happy—but your being happy will get that project done faster and better. It’s called the happiness advantage, and you can get it!

If you are looking to change how you approach your situation and be more positive, you are in luck. Research shows that we can rewire our brains at any point in our life. It comes with intention and practice, and it is absolutely doable. Let me know if you would like a free coaching session to get started.

Improve Your Relationships in Just 1 Second

Hello.

  1. Do you see me?
  2. Do you care that I’m here?
  3. Am I enough for you, or do you need me to be better in some way?
  4. Can I tell I’m special to you by the way you look at me?

At this time of year as many of us come together to celebrate our beliefs, the need for human connection seems even more acute. Last month, a friend posted on Facebook a link to an article I found especially poignant. I shared the article with my Emotional Intelligence class as we explored how to be in meaningful relationships.

In How to Change Your Life in One Second Flat, Katherine Schafler argues that we are always asking these four questions of everyone in our midst—everyone we have relationships with—from strangers at the grocery store to our romantic partners.

She says these questions are rarely verbalized, and neither are the answers. They are asked unconsciously and answered with actions, not words. Schafler notes that Maya Angelou is the one who first spoke about these four questions (although Schafler doesn’t cite her source). It makes sense though, as Angelou is also credited with saying, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Think about it. How do you feel when a stranger compliments you while in line at the grocery store? How do you feel when your partner doesn’t look up from their phone when you walk into the room?

The takeaway for me is to remember to be fully present with people and to appreciate them for who they are. All it takes is a split second to “see” someone, and that makes all the difference.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

Increase Your Gratitude for Better Health

I’m teaching Working with Emotional Intelligence again at Southern Oregon University. This term, it’s for the Innovation and Leadership Program, a degree completion program for adults who previously started but did not finish their bachelor’s degree.

Recently, we talked about positive psychology and the role gratitude plays in our emotional and physical health. Research by Robert Emmons reveals that expressing gratitude improves physical, mental and social well-being.

Physical Benefits

  • stronger immune systems
  • less bothered by aches and pains
  • lower blood pressure
  • exercise more and take better care of their health
  • sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking

Mental Benefits

  • higher levels of positive emotions
  • more alert, alive and awake
  • greater joy and pleasure
  • more optimism and happiness

Social Benefits

  • more helpful, generous and compassionate
  • more forgiving
  • more outgoing
  • feel less lonely and isolated

Around Thanksgiving, I always begin to think more about what I am grateful for. I know that sometimes I forget to be grateful when I’m rushing through busy, jam-packed days and nights.

How do we get in touch with gratitude when it seems like there is so much negativity in the world?

We can start with these questions:

  • What am I grateful for today?
  • What good did I do today?
  • How was I helpful today?
  • What went well today?

Asking yourself these questions makes you remember the good. And while at first it may take some thought to come up with the answers, it becomes easier with practice. Because you are focusing on the good, you’ll develop new neural pathways and start noticing the good as it’s happening.

Here’s a little exercise you can incorporate into your life to help you notice the good more readily and increase your feelings of happiness and gratitude. It’s called “What Went Well.” There are many variations, but I especially like Marty Seligman’s version (he’s the founding father of positive psychology). He suggests that at the end of each day you take a few minutes to write down three things that went well. These don’t need to be earth-shattering in importance (e.g., “The hiking boots I ordered online fit perfectly”), or they can be super-important (“My daughter just gave birth to a healthy baby boy.”)

It may seem awkward at first to write about positive events in your life, but stick with it. It will get easier. You’ll begin noticing the positive events as they are happening and have the opportunity to relish them. With daily practice, six months from now, you will be happier, more grateful and maybe even addicted to this exercise!

Are you already doing a variation on “What Went Well?” Please tell us about it in a comment below.

When Disaster Strikes

Look around you. What do you see? Hurricanes, fires, mass shootings, political shenanigans, incivility, disrespect, abuse and fear? The list goes on.

What are you doing about it? There’s so much … where can you start? Some of us are volunteering to help disaster victims. Others are supporting relief efforts financially. Many have posted #metoo on their Twitter or Facebook accounts.

This is a time in which a good dollop of resilience can make a difference in how you are dealing with the melee. A time when grit is good. When optimism can help both you and those around you.

To inspire my own optimism, I pulled out a blog post from last August in which I quoted Christian D. Larson’s “Creed for Optimists,” written in 1912.

Here it is again.

Promise yourself to:

  1. Be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
  2. Talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.
  3. Make all your friends feel there is something special in them.
  4. Think only of the best, work only for the best and expect only the best.
  5. Be as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
  6. Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
  7. Give everyone a smile.
  8. Spend so much time improving yourself that you have no time left to criticize others.
  9. Be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
  10. Think well of yourself and proclaim this fact to the world—not in loud words—but in great deeds.
  11. Live in the faith that the whole world is on your side, so long as you are true to the best that is in you.

While this may seem frivolous in light of all that is happening, what would be possible if you were to incorporate just one or two of these points into your daily life? Would positivity spread? I’m not suggesting you give up on any other efforts to help with the negatives—just try adding one or two of these positives.

I’ll do the same.

Identify Your Distinctive Strengths for Increased Business and Personal Success

What sets you apart? What is the cream that floats to the top? The icing on the cake? If someone were to ask what your top three strengths are, what would you say?

Whether you are promoting yourself or your business, you’ll excel when you know and understand your strengths—so you can put them front and center.

If you are looking for a job or promotion, you need to know your strengths. If you can’t articulate them, you can’t expect your boss or potential employer to, either.

If you are looking to grow your business, increase your client base or expand your market share, you need to know your business’ strengths. If you’re not sure of them yourself, how can you expect your clients to understand them?

Here’s a four-step process to identifying what sets you and your business apart:

  1. List your strengths. Include skills and knowledge you’ve acquired through experience and education as well as softer intrinsic strengths such as insightfulness, empathy or stellar customer service.
  2. Ask for input. Ask colleagues or clients for honest feedback.
  3. Revisit past feedback. Reread old performance reviews and think back on coaching from previous bosses (businesses can check out YELP or TripAdvisor reviews).
  4. Modify your list. Adjust your original list to reflect what you’ve learned. Make sure the strengths are specific so they are credible and useful.

Now what? Use these distinctive strengths to build your brand—either personal or business. It all follows the same formula in the end: identify and promote your strengths to the people you want to influence. BAM. Done!

A great resource for identifying personal strengths is Strengthsfinder by Gallup. I use this regularly for my coaching clients with great success. Check it out and let me know your thoughts.