Here’s to a Positive 2013!

Dear Friends,

Sometimes, staying focused on the positive is no easy task. We really have to draw from deep within our well of resources to call forth the good things.  As we embark upon a New Year, here’s a simple concept that I recently stumbled upon to help you track and appreciate the positive aspects of life (keeping a “good things” journal will work as well).

Good Things Jar

Best wishes for a warm, safe and glorious 2013!

Until Next Time,

Mary

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The Value of Time

Dear Friends,

As we come to the end of another year, I’m reminded of the value of time.  It’s often underappreciated, treated as a commodity and taken for granted. In fact, time is something we rarely consider… until we find ourselves in need of more. Yet, we’re only given 24 hours each day.  We can’t draw on tomorrow, because tomorrow is not promised, and no one can live those 86,400 seconds for us.

As you embark upon another year and consider new ways of thinking, doing and being, I’d like to share parts of an article that I recently read.  I’m uncertain of its origin, but it nicely sums up my perspective.  There’s no need for elaboration, as the piece speaks for itself.

A New Beginning

Imagine a bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening, the bank deletes any balance that you failed to use during the day.

Each of us has such a bank, and its name is TIME. Each morning, it credits us 86,400 seconds. Each night, it writes off as lost whatever we have failed to invest in a good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day, it opens a new account for us. Each night, it burns the remains of the day. When we fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is ours. There is no drawing against tomorrow, so we must make the most of today.

To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who has failed a final exam.

To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who has given birth to a premature baby.

To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.

To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.

To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask the person who has missed the train, bus or plane.

To realize the value of ONE SECOND, ask the person who has avoided an accident.

To realize the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who has won a silver medal at the Olympics.

By losing time, we lose everything.  Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift, so let’s be grateful for the PRESENT.  Best wishes to you and yours for a warm, safe and glorious 2013!

Until Next Time,

Mary

Eliminating Energy Drains

Dear Friends,

What’s draining you and causing dis-ease in your life? High-pressure jobs, relationships and stressful environments can weaken our mind, body and spirit. If you’re tolerating energy drains, there’s no better time than now to take action to reverse the ill-effects of these drains on your peace of mind, performance and productivity.

Energy is defined as an expression of vitality and a healthy capacity for action and accomplishment. It is a critical aspect of individual and organizational success, because it supplies us the power to enact change by transforming darkness, creating motion and stimulating growth. When you’re energy-efficient, you have the ability to do more with less power and can positively impact your organization through: (1) increased creativity; (2) enhanced performance and productivity; and (3) a healthier workplace environment.

Energy drains are those thoughts, habits, relationships, activities and events that suck the vitality out of us, often without our conscious awareness. Energy drains have no positive benefits in terms of moving our lives forward. Instead, they weaken our effectiveness by promoting stress, worry and feelings of powerlessness.

ENERGY DRAINS

Draining Thoughts – Draining thoughts increase internal pain and suffering. When we harbor negative thoughts, believe we have no choices in life, replay mental tapes of the past, fret about the future, or tolerate unresolved conflict, we feed the energy vampire.

The Law of Cause and Effect says that we are the sum of our thoughts, which means our dominant thoughts are manifested in our lives. Releasing false beliefs, assumptions and ideas makes room for more productive thoughts by freeing us to channel our mental energy towards matters that actually deserve our attention.

Draining Relationships – We all know people who: (1) love to lay their problems and complaints at our feet; (2) enjoy highlighting the negative attributes of every person, idea or situation; (3) make promises they never keep; or (4) disrespect us in myriad ways. These people weigh us down and create conflict and chaos that draw us into a continuous cycle of negativity. Every person does not deserve a front-row seat in your life. Therefore, you can either release the relationship, or minimize contact with that individual.

Draining Habits – Each of us engages in counterproductive habits that limit our effectiveness and success: the need to be in control; perfectionism; overindulgence in food, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, spending, or sleeping; negative self-talk; gossip; procrastination; complaining; unfinished business; or the inability to say ‘no.’ Breaking bad habits can be difficult, but changing them can create whole-life transformation.

Draining Activities – Seemingly innocuous activities such as e-mail, meetings, television, Internet surfing, electronic games, talking on the phone, and non-productive projects can consume a lot of time and energy. Consider the fruitless activities in your life and identify ways to minimize the time spent on them to make room for more important matters.

PLUGGING ENERGY DRAINS

Increased awareness of your energy drains can be both enlightening and liberating. When you eliminate from your life the people and things that are draining your energy, you can embrace new ways of being human. Here’s how to identify and plug your energy drains:

1. Keep a written log of your interactions and activities every day over a two-week period.

2. Review your log and make a list of energy drains.

3. Write down what each energy drain is costing you psychologically, emotionally and physically.

4. Ask yourself, “If I eliminate these energy drains, how will my life change for the better?”  Also, ask yourself, “Am I really committed to taking action on this issue?” If the answer is yes, proceed to #5. If the answer is no, acknowledge that you’re enjoying a life of chaos, frustration and powerlessness.

5. Finally, ask yourself, “What can I do differently?” then develop a measurable action plan for change. Identify a family member, friend or colleague to help hold you accountable.

Positive energy fuels our capacity for creativity, innovation, problem-solving and decision-making. One of the best ways to maximize our energy is to channel it into action. State an intention to plug your energy drains to restore vitality, power and meaning in your life — and do it!

Until next time,

Mary

The ‘Wait’ of Procrastination

Dear Friends,

At some point in our lives, we all use procrastination as a stalling mechanism — and I’ll be the first to cry “Mea culpa!” On a conscious level, we might have a positive intent to achieve a goal, but despite our desire, we can’t seem to spring into action.

Procrastination involves deferring an action for a future time and can become an endless cycle of mediocrity that impedes progress and growth. Procrastination is a weight of oppression in that while it may temporarily reduce discomfort, it ultimately burdens us psychologically and emotionally by robbing us of joy and a sense of accomplishment.

REASONS FOR PROCRASTINATION

Have you ever explored the roots of your procrastination? Procrastination is sometimes mistakenly linked to personality and behavioral flaws such: immaturity, lack of self-discipline and lack of commitment, which increases despair. However, procrastination stems from a variety of factors — some are obvious, others are not.

Procrastination can be defined on two levels: behavioral and decisional. Behavioral procrastination is a self-sabotaging strategy that allows us to shift blame or delay or avoid action. Examples of behavioral procrastination include:

Fear and Anxiety. An emotional breakdown prevents you from taking action (i.e., fear of failure, fear of painful experiences, fear of the unknown, fear of success, and fear of completion — what happens next? — or feelings of self-deprecation, insecurity, nervousness and worry).

Resistance. You hold the position: “I don’t wanna, I ain’t gonna, and you can’t make me!” (This is known as passive-aggression — or rebellion, which is used to defy authority).

Perfectionism. You set unrealistically high standards and expectations that are virtually impossible to achieve or sustain.

Complexity. The task appears too difficult or unpleasant to accomplish.

Lack of Knowledge and Skills. You lack the understanding, know-how, and/or ability to complete the task.

Lack of Relevance. You perceive the task as unimportant or irrelevant, because it’s someone else’s goal.

Inability to Prioritize and Plan. You lack the ability to prioritize actions and develop a strategy to achieve your goals.

Decisional procrastination involves putting off decision making when faced with competing conflicts and choices. Examples of decisional procrastination include:

Indecisiveness. You spend too much time weighing possibilities, rather than engaging in action.

Competing Demands. Your energy is consumed by too many day-to-day pressures and experiences.

Distractions. Your concentration on important tasks is disrupted by e-mails, phone calls, meetings, small talk, external noise, technology glitches, changes in the workplace — and Web surfing.

As you can see, delay tactics are not only linked to disorganization, but more serious psychological problems that undermine self-worth. Regardless of the reasons, chronic procrastination can become a self-defeating behavior that results in decreased self-esteem and other mental health problems.

OVERCOMING PROCRASTINATION

If you’re struggling to break free of procrastination, it’s time to take charge of your circumstances. Try some — or all — of the following strategies to help create positive change in your life.

Face your fears. Name and confront your fears. While real fears can protect us, imaginary ones can impede success. Understand the source of your fears and create a plan of action to deal with it. Although  your fears may not completely disappear, increased awareness will diminish their negative force and facilitate action in spite of them.

Acquire requisite knowledge and skills. Identify gaps in your competence and abilities and find ways to close those gaps. There are a variety of ways to increase knowledge and skills: formal education, training and development, cooperative learning, discovery-based learning, problem-based learning, action learning, coaching and mentoring.

Minimize distractions. Set up your workspace to minimize distractions. Check and respond to phone calls and e-mails at pre-determined periods. Set aside time for small talk with colleagues. Consider arriving to work early or departing late. Hang a sign on your office door or cubicle to let others know that you prefer not to be disturbed. Use headphones to block out external noise.

Be intentional about goal setting. When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Clearly define your goals. Make a list of actions, prioritize them, and set a deadline to complete them. Focus 80% of your energy on tasks that produce results.

Build in accountability. Based on clear goals and objectives, determine what actions you need to take to positively impact the bottom line. Then establish accountability measures that encourage ownership, foster continuous improvement and reinforce success by focusing on producing results, not activities. A useful point of inquiry here is, “Who is better off as a result of my efforts?”

Establish a reward system. Rewarding achievements inspires and promotes greater performance and productivity. Your chosen reward should be individual enough to be meaningful. When you reach a specific milestone, reward yourself immediately to acknowledge your success and inspire continued energy and enthusiasm.

Break tasks into small components. Breaking a task into small parts makes it more manageable. It also decreases feelings of being overwhelmed and increases the likelihood that you will complete the task. Establish deadlines for each component to ensure that you stay on track. Be realistic about the amount of time each component will take and build in time for unexpected events.

Review and plan. Take 10-15 minutes at the end of each day to: (1) track how you’re spending your time; (2) assess your efficiency; (3) monitor your progress; (4) make any necessary adjustments; and (5) plan next steps. This is a great opportunity to use reflective journaling as a tool to provide insights into self-awareness (i.e., values, beliefs, assumptions, behaviors, emotions and aspirations) and learn and grow from your experiences. Journaling also provides structure to an otherwise random activity.

TOWARD A NEW BEGINNING

Everything we do — consciously or unconsciously — stems from a positive intent to improve our circumstances. However, our intent can become obstructive (and destructive) when it prevents us from taking action. The next time your find yourself delaying action, remember that “In creating, the hardest part is to begin.”

Until Next Time,

Mary

 

2013 Human Interaction Laboratories

Dear Friends,
 
Twenty-first century leadership requires a shift in thinking, doing, and being. If you need a breakthrough that will propel you and your team to their highest potential, check out our 2013 Human Interaction Labs for Executives and Mid-Level Managers:
 
 
For more information and to register, please visit our strategic partnership website at:

Taking Time for Self-Renewal

Dear Friends,

Lake George, CO

I’ve just returned from a 3-day self-renewal retreat in Lake George, Colorado. I completely unplugged from technology, and allowed nature to be my teacher.  This self-imposed detachment was a gift of solitude that has provided me with a renewed sense of serenity and balance from the pressures of daily life.

We’re all familiar with the term work/life balance.  While it’s one of our greatest intentions, it’s also one of our greatest failures.  We may flirt with the notion of creating balance, but seldom do we take action.  Taking care of ourselves is a priority if we are to be in service to others.  If you’re plagued by stress or disenchantment, it’s time to engage in some tender loving self-care.

Recognize the Signs of Burnout

Burnout is a physical, mental and emotional state of exhaustion induced by prolonged stress.  A constant attempt to meet competing demands can leave you feeling overworked, undervalued, helpless, and hopeless.  If you answer yes to most — or all — of the following symptoms, you may be experiencing job-related burnout:

  • You find your work monotonous and unchallenging.
  • You feel disillusioned about your job.
  • You arrive to work late and want to leave early.
  • You are more irritable and less patient with others.
  • You have become isolated from colleagues.
  • You have no reasonable balance between work and personal life.
  • You lack energy to be consistently productive.
  • Your sleep habits or appetite have changed.
  • You suffer from headaches, lower back pain, neck pain, or some other ailment.
  • You self-medicate with alcohol, drugs or other addictions to dull the pain.

Revive Your Energy

When we’re energized, we feel bright, expressive and optimistic.  Vitality is our natural state, but at times we sabotage it by the choices that we make.  If your flame has extinguished, here are some ways to rekindle your spirit.

Pare Down Your Tasks.  Analyze your schedule and distinguish between the ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts.’  If a task isn’t absolutely necessary, move it to the bottom of your list or eliminate it altogether.

Alter Your Routine.  Rather than doing the same things the same way, mix up your activities to add zest to your life.

Create Sacred Space.  Create a place of solitude that’s conducive to reading, meditation, reflection or relaxation.

Feed Your Spirit.  Employ affirmations, inspirational quotes, stories, anecdotes and poems to unleash new ways of thinking and being.

Practice Mindfulness.  Wherever you are, be there.  Bring full consciousness to your experiences.

Engage in Physical Exercise.  Physical activity boosts your endorphins and your energy, so get moving!

Release Perfection.  Stop over-analyzing and taking yourself too seriously (’nuff said).

Have Fun.  Whether it’s a spa treatment, self-renewal retreat, a hike, or an outing with friends, do something that brings you pleasure and joy.

Life’s journey begins from within.  Transform your experiences by pushing beyond your self-imposed boundaries to heighten your consciousness of a more holistic worldview.  When you surrender to the wisdom of a higher plan, you’ll awaken to see the world differently with new energy, motivation and possibilities.

Until Next Time,

Mary

Unchallenged Assumptions: Gateway to Irrational Decisions

Dear Friends,

An old Sufi parable, The Blind Men and the Elephant, illustrates how inadequate information causes us to draw faulty conclusions. In the tale, six blind men approach and touch a different part of an elephant to learn what it is like. Because each gains only a portion of reality through sensory perception, they all make erroneous assumptions and misinterpret the elephant as a wall, spear, snake, tree, fan and rope.

An assumption is an underlying premise that stems from a belief or idea that is held as truth, with little or no supporting evidence. Each day, we make assumptions that are influenced by biological, cultural, historical and intellectual biases. Assumptions play a vital role in our lives, but when unchallenged, they cause us to jump to conclusions by blocking our ability to think clearly about or resolve issues.

Organizations are built upon certain assumptions regarding human behavior and organizational practices. Here are a few examples:

  • Employees are lazy and will not perform unless they are closely scrutinized.
  • Employees place their individual interests ahead of what’s best for the organization.
  • Employees are not capable of making good decisions about important matters that positively impact the bottom line.
  • Employees do not want to be held accountable for their decisions and actions that affect organizational performance.
  • Best practices in other organizations will also work in our organization.
  • Because our new CEO was successful in his/her previous organization, he/she will be successful in this organization.
  • This is the way we’ve always done it, and we’re still in business.
  • Technology makes us more efficient.
  • People want what our organization has to offer.
  • A single initiative will solve all of our problems.

Our collective organizational beliefs affect how we interpret data. Therefore, faulty assumptions about human intentions and behavior can create a psychologically dysfunctional organization and produce devastating results.

Peeling Back the Layers

Assumptions, especially long-held ones, can be difficult to recognize. To enhance self-awareness and effectiveness, we must delve beneath the surface to discover the how and why of our assumptions and the conclusions that we draw from them.  Here’s an example:

Belief: All engineers are brilliant.

Assumption: I’m an engineer; therefore, I am brilliant.

Conclusion: Because I am brilliant, our project team should adopt my recommendations.

The above example is based on a logical belief deemed as “truth.” However, logic alone does not guarantee truth, because a logical conclusion based on sound reasoning may dispute a problem or event that we are attempting to understand. Logic and reasoning cannot determine much about the world until the premise is supported by solid evidence.

Use the following exercise to uncover the assumptions that bolster your decisions:

1. List your strongest beliefs (premises or statements that you regard as truth from which a conclusion can be drawn).

2. Write down your assumptions that stem from these beliefs.

3. List the conclusions that you draw from your assumptions.

This is the starting point for self-discovery, inspiration, innovation and growth. Uncovering your sacred truths paves the way to more creative ideas and solutions and more informed decision-making.

Challenging Assumptions

Each time we approach a problem or situation, we bring our accumulated knowledge, experiences, biases — conscious and unconscious — and assumptions. This mental baggage causes us to frame events in ways that may not be rational or constructive. By challenging assumptions (our own and others), we question those beliefs and ideas that are taken for granted by testing and evaluating their validity and relevance. In doing so, we extrapolate known facts to predict an outcome and raise the bar for more stimulating dialogue, creative problem solving and informed decision-making — all of which promote a positive relationship between organizational effectiveness and well-being.

Reflective inquiry is one way to challenge assumptions and broaden your perspective on problems and their resolution. For example, when confronting issues you might ask:

  1. What are my general assumptions?
  2. What key assumptions am I making about this particular issue?
  3. What solid evidence do I have to support these assumptions?
  4. What other data might I be missing?

Engaging in reflective inquiry enables you to explore all the angles and integrate multiple perspectives to support your beliefs and ideas. Consequently, you’re better able to understand why you do what you do, as well as their implications.

Critical thinking and reflection are ongoing processes whereby you think and reflect on your experiences (beliefs, values, work and relationships). Modeling these practices in your own organization can help others to better tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty, imagine alternatives and develop new insights to navigate the shades of gray that characterize today’s workplace environment.

Assuming that conditions remain constant is like driving forward while relying solely on the rearview mirror. Free yourself from the web of assumptions to evolve your experiences, make new and meaningful connections and expand your views.

Until Next Time,

Mary