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Posts tagged: awareness

Keep Your Cool

Are tough times making you irritable and short-tempered?

It makes sense: the economy is stressed and so are we. When things get tough, we tend to tap into our worst selves. Try these three ways to be your best self and keep your cool under the increasing pressure:

  1. Stay alert. Pay attention to what’s going on around you and take action. But don’t panic; panic only inhibits your ability to make good decisions.
  2. Focus on must-do’s. It’s easy to feel swamped with a to-do list a mile long. Decide what is absolutely necessary and focus on those items. Try not to let the fire drills creep onto your “non-negotiables” list. Balance it with those things that will ensure your company’s survival in the long term.
  3. Ask people about what they’re going through. Demonstrate care and concern. It may not be in your power to fix others’ problems but you may hear a story that helps you feel less alone in your own thoughts.
…and remember: you’re not alone.

 

Could It Be?

When I was working at a hospital years ago, I used to go into morning staff meetings and see problems so clearly, when others could not. I didn’t think I had the right or the capabilities to speak up sometimes – whether it was a management challenge I had an opinion on or a patient care issue. I worried about being seen as too new, or too inexperienced, or too arrogant, or too whatever to offer a solution to the team.

But mostly, I worried about being… too wrong.

So, I kept quiet most of the time and learned to sit on my hands lest those hands rise up and betray me. I would rather keep my job by staying within the lines than say something and risk looking stupid.

That was nearly 20 years ago. Since then, I’ve consulted at high levels with organizations like Bank of America, Citibank, Exelon, Honeywell, Office Depot, The New York City Fire Department, Raytheon and Time-Warner. And I’ve learned one simple thing. As companies are figuring out their tough problems like which new markets to go into, how to to boost sales in a recession, or ways to increase employee engagement the thing that stops any of these good teams from being successful is not stupidity.

No, when an organization’s problems are tough (and really interesting problems are all tough) the issue is rarely stupid people. Rather, what limits success, growth, and winning is something more like blindness. Blindness, as in we don’t know the whole context, or see an issue in its full complexity. As in, we are blind in not knowing what we don’t know. Smart people know how to solve most problems and so when they are failing, it’s usually the fact that we can’t see what we can’t see because we are experts and we stopped looking at it fresh a long time ago. And perhaps you can identify how this happens where you work?

Perhaps you were attending a new strategy rollout and you “knew” big chunks of it wouldn’t work. Or the latest re-org focuses on optimizing the delivery of X, when you know the market is really looking for Y. Or your leader never seems to address the one thing that is stopping a bunch of other things from being successful.

Maybe you’ve heard the hallway chatter such as “don’t they get it?” and “will they ever deal with this?” The thinking goes like this… the plan seems crazy and the issue is Z, but since it’s plain to me, well they must see it too.

But tragically, their blindness can make us silent. We conclude that a topic is mysteriously “taboo.” We say to ourselves how busy we are, telling ourselves that the issue is theirs and not ours. If we do ponder what best explains the unmentioned elephant, we notice that one option obligates us to be a bearer of bad news to the powers that be. And what if we’re wrong? As Lincoln said, “better to keep silent and be thought a fool, than speak up and remove all doubt”. And so, in the end, 99 times out of 100, we choose silence. We don’t express our viewpoint and offer what we think could help.

And here’s the cost to our silence…when issues stay unaddressed, stagnant, broken…we all fail. We ship bad products, our brand suffers, and our company performance plummets. In general, things suck. Not just for “them” but for all of “us.” The cost of silence is total suck-ness.

When we are silent, we are hurting the outcome. You see, minority viewpoints have been proven to aid the quality of decision making in juries, by teams and for the purpose of innovation. Research proves then even when the different points of view are wrong, they cause people to think better, to create more solutions and to improve the creativity of problem solving.

And so here’s the opportunity to avoid suck-ness, and the thing I’ve learned along the way to speak your truth without losing your job. Rather than saying, “This is the problem” which can risk looking the fool and quite possibly pissing someone off, ask this:

“Could it be …that this is the problem?”

“Could it be” is a conversation starter, rather than an assertion. It is the way you put it out there without having to defend it.Could it be allows the issue to be a question for everyone. allows for a dialogue exchange rather than a yes/no argument.

The blind need you to see. The silence needs to be broken. And perhaps risking being the fool is necessary to move forward. Underlying all that is courage: courage to speak, courage to risk, courage to stand up and speak rather than sit down and listen. Courage to break the silence…and when you do, the blind will see, the different viewpoints will be heard, and we can reduce suck-ness where we work.

Could it be….you’re ready to speak up?

 

Time As A Means to Happiness

Forget Suze Orman. Time, not money, is your most precious resource. So spend it wisely.

Powerful research from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business …

“Our search to understand what makes humans happy (or happier) goes back centuries. As does our enduring belief that if we just do the right thing, happiness will follow — that additional happiness Blackjack Online will be doled out to us because we earned it, not due to the largess of a benevolent being. ‘Happiness is not a reward — it is a consequence,’ instructs Robert Green Ingersoll, a Civil War-era orator. Many notable others, from Aristotle to the Buddha to Ursula K. LeGuin, agree with this sentiment.

Read more here.

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Stressed on the job? Add rude co-workers to the list of headaches. ”Workplace incivility” is on the rise, researchers said last week at the American Psychological Association annual meeting.

The APA academics define workplace incivility as “a form of organizational deviance… characterized by low-intensity behaviors that violate respectful workplace norms, appearing vague propecia and drug interaction as to intent to harm.”

Translation: rudeness, insults and plain old bad manners.

Research suggests “75% to 80% of people have experienced incivility. It’s a growing and prevalent problem,” says Jeannie Trudel of Indiana Wesleyan University-Marion.

Read more of this informative USA Today article here … No More Mr. Nice Guy

Give ‘Til It Hurts (By BJ Gallagher)

Fellow 8′ers,

While I have a seemingly endless trove of entries to post here on the Live the 8 blog, I was moved today to share this wonderful piece a good friend of mine, BJ Gallagher, just wrote for the Huffington Post. BJ lives the 8; and she knows what it means to do what matters. Read it…learn it…live it…and give ’til it hurts!

———————————————–

Give ‘Til It Hurts
By: BJ Gallagher
Posted: 06/13/11 01:51 PM ET @ http://huff.to/mCFQqH

Reverend Ed Bacon of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, stood in his pulpit, resplendent in his flowing white robe and colorful vestments. He’s a big man with a booming voice and charisma enough to light up the sanctuary without candles. On this particular Sunday, he was practically glowing with joy — energized by his guest of honor, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Prize-winning peacemaker from South Africa.

“Most people say, ‘Give ’til it hurts,’” Reverend Ed announced to the standing-room-only congregation. “But I say, ‘Give ’til it feels good!’”

The crowd’s laughter and applause thundered their approval. The choir burst into song as ushers made their way down the aisles with collection baskets.

This wasn’t just any Sunday — and it wasn’t just any collection. Archbishop Tutu had come to All Saints to tell us about the latest developments in his homeland. Apartheid had been abolished and the country was now embarking on the long, slow, painful journey of healing. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) had been established to facilitate the healing process. It was a court-like body, chaired by Archbishop Tutu, which played a key role in the transition of South Africa to a full and free democracy. Anyone who felt that he or she had been a victim of apartheid’s violence could come forward and be heard. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty and forgiveness.

But, as Reverend Ed pointed out to us that Sunday morning, justice isn’t free. It costs money to hold tribunals, to handle the paperwork, to underwrite the process of hearings and all the administrative details. So he asked the congregation to dig deep into our pockets and purses, since he was giving all the donations that Sunday to Archbishop Tutu to help support the ongoing work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“I’ve never done this before,” Reverend Ed said, “But I’m going to do Viagra 100mg it today. I am urging to give what you can, in whatever form you can. If you want to donate your car, we’ll take the pink slip. If you want to donate jewelry, we’ll take that. If you want to give cash or a check, or even put your donation on a credit card, fine. We’ll take it all. We here in Southern California have a wonderful standard of living — we’re rich by any standard. So I’m asking you to give as much as you can to the people of South Africa to support their healing and reconciliation. Most people say, ‘Give ’til it hurts’ — but I say, ‘Give ’til it feels good!’”

There wasn’t a dry eye in the place. We were so moved by Tutu’s sermon, so inspired by his moral authority and loving compassion, that we could do no less than give our all.

As the collection basket made its way toward me, I wondered what to do. My business had been slow, so I had no extra money to give. I needed my car, so I couldn’t donate that. What can I give? I asked myself. I desperately wanted to support this marvelous process unfolding in South Africa. I wanted to contribute something — no matter how small — to the good people half-way around the world.

The collection basket finally came to me and I looked down into it, still not sure what to do. As my hands cradled the basket of love offerings, I noticed that I was wearing a 14K gold and garnet ring my mother had given me on my 12th birthday. Instantly, I knew what to do. I took off the ring, put it in the little white offering envelope, and dropped the envelope into the collection basket. Tears of joy streamed down my face as I passed the basket to the person next to me. I imagined the South Africans melting down my gold ring to help pay for their national healing. I was filled with gratitude and happiness to be a tiny part of something so momentous, so important, so essential to humanity.

As I wiped away my tears and joined the choir in song, I realized that Reverend Ed had been right. I gave … and it felt good.

BJ Gallagher’s new book is If God Is Your Co-Pilot, Switch Seats (Hampton Roads).

Disconnected: Loneliness & How to Combat It

The more I’ve learned about happiness over the last few years, the more I’ve come to realize just how terribly depleting and unfortunately common the state of loneliness is for many people.

Two months ago, after reading John Cacioppo’s book Loneliness, I talked about loneliness with some of my friends, family, colleagues and even a few clients. Several people mentioned that one question really occupies them as it relates to loneliness:

When I’m lonely, what do I do about it?

I recently finished another fascinating book, Lonely — a memoir by Emily White, about her own experiences and research into loneliness. White doesn’t attempt to give specific advice about how to combat loneliness, but from her book, I gleaned these strategies:

  1. Remember that although the distinction can be difficult to draw, loneliness and solitude are different. White observes, “It’s entirely reasonable to feel lonely yet still feel as though you need some time to yourself.” Loneliness feels draining, distracting, and upsetting; desired solitude feels peaceful, creative, restorative.
  2. Nurturing others — raising children, teaching, caring for animals — helps to alleviate loneliness.
  3. Keep in mind that to avoid loneliness, many people need both a social circle and an intimate attachment. Having one of these elements may still leave you feeling lonely.
  4. Work hard to get your sleep. One of the most common indicators of loneliness is broken sleep — taking a long time to fall asleep, waking frequently, and feeling sleepy during the day. Sleep deprivation, under any circumstances, brings down people’s moods, makes them more likely to get sick, and dampens their energy, so it’s important to tackle this issue.
  5. Try to figure out what’s missing from your life. White observes that making lots of plans with friends didn’t alleviate her loneliness. “What I wanted,” she writes, “was the quiet presence of another person.” She longed to have someone else just hanging around the house with her. The more clearly you see what’s lacking, the more clearly you’ll see possible solutions.
  6. Take steps to meaningfully connect with other people. Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they’re big, flashing signs that something needs to change. The pain of loneliness can prod you to connect with other people. Unfortunately, loneliness itself can make people feel more negative, critical, and judgmental. If you recognize that your loneliness may be affecting you in that way, you can take steps to counter it.

Most people have suffered from loneliness at some point. Have you found any good strategies for making yourself less lonely? What worked — or didn’t work?

Something Has to Change

I recently visited a large company to give a talk about the guiding principles in my book. From all appearances, it was a well-run company doing good things.

Many of the employees came up to me afterwards to chat, and I asked each of them, “How are things at __________?” Most of them said that things were good, and I had no reason to doubt them.

Others had a different response, and either from what they said or how they acted, it was obvious that they weren’t happy. Several of them talked with me confidentially and said variations of the following:

“It’s not a bad job, Dave, but my creativity is very limited”.
“I find myself constantly daydreaming of [something else]“.
“I liked it here at first, but now I feel stifled”.

These statements were invariably followed by something like: “I shouldn’t complain, because everyone tells me how good I have it. Lots of other people have been laid off or can’t find a job in the first place. Besides, I have good benefits here.”

Hmmm. Yes, it’s good to be grateful for what you have. Lots of people do have it hard these days, and that’s unfortunate. But here’s the thing: it can be a good job at a good company, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. In fact, if Buy Ativan you’re constantly daydreaming of something else, having a good job can be dangerous. A good job can keep you from a big life.

Sometimes what makes sense during one season doesn’t make sense in another; a commitment that was fulfilling at one time loses its allure. In these situations, pretending all is well is usually the wrong answer. If you’re discontented, it’s up to you to make a change. And if it really is a good company or organization that has treated you well, you’re not serving it well in return by giving it less than your best.

Aside from remaining stagnant and trudging along, when you find yourself in a good job that no longer meets your needs, there are only two options:

1) Find a way to bring the joy back to the good job.
2) Find a way to say goodbye to the good job.

You might think that leaving is hard. Of course it’s hard — it would be much easier if it were a bad job. Then the situation would become urgent and you’d do everything you could to get out as soon as possible. But because it’s good enough, you stick around.

That’s why, one way or another, something has to change.

Question: Have you ever found yourself discontented in a good job? What did you do?

Giving Effective Praise

Plaudit junkie that I am, I was once grumbling to my wife about the fact that some extraordinarily praiseworthy effort on my part had gone unnoticed by a friend. Isabel wisely responded, “Most people probably don’t get the appreciation they deserve, Dave.” That’s right, I thought to myself — for instance, my own wife! Whom I certainly don’t give enough praise for everything she does for me and for our family.

This got me thinking about the importance of praise, and how to compliment and congratulate others effectively. The right words of support and acknowledgement can be so encouraging, but bland, empty praise is meaningless.

  1. Be specific. Vague praise doesn’t make much of an impression.
  2. Find a way to praise sincerely and realistically. It’s a rare situation where you can’t identify something that you honestly find praiseworthy.
  3. Never offer praise and ask for a favor in the same conversation. It makes the praise seem like a set-up.
  4. Look for something less obvious to praise – a more obscure accomplishment or quality that a person hasn’t heard praised many times before.
  5. Don’t hesitate to praise people who get a lot of praise already. I’ve noticed that even people who get constant praise – or perhaps especially people who get constant praise – crave praise. Is this because praiseworthy people are often insecure? Or does getting praise lead to a need for more praise? I’m not sure, but it seems often to be the case.
  6. Praise people behind their backs. The praised person usually hears about the praise, and behind-the-back praise seems more sincere than face-to-face praise.
  7. Beware when a person asks for your honest opinion. This is often a clue that they’re seeking reassurance, not candor.

Praise is gratifying to the person getting praised, of course, but it also boosts the happiness of the praiser — at least I’ve found that true of myself. Because the way we feel is very much influenced by the way we act, by acting in a way that shows appreciation, discernment, and thoughtfulness, we make ourselves feel more appreciative, discerning, and thoughtful. And that boosts happiness.

Have you thought of any other good ways for giving people deserved praise?

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

I admit it – I’m an impatient person. I can’t stand sitting in traffic or waiting in long lines; it just drives me nuts. Equally aggravating for me is waiting in a short line behind interminably slow people as I watch longer lines of people or cars move quicker than mine. Just the other day, I pulled up to the bank and picked the lane with the fewest cars in it, only to take nearly twice as long as it would have been had I just picked the nearest lane to where I drove up, as opposed to the shortest line of cars. Happens every time.

My impatience is a shortcoming and I’m working on it. As part of my seemingly unending quest to ease up a little, reduce my own stress and make life easier on my family (my daughter, Lauren, recently implored me to read my own book as I got impatient and frustrated in 90 minutes of traffic…classic) I’ve done some reading on this whole waiting game.

I discovered some research by David Maister in an piece entitled The Psychology of Waiting Lines. The paper is aimed at people who operate stores, restaurants, doctors’ offices, and other places where people (just like me) hate to be kept waiting. Of course, most of us are the ones standing in line, not the ones controlling the line, but I’m always interested in learning more about myself and the psychology of my behavior.

Maister’s main point is that the actual time we’re waiting may have little to do with how long that wait feels. Two minutes can pass in an instant, or those two minutes (like mine in the bank line) can feel like an eternity. Here are eight factors that make waits seem longer:

  1. Unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time. When you have something to distract yourself, time passes more quickly. Some hotels put mirrors by the elevators, because people like to look at themselves.
  2. People want to get started. This is why restaurants give you a menu while you wait, and why doctors put you in the examination room twenty-five minutes before your examination actually begins. Tricky.
  3. Anxiety makes waits seem longer. If you think you’ve chosen the slowest line, or you’re worried about getting a seat on the plane, the wait will seem longer. Hello?!
  4. Uncertain waits are longer than known, finite waits. People wait more calmly when they’re told Cialis, “The doctor will see you in thirty minutes” than when they’re told, “The doctor will see you soon.” Maister gives an amusing illustration of a phenomenon that I’d noticed while sitting in my doctor’s office recently for a check-up: if I arrive someplace thirty minutes early, I can patiently wait without a problem, but ninety seconds after my appointment time passes, I start to feel annoyed. “How long are they going to have me sitting here?” I start to wonder; as I glance at the receptionist nine times a minute.
  5. Unexplained waits are longer than explained waits. We wait more patiently for the pizza guy when there’s a thunderstorm than when the sky is clear. We wait more patiently on the plane when we know that there’s another plane at the gate.
  6. Unfair waits are longer than equitable waits. People want their waits to be fair. I got anxious, for example, when my family and I waited to get into the Florida Marlins baseball game this past Saturday night; where there’s no clear, fair way to determine who gets through the turnstile first.
  7. The more valuable the service, the longer the customer will wait. You’ll wait longer to talk to a doctor than to talk to a sales clerk. You’ll stand in line longer to buy an iPad than to buy nail clippers.
  8. Solo waits feel longer than group waits. The more people engage with each other, the less they notice the wait time. In fact, in some situations, waiting in line is part of the experience. A few years ago, Lauren and three of her friends waited happily together for five hours in a block-long line to see Taylor Lautner for six seconds at the premier of the movie Twilight. I asked her the next day how long she thought she’d waited – she knew it was “a while” but never looked at her watch and could only hazard a guess at about “three hours”.

Since I read this paper a few days ago, I’ve been a little more patient about waiting in line. I’m occupied (see #1) with analyzing my own experience of waiting in line. Have you found any good ways to make waiting more bearable? Or, on a different subject, have you found that understanding an experience better has made it more interesting or helped you to cope better?

Send me your thoughts to david@livethe8.com.

On Happiness and The Vanishing Rattle

Jean Piaget was a Swiss developmental psychologist and a philosopher in the early 1900′s. Unknown to many people outside the fields of psychology and social work, his theory of cognitive development has had a profound impact on what we know today about a child’s thoughts and actions growing up.

I first read about Piaget as an undergrad in an Early Childhood Development class; where I was introduced to a concept he called object permanence. Object permanence is the understanding that things continue to exist even when they cannot be seen, heard or touched. It’s a level of development achieved by all of us as infants (typically between 8 and 12 months old) when we learned that just because mommy left the room, that didn’t mean she’d left the planet. And when the rattle went hidden under our blankie, it wasn’t gone forever. It’s when we discovered that out-of-sight didn’t necessarily mean out-of-mind; that just because we’re not experiencing something at the moment, that doesn’t mean we’ll never experience it again.

This is a concept we grasp as little ones, and apparently forget when we’re older; especially when it comes to happiness. We feel joy one moment – connected to the things in our lives that bring us gratitude and fulfillment – and those good feelings disappear into the proverbial kitchen the next. Then we struggle to get our happiness back, fighting a tendency many of us have to view positive emotions as nothing more than fleeting conditions, as opposed to embracing the idea that positive emotions can become permanent objects in our lives. Good feelings – like joy, serenity, hope Cialis, interest, pride, amusement, inspiration and love – don’t have to remain out-of-mind for us for too long. Sure, they’ll leave us sometimes when life creeps in and replaces the good stuff with the bad. And we’ll allow people and situations to take our rattle away from us every once in a while. Just remind yourself that the joy will soon return, the hope will come back, your inspiration will reveal itself again and love will fill your heart in due time.

Here are three tips to help you reconnect with those good feelings you might be searching for:

  1. Make a gratitude list. This will shift your mood and remind you of all that is good in your life right now. It’s an especially great technique for feeling better when you’re fearful, angry or impatient.
  2. Do good things. Recapture some positive energy and emotion by getting out of yourself and doing something for someone else. Go volunteer at your child’s school or call up a local homeless shelter and see what you can do to help. I guarantee (yes, I said guarantee) that you will be better afterwards.
  3. Let it go. Don’t let anyone steal your joy. If you find yourself voluntarily stuck in a negative emotion (as opposed to experiencing a normal and natural state of discomfort such as grief or temporary anger) then ask yourself what you have to gain by letting him/her/them/it continue to rent space in your head. It might be time to let it go and move on.

Now…go find your rattle. It’s gotta’ be around there somewhere.