Does Your Willpower Support Your Well-Being?

willpowerThe next time you find yourself “too tired” to exert self-control, challenge yourself to go beyond that first feeling of fatigue.

The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.

Here’s a quick quiz, to give you perspective on your current well-being.

  • Do you like your life and smile often?
  • Are you reasonably happy with your weight and other health-oriented decisions?
  • Are you aware of something important to you that’s bigger than you? For some this is met through religion or spirituality, for others it’s science or community service.
  • Do you invest in building strong social connections?
  • Do you feel productive?
  • Are key economic factors in place for you and your family, especially food, housing, and transportation?

A resounding yes to all is the desired state, but we’re on planet earth, right? So, we might say: “My weight isn’t bad, but I’d like to lose 10 pounds and exercise more.” “My work is productive but takes so much of my time that social connections suffer.” And so on. A life well lived is one that focuses on continuing to experience well-being in accordance with our evolving needs. This article will address some of the ways we can strengthen our willpower muscles to expand our well-being.

Well-being is a broad, life encompassing concept. Willpower is a powerful strategy for conducting our lives in a way that promotes well-being.

Well-being Defined

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) studies well-being due to its public policy implications. The CDC states:

Well-being is a positive outcome that is meaningful for people and for many sectors of society, because it tells us that people perceive that their lives are going well. Good living conditions (e.g., housing, employment) are fundamental to well-being. Tracking these conditions is important for public policy. However, many indicators that measure living conditions fail to measure what people think and feel about their lives, such as the quality of their relationships, their positive emotions and resilience, the realization of their potential, or their overall satisfaction with life—i.e., their “well-being.” Well-being generally includes global judgments of life satisfaction and feelings ranging from depression to joy.

Well-being considers our whole life. Key components include:

  • Spiritual Connection or a Sense of Supporting Something Bigger than Oneself
  • Physical Health
  • Mental Health
  • Emotional Health
  • Social Connectedness
  • Productivity with Self-Actualization
  • Economic well-being
  • Healthy Physical Environment
  • Life Satisfaction

Willpower

Willpower is one of our primary strategies to support and expand well-being. Willpower is defined by Dr. McGonigal as

The ability to control our attention, emotions, and desires – and influences our physical health, financial security, relationships and professional success.

Here are some strategies for tapping into your willpower in ways that enhance your well-being. We strongly recommend Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Willpower Instinct! The ideas below are influenced by her work.

Choose one area where you’d like to improve your life. Conduct a reality check, be sure that it’s viable for you given everything else happening.

Your emotional intelligence skills of Self-Awareness and Impulse Control are vital to engaging your willpower. As McGonigal says, “When we [combine these skills] we will find the willpower and the want power to do the harder thing.” (p. 28) Humans have the gift of being able to observe ourselves and even to predict what we will do and the likely outcome if we’re willing to exercise our skill (or not). Once you activate your awareness your question is will you engage your Impulse Control so you further that willpower goal and improve your life? We know this can be hard so let’s look at steps to build your skills.

  • Develop improved self-awareness. One way to do so is by committing to notice your responses when a certain type of event (you choose) occurs. Write down a few notes so you can keep track, and do this until you have a good idea of what to change to meet that new life goal.
  • Now that you’re considerably more aware, it’s time to build your impulse control muscles. These “muscles” are in the pre-frontal cortex and McGonigal assures us that the brain will remodel itself based on what we ask it to do. Perhaps surprisingly, likely the best way to do so is to meditate – even 5 minutes a day. She writes:

Neuroscientists have discovered that when you ask the brain to meditate, it gets better not just at meditating, but at a wide range of self-control skills, including attention, focus, stress management impulse control and self-awareness. People who meditate regularly aren’t just better at these things. Over time, their brains become finely tuned willpower machines. Regular meditators have more gray matter in the prefrontal cortex, as well as regions of the brain that support self-awareness. (p. 24)

  • Integrate your self-awareness and impulse control through a Pause and Plan strategy. As McGonigal points out, this is vastly different than fight or flight. Pause and plan is based on slowing down, being aware, considering various outcomes and making a considered decision.

Whether you want to improve your weight, exercise more, quit smoking or be more pleasant with your family, using the powerful emotional intelligence skills of Self-Awareness and Impulse Control so that you have the time and awareness to engage the Pause and Plan strategy will help you meet your goal.

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Emotional & Social Well-Being Supports Employee Engagement

interactionThe good news about our 2.0 world is organizations are finally getting it – that is they are recognizing that if they place their top value on building emotional and social well-being for their employees and teams, they will gain the business and financial values of increased and sustainable productivity, better decisions, loyalty and best of all trust among their workforce. Ok, they get it, but how do they DO it? It isn’t hard, yet it does require intentional commitment and follow through. Fortunately there is a road map, the powerful tools of the EQi 2.0® for individuals and the TESI®2.0 for teams are well researched assessments designed to measure and provide the path to building emotional and social well-being. These provide the data to implement a specific plan of action for individuals and teams.

Let’s take the case of Teresa (not her real name) who recently joined a mid-size successful law firm as a paralegal in the Environmental Division (ED). The ED has a managing partner, administrative partner, 10 attorneys and 5 paralegals. Teresa is excited, hopeful, apprehensive, and cautious. She is experiencing a normal set of mixed emotions as she starts this new position that could become a rewarding long-term career or a really difficult chapter in her life. It is very much in her best interest and that of the firm for this to work. Recognizing the investment they are making, the law firm has established a process to welcome and support Teresa’s success.

First, they used the EQi as a part of the hiring process to hire a person who would have high potential for success in this position. Once Teresa joined the firm she was given her EQi results with a coaching session by Abigail, an external consultant to their OD team. Teresa was guided to explore all skills of the EQi and to focus on a few that would be most helpful for her. Teresa’s happiness (scored at 90) is lower than she would prefer and she recognizes that her happiness has a global effect on her life, it affects the energy she has to do her job, her ability to connect with others, and how she feels about herself. Teresa and Abigail dug in to explore the well-being indicator in her report and seek useful strategies that Teresa could put into action. Happiness was originally described by Dr. Reuven Bar-On, the creator of the original EQi, as a barometer of emotional health and well-being and as an indicator of one’s entire emotional and social intelligence. The EQi well-being indicator emphasizes that four of the sixteen EQi skills are particularly interconnected to the dimension of happiness. Teresa’s found:

  • Her self-regard (95) was ok, but she would benefit by strengthening her sense of self-confidence. Teresa feels scared in her first position as a paralegal, but upon discussion she recognizes she has strengths to build on including her previous work experience.
  • Her optimism (110) was likely to be a healthy point of leverage in building her goals. However, she and her coach checked her reality testing (102) to make sure maintained good perspective and didn’t just look at the world with rose colored glasses.
  • Her interpersonal relationships (95) indicated that she longed to take time to develop more friendships. She’d focused on career and family and was truly feeling lonely for personal friends. Teresa recognized that a few close friends would make a big difference for her whole life, but she was worried that she just couldn’t invest the time. She was surprised that her coach would even suggest this was important, after all didn’t the law firm just want billable hours? It seemed like investing in friends would diminish her contribution at the firm. Teresa’s curiosity was definitely engaged.
  • Her self-actualization (104) was fairly strong and Teresa talked about how important it is to her to contribute to making the world a better place. This is why she chose to be a paralegal and work in environmental law. She would be supporting cases focused on water quality and hazardous waste management. She talked about her passion and excitement and demonstrated why this skill and her optimism are key components of her happiness.

Teresa and Abigail discussed a strategy, with Teresa taking the lead, on changes she was going to work on. First she knew it had to be small focused steps because she was already busy. She decided to build her self-regard by: 1) giving herself positive messages at least 5 times a day, 2) noticing what was going right, and 3) taking at least 15 minutes each evening to reflect and write down how she felt with the positive messages and what she did right during the day. She committed to doing this for 28 days straight, as Abigail emphasized that she’s building new habits supported by new neuronal pathways. She also decided to have a least one personal lunch or coffee

break a week that was just meeting with friends, not about business. Teresa will also do this for four weeks and then decide on next steps. She was intrigued with Abigail’s confirmation that the firm recognizes that people need connections and that folks who feel that they have a full whole life are better long term contributors to the firm and support their clients and co-workers more effectively.

Teresa was beginning to get the message that her new employer believed in her emotional and social well-being and was really pleased to learn that the investment wouldn’t stop with just her individual needs as she and her teammates in the Environmental Division were also supported in being a strong and viable team. The team would be taking the TESI® (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey) in a few months and she’d be a part of taking the Survey, evaluating the team’s performance in skills such as motivation, emotional awareness, conflict resolution and stress tolerance. Days were marked out on everyone’s calendars for once a month team building sessions where they would use the data from the TESI, connect it with their reflections on projects that were successful or challenged and intentionally keep building their skills to work together.

After the coaching session, Teresa felt hopeful and committed to being a productive member of the firm for a very long time.

10 Actions to Make Your 2018 a Year of Authentic Success

How was your 2017? We know it was disruptive for many in the world. There is a strong sense of love and community engagement. Yet, there’s also a strong sense of divisiveness in communities and nations, war, displacement, financial troubles. Instead of continuing to list and focus on challenges, let’s move toward what is right.

What are you seeking for your personal success indicators in 2018? To gain a viable answer hold an internal conversation between your ideal self (how you would most like to live) and your real self (how you really live) and develop an authentic structure to your goals. Authentic success integrates these two parts into a happier and more successful you. Recognize that success is much more than money – consider well-being, compassion and health. Seek joy. Our article was so well received in earlier years as a way to frame moving into the New Year, that it’s back by popular demand.

Authentic success begets peace of mind because you are living and working in accordance with your values, strengths, and your sense of purpose instead of living in conflict. Reaching this highly desired state requires personal awareness. Without it you will be missing the joy from your current wealth by only focusing on what hasn’t happened. Happiness and optimism, both components of emotional intelligence, are vital to experiencing authentic success. The following 10 Actions are based on years of research in the fields of emotional intelligence and positive psychology and set forth choices you can make to change the quality of your life in 2018.

10 Actions to Make Your

2018 a Year of Authentic Success

  1. Define happiness. Know what you are looking for when you are seeking happiness. True happiness isn’t the quick food fix; even Belgian chocolates bring a temporary response. As an article by Carlin Flora, “The Pursuit of Happiness” in Psychology Today states, “The most useful definition – and it’s one agreed upon by neuroscientists, psychiatrists, behavioral economists, positive psychologists, and Buddhist monks – is more like satisfied or content than ‘happy’ in its strict bursting-with-glee sense. It has depth and deliberation to it. It encompasses living a meaningful life, utilizing your gifts and your time, living with thought and purpose. It’s maximized when you also feel part of a community. And when you confront annoyances and crises with grace. It involves a willingness to learn and stretch and grow, which sometimes involves discomfort. It requires acting on life, not merely taking it in. It’s not joy, a temporary exhilaration, or even pleasure, that sensual rush – though a steady supply of those feelings course through those who seize each day.”

Action: Happiness is closely tied to being aware of what success truly means for you. Write your own definition of what Authentic Success means to you and intend to live in synch with your truth about Authentic Success in 2018.

  1. Practice mindfulness. While defined in a variety of ways, mindfulness simply means paying attention. Notice how you are feeling and why and then make a choice to stick with your current path or take a breath and intentionally shift.

Action: Set a time each day when you will review your day with intention to notice and expand your mindfulness. Even a short review will make a difference.

  1. Be you. Embrace yourself. Know your good points and that which you don’t consider so favorably. Know your styles and preferences and trust you are a good and resilient person. We received the following quote awhile ago and we give profound credit to whoever first said it though we don’t know the original source.

Action: Print this out and tape it around your environment:

  1. Practice your 2% Solution. As Marcia describes in Life’s 2% Solution, the 2% Solution requires just half an hour a day (3 ½ hours a week if it works better to cluster your time). Spend that time doing something that’s deeply nurturing, meaningful, fulfilling to you. It may be what you’ve vowed to do later when you are free to explore long-delayed purposeful pursuits. This seemingly small expenditure of time is even more critical in today’s harried world, where work deadlines loom, the carpool to soccer awaits, the dry cleaning is piling up, and a dinner party fills up whatever free time is left. We get it all done, yet feel incomplete. This stress-filled existence leaches away our creativity, passion and sense of fulfillment. We sacrifice the long-view of our lives for short-term results, to check something off a list. No doubt, that scenario leads to burnout.

Action: Integrate your enhanced awareness from taking some of the above steps with your own 2% project. Investing 2% of your time in an unusual way on yourself will make a world of difference. It’s an achievable way of creating more work/life balance without having to turn your life upside down by radical change. You can learn more and follow the 10 step process found in my book Life’s 2% Solution.

  1. Relationships matter. Take time for friends and choose friends who support the values you wish to live with.

Action: Notice who your friends are. Ask yourself if you are giving the time it takes to cultivate valuable relationships. If not make a change. Keep your expectations of time with friends manageable.

  1. Carpe diem! Seize the day.

Action: Today is the only version of this day you’ll ever have. Take advantage of it!

  1. Know your values. It’s easy to get caught up in the multitude of options that expand daily from numbers of cereals to forms of entertainment to interesting books. We all have twenty-four hours in a day. Take advantage of your day by knowing what is truly important so you don’t get distracted with the job of making too many unimportant choices.

Action: Make a list of your top values – somewhere between five and ten items at the most. Then practice connecting your values with your choices.

  1. Create. It feels good! Humans are amazingly creative beings. You probably create much more than you realize and miss giving yourself credit for your gifts.

Action: Intentionally make a soup, draw a picture, write a letter. Whatever feels simply good to you and then stop and acknowledge the act of creating and give yourself time to enjoy.

  1. Express gratitude. This is a big one. Anytime you want to build happiness, be grateful for what you do have and go find a way to give. So much of authentic happiness is based in giving your gifts and in being a good and compassionate human being. Don’t make it hard; find easy and natural ways to give with no strings attached. Pay it forward is a great strategy.

Action: Take time to stop and say thank you. Notice how you feel and how the recipient feels. Keep a gratitude journal. Notice five to ten events that occur each day for which you are grateful. Be specific. Feel the gratitude in your heart as you write your list and as you read it over.

  1. Smile. It’s impossible to be grumpy and smile at the same time.

Action: If you are willing to change your emotional state, you will. Breathe, notice what is going on, notice any tension you are holding in your body, and be willing to let it go. Be quiet and smile for a full minute.

Authentic success combines your inner and outer strengths, though integrating these two is not always so easy. Good luck on your journey. We’re always interested in learning from you about how this works. Comment on our blog.

Blessings for a beautiful and resonant 2018 that flows with compassion for yourself and others.

Emotional Intelligence Wisdom to Injured NBA Player

“Be sad. Be mad… Then focus on the recovery process day by day by day…. This will also mean that when you return you will have a new perspective. You will be so appreciative of being able to stand, walk, run that you will train harder than ever.”

ghaywardNBA forward Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics experienced a devastating ankle injury. Many players offered caring messages. The one by Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant stands out. His advice distills the essence of applying emotional intelligence (EI) to life’s setbacks, challenges, and worries.. The Instagram message to Gordon Hayward:

 

Be sad. Be mad. Be frustrated. Scream. Cry. Sulk. When you wake up you will think it was just a nightmare only to realize it’s all too real. You will be angry and wish for the day back, the game back THAT play back. But reality gives nothing back and nor should you. Time to move on and focus on doing everything in your power to prepare for surgery, ask all the questions to be sure you understand fully the procedure so that you may visualize it in your subconscious while being operated on and better the chance of its success. Then focus on the recovery process day by day by day. It’s a long journey but if you focus on the mini milestones along the way you will find beauty in the struggle of doing simple things that prior to this injury were taken for granted. This will also mean that when you return you will have a new perspective. You will be so appreciative of being able to stand, walk, run that you will train harder than you ever have. You see the belief within you grow with each mini milestone and you will come back a better player for it. Best of luck to you on this journey my brother #mambamentality always.

This healing process calls for applying all 16 skills found in the EQi personal assessment from self-regard and emotional self-awareness to assertiveness, empathy, stress tolerance, impulse control, optimism and happiness. Life is a journey and a continuous learning opportunity. Gordon is facing a dramatic and poignant life event. Many parts of our journey are less dramatic, yet they are always opportunities to grow into our best self.

As we write this we particularly honor our brother, Ken Hughes. During his long and challenging journey with multiple sclerosis he gallantly faced loss and pain. For the last years of his life he couldn’t stand, walk or run. Yet he smiled, laughed, teased and was an honor to be with. Salutes to Captain Ken!

Untangling Team Talent

Participate in our webinar Sep. 27, 2-3 pm ET. Register NOW!!

The biggest challenge to effective teamwork is the failure to listen and understand how to ACT together!

In our highly competitive culture teamwork is often impacted negatively by the individual members’ efforts to ensure they receive recognition and compensation for their personal creativity. While this is certainly valid and important, leaders are often baffled on how to integrate this individual goal into the team culture and communications and still improve the quality of teamwork. There are many commonalities that support leaders in successfully diagnosing where the individual needs of the members (talent) get tangled up with the collective productivity of the team.

Gaining the benefit of top level individual and team performance is possible when the organization, departments and team leaders work together to maximize talent at all levels.

Organizations, need to acknowledge the challenge and opportunity, provide support to leaders and teams to gain the skills to perform in all their capacities and express gratitude regularly!

At the Department and Team Leader levels, best practices call for gathering and using data, holding team based candid discussions in a safe and collaborative manner. Use a team model that gathers data based on “we” questions to access team performance. Most analysis of teams is misleading as it’s based on individual factors, not team strengths and opportunities. Thus, a compilation of individual results from personality assessments such as MBTI, Emergenetics, Change Style Indicator or the many others will further the challenge of focusing on individuals and not teams. This is good an valuable data, it just should NOT be the only data considered. It is vital to look at the team as a distinct entity! When the team is recognized, intentionally responded to and lead, the team is given much more opportunity to flourish and productivity is enhanced!

The TESI® (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®) identifies the 7 core competencies teams need to function well. Action steps to untangle team talent begins with each team taking the TESI and receiving their own report. Then pull the data together to view trends across the organization. With this information action plans can be created for each team and at the organizational level.

Talent can be untangled by working with each of the team competencies as well as the team and individual performance.

PIE color whole tagTeam Identity is based on how well the team demonstrates belongingness, a desire to work together, and a sense of clarity around the role of each member. Teams tangle when roles and responsibilities aren’t sufficiently clarified. Take a look – is there a good balance in roles that is designed to bring out all team members talents? Does everyone understand the division of responsibilities?

Emotional Awareness considers the amount of attention the team pays to noticing, understanding, and respecting feelings of team members. Teams tangle when team cohesion is undervalued and there isn’t time for enhancing interpersonal relationships. A central theme in building successful teams is that sufficient time and resources are spent so the team feels recognized, valued and that the organization is aware of them. This is followed by an organizational expectation, that is welcomed by team members, that they are expected to pay attention to one another and be responsive.

Communication provides feedback on how well team members listen, encourage participation, and discuss sensitive matters. Teams tangle when communication is focused between individuals and there is competition for the data. When the focus is just on individuals, team potential is diminished – collaborative intelligence has trouble showing up!

Stress Tolerance gives the team a reflection of how well it’s doing in managing the pressures of workload, time constraints, and the real needs for work-life balance. Teams tangle when skills are developed without equality and balance. Are some people on the team seen as hot shots who get the plum assignments? The cost will come out in many ways – discord from those left out, maybe too much pressure on the high performers and missed opportunities of developing more skills in those who are getting less attention.

Conflict Resolution addresses how constructively the team conducts the process of disagreement and whether the team is able to deal with adversity to enhance its functioning, rather than being deflated by the conflict. Teams tangle when competition is encouraged and collaboration isn’t. Teams tangle when conflict resolutions skills aren’t practiced with intention and courage!

Positive Mood highlights the level of encouragement, sense of humor, and how successful the team expects to be; is a major support for a team’s flexibility and resilience. Teams tangle when fearful attitudes prevail instead of “can-do” attitudes.

Lead your teams to success by using your resources and skills to maximize individual and team contribution!

Team Leaders Motivate Your Teams!

Leading emotionally intelligent teams is a tough job. Developing your skill is worth it as teams strong in EI are productive, creative and loyal to their organization. Building team motivation is a key strategy for success so team leaders maximize their own success by implementing the 7 motivation actions.

Before you implement any of these steps, think about someone who did a great job leading a team you were on. How did he/she motivate you? How did he/she engage and follow through? Now with a good example in mind ask:

  1. What are the characteristics of the team members on the team I’m leading? Know your team members individually.

Get to know your team members individually and help them know each other through a personality assessment such as Change Style Indicator or the Influence Style Indicator. You’ll be amazed at how much good data supports understanding team members’ preferences. With this information, you can strategically target your requests to gain the best buy in.

  1. What’s my team good at? What are their challenges?

Understand your team strengths and weaknesses with the TESI®. The Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®, is a team 360 reporting on how team members access their functioning in seven core areas of team engagement. These measurable results help teams focus on how to tap into their skills and improve areas of weakness. You and your team can measure success through the pre-post assessment.

  1. What rings their bells – what dampens their spirits?

Pay attention to the feedback you receive on a regular basis and repeat what works. Utilize your data on individual and team strengths in order to further positive engagement.

  1. How will the team break out of old patterns to awaken creativity and boost spirits?

Creativity is an energizer. Even though some team members may moan about change, when you lead them in purposeful change and have a defined approach and outcomes it will help build new energy and clear out old ways of doing things that aren’t necessary anymore.

  1. What’s your team attitude?

Discuss the power of attitude with your team. Ask team members to explore current attitudes and then set intentions for the attitude they will express in the future. Be specific about who does what so you can notice and affirm positive actions as engagement improves.

  1. What inspires your team members and the team as a whole?

What about giving some time to a worthwhile community project? You and the team could spend an hour at a soup kitchen or a day helping build a house. There are many ways to contribute. Challenge the team to consider options and find a suitable project. After contributing your time get together and debrief. Talk about how it felt, what you learned about your community and what it means to volunteer as a team.

  1. Determine how well your team that functions with emotional and social well-being

The Collaborative Growth team model measures the seven specific skills seen in the outer ring. Your team can take the TESI, consider their skills and opportunities, and engage in intentional growth. The model shows that as teams are deliberately enhancing their skills they develop the benefits shown in the middle circle, such as trust, and then progress to being a team that enjoys emotional and social well-being. This is a highly productive and engaged state which leads to sustainable good results. However, be sure to pay attention to maintaining those skills. High performance requires constant attention.

Top 10 Reasons for Playing!

reasons to play

  1. It feels good and makes you happy!
  2. Happy is good! Good for your health, for your decision-making, for your relationships….. Heck, what isn’t it good for?
  3. It’s good for our world economy – a stretch? Maybe, but what about the recreation dollars we spend even if we’re just driving to a great hike in the forest and taking a picnic. And happy people have more capacity to slug through the difficult conversations to get to good collaborative decisions. Tell that to the G-20 – or even the G-7 leaders!
  4. We build resilience, defined as the ability to recover quickly from setbacks and elasticity, as in the ability to spring back after things are bent out of shape. Resilience is enhanced through play, through relaxing and through nourishing reflecting. Play regularly to be prepared for life’s twists and turns.
  5. It makes other people happy.
  6. You can get good exercise and increase your cardio vascular functioning.
  7. Brain health and well-being.
  8. We satisfy our own developmental need to be creative and feel competent.
  9. We can be more creative while playing with novel possibilities in an environment where we can be flexible and relaxed.
  10. To interact and be reflective without it seeming so serious – “Hey, why did we miss that grounder when Holly hit it?” “What shall our team do next time?”

Play has been described as unplanned behavior, in other words activity that emerges and evolves spontaneously from within its own context. It occurs in a climate that facilitates creativity and innovation. Young children accomplish the majority of their most critical early learning through play. But guess what, adults learn best in the same sort of attitude — relaxed curiosity. We just don’t emphasize play nearly as much as can serve us. For children play is considered valuable because it develops their social relationship skills, helps build positive interactions between the child and their classmates, and provides the chance to let off a bit of steam (reduce or prevent anger). It also builds on their skills of sharing and taking turns. Isn’t this what we want for ourselves, our families and our teams? Of course it is!

At Collaborative Growth we’re declaring July as a great month for playing. We hope you take time to enjoy this beautiful month whether it’s quite sunny for you in the northern part of our globe or snow is whitening your world in the southern hemisphere.

We also want to express our gratitude for Freedom. In the United States where we live, July 4th is the day we celebrate our nation’s Independence. Let us all embrace freedom with our intentions that really includes liberty and justice for all to help build a world that works. Neurologists assure us that seeing requires believing so let’s join our combined vision in seeing a world that works for all!

Blessings and our thanks to all of you!

Marcia and James

Avoid Emotional Intelligence Pitfalls at Work

pitfall_guyFrequently encountered emotional intelligence (EI) pitfalls that limit relationships and productivity at work are numerous. Ordering people to just “get it done” could well be the top pitfall of all. Several pitfalls and better EI Options are listed below.

Pitfall: Just tell your direct reports or others to do something.

Better EI Option: Use your EI skills in empathy and assertiveness to influence others to want to engage in your project.

trap-jump-pitfallPitfalls sabotage your success. When you just tell people to do something and you don’t take a few minutes to acknowledge them, build buy-in and guide understanding, you often invite opposition and resistance. Ironically you might have been so directive because you felt you didn’t have time for more engagement, yet the resistance will cost you more time in the long run.

Pitfall: Order your direct reports or others to be happy and engaged.

Better EI Option: Create a culture that builds skills in optimism, self-regard and emotional expression and thus supports staff agility and buy in. These and other EI skills are central to building an engaged culture with a “can-do” attitude. Your leadership has a lot to do with the responses you get. If you want happy and engaged direct reports, use positive language that supports optimism. For example, express the belief that together all of you will meet the big challenge, you just don’t know how yet. That wonderful word “yet” establishes the presupposition of success, and that helps create the outcome you’re looking for.

Pitfall: Ignore the impact of reassigning employees who have become friends and are working effectively as team members.

Better EI Option: Respond to and acknowledge relationships, notice how they support or weaken team work. When you need to make new assignments, help people process and accept the change.

people-puzzlePitfall: Insist that emotions be left at the door when it’s time to solve problems.

Better EI Option: Use all your smarts in solving problems; that is both your IQ and your EQ. People can’t think without using their emotions. So the question becomes whether you and your team want to be aware of your emotional responses, including your intuitive awareness, and factor in all your data when resolving the problem. We suspect people seek to avoid their emotions when they are afraid they don’t have the skills to manage the emotions successfully. However, this strategy frequently backfires as the emotions will leak out in some poorly managed format. It’s better to get training and coaching and be fully in charge of your responses.

Pitfall: Blast your stress on all in your path.

angry-redhoopBetter EI Option: Learn strategies to regain your equilibrium when your buttons are pushed, then talk to others. You can breathe, use stair therapy, count to 10, any number of strategies work. Just give yourself time to avoid the adverse consequences of getting all tied up in knots! The key point is get more oxygen to your brain and give yourself a few minutes before you respond. Stair therapy is one of our favorites. When you feel triggered, tired or cranky go climb a set of stairs then come back to your office or to the situation and respond. Your renewed resilience will invite more welcome responses.

10 Actions to Make Your 2017 a Year of Authentic Success

success_pathHow was your 2016? We know it was challenging for many in the world. There’s a strong sense of divisiveness in communities and nations, war, displacement, financial troubles. Instead of continuing to list and focus on challenges, let’s move toward what is right.

What are you seeking for your personal success indicators in 2017? To gain a viable answer hold an internal conversation between your ideal self (how you would most like to live) and your real self (how you really live) and develop an authentic structure to your goals. Authentic success integrates these two parts into a happier and more successful you. Recognize that success is much more than money – consider well-being, compassion and health. Seek joy. Our article was so well received in earlier years as a way to frame moving into the New Year, that it’s back by popular demand.

Authentic success begets peace of mind because you are living and working in accordance with your values, strengths, and your sense of purpose instead of living in conflict. Reaching this highly desired state requires personal awareness. Without it you will be missing the joy from your current wealth by only focusing on what hasn’t happened. Happiness and optimism, both components of emotional intelligence, are vital to experiencing authentic success. The following 10 Actions are based on years of research in the fields of emotional intelligence and positive psychology and set forth choices you can make to change the quality of your life in 2017.

10 Actions to Make Your

2017 a Year of Authentic Success

  1. Define happiness. Know what you are looking for when you are seeking happiness. True happiness isn’t the quick food fix; even Belgian chocolates bring a temporary response. As an article by Carlin Flora, “The Pursuit of Happiness” in Psychology Today states, “The most useful definition – and it’s one agreed upon by neuroscientists, psychiatrists, behavioral economists, positive psychologists, and Buddhist monks – is more like satisfied or content than ‘happy’ in its strict bursting-with-glee sense. It has depth and deliberation to it. It encompasses living a meaningful life, utilizing your gifts and your time, living with thought and purpose. It’s maximized when you also feel part of a community. And when you confront annoyances and crises with grace. It involves a willingness to learn and stretch and grow, which sometimes involves discomfort. It requires acting on life, not merely taking it in. It’s not joy, a temporary exhilaration, or even pleasure, that sensual rush – though a steady supply of those feelings course through those who seize each day.”

Action: Happiness is closely tied to being aware of what success truly means for you. Write your own definition of what Authentic Success means to you and intend to live in synch with your truth about Authentic Success in 2017.

  1. Practice mindfulness. While defined in a variety of ways, mindfulness simply means paying attention. Notice how you are feeling and why and then make a choice to stick with your current path or take a breath and intentionally shift.

Action: Set a time each day when you will review your day with intention to notice and expand your mindfulness. Even a short review will make a difference.

  1. Be you. Embrace yourself. Know your good points and that which you don’t consider so favorably. Know your styles and preferences and trust you are a good and resilient person. We received the following quote awhile ago and we give profound credit to whoever first said it though we don’t know the original source.

Action: Print this out and tape it around your environment:

nothing_wrong_quote

  1. Practice your 2% Solution. As Marcia describes in Life’s 2% Solution, the 2% Solution requires just half an hour a day (3 ½ hours a week if it works better to cluster your time). Spend that time doing something that’s deeply nurturing, meaningful, fulfilling to you. It may be what you’ve vowed to do later when you are free to explore long-delayed purposeful pursuits. This seemingly small expenditure of time is even more critical in today’s harried world, where work deadlines loom, the carpool to soccer awaits, the dry cleaning is piling up, and a dinner party fills up whatever free time is left. We get it all done, yet feel incomplete. This stress-filled existence leaches away our creativity, passion and sense of fulfillment. We sacrifice the long-view of our lives for short-term results, to check something off a list. No doubt, that scenario leads to burnout.

Action: Integrate your enhanced awareness from taking some of the above steps with your own 2% project. Investing 2% of your time in an unusual way on yourself will make a world of difference. It’s an achievable way of creating more work/life balance without having to turn your life upside down by radical change. You can learn more and follow the 10 step process found in my book Life’s 2% Solution.

  1. Relationships matter. Take time for friends and choose friends who support the values you wish to live with.

Action: Notice who your friends are. Ask yourself if you are giving the time it takes to cultivate valuable relationships. If not make a change. Keep your expectations of time with friends manageable.

  1. Carpe diem! Seize the day.

Action: Today is the only version of this day you’ll ever have. Take advantage of it!

  1. Know your values. It’s easy to get caught up in the multitude of options that expand daily from numbers of cereals to forms of entertainment to interesting books. We all have twenty-four hours in a day. Take advantage of your day by knowing what is truly important so you don’t get distracted with the job of making too many unimportant choices.

Action: Make a list of your top values – somewhere between five and ten items at the most. Then practice connecting your values with your choices.

  1. Create. It feels good! Humans are amazingly creative beings. You probably create much more than you realize and miss giving yourself credit for your gifts.

Action: Intentionally make a soup, draw a picture, write a letter. Whatever feels simply good to you and then stop and acknowledge the act of creating and give yourself time to enjoy.

  1. Express gratitude. This is a big one. Anytime you want to build happiness, be grateful for what you do have and go find a way to give. So much of authentic happiness is based in giving your gifts and in being a good and compassionate human being. Don’t make it hard; find easy and natural ways to give with no strings attached. Pay it forward is a great strategy.

Action: Take time to stop and say thank you. Notice how you feel and how the recipient feels. Keep a gratitude journal. Notice five to ten events that occur each day for which you are grateful. Be specific. Feel the gratitude in your heart as you write your list and as you read it over.

  1. Smile. It’s impossible to be grumpy and smile at the same time.

Action: If you are willing to change your emotional state, you will. Breathe, notice what is going on, notice any tension you are holding in your body, and be willing to let it go. Be quiet and smile for a full minute.

Authentic success combines your inner and outer strengths, though integrating these two is not always so easy. Good luck on your journey. We’re always interested in learning from you about how this works. Comment on our blog.

Blessings for a beautiful and resonant 2017 that flows with compassion for yourself and others.

Using Emotional Intelligence to Message Up & Across

messageManaging up or messaging up are goals frequently raised in executive coaching sessions. We add messaging across – that is to peers – to this imperative goal. Messaging up and across refers to intentionally and deliberately communicating well with your boss and those above your boss and with your peers. It is a deliberate effort to bring understanding and collaboration to relationships between people who may have different perspectives. The point is to convey respect by taking the time to communicate strategically. Remember your communication can be empathetic, compassionate, strategic and engaging all at once. In fact, this comprehensive packaging should be your goal.

If you are a CEO with a Board governing your organization, messaging up is vital. It’s also vital if you are a team lead, reporting to your supervisor. In fact how we communicate with others throughout the organizational chart is essential to notice. We know communications with your direct reports is fundamental to your success; this article will focus on a different dimension of communications. It’s a form that can be all too easy to miss when you get in the trance of accomplishing your every day list of tactical jobs. And that’s why good interpersonal relationships with those in higher organizational positions and with your peers requires purposeful action.

The potent emotional intelligence skills triangle of Assertiveness, Empathy and Impulse Control is your key to success, especially if you pepper your engagement with Positive Mood (happiness and optimism). With assertiveness you first need to be assertive with yourself by doing whatever it takes to make sure you take the time for this engagement. Put it on your calendar, have lunch or coffee with a peer once a week, meet with your boss regularly give feedback and take a few minutes to ask about his/her life and talk about yours. Create a personal connection; it’s the path to building trust. It’s what it takes for people to want to “get your back” to help you out in times of challenge. It demonstrates engagement, loyalty, and commitment, but more importantly it makes your job more fun. Assertiveness includes the ability to communicate your perspective, to stand up for yourself and to say no when necessary.

Empathy and impulse control govern the effectiveness of your assertiveness. When you demonstrate empathy the recipient of your assertiveness feels that your communication is made with their best interests in mind. That makes all the difference in whether your suggestions are considered self serving or made with their best interests in mind. And you know that deeply influences the response to your communication. Your skills in impulse control help you decide when to speak up, what tonality to use, and how to pace your engagement. Communicate with your peers with impatience and they will reciprocate – directly or indirectly.

Balance is your goal too little of any of these three skills can obviously can get you in trouble. Note that too much of any of these can get you in a lot of trouble. Too much assertiveness feels like aggressiveness; too much empathy feels like the boundaries are failed; too much impulse control turns you into a risk adverse person missing opportunities.

Here are key steps you can follow to message up and across effectively:

  • Be intentional and purposeful
  • Don’t confuse false humility with your poor communication if you don’t speak up for yourself
  • Be aware of and respond to your different personality, communications styles, and conflict resolution styles
  • Acknowledge others
  • Be a team player
  • Let your peers know you value them
  • Be honest and trustworthy
  • Provide solutions, not problems
  • Request feedback, feedback, feedback – ask for it directly
  • Work with strengths and weaknesses – yours and theirs

Messaging up and across is a powerful tactic for getting more interesting work, more responsibility, and enjoying your engagement at work. Use it well and it can help you improve your work/life balance as it increases the ability to set boundaries and have those boundaries understood and supported.