Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

How To Have Sustainable Success

Self Portrait By Jillian Corinne Via Flickr CC

A guest post by Health Coach Catherine Chen, Ph.D.

Do you sometimes fall into this trap?

If I finish this project, then I can relax.

If I get approval from my boss, then I will feel more competent.

If I work on what I want, then I’ll feel like I’m making a difference.

“If-then” thinking is problematic because we don’t actually focus on the present moment. By being concerned with the outcome, we don’t fully mentally engage with what we’re doing or the lessons presented to us. By the time we do achieve the result, we may not feel like we’ve accomplished anything meaningful because the entire journey felt like a blur (life crisis, anyone?).

If we continue to stay in this thought-trap and achieve our desired result, we never feel like we’ve gotten “there” because there is always more to follow. If you finish the project, there’s follow-up work to do, or if you get that promotion or the dream project, unforeseen responsibilities follow, making you wish that you took the time to enjoy what you were doing before. It’s like climbing a mountain quickly to reach the top, only realizing when you get there that there’s more to climb and that you didn’t get a chance to enjoy the views earlier (and now won’t have the energy to do so!). The key is to not bank on a result to make you feel a certain way. Feelings that arise from external accomplishments are fleeting, but attitudes independent of results will sustain you.

How can you relax/feel more confident/make a difference with the role you have right now? You can be as relaxed, confident, or impactful as you want to be, right now. Find friends or family (or a Health Coach!) to support you towards taking actions that give you a sense of mastery and pro-actively support you towards feeling what you desire. For example, engage with people you care about to relax. Offer to help a colleague with your expertise to be valuable.

Release self-induced pressure by taking action towards feeling what you desire right now, rather than making your feelings dependent on an outcome over which you have no control.

Catherine Chen, Ph.D., is a Health Coach who supports high-octane professionals to achieve with ease, have time for what they love, and live a balanced life. Prior to launching her wellness practice, she worked in the management consulting industry and at one of the leading cancer research biotechnology companies. She’d love to hear from you at info@catherinechenwellness.com. Or, sign-up to get work-life balance tips at www.catherinechenwellness.com

How Forgiveness Can Set You Free

Steve by Steve Snodgrass via Flickr CC

Today a guest post from Anda Tudor from Freelancecoach.com.  Anda shares a wonderful parable about forgiveness.

Even to the kindest, forgiveness does not come easy. The feeling of bitterness, of having been wronged, and the desire to take revenge is almost tangible.  Although it seems hard, forgiveness sets you free. As Coach Bob Proctor puts it ‘It doesn’t matter where you are; you are nowhere compared to where you can go.’

A teacher once asked her students to bring a sack to class. Intrigued, everyone brought a sack and found a mountain of potatoes on the teacher’s desk. There was laughter and sniggering and much speculation about what the assignment would be.

The teacher then asked each one of them to make a list of people they couldn’t forgive, and then to take one potato for each name.  Soon, the mountain disappeared and the teacher had to call for additional potatoes. Then, the students wrote one name on each potato.  When the students were done, she asked them to put all the potatoes in the sack and carry it around with them at all times for three days. Whether they were heading to the store or going on a date, the sack had to be with them.

After the third day, the teacher asked about their experiences.  In a word, it was horrible.  It was such a fuss to carry the sack at all times;  people stared and laughed. The students couldn’t enjoy their time properly, feeling self conscious and judged.

The teacher smiled and said that the sack of potatoes is the mental and spiritual burden you carry when you don’t forgive others. You are never truly free or  at peace in your life  unless you shed these past inhibitions and move on.

It is difficult to forgive others, and some do not deserve our forgiveness but by not forgiving them, you are the one carrying the burden around, not them. ‘Issue a blanket pardon. Forgive everyone who has ever hurt you in any way. Forgiveness is a perfectly selfish act. It sets you free from the past’- Brian Tracy

What has been your experience with forgiveness?  Did you ever feel that it lifted a burden from your back?

Guest poster Anda Tudor Anda Tudor is the Public Relations Manager of FreelanceCoach.com, the first open network for coaches, consultants and advisors.  You can learn more about Freelance.com and it’s services for individual and career growth here.  

 

Six Ways to Turn Panic Into Urgency

Don’t Panic Badge by Jim Linwood via Flickr CC

Today, a guest post from Jarie Bolander. Busting Your Corporate Idol will return on Monday 

Panic is a horrible feeling.

When we panic, our stress levels have increased to the point where we feel out of control. This increases our anxiety and makes it more difficult to focus and make good decisions.

Many poor decisions, overworking, stress, anxiety and guilt can be attributed to panic. That’s why it’s important to change panic into urgency.

Urgency conveys the appropriate and right response to any situation while panic pushes our fight or flight buttons.

Urgency shows that we are in control while panic shows our lack of control.

Urgency demonstrates a command of the facts while panic shows we don’t know what’s going on.

Urgency instills confidence in those around us while panic makes others, well, panic.

Panic is Natural

Panic is a natural response to a life threatening situation. It’s a primal emotion that has helped us adapt, overcome and survive life threatening situations. It’s only logical that panic would carry on to modern humans because our ancestors used it to survive.

Nowadays, we don’t really face any life threatening situations where panic is warranted. Even during real life threatening situations, panic will most likely make the situation worst.

If panic is ingrained in our DNA, then how can we switch panic into the more manageable urgency?  Consider these six ways to do just that.

Way #1: Pause and Just Breath

Most panic happens when we react without thinking and our stress levels are high enough to push us over the edge. The good news is that panic is triggered by events known to us and the second and probably most important, is that panic is our fight or flight responses miss-firing in the absence of true danger.

By pausing and taking a deep breath, we can calm ourselves down and think about how the situation or event is triggering our fight or flight response and reassure ourselves that there is no danger — just an uncomfortable situation that we should deal with urgently.

Way #2: Apply The 24 Hour Rule

Decisions made in a panic will most likely be poor. By delaying a decision, for 24 hours if possible, it will allow us to gather more data and make the decision in a calm state.

The 24 hour rule is a great way to reduce corporate panic as well. In almost all cases, a corporate decision, be it a new result or competitor, can and should be delayed in order to either confirm the data or event or formulate a better plan.

Way #3: Explore Alternatives

When we feel we have no control over a situation, we tend to panic.

This panic prompts us to attempt to quickly fix whatever is broken. In some ways, this progress, even if it’s bad, makes us feel at least something is being done.

It also reduces the criticism of others that nothing is being done. If we are running around in a frenzied panic, our boss or colleagues will at least get the sense we care.

Outwardly, it may appear that progress is being made, but in reality, the moment panic sets in, progress will be haphazard, slow and consume more resources.

It’s much better to explore other ways to solve the issue or situation before just jumping into a totally random path or continue down an unproductive path.

When we explore alternatives, it also gives us more of a sense of control of the situation which will reduce our level of anxiety and panic.

Way #4: Get Unnaturally Calm

Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, in this article, recounts the advice his father gave him about managing fear (which is the precursor to panic). His dad’s advice was:

“The most important lesson my dad taught me was how to manage fear. Early on, he taught me that in a time of emergency, you’ve got to become deliberately calm. He used to say, “The more people are yelling and screaming around you, the calmer you should become. Become unnaturally calm. Somebody’s got to be able to figure a way out of the jam. And you’ll be able to do that.” — Rudy Giuliani

That advice served Mayor Giuliani well during September 11th and the subsequent panic that ensued.

Remaining calm during a crisis takes practice and not everyone can pull it off but it’s important to remember that those that remain calm and carry on will be more able to deal with stressful situations.

Way #5: Slow Down

After pausing, it’s important to assess the situation and deliberately slow down and think about what to do. Obviously in cases of life and death, rapid reactions are important but even then, if you feel yourself starting to panic, taking that deep breath and slowing down the situation, if practical. This will still maintain a sense of urgency but reduce the level of panic considerably.

How slow should you go? The pace of urgency is just enough to show that the situation is important but not too much that we feel we must make hasty decisions. Decisions made in haste will be of lower quality and may even exacerbate our level of panic.

Way #6: Go With the Flow

We all have the illusion of control to some degree or another. Greg’s example here of when Pat had a panic attack because he felt he had control when he really did not illustrates that we can only attempt to guide a situation to resolution — we really can’t completely control everything.

Once we realize that we don’t have complete control of a situation, we can more easily reduce our panic and go with the flow of the situation.

This is especially important when others rely on us to solve complex problems. It’s extremely tempting to feel empowered and in control to get things done when really it’s just an illusion that we all need to realize.

Reduce Panic and Live a Better Life

My hope is that all of us can reduce the levels of stress and panic we feel when things don’t go exactly as planned. By striving to do this, we can make better decisions and live a fuller, panic free life. Switching the times we panic into urgency will help us do just that.

Are their other ways that we can switch the panic we feel into urgency? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Jarie Bolander is an engineering by training, entrepreneur by nature and leader by endurance. His site, EnduranceLeader.com combines two of this passions — leadership and endurance athletics. He is also the author of #ENDURANCE tweet — A Little Nudge to Keep You Going. Feel free to follow him on Twitter via @EnduranceLeader

A New Model For Cooperation, Values, and Employee Motivation

Today we’ll take a break from Busting Your Corporate Idol for this timely guest post from Omer Soker, Founder of The Ethics Of Success. 

In 1943 Abraham Maslow clearly explained our hierarchy of needs includes being respected, accepted or valued by others. In 1968 Frederick Herzberg reminded us of this in his now-classic Harvard Business Review article entitled “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?” Chip Conley’s recent best-selling book Peak re-affirms recognition and meaning as success and transformation drivers for employees.

And yet, too many distressed managers believe employees are out for themselves and motivated primarily by money. They overlook the power of collaboration with their employees.

A model for collaboration and shared values

People need purpose, especially at work. When an individual’s personal values are aligned with the core values of the company, that’s when passion is ignited – and that creates the collaboration that drives innovation, productivity, growth and competitive advantage. One example is Tony Hsieh who founded Zappos.com and sold it to Amazon for over US$1 billion. Zappos aligned its entire organisation around one mission: to provide the best customer service possible. It supported it with 10 values that resonate with everyone who works there including delivering WOW through service, embracing change, creating fun, pursuing learning, open communication, building a family spirit, doing more with less, being passionate and being humble. The flow-on benefits are high morale, lower turnover rates, and an environment and culture that attracts the best talent and an authentic connection with customers that drives sales to growth rates any company would envy.

This mutual goal achievement is represented in the red collaborative overlap of the twin circles: here representing the company and the individual (although they can also represent any two parties coming together).

At the extreme end of the company circle (in blue) are the managers who indulge in what I call “harmful self-interest” when they focus exclusively on short-term sales, at the expense of their people and their values. When values are compromised and when people are disrespected, both the health and the performance of companies suffer. These managers purport to self-interest, but they are harming everyone including the company itself by operating outside of shared values. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the employee engaging in a different form of harmful self-interest; be it avoidance of responsibility, politicking or sabotage of colleagues.

The white spaces in between are every day realities of compromise and accommodation that exist because we don’t live in a perfect world. Whether it’s the employee accommodating a request from the company to work late on a critical project, the company compromising to cater to a unique individual need or vice-versa, these everyday interactions and negotiations can be healthy, so long as they are not repetitive and within limits. It’s only when compromise or accommodation become chronic that values are jeopardized.

The next step is plotting where you are on the chart, where your company is on the chart – and taking some steps towards the middle. The chart can serve as an aid to self-awareness, and an understanding of the behaviors of others.

Collaboration is a way of aligning everyone’s interest so more of the workforce’s energies go into the company’s interest than into playing games. It’s more complex because there are many stakeholders with differing needs, but once a commitment is made to bringing these interests together and not seeing them as mutually exclusives, it’s amazing what companies can achieve.

Omer Soker has worked in senior corporate general management roles including Thomson Reuters and Reed Elsevier, as well as two company turnaround transformations in Australia. In August 2012 he established The Ethics of Success Corporation to help companies and individuals create and sustain positive change. He is a corporate speaker, workshop facilitator and business consultant.  Follow Omer on Twitter: @ethicsofsuccess or LinkedIn

Bags Packed and Ready to Lead

Photo by Hilary The Mammal via Flickr

This week’s guest post is from a Vice President who wishes to remain anonymous. 

Great leadership is hard.  It requires a deep understanding of our own motivations so that we can inspire with the best intentions.

To lead with joy and energy, we must love what we do.  At the same time, great leaders need “packed bags”.

When we stay in a job or role because we feel we HAVE to instead of because we WANT to, we can become very dangerous.   And, we don’t do so well for our families or ourselves.

“Packed bags” is an attitude, mindset and financial scene that enables us to leave if we should.   We can give the job everything we have, take the right risks, say the right things to the right people, and still sleep well at night.  Packed bags allows me to approach my job with confidence, knowing that my moral compass is firmly in place, and I can leave if asked to cross certain boundaries.

“Packed bags” is not disloyal or disengagement.  In fact, this approach enables us to be more passionate and engaged in doing the right thing for the business and our people.  It helps to remove fear.

I have been energetically engaged at the same company for more than 12 years.  I am serious about my work and my career. I am excited about the next steps at my company… and my bags are still packed.

I worry when I see leaders feeling stuck either emotionally or financially.  This can happen when our identity is overly defined by our role at work.  Or, if we have built a lifestyle that has kept pace with the financial earnings of each promotion. It is hard to lead well from that place because we may lack the confidence to make the right bold decisions for the business and our people.

“Packed bags” enable us to…

  • Focus on results, not politics
  • Take the right risks, and do jobs that scare us
  • Be candid with our feelings
  • Provide feedback
  • Feel more in control of our own destiny

Some things that can help you keep your bags packed:

Build a sustainable financial scene

  • Resist the urge to upgrade your lifestyle each time you get a raise
  • Save bonuses and long-term incentives
  • Consider paying down long-term debt

Stay relevant

  • Diversify your knowledge and skills
  • Build a professional network
  • Never burn a bridge

Have a reflective practice

  • Find some outside activity that gives you peace (prayer, meditation, running, yoga, writing)
  • Understand what makes you most happy in your work
  • Consider reinventing your job to include what makes you most happy

Overall, keeping a bags-packed attitude will benefit the company through better decision making and more energetic leadership, and lead to a life with less stress.

If you’d like to be heard, but aren’t sure how it will be perceived at your company, publish anonymously on The Idolbuster.  Inquire here.