Authentic Success for 2016

Authentic Success for 2016

— Marcia Hughes and James Terrell

success_pathHow was your 2015? What are you seeking for your personal success indicators in 2016? 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. 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 2016.

10 Actions to Make Your

2016 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 2016.

  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

  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.

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Manage Your Resilience Meter: Your Guide to Positivity, Productivity and Well-Being

resilience_meterppt_rev2Managing resilience in today’s fast paced world of high expectations is tough.  Change and challenge are often the norm whether it comes from a new program being unveiled, a complete reshuffle due to a merger or parents moving into a care facility.  Too often the challenges become just too much and frequently trigger inflexibility, feelings of overwhelm and loss of composure.

You can build your capabilities so challenging times don’t take you out.  Watch your resilience meter grow to full potential! Emotional Intelligence (EI) skills are fundamental to managing these stress points and maintaining health and well-being.  Six EI skills are pivotal to building your reservoir of emotional reserves: emotional self-awareness, self-regard, impulse control, stress tolerance, optimism, and flexibility.  A healthy use of these skills will build your positivity and create the leverage to promote success at the workplace and personally.

Resilience is of growing interest as researchers demonstrate its influence on physical and mental health, well-being, the aging process and overall quality of life.  Additionally there is growing recognition of the benefits to teams and workplace productivity with a resilient workforce.  There is also a connection with the willingness to take on risks and to explore creative options. If we feel more positive about ourselves and life, we have the energy to experiment.

You have many strategies available to help expand your resilience.  This article will provide tips and strategies as well as review some of the key recognitions about resilience and its connection with positivity.  The root for the word “resilience” is “resile,” which means “to bounce or spring back.” Thus a key part of the definition of resilience is to bounce back.  The definition has expanded to include the ability to contain challenges and to develop reserves that can be tapped into when one is faced with environmental pressures and demands.  When we speak of resilience, we are referring to the ability to keep things in perspective so that many potential challenges are simply taken in stride.  When a large challenge surfaces, there is likely to be stress, but the reserve strength built with resilience allows us to contain the issue rather than going down a negative and downward spiral that starts feeding itself.

Assets and resources within us, our lives and our environment facilitate the capacity for adapting and bouncing back when there is adversity.  Our resilience is likely to ebb and flow not only across our lifetime but even across the day or week if there is a lot going on.  Yet, the more habits we have developed to build and maintain our positivity, the less we will give in to negative emotions and the more we will intentionally seek positive emotions that will enhance our capacities.

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity, Crown Publishing, (2009) and Love 2.0, Hudson St. Press, (2013), has provided a great deal to help us understand the field of positivity, which is closely related to resilience.  Should you be working as a coach or team facilitator it’s likely you’ll use the two concepts interchangeably.  As a lead scientist in the field of positivity, Fredrickson demonstrates through her research and that of colleagues that living with a high level of positivity has measurably positive results.

Benefits of Positivity / Resilience

•    Psychological benefits include being more optimistic, more open minded and more willing to check out possibilities.  First, being positive feels good!  Being open minded is critical to noticing and considering multiple options to a challenge.  It means that money, resources, or possibilities aren’t left on the table because our vision is too narrow to see them.  Negativity constricts our thinking and our vision.  It’s costly!
•    Mental benefits include expanding awareness and mindfulness.  It opens our thinking capacity to new possibilities. With positivity we can be better at savoring what works instead of being focused on what doesn’t.  Right away you can see the difference in your stress levels and the toll taken when you are focusing on the positive compared to the negative.

•    Social benefits pay out at the individual, team and workplace levels.  With positivity we have more resilience. Emotions are contagious, thus sharing positive emotions and actions creates an upward spiral of expanding relationships, which then creates reserves for getting through hard times and conflict together.  Resilience is indispensable if collaboration is truly going to occur. There is also interesting research showing that when we approach people with an emphasis on positive engagement racial bias is reduced or disappears.  Positivity, p. 67-68. That has amazing potential!
•    Physical benefits include a higher quality of life and a longer one.  As Barbara Fredrickson writes “positivity is now linked to solid and objective biological markers of health.  For instance, people’s positivity predicts lower levels of stress-related hormones and higher levels of growth related and bond related hormones. Positivity also sends out more dopamine and opioids, enhances immune system functioning and diminishes inflammatory responses to stress.  With positivity you are literally steeped in a different biochemical stew.”  Positivity, pp. 93-94. Thus positivity results in lower blood pressure, less pain, fewer colds and better sleep.  Rest assured for this and the many other health benefits she cites, she backs her assertions up with research citations.  There is even research showing the power of hugs, wonderful, feel-good, authentically caring touch.  Now we knew that, didn’t we!
Three studies reported in a 2006 article on resilience and positivity later in life found that daily positive emotions serve to moderate stress reactivity and mediate stress recovery. They found that differences in psychological resilience accounted for meaningful variation in daily emotional responses to stress. Higher resilience predicted that negative emotions wouldn’t be as impactful, particularly on days characterized by heightened stress. Additionally they found that the experience of positive emotions functions to assist high-resilient individuals in their ability to recover effectively from daily stress. “Psychological resilience, positive emotions, and successful adaptation to stress in later life.” By Ong, Anthony D.; Bergeman, C. S.; Bisconti, Toni L.; Wallace, Kimberly A. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 91(4), Oct 2006, 730-749.

Tips and Strategies
Use your emotional intelligence to grow your positivity and be more resilient.  This is an internal strength so the key skills to grow, which are found in the EQi 2.0 are: self-regard, emotional self-awareness, stress tolerance, flexibility, impulse control and optimism.  The key team competencies focused on in the TESI are Positive Mood and Stress Tolerance.

You can expand your individual resilience by:
•    Redefining productivity from working on emails to getting with someone
•    Prioritize meditation, fun and family
•    Recognize that you are a part of something bigger than yourself
•    Embrace your bigger YES!
•    Develop your 2% Solution as I describe in my book, Life’s 2% Solution.

Team resilience can be expanded by:
•    Recognize that positivity and trust go hand in hand because positivity supports deepening relationships.  Develop positivity deliberately.
•    Social connections are at the heart of team success so take time for building connections – and emphasize it even more if you have a virtual team.  Do something fun together, have a pot luck lunch, and start meetings with going around the team and asking everyone to comment on something particularly interesting or important to them.
•    Our sense of connection drives our willingness to be helpful.  This is the heart of collaboration.  Create connections, have team members work in small groups and then take time to reflect on the experience.  Build awareness of the interpersonal connections as well as of the objective details of the project.

Crafting an Emotionally Sustainable Lifestyle

Life is precious and is best lived when we pay attention to creating an emotionally sustainable lifestyle.  We are passionately committed to providing our services in order to support individuals and teams in living emotionally sustainable lifestyles.  This is also known as living resiliently.  Marcia’s book Life’s 2% Solution provides a well tested strategy for living with Passionate Equilibrium – being thoroughly engaged and doing so with a sense of balance. Additionally the EQi and EQ 360 for individuals and the TESI® (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey) are developed to promote emotional sustainability.

The Collaborative Growth team model highlights the path for developing the seven skills measured by the TESI in the outer ring.  Emotional and social well-being for teams is the result of following this path to sustainability for teams.

Collaborative Growth Team ModelEmotional sustainability, also referred to as well being, can be measured with assessments such as the EQi ® and the EQ 360 ®.  Dr. BarOn, the original creator of the EQi has pinpointed self actualization as the apex of all the EQ skills.

So just which EQ skills should you focus on to develop this life nurturing state? BarOn names eight, which he listed in the order of their importance:

• Happiness

• Optimism

• Self-Regard

• Independence

• Problem Solving

• Social Responsibility

• Assertiveness

• Emotional Self-Awareness

Bar-On, 2001, p. 92. “EI and Self-Actualization.” In Emotional Intelligence in Everyday Life, edited by J. Ciarrochi, J. Forgas, and J. Mayer. New York: Psychology Press.

Frequently revisiting these eight critical factors will help you engage your EQ in a manner designed to support an emotionally sustainable lifestyle.  At the team level the critical sustainability is developed by using the seven skills in the outer ring of the Collaborative Growth Team Model.  These are powerful skills that can be developed at the individual and team level.  The resulting quality of life will assure you and those you influence that it is worth the effort!