Bouncing Back from Brokenness

Dear Friends,

In my profession as an Industrial and Organizational Psychologist, people generally don’t call on me unless they’re either headed for — or in — a full-blown crisis.  After receiving such a call from a potential client this week, it got me thinking about the deeper meaning of life’s challenges and how we can navigate them.

Are you experiencing a state of brokenness that has sent you into a downward spiral?

  • Being fired from a job
  • Long-term unemployment
  • A severed relationship
  • A debilitating illness
  • A life-changing accident
  • The death of a loved one
  • A business start-up that never took off
  • An opportunity that fell flat
  • A broken promise
  • Incarceration
  • A failing grade
  • Fill in the _______

Sometimes, we may feel that life has thrown us into the deepest end of the ocean, expecting us to swim back to the shores of safety without a life preserver.  This may result in feelings of bitterness, resentment, anxiety, frustration, depression, and/or isolation.  However, life’s challenges are inevitable and create opportunities for learning and growth… if we are willing to focus on the value, rather than the venom.

If you are in need of a little (or a lot of) inspiration, here are some ways to help shake off despair and climb out of your well-worn rut.

Break the cycle of negativity. Reacting to adversity in a dysfunctional manner such as denial, addiction, distortion, repression, or other numbing behavior only magnifies the situation, which can make matters worse. Negativity feeds a continuous cycle of destruction that keeps you stuck, so find ways to enhance your quality of life. Whether it’s meditating, changing your daily routine, learning something new, spending time with family or friends, or getting outside to enjoy nature, do something that will create a shift in your thoughts and actions.

Find the lesson. With every challenge comes a lesson to be learned.  The sooner you accept the lesson and learn from it, the sooner you can graduate to the next phase of your life.  To find the lesson, ask yourself “What is this situation here to teach me? Then listen for the answer.

Surround yourself with support.  During challenging times, we all need the comfort and wisdom of a strong social support system. This is anyone that you can trust for sound advice, counsel and emotional support.  Having a confidant who understands what you’re going through without sitting in judgment can help alleviate raw emotion, so that you’re better able to deal with the situation.

Give thanks. While life may not be the way you want it at this moment, you are still here. Know that the Universe has a larger plan for you, and what you’re going through is a part of that plan to help you reach higher ground.

Be realistic. There’s an old song entitled, Trouble Don’t Last Always. Just as the seasons change, so do the cycles of life.  Use the wisdom of nature to persevere and grow through life’s inevitable highs and lows.

Brokenness is the starting point for rebuilding. For many, it’s the only way to experience healing, restoration and the deeper meaning of life.  Without brokenness, we’re likely to remain in a state of self-sufficiency, living on the periphery of life never acknowledging a power greater than ourselves.

In closing, I echo the words of M. Scott Peck, M.D., author of the timeless classic The Road Less Traveled: “The truth is that our finest moments are likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”

Until Next Time,

Mary

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Are You Hanging with Chickens or Soaring with Eagles?

Dear Friends,

When clients ask me how they can differentiate themselves from the competition and add increased value, I like to use the “birds of a feather” axiom.  If you want to make a fresh start and revolutionize your future, read on.

As you consider ways to differentiate yourself, consider the differences between the chicken and the eagle. Chickens cluster in flocks at ground level, and among their population a pecking order exists. This pecking order seldom changes because weaker chickens lack the courage to confront stronger ones. While chickens have sophisticated social skills, they’re fearful of the unfamiliar, so play it safe and stick with what they know. Chickens produce for a few years, then they either become unproductive, or die.

Eagles, on the other hand, are spectacular birds that represent power and success. Their eyes are keen and always alert for opportunities. Unlike chickens, eagles build their nests on high. They continue to build year after year until their nests are as much as nine feet high. From this vantage point, they’re able to see the big picture. Eagles soar on the currents of the wind, reaching great heights above the earth in peaceful solitude.

The chicken and the eagle are both birds, but they approach life differently. Like the majestic eagle, you must rise above ground level to sharpen your vision, so you’re not influenced by negativity and impossibility. So what are you going to do… hang with the chickens, or soar with the eagles?

Until Next Time,

Mary

5 Ways to Increase Your Market Value

Dear Friends,

In the midst of difficult times, it’s easy to become disenchanted or overcome by fear to the point of stagnation. Maybe you’re wondering if you will have a job tomorrow. Maybe you’re feeling uninspired and unmotivated after being in the same rut for a long time. Maybe you’re standing at a crossroads pondering what to do with the rest of your life. Whatever your circumstances, it’s important to understand that during uncertain economic times you are compensated for the value that you bring to the organization. To deliver that value, you must create the conditions that will evoke greater possibilities.

Repositioning for Greater Success

If you do not have a measurable response to the question, “Why should we hire you, or keep you employed?” perhaps it’s time to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack by increasing your market value. Here are five ways to strategically position yourself for greater success:

1. Reassess your value proposition. Your value proposition describes what you produce in terms of tangible business results. A value proposition grows out of need. So think of yourself as a provider of solutions that satisfy or address unmet needs, key inefficiencies or significant performance gaps. Make the competition irrelevant by identifying innovative ways to cut costs, enhance revenue, improve performance and efficiency or increase quality. This establishes a clear distinction between you and others in a way that draws interest and support and expands opportunities.

2. Take action over the things which you can control. Dwelling on things you cannot control breeds anger, resentment, anxiety, frustration and depression. These feelings, in turn, lead to manipulative behaviors. Stop squandering your health, integrity and productivity and shift your attention to those things that are within your control. You can control your thoughts, attitudes, choices, actions and contributions. Train your mind to self-correct by asking yourself, “What aspect(s) of this situation can I control?” Then develop a viable plan of action.

3. Rebuild your capabilities. Rather than defining yourself by your title or job, emphasize your capabilities and transferable skills. If you’re unemployed, your job is under siege or you’re preparing for your next job, turn crisis into opportunity by rebuilding your capabilities for long-term growth: disassemble your sphere of comfort; design a strategy to propel you to the next level; apply enough pressure to stretch the outer limits of your thinking; align your strengths to address critical and challenging needs; cut yourself some slack because progress takes time; install an entrepreneurial mindset to create continuous opportunity; calibrate your internal compass to keep you on track; grind any distractions, unreasonable goals and expectations; prime your passion to withstand any doubts; supply sufficient effort to exceed specifications; and test your complete system. Now you’re ready to launch yourself towards new endeavors!

4. Manage your expectations. While it’s important to maintain a vision of the future, managing your expectations is a key part of framing your success. This does not mean lowering your expectations, having realistic guidelines. Our expectations are usually based on what we want to happen, which may not be the best course of action. Expectations can alter your sense of reality, so take an honest look at your situation before exploring options. Be open to new ways of thinking and learning and take proactive steps to achieve your desired outcomes.

5. Maintain an attitude of gratitude. Energy flows where attention goes and whatever you consistently think about expands. Focusing on what you don’t want or have creates a downward spiral of negativity and despair. Gratitude keeps you centered, turns chaos into clarity and unlocks the fullness of life. Acknowledge the people and things in your life that bring about joy and empowerment. Reflect on the ways that you’ve achieved success (by your own definition). Stay focused on what really matters and view change as an opportunity for personal and professional transformation. Seek the hidden value in every situation… and stop sweating the small stuff!

Onward and Upward

Life is full of choices and opportunities, if we have the courage to seek them. Starting today, consider yourself a brand. Seize each moment by expanding your focus and taking responsibility for your challenges and successes, one building block at a time.

Until Next Time,

Mary

The Myth-Understanding of Multitasking

Dear Friends,

Technological advances have limited our attention span to the point where we believe we must achieve as much as possible in less time, or we’re doomed for failure. But don’t be deceived, multitasking is a myth that creates a false sense of accomplishment as we rush from project to project, without doing any one thing well.

Continuously dividing your attention between multiple tasks causes you to lose focus, minimizing any deep fulfillment that you ever hope to experience.  To be truly effective, you must emphasize quality over quantity, so here are nine ways to boost productivity by taking a more intentional approach to goal achievement:

1.  Be clear about your priorities. Know exactly what you need to get done and by when, and schedule your time accordingly.

2.  Scrap the To-Do List. It’s nothing more than an annoying reminder of how much you haven’t gotten done. Add tasks as an appointment on your calendar and dedicate that time for getting them done.

3.  Delegate responsibly. Delegation frees up time for more opportunities; but simply off-loading tasks that you don’t want to do can come back to bite you. Before delegating, quickly decide if it makes sense. If so, determine to whom you should delegate the task by considering individual skills, abilities and workload.

4.  Focus on the moment. Eliminate distractions and focus your attention and energy on the task at hand. Urgent tasks will arise from time to time, so it’s important to recognize the difference between what’s urgent and what appears to be urgent.

5.  Handle correspondence once. Whenever correspondence comes across your desk, handle it only once. If the message requires more thought or action add it to your calendar. If it’s FYI, print it or store it in an electronic reference file. If it’s junk mail, trash it.

6.  Minimize interruptions. Interruptions break concentration, and it takes about 10-15 minutes to regain focus. Cut idle chatter short and schedule a mutual time to connect with colleagues. Turn off e-mail notification and schedule periodic e-mail checks. Instead of answering every phone call, allow callers to leave a message and set aside a specific time to return calls.

7.  Build in time for creativity. Rather than reacting to everything that comes your way, carve out time each week to focus on creativity so that you can make more valuable contributions to your organization.

8.  Know your body. Know when your energy level is highest by monitoring your productivity. Use this time to tackle your most important tasks first.

9. Take time for self-renewal. Keeping your nose to the grindstone leads to burnout, resentment and physical ailments. Take small breaks between tasks to re-energize and re-focus. Dedicate time each week to self-renewal by doing something that brings you joy.

Losing a few minutes here and there may seem insignificant, but when translating those minutes into hours, multitasking has far-reaching consequences. The next time you find yourself getting sucked into this productivity-busting phenomenon, consider the overall costs to yourself, your staff and your organization.

Until Next Time,

Mary

What Are You Tolerating?

Good Day Friends,

To increase self-awareness and inspire change, I often ask my clients “What are you tolerating?”  Since we can’t lead others to places we haven’t been, we must be willing to confront our own demons.  Therefore, after pondering this emotionally-charged question, I’m ready to admit that one of the things I’ve been tolerating for months is procrastination

Time and again, I’ve promised myself that I would reignite my passion for reflective journaling to promote greater self-awareness and understanding.  However, I have repeatedly broken this promise by using my demanding schedule as an excuse for not taking action.  As a result, I’m feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and unfocused.

Now that I’ve come clean and shared with you one of my life’s major frustrations, I’m going to get personal and ask, “What are YOU tolerating?”  Is it self-limiting beliefs?  Unproductive attitudes?  Unmet needs?  Other people’s bad behaviors?  Your own bad behaviors?  Ongoing frustrations?  Violated boundaries?  Paralyzing fear?  Poor performance?  Unfinished business?  If you’re honest with yourself, you can probably name at least five tolerations that are robbing you of personal power by depleting your time, energy, enthusiasm and spirit.

Each time we choose to tolerate an unfavorable situation in our lives, we sacrifice a piece of our soul.  Over time, it chips away at our self-esteem, joy, and inner peace which can lead to denial,  depression, stagnation, and even irrelevance.  To anesthetize or block our feelings, we may resort to unproductive behaviors such as procastination, lying, cheating, self-deprecation, or overindulgence — all of which ultimately render us powerless and ineffective.  Whenever we are tolerating any situation that impedes our progress and well-being, our mind, body and spirit respond in kind.

To make a positive shift and reclaim our power, we must honestly confront those hindering forces that chain us to mediocrity.  If you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired of draining life forces, here’s a reflective exercise to help raise your consciousness, remove self-imposed limitations, and propel you to new levels of performance and satisfaction:

1.  What am I tolerating?  (Make a list of those things that you are tolerating.)

2.  What am I doing to help sustain the things that I am tolerating? (Make a list of your behaviors that help sustain the things that you are tolerating and sabotage your success.)

3.  How does this make me feel?  (Write down how what you are tolerating makes you feel.  To really expand your awareness of feelings, you can find a comprehensive list of “feeling” words at http://eqi.org/fw.htm.)

4.  What are these tolerations costing me on a mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, social and professional level?  (Make an honest assessment of the high price you are paying in every aspect of your life for the things you are tolerating.)

5.  What can I do differently to let go of the things that I am tolerating?  (Write a positive statement of change for each of the things that you are tolerating and what it means to achieve this goal.  Identify the beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, knowledge and skills that will better serve you in making this change.)

6. How can I model my new behaviors?  (List the ways in which you begin to model your new behaviors to become the best of who you are meant to be — then do it!)

Change is a step-by-step process that requires awareness, commitment, action and perseverance; so be patient with yourself.  However, don’t use the fear of change or a temporary relapse as an excuse for not taking control of your circumstances and your life.

Some tolerations are much easier to release than others.  Sometimes, we have endured situations for so long that we unconsciously accept them as normal or think “that’s just the way life is.”  In such instances, we may need to seek professional assistance from a therapist, counselor, coach or mentor to help us get unstuck.  Regardless of what helping resource(s) you choose, know that taking direct action — sooner rather than later — to eliminate tolerations from your life will help you reduce stress, access your hidden potential, seize new opportunities, and produce breakthrough results.  If that’s not enough, it will redirect your focus and give you a better sense of control by releasing time and energy, so you can fully enjoy more of the things that bring you pleasure.

In closing, I am making a personal (and now public) commitment to create change in my own life by carving out at least 10 minutes each day for personal reflection, refocus and renewal around the things I want to accomplish in myself, my career and my life.

What personal commitment are you making to free yourself and move forward on purpose?

Until next time,

Mary