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Posts tagged: living the 8

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?

 

The Nod

I run. And when I take my 4-mile trek around the outskirts of a local golf course very early in the morning, I do so against the tide of about 50 cyclists. These are serious riders and they’re doing about 25 laps a day…so I get to see a lot of them over the course of 30 minutes.

For about a year now, I’ve made it a practice of giving a quick head nod as the riders go by. They’re coming towards me at about 50 MPH so I’ve rationalized that they just can’t see me very well at such a high rate of speed – and that’s why no one has ever nodded back.

This morning that all changed. The lead cyclist was approaching and I gave my customary nod for the gazillionth time. And then it happened. He nodded back. Then most of the riders trailing behind him nodded. And finally, as the last rider in line started his sprint to close the gap behind the person in front of him, he raised two fingers ever-so-slightly off the handlebars and shot me a peace sign…along with a nod.

I had arrived!

I had to earn those nods – at least that’s how I’m choosing to see it. I had to make almost a hundred trips around that golf course at 5AM on weekdays for many months to get that nod of acceptance, of validation, of acknowledgment for my efforts. I run for me and my health, not for anyone else…

But we all need a nod every once in a while, don’t we?

Or maybe, by pure coincidence, they just happened to notice me for the first time today and when the leader gave me my props, everyone else decided to follow suit (which is an entirely separate topic for a great post in the future – stay tuned for that). Whatever. Either way, I finished my last quarter-mile today with a huge, peaceful grin; which hasn’t always been easy to muster up at the end of a tiring run.

So…who can you give a nod to today? Who has earned your respect with their demonstration of resilience, perseverance and determination? Who do you see going that extra mile?

Today – amidst the hustle and bustle of your busy, fast-paced schedule – notice someone going by you who has consistently exceeded your expectations.

Give ‘em a nod. Flash ‘em the peace sign.

They’ll appreciate it.

 

Happiness At Work

As an executive and organizational coach, I see many studies of the causes and symptoms of work stress. So it was refreshing to see a study about the converse: what makes workers happy.

Focusing on social workers, a profession known for its high attrition, stress and burnout, John Graham, Ph.D., a professor of social work at the University of Calgary and his then doctoral student Micheal Shier, now at the University of Pennsylvania, sent a survey out to 2,500 registered social workers in Alberta, Canada. Seven hundred people responded.

From that group they took 13 people who scored the highest in nine areas of happiness and then followed them closely through in-depth interviews about their lives at home, at work and through shadowing them at work. Here’s what he found made them happy:

  1. Flexible work schedules. The workers had the ability to provide self-care by having the flexibility to manage their personal lives. A flexible schedule helped them to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
  2. A strong sense of engagement in their work. The researcher found that was because of behind-the-scenes support the employees received from their bosses and employers. This support included flex schedules as well as the availability of superiors to consult with and bounce issues off of.
  3. A feeling of being appreciated and valued, which often stemmed from their being included in organizational decision-making.
  4. Having a high degree of freedom built into their jobs, meaning that they wanted the ability to try new things and expand out of their immediate area.
  5. A pleasant physical workspace and good relationships with clients and colleagues.
  6. Having a diversity of responsibilities, which might include training or teaching others, research, and policy development work.
  7. Having a mentor to talk about their life, career decisions and their day-to-day job.

Graham and Shier are currently researching whether these factors make other types of workers happy as well, but the hunch is that these attributes would be important to all workers.

What improves your sense of well being at work?

 

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

Big is the Torah

My good friends at Google sent me an email this morning, suggesting that I play with a new gadget from their world domination toy box: voice search. It seemed pretty cool to me so I went over to Google, clicked the little microphone, leaned in to my laptop and said my name aloud.

Within .15 seconds, a long list of sites with headings like “…the big bang theory of Torah” and “The Velveteen Rabbi (which I thought was hilarious, by the way) popped up. So…what I said was “David Vittoria”, but what the little Google gremlin heard on the other end was “big is the Torah.” A classic case of miscommunication which lead to my unmet expectations and ultimately, poor results. 14,500,000 of them to be exact.

Consider how often this happens to you. You think about what you’re going to say, say it as clearly as you know how, and the receiver of your message translates it into something wildly different from what you actually said. Happens all the time, right? Sure it does; and my little Google experiment today highlights this enormous challenge that is eroding relationships and seriously impacting outcomes in workplaces (and homes) today:

  1. We don’t fully grasp all of the different ways people actually listen to what we say.
  2. We then assume our message was universally understood and will be acted on accordingly.
  3. And we’re later disappointed to discover that our message had, in fact, been misinterpreted and now things didn’t turn out the way we’d planned.

Here’s the thing …

Hearing is a constant variable. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, whatever the content of the message – hearing is universally understood quick forum readtopic propecia none generated to be “the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations through an organ such as the ear”. Listening is more complex; and the way we make meaning out of those “vibrations” depends on our personalities and our prior experiences which, in part, determine our most comfortable listening approach.

Some people are most naturally appreciative listeners – their focus is on relaxing and enjoying the listening experience. Others are more empathic (like me) in their approach to listening – we look for ways to support the speaker and better understand their emotions. Many people are discerning listeners – their main goal is to gather complete and accurate information and to review the “data” later. Comprehensive listeners want to organize all the information they’re taking in and really seek to understand the meaning of the message. And people who are evaluative listeners want to critique the information they’re receiving and then they get prepared to act on it right away.

Consider how you most naturally listen and think about the people you interact with everyday and how they tend to approach the listening experience. I often suggest to teams (and individuals, couples, families and even entire companies, for that matter) that they meet every once in a while and identify not just what is being communicated and expected, but also talk about how things are being said and how information is being processed with everyone involved.

We can’t always readily identify someone else’s listening style; nor should we be expected to constantly alter our message depending on who’s listening and how they’re most “comfortable”. But awareness goes a long way and it often leads to greater understanding and more predictable (and positive) results.

Now you’re aware.

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?