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Busy Leader? How to be Left in Peace for a Week: Email Management

Email management, work-life balance

leadership-work-life-balance-email-managementWho is your key administrator and/or operations officer? Have a brief chat with him or her about three business days before you are due to go away on vacation. That gives them the time to get urgent issues and documentation that require your attention in front of you in the days before your break.

Explain to your key administrator that you want to be left in peace for a week. No further explanation required. Yes, it’s that simple! The vast majority of human beings understand the need for rest and relaxation.

Then send your own version of this email template (below) to the two or three key day-to-day administrator/operations people in your working life:

Hi Guys,

During my holiday from Monday the 11th to Friday the 15th inclusive, I’m aiming for as little disruption as possible.

Generally “Elena” (my lead administration/operations person), in consultation with Richard and Sophie (two senior leaders who aren’t on vacation that week), if necessary – should be able to handle any on-going issues during the week.

Please note that I will *not* be checking any e-mail addresses during the week.

There is an “out of office” message on my e-mail addresses telling senders that I will respond to their message on the 18th of August and if the matter is urgent, to contact Elena by e-mail.

Thanks and best regards,

Glenn

What do you think? How would this work for you? Drop me a line at: glenn@mindfulyourownbusiness.com

Key topics: Email management, stress reduction, workplace communications, work-life balance, vacation planning

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A Glorious Injection of Testosterone

sunrise_runCombatting Complacency

The video linked at the bottom is a bit on the macho side, I know. Or as a good female friend responded when I sent the link to her: “What a glorious injection of testosterone!” I think she meant it (mostly) in a good way.

This is where Mindful Your Own Business is a little bit different than many other meditation-oriented sites. Sure we believe in non-judgment, in going with the flow, in letting things happen at their own pace. Yes, sometimes the best approach to a difficult day, month or year is simply to “chop wood, carry water.”

And sometimes action is needed. Right Action. The Right Way. And the Right Way is often the most difficult way, the way the requires the most discipline, the most focus, the most delaying of gratification and with no guarantee of reward.

Here’s the full text:

Rise and shine.

6am and your hand can’t make it to the alarm clock before the voices in your head start telling you that it’s too early, too dark, and too cold to get out of a bed.
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Listening Mindfully Even When it Feels Like it Might Kill You

Sometimes the most difficult, most generous act of Mindfulness you can carry out in a day is to listen fully to another human being. It’s especially difficult when that person doesn’t seem to have anything to say that is inherently interesting to you. And even more challenging when that person speaks in a halting, sometimes convoluted way.

The struggle is to turn down the distracting, diverting thoughts in your head. These thoughts are bubbling around because what you are hearing is so predictable or deadly dull that it seems like the experience of full-focus listening might actually kill you. Certainly it feels physically painful.

But, with practice, you build up your listening muscles. This listening strength includes the power to stay focused intensely on what that other person is actually saying and also why they might feel the need to say it to you at this particular moment. Listening strength is also the endurance to hang on, to listen patiently, even encouragingly for 10, or even 20 minutes at a time.

But your active engagement with this person is a gift and maybe one that might be reciprocated by your counter-party feeling understood, enabling them to clarify their own thinking, to open up further, to perhaps drop some inhibitions and become more trusting and closer to you.

Topics: Mindful listening, listening mindfully, listening skills

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Top 10 Things Most People Don’t Know About Mindfulness

My favorites are:
question_manFull presence lasts on average 4 seconds. That means a mind that is absent of distraction and digression. It’s very rare. With practice, 4 seconds can become 5 seconds and instead of only one instance of full presence per 10-minute meditation session, two or three experiences of full presence. Be gentle with yourself and don’t demand high performance, just steady improvements on average, with occasional back-sliding.

Mindfulness is a part of all major religions: samadhi in Buddhism and Hinduism, recollection in Christianity, zikr in Islam and kavanah in Judaism.

Here’s the rest of the eight little-known things, from Ryan M. Niemiec at Psychology Today.

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Have you been drinking Hate-orade?

hatoradeMy kids brought this home the other day. I love it. It’s a provocative but playful response to the casual and unnecessary cruelty that human beings inflict on each other, especially teenagers. Try it. It won’t work on everyone, but it might make an accidental bully become a bit more empathic – and we can all be accidental bullies sometimes.

What I particularly like is the question neutralizes the blame game and externalizes in a comical way the source of the problem. It’s not that this person is permanently horrible, nasty or despicable. It’s simply a case of him or her having ingested a toxic substance – Hate-orade!
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Cool Heads Prevail: Caring For Your Brain in the Summer

woman-standing-showerHere’s my new tip for dealing with the summer heat. The whole idea is to cool things down. If you want a fancy name for it, call it the “anti-inflammatory cerebral hydro-therapeutic protocol.”

Now that temperatures are often in the 90s Farenheit (30s Celsius), I’ve been experimenting with 10-15 minute showers that are progressively cooler. I start with a normal warm shower and reduce the temperature by 5 degrees Farenheit every 30-60 seconds until it¹s just above the tolerably cool threshold. I stay at that threshold for 2-3 minutes. Then I get out of the shower but leave the water on and reduce the temperature by another 5 to 10 degrees. Outside of the shower, I lean over and hold only my head under the nearly cold stream for 60 seconds or so.

Improving your cognitive and emotional self-management, it all start with the health of the brain.

Topics: Cooler heads prevail: Caring for your brain in the summer; cool heads prevail, brain health

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It’s Very Hard to Have a Healthy Mind If You Don’t Have a Healthy Brain

healthy_brainThis is obvious, but very often overlooked. People spend hours of their day, their month and their year cultivating their minds through meditative practice and other Mindfulness-type exercises. But what about the grey matter, the mass of neural networks that process these thoughts and feelings?

For many of us, the difference between the brain and the mind is a head-scratcher (excuse the pun). But a distinction is necessary. The human brain is an organ and one not very dissimilar to a gorilla’s brain. But the human mind? That’s another thing entirely! My short-hand definition is that the *mind* is the human brain (evolved over about 100 million years) plus human culture, i.e. language, norms and customs, art, beliefs, religious practices, science, mathematics, sport, law, norms and customs, etc. Human culture has been evolving too, of course, but it’s much more recent than human physiology. Let’s pick a nice round number like 1 million years since the beginning of human culture.

In theory at least, a human with a human brain could be dropped off in the jungle at birth, and raised in the wild by gorillas. But contrary to what you might have been led to believe by the Tarzan cartoon series, 10 years later this creature would not have a human mind, and certainly wouldn’t be able to do algebra or play chess, or write interesting short stories, as my friend’s 10 year-old already can.

There is the individual human mind and what is sometimes called the “collective mind,” which is, by the way, one way of seeing the Internet. But let’s focus for now on the individual mind. It exists inside a human body, with a specific concentration in the brain (as well as, perhaps, within the gut, the heart and other organs).

This human brain can be healthy or unhealthy or something in between. The health of the brain is dependent upon many if not all of the same factors that drive the health of other organs. And it’s especially vulnerable to inflammation and its deleterious effects. So what inflames the brain beyond that which inflames other organs? Answer: highly elevated stress levels, unproductive conflict, lack of sleep, lack of rest, lack of play, lack of quietude, lack of time in nature, lack of beauty, lack of art, lack of music, lack of poetry, lack of story-telling with loved ones by the fire.

Sure, many of us can get by with semi healthy brains that get minimal amounts of brain nourishment. And we can do OK most of the time with substitutes, for example watching TV in the evening instead of sitting around the fire telling and listening to stories. But at some point in the absence of most of these sources of brain nourishment, inflammation increases and the brain become overwhelmed, inefficient and even incoherent.

The human mind kicks in to try to fix things, but often this merely results in a hyper state of arousal and anxiety. The mind is trying in vain to fix the brain when what is first needed is the whole human being seeking out and receiving nourishment from a benign natural environment.

In summary, a healthy mind starts with a healthy brain. And to keep that simple, a healthy brain is developed with: sleep, good food, sunlight, fresh air, and exercise – ideally every day. It’s that simple and that difficult!

Topics: Healthy brain, healthy mind, mental healthy, Mindfulness, inflammation, stress reduction, hyper arousal, sleep and the brain, brain health

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Jeff Bezos On Cultivating Courage to Slow Down and Seek Certainty

jeff_bezos

An excellent article from the Huffington Post about Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ approach to Mindfulness. My favorite is:

“It takes courage to say ‘wait. Slow down. Get more information.’ Perhaps even (gasp) ask for help. Begin to unhook from cultural expectations of how to do it (whatever it is), and instead, cultivate the elegant discipline of getting at the deeper truths. Take your business, and your life, into your own hands with a mindfulness practice.”

 

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Change Your Life in Less Than One Minute

59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change A Lot, by Richard Wiseman

It’s based orichard_wisemann the premise that quick techniques can sometimes be surprisingly effective at helping us to change.

Highlights include that:

–       Spending money on experiences is a far more effective way to make yourself happy than spending it on things

–       Punching a pillow to relieve anger actually increases your anger, while sitting quietly and thinking about how you might have benefited from an negative experience has a positive effect

Top 10 Tips from 59 Seconds

1. Develop the gratitude attitude
2. Be a giver
3. Have a mirror in your kitchen
4. Buy a potted plant for the office
5. Touch people lightly on the upper arm
6. Write about your relationship
7. Deal with potential liars by closing your eyes and asking for email
8. Praise children’s effort over their ability
9. Visualize yourself doing, not achieving
10. Consider your legacy

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Demystifying Mindfulness: Why So Much Mumbo Jumbo?

Keeping it Simple

It is the goal of this site to help make Mindfulness immediately accessible to everyone. That means keeping the mumbo jumbo to a minimum; ideally pruning it out completely wherever it pops up.
demystifying mindfulness sign
By mumbo jumbo we mean “a belief in practices based on superstition and rituals intending to cause confusion and/or using languages that the speaker does not understand” (from Wikipedia).

And from Wester’s Dictionary: “A complicated often ritualistic observance with elaborate trappings, and a complicated activity or language usually intended to obscure and confuse.”

Eliminating Jargon

In weeding out the mumbo jumbo there is a necessary process of demystification. I recognize that mystification is often a deliberate act by leaders trying to gain followers by dazzling them with their alleged superior knowledge. This is done first and foremost by religious leaders, but there are also numerous example in science, medicine, law and politics. Most of the world’s major religions are punctuated by rituals and words that are impenetrable to outsiders. Only true believers – the fully initiated – appear to comprehend. But how strong is that understanding really?
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If You’re Not Making Mistakes, You’re Not Taking Enough Risks

Taking-risks-learning-from-mistakes 29jun15That’s a great quote from Debbie Millman cited by Daniel Dennett’s in his book: Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking.

The chief trick to making good mistakes is not to hide them — especially not from yourself. Instead of turning away in denial when you make a mistake, you should become a connoisseur of your own mistakes, turning them over in your mind as if they were works of art, which in a way they are. … The trick is to take advantage of the particular details of the mess you’ve made, so that your next attempt will be informed by it and not just another blind stab in the dark, Dennett writes.

He continues: “We have all heard the forlorn refrain ‘Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time!’ This phrase has come to stand for the rueful reflection of an idiot, a sign of stupidity, but in fact we should appreciate it as a pillar of wisdom. Anyone who says, ‘Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time!’ is standing on the threshold of brilliance.

A unique hallmarks of human intelligence is our ability to remember our previous thinking and reflect on, learn from it, use it to construct future thinking. Reminding us to beware our culture’s deep-seated fear of being wrong, Dennett advocates celebrating the “ignorance” that produced the mistake in the first place:

“So when you make a mistake, you should learn to take a deep breath, grit your teeth, and then examine your own recollections of the mistake as ruthlessly and as dispassionately as you can manage. It’s not easy. The natural human reaction to making a mistake is embarrassment and anger (we are never angrier than when we are angry at ourselves), and you have to work hard to overcome these emotional reactions. Try to acquire the weird practice of savoring your mistakes, delighting in uncovering the strange quirks that led you astray. Then, once you have sucked out all the goodness to be gained from having made them, you can cheerfully set them behind you, and go on to the next big opportunity.”

“You should actively seek out opportunities to make grand mistakes, just so you can then recover from them.” — Daniel Dennett

Links:
http://www.brainpickings.org/2013/05/29/intuition-pumps-daniel-dennett-on-making-mistakes/

Topics: Taking risks, learning from mistakes, self-awareness, mental toughness, resilience

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It Will Never Be All Good And That’s OK: Social Authenticity

have_a_nice_day_tshirtClosely aligned with Mindfulness are the notions of honesty, sincerity and authenticity. Mindfulness is partly about – to use the hippy vernacular of the 1960s – getting real, being real and keeping it real.

But many of us start the morning and continue throughout the day telling others and ourselves little untruths. Sometime they’re called “social lies” or “white lies.” Many consider them harmless. But are they? Or do they cause little distortions in our social system that accumulate like little bits of malignant bacteria, resulting in distance and even alienation from others and even from ourselves? Do they make our day-to-day lives less genuine, more fake?

When asked “How are you?” most people will respond along a boisterously positive and narrow continuum that starts with the base position “fine,” escalating to “excellent, “great” and ultimately to “fantastic!” A lot of this is culturally dependent. The inflation in reporting positive mental states is particularly prevalent in the U.S.

Insincere social niceties are often very different elsewhere, with some countries expressing quite a bit more negativity when responding to another’s greeting. In Britain, many people also reply “fine,” but a sizable minority say “not too bad.” That’s a curious response because taken literally, it means things are indeed negative, but they are bearably so. In Germany, people will frequently tell it exactly like it is, occasionally with too much information. Asked “how is it going?” quite a few Germans will say “it’s a bit difficult at the moment” and sometimes continue with a litany of highly specific complaints.

Social authenticity

Back on the relentlessly sunny shores of the United States, an even more insincere – and frankly annoying – reply has emerged in recent years: “It’s all good!” But this state of affairs is very, very rarely literally true. Except maybe for rambunctious twenty-somethings in perfect health and in fulfilling, secure employment who are so self-absorbed that they don’t understand what’s going on in the lives of their less lucky friends, their older relatives and their countrymen inhabiting different social milieus.
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Have More Sex and Two Other Rewilding Tips

Mindfulness sex & happiness

Using the full breadth and depth of your personal knowledge, what three concise tips would you offer to someone wanting to live a highly successful life?

It’s a question that often yields very illuminating and practical answers on Dave Asprey’s Bullet Proof Radio Show.

The little package of advice given by recent guest Daniel Vitalis, a “rewilding” expert, is particularly inspiring and practical.

In its most concise form Daniel suggests that most people need to:
1- Spend more time outdoors
2- Move in more varied and challenging ways
3- Have better sex, more frequently
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You Don’t Know My Story! The Fundamentals of Empathy

You_Don't_Know_My_Story_TshirtIt’s become a running joke in our family. Whenever anyone makes a critical remark, a negative judgment of someone we don’t know personally, our 18 year-old son loves to sneer and exclaim (somewhat mockingly, in a way only teenagers can) “You don’t know his story!”

And you know what? Almost always he’s right. We don’t know enough about the person’s background, their challenges, their family of origin issues, the burdens they have to bear.

We don’t really know what kind of “moccasins” they are walking in, let alone have tried walking in them ourselves.

The roots of empathy grow by learning the stories of anyone important in your life, anyone you need to get along with, anyone you have to collaborate with in your work, by choice or otherwise. This includes neighbors, colleagues, people in front of you at the post office.

It brings to mind a couple of useful quotations. The first a paraphrased version originally by Scottish theologian Ian Maclaren (1850 to 1907):

“Be as compassionate as you can be because nearly everyone you meet is involved in some kind of struggle.”

And the second by American botanist George Washington Carver:

“How far you go in life depends on your being compassionate with the young, the aged, the striving, and the weak. Because, someday you will have been all of these things.”

How would you react to someone wearing a t-shirt with “You Don’t Know My Story!” on it? Or what about someone driving a car with the same slogan on a bumper sticker? What if they had just cut you off (possibly) by accident?

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Making Things Better: It Always Starts With You

grumpy-cafe-baristaMindful customer service

I frequent a local café. It’s very close to my home, the coffee is good and the prices are fair. The service, though, is… meh. Sometimes worse than meh. A lot of the staff are 20-something hipsters with a busier-than-thou attitude. Too hip to muster up a sincere smile or engage in jovial small talk. I usually leave feeling indifferent about the place. I’m not the only one – this cafe gets decidedly mediocre reviews on social media sites.

I’m writing this post a few minutes after I entered the place, having just had a little encounter that epitomizes the customer experience. As I approached the entrance I noticed that one of the main managers of the cafe was a couple of feet ahead of me, about to open the door. He made no eye contact, pushed open the door and held it for a second or two for me to pass through as almost any other human being would do; a basic bare minimum level of politeness. But he’s the manager of the place! I’m a regular customer! It certainly wouldn’t have killed him to say “Hi, how you doing?” And then he could have held open the door for me to enter *ahead of him.* He could have added a “good to see you* and I would have been over the moon. It might seem a little obsequious and subservient by hipster standards but most customers would find it charming. And people like me, born long ago, in the 1960s, would see it as just decent hospitable behavior. I don’t think our perspective is entirely irrelevant; I’d guess at least half the patrons of this cafe were born in the 1960s or earlier.

If your business is not quite as successful as you think it deserves to be, before you go around diagnosing the problem as being caused by this or that employee or this or that external factor, look in the mirror first. Oh, did I mention that the owner of this cafe is usually absent but when he’s around he often look grumpy and is minimally communicative. Pro tip: If you’re a pronounced introvert, don’t go into a business that’s built around social connection. It doesn’t matter how passionate you are about coffee, or beer or wine or whatever if you’re not even more passionate about making people happy.

Making things better – it starts with you. Is your behavior excellent and exemplary at all times. If not, what can you do on a continuous, sustainable basis to improve? And are you regularly seeking out frank feedback and courageous constructive criticism?

Mindful customer service

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Perfection Is Not a Prerequisite For Anything But Pain

contemplate2Why wait for your awakening?
The moment your eyes are open, seize the day.
Would you hold back when the Beloved beckons?
Would you deliver your litany of sins like a child’s collection of sea shells, prized and labeled?
“No, I can’t step across the threshold,” you say, eyes downcast.
“I’m not worthy. I’m afraid, and my motives aren’t pure. I’m not perfect, 
and surely I haven’t practiced nearly enough.”
My meditation isn’t deep, and my prayers are sometimes insincere.
I still chew my fingernails, and the refrigerator 
isn’t clean.”
Do you value your reasons for staying small more than the light shining through the open door?
Forgive yourself.
Now is the only time you have to be whole.
Now is the sole moment that exists to live in the light of your true Self.
Perfection is not a prerequisite for anything but pain.
Please, oh please, don’t continue to believe in your disbelief.
This is the day of your awakening.
 – Danna Faulds

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The Value of Accepting Your Own Difficult Emotions

From Mindfulness and Meditation for Dummies: How is it possible to see the wonder of the present moment if you’re feeling down, upset or annoyed? In these situations, don’t try to impose a different emotion on what you’re experiencing. Be in the present moment and open up the emotion as best you can. Remember that all emotions have a beginning, a middle and an end – try seeing the feeling as a temporary visitor.
listen_to_emotions
Additionally, see yourself as separate from the emotion. The emotion rises and falls but you maintain a sense of stability and greater emotional balance.

Imagine someone turns up at your front door and rings the doorbell. You decide to ignore the sound. The bell rings again and again. You get frustrated and try all sorts of ways of distracting yourself from the sound of the doorbell, but you can’t. By simply opening the door, you can stop all your avoidance strategies. You’re facing your fears, rather than running away.

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Carpe Diem with a Mini Morning Constitutional

carpe_diem_pluck_the_dayA couple of summers ago, during a somewhat hectic and often rainy camping trip with family and friends, I finally realized what I most like about sleeping outdoors.

It’s the early morning walk to the lavatory. Slipping out of the tent, breathing in the freshest of air, often with no one around. A quiet moment to take in the wonders of the outside world, clear my head of sleep and open it up to the possibilities of the day.

Back at home a few weeks later it occurred to me that I could partially replicate the experience in my own suburban neighborhood. Doing just that most mornings for the past year or so has been the most satisfying of my various Mindfulness exercises.

Of course older generations have been getting out for a walk, no matter the weather, usually the same route each time. It used to be called a “constitutional.” Good for body and soul, they said, and of course they were right.

But we over-burdened, over-busy 30, 40 and 50 somethings tell ourselves we don’t have the time our grandparents did. We’ve got coffee to brew, e-mails to check, phone calls to make, from the very earliest moments of the morning until late into the evening when our bodies can’t take any more. By nightfall, we have no energy for outside movement, only just enough to pour a glass of wine or three and sprawl out in front of the TV.
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Brace Yourself: This Makes You Sad Before It Makes You Glad

pablo_nerudaThe poet’s job is to make us reflect, challenge our assumptions, hold a mirror up to ourselves. Sometimes that’s not a pleasant feeling. It can be one of those “it has to get worse before it gets better” types of painful experiences.

The effect of “hormesis” in biology is that when a human being – and many other organisms – is exposed to small but significant toxins and stressors, the organism adapts and becomes stronger and more resilient.

Consider this poem from the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904 to 1973) as a “hermetic stressor.” Like some vegetables that you don’t like at first. Maybe try a daily dose for a week or two.

If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,
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Your Daily List of What To Be or Not To Be: Mindful To-Do Lists

Emotional Management

logodessin2
We know all about to-do lists. We know all about “getting things done.” Sometimes these time and task management systems are part of the solution. Sometimes they are part of the problem.

Recently a few wise minds have suggested that productivity and ultimate happiness might not be created by ever-increasing, and ever more sophisticated to-do lists. They rather cleverly have suggested daily lists “not-to-do”. That’s sensible advice. Why not try such a list? It probably will help; it almost certainly won’t hurt.

And here’s another potentially fruitful experiment. Start your day — immediately after a few short minutes of Mindfulness practice — write a “To Be” list. And in a Shakespearian mode, a “Not-To-Be” list. Stick with your aims just for the day ahead of you. What kind of person do you want to be today? Here are some suggestions:
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Ralph Waldo Emerson on the Power of Continuous Steps

ralph_waldo_emersonIt’s already February. How is progress going on those New Year’s Resolutons ?

Maybe it’s worth reviewing and replanning. Many people get stuck because they’ve only properly thought through the first step in their improvement process.

All great masters are chiefly distinguished by the power of adding a second, a third, and perhaps a fourth step in a continuous line. Many a man had taken the first step. With every additional step you enhance immensely the value of your first. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Most of us are filled with good ideas and good intentions, but many successfully creative people find that discipline and persistence are at least as important.

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Continuous Compassionate Criticism: At the Heart of Coaching

When you make a mistake in typing or in spelling, it’s good that an icon doesn’t flash all over your screen with a green monster sticking its tongue out and screaming at you that you’re a total idiot. Those kinds of frequent attacks on your self-esteem are unlikely to motivate you to produce more and increase the quality of your work. It’s an overwhelming, debilitating form of feedback.

coach-petra-kvitova-smile

However the opposite of this is also a problem. Most people can merrily type away while their word processing program automatically fixes mistakes that the person never realises he made. This is not blissful ignorance. This is the kind of cluelessness that leads to arrogance and complacency.

To stay on top of our game, and especially to get better at what we want to be excellent at – we need continuous compassionate criticism. It’s hard to find sources for that, but absolutely essential.

A key reason great athletes become great, stay great and get even better is that they have an insatiable appetite for improvement. They are highly receptive to feedback and being challenged. They believe in themselves and their pervasive superiority over their competitors but they are almost always open to improving and recognising what they are doing now might not be optimal.

This is less true in the case of top-level executives. Most I have worked with and know about are hyper-sensitive about criticism. They are thin-skinned and they avoid it. That may be an important reason that the average time at the top for a chief executive in most developed countries is about 3.5 years. Eventually all those blind spots and delusions of superiority (and even infallibility) catch up with these arrogant executives and they are deposed.

The art of the coach is to deliver this continuous compassionate criticism in a highly individualised way; tailoring the feedback and leavening it with humor and warmth so that the athlete – and ideally the top business leader – can receive it willingly, hear it fully, internalise it completely and put the improvement into action consistently.

Topics: The art of coaching, resilience, focus, discipline, compassionate criticism

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The Point of Life Isn’t To Go On a Tour of Gas Stations

Woman Pumping Gas --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisHow much money do you need to be happy? Ben Casnocha has pondered perennial existential problem:

“…Just 100 years ago, the ultra wealthy enjoyed privileges average folk could never access: fresh food, medicine, safe childbirth, etc. Today, there are relatively small differences between the rich and the middle class in terms of quality of life. Today, no Americans will die in childbirth. Virtually all can buy good food, can fly anywhere in the world, access all the world’s knowledge and culture with a click of the mouse, and so on.

What “average” people in America share with the super rich like Bill Gates is far more significant than what we don’t share with him. Gates has a bigger house than you or me, but for what really matters, we’re quite similar.

It can be pleasant to be super rich, Ben admits. You fly in private jets or at least first class every time. You’re able to eat expensive food whenever you want, you have aides and servants who will save you time. The problem is, we quickly factor in these material comforts – what psychologists call the “hedonic adaptation.” The private jet doesn’t feel so special the 10th time you’re on it. Rather than marveling at the fact you’re on your own plane, you’re more likely to compare it (oftentimes unfavorably) to other private jets you’ve seen.
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New Year’s Resolutions and the Aggregation of Marginal Gains

resolution-british-cyclingIsn’t it time to get real about New Year’s Resolutions?

Research shows that around 80% of us fail to stick with our goals beyond the 31st of January.

In the media, we only hear about the mega success stories, the ones with the spectacular before and after photos. But many of the most powerful, sustainable achievements – in the sports world as well as the personal world – happen in incremental, subtle ways built up over several years, and sometimes decades.
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Are You Suffering From “Hangxiety”?

woman-headache-hangxietyAre you suffering from “hangxiety”? Top tips for overcoming the post-party blues this holiday season.

The morning after can often bring on anxiety for some – here are five stress busters for beating the blues.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/you-suffering-hangxiety-top-tips-9470505

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Everyday Gratitude Versus a Once Yearly Festival of Thanksgiving

gratitude_faceMindfulness & Gratitude

It’s possible to convert every day into an occasion for giving thanks. Try it before every dinner, say it out loud, even if you’re alone. It’s more powerful that way. And this isn’t to make you into a more saintly person or somehow benevolently convert the world into a better place.  It’s simply to make you happier.

Research study after research study has demonstrated that people who explicitly express gratitude on a regular basis are significantly more content with their lives than people who don’t.

A quick look at the psycho-social context of early Thanksgivings. Life was quite a bit more precarious in New England in the late 1600s than now. About 40% of children didn’t reach adulthood and even then, average life expectancy was 25 years. Wireless broadband internet coverage was patchy throughout most of the original 13 Colonies 😉

Even if times are toughs for you, what might you be thankful for on a typical November evening at dinnertime?
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Human Warmth in the Workplace: The Secret Sauce of Success

happy_office_workersHighlights from an excellent article about human relationships and existential meaning at work in The Guardian newspaper of Britain:

Bank of America found that giving call-center employees breaks together, instead of forcing them to take breaks alone resulted in a more cohesive staff. With this simple change, the company dropped its turnover rate from 40% to 12%.

Within the positive organizational universe, the experts tend to divide into two camps: Those who feel that employee happiness hinges largely on a sense of purpose, and those who feel that relationships are the secret sauce.

“Having positive relationships at work is seen as a major predictor of employee engagement, and that’s a major driver of customer engagement.” – Jane Dutton, professor of business administration & psychology at the University of Michigan.

“Evidence on the almost instantaneous effect of positive human connections on people’s bodies convinces me that if I had to choose whether my workplace had purpose or positive connections, I’d bet on connections.” – Jane Dutton

“If you have positive connections between employees, that means it’s also probably easier to cultivate meaning in the work they’re doing. And similarly if your employees feel they have a purpose, it’s easier for them to cultivate positive connections with each other.” – Jane Dutton
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Simple Truths in Saccharine Sweet Syntax

days-of-of-livesSometimes truth is to be found hidden in jagged rocks of 19th century philosophy, encrusted in gigantic Germanic sentences, obscured by words we’ve never fully understood the meaning of. But just as often, I find, there is wise counsel in everyday language, no more sophisticated than a Hallmark card.

“A happy life is just a string of happy moments. But most people don’t allow the happy moment, because they’re so busy trying to get a happy life.” – Abraham Hicks

At once profound and banal – there is also the introductory voice-over of a soap opera that has been running since 1965, almost exactly as long as I’ve been alive. “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of Our Lives.”

And from around the same era, a song reverberating in my subconscious mind since singing it for my middle school graduation ceremony:

If the hands of time were hands that I could hold,
I’d keep them warm and in my hands,
They’d not turn cold!

Hand in hand we’d choose the moments that should last,
The lovely moments that should have no future and no past!
The summer from the top of a swing,
The comfort and the sound of a lullaby,
The innocence of leaves in the spring,

…All the happy days would never learn to fly,
Until the hands of time would choose to wave good-bye!

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A Spooky Halloween Meditation: Mindfulness for the Dead and the Living

halloween-om-mindfulness-and-halloween-pumpkinHalloween wraps fear in innocence, as though it were a slightly sour sweet. Let terror, then, be turned into a treat. — Nicholas Gordon

Breathing in: The wind is blowing
Breathing out: The leaves are falling

Breathing in: All is changing
Breathing out: All is shifting

Breathing in: The leaves wind is blowing

Breathing out: The leaves are falling

Breathing in: All is dying
Breathing out: All is growing

Breathing in: The days are shorter
Breathing out: The nights are longer

Breathing in: The season’s changing
Breathing out: The world’s still turning
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Carol Dweck on Coaching: Praise, Criticism & Shifting Mindsets

Growth Mindset, coaching expectations & outcomes
carol_dweck1 Carol Dweck is one of the world’s most influential social psychologists. Her research is of vast importance to coaches and how they praise and criticize their athletes.

Carol is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and an expert on how a person’s thought patterns and belief – or mindset – affect their ability to learn and perform. This interview was recorded and first released in July 2013.

She is the author of numerous papers and books, and those most relevant to coaching include the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. She also has a great website: mindsetonline.com

Carol’s interview can be found at our sister site: www.sportscoachradio.com
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