Go Center Yourself

By Jay Forte

Your employees always seem to find some way to aggravate you.

Your kids or spouse know just how to get under your skin.

The traffic on the highway, or the line of people ahead of you at the grocery store, can make you lose your cool.

The person who is too loud on their cell phone sitting near you in the airport frustrates you because you can’t concentrate on reading your novel or reviewing your notes for your meeting.

When you find yourself in any situation where your anger is rising, take a moment. Go center yourself. You will take control of your thoughts, feelings and actions to help you more calmly, sanely and wisely respond to whatever aggravation, frustration or irritation the world is sending you.

You are responsible for your responses and reactions. The situations you find yourself in are just information. Sure, some of them can be tedious, tough or terrible. They can be aggravating, frustrating and even irritating. Some of life is. But how you are in each of these moments is up to you. You can lose your cool or you can learn to get yourself to a place of calm that will help you wisely assess the situation, consider your alternatives, and choose one that can give you the best result. You can’t do this from a reactionary brain.

Go center yourself means you take a moment to get control of yourself, maintain context, get composed and then see the situation for what it is. This creates the ability to see more, consider more and ultimately choose a response that will give you a better result.

Here are three ways to go center yourself.

  1. Breathe. The breath is powerful. It creates an immediate change in you for two reasons. First, it activates a part of the brain that releases stress-reducing hormones, resulting in a relaxation response in the body. This built-in calming response is available to you any time you can remember to breathe. And second, the act of taking a breath interrupts you, even for just a moment, to disconnect you from the stress environment, breaking the default habit reaction. Once disconnected, more options to respond are possible.
  2. Move. Movement activates the brain and can shift it out of reacting. Simply by shifting, standing, sitting or moving a few steps allows you to create a disconnection from the event that can change your view of the situation and give yourself greater response options.
  3. Be inspired. Have a page of inspiring quotes, lyrics or lines from poetry to go to when you find yourself getting stressed. A line from a Maya Angelou poem, or some of the comedy found in Dr Seuss or Ogden Nash’s poems, can help you see things differently and allow yourself to get back in control. Again, it is a distraction that moves you away from reacting.

Centering is a way to be sane, calm and ready for what life sends you. Use it as you approach a big project, a big decision, a challenging situation or a tough discussion. It will help you show up to each in the best way possible by helping you see things more clearly and to manage the reactions.

Take Action

How will you center yourself in a tough situation or in anticipation of a tough situation this week? Notice the difference in the outcome and in how you felt in the process. Recognize the difference in you when you choose how to be. Calm, focused and tuned in is better than distracted, reactionary and stressed. Go center yourself.

Consider reading Want to Change the World? Engage a Coach.

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Leaders – Seek out, Accept and Act on Feedback

By Jay Forte

Many of today’s leaders and managers still think they have all the answers, a way of thinking that remains from our industrial age. But in a world that constantly changes, it is important that all mangers and leaders be adaptive – that they be open to seeing things differently, be open to new ideas and realize being in charge doesn’t always mean they do things well.

Feedback, not constructive criticism, is critical for every manager and leader. The term “feedback” relates to commenting on both successful and unsuccessful performance. Providing supportive feedback can help any employee or manager do more of what’s working and address those things that are not working; it builds the employee-manager relationship. Avoiding or rejecting feedback creates strained manager-employee relationships, robs leaders and managers of the opportunity to see how their performance is affecting others and misses the opportunity for their development. All organizations should be able to provide meaningful feedback both up and down the chain of command.

In all of my mindfulness training with CEOs, I introduce a process to help them stop and notice what is effective and ineffective with their performance. If there are things about your management style, how you deal with challenging situations, your communication effectiveness or even your ability to share a clear and cohesive vision that are ineffective, you will benefit from the feedback. Solicit, accept and act on feedback. The goal is to constantly improve.

So, the question is, in your definition of manager or leader, are you open to feedback, not just applause?

If I were to ask your employees whether you are open to feedback, would they have the same response?

Here are three practical tips to seek out, accept and use feedback.

  1. Give your team permission to openly share their feedback. Go ask for feedback. Share how you best process their feedback so they can deliver it successfully. Let them know you are focused on constant improvement and that their input matters. This goes for both things done well and things that need improving.
  2. Accept, applaud and thank employees who deliver feedback successfully, wisely and professionally. This encourages them to continue to deliver the feedback. It also encourages a more successful manager-employee relationship as both parties have honest conversations that are results-based and committed to improvement.
  3. Act on feedback whenever possible. Participating in feedback and actually using the feedback are two different things. Employees will stop providing feedback if they feel it is ignored or not used. If the feedback is meaningful, work to implement it.

Take Action

Have a meeting with your team to discuss the value of feedback for all employees, including management, and how to do it successfully. Make a point of ensuring that feedback is for both successes as well as challenges to encourage better balance in your feedback. Acknowledge when it is done well to encourage its continual use. Its goal is to encourage behaviors to do more of what works and to improve what’s not working – at any level.

 

Consider reading Are Your Employees Sitting on the Sidelines?

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When it is Okay to Do Just Enough at Work?

By Jay Forte

Is it ever okay to do just enough at work?

How about when:

  • a customer aggravates or challenges you?
  • a manager disrespects you?
  • a CEO is sharp, critical or impatient?
  • a fellow employee frustrates you?
  • a customer is late paying their bill?
  • a colleague never says good morning?

My response is “never!”

How you show up to things in the workplace (and in life) is more about you than others or the situation you may find yourself in. It is your choice to allow what and how you encounter bother, distract or irritate you. But with some awareness and mindfulness, you could learn to respond instead of react, letting you keep your cool and live to your own standards.

Think about the list of examples above. Pick one and play out the scenario in your head. A quick reaction in any of those scenarios would most definitely result in an unproductive situation, whether someone yells, someone quits or someone is just in a bad mood.

But imagine what those scenarios could look like if you had a mindful response instead. What if you allowed yourself to not be affected by the situation? What if you just cut the other person some slack because they, like you, sometimes feel overwhelmed? What if you simply remind yourself to see what is right about the person or situation, instead of what is wrong? You just might surprise yourself with how productive the outcome could be.

To get to a productive outcome requires a mindful response, one that can only be reached when you are aware of your feelings, emotions and triggers, and when you choose to manage them.

Self-management is, in my opinion, one of the greatest skills everyone can benefit from, particularly in the workplace. Self-management is the process of being aware of and controlling our behaviors to be more responsive, respectful and productive in any situation. Learning to be self-managed always leads to better outcomes.

Life sends what it sends. People act as they act. As mindfulness author Eckert Tolle says, “people respond from their level of awareness.” The more self-aware and self-managed you are, the more life and work situations will not take you down.  They won’t elicit a reaction and your day and mood will be unaffected. You will take them in stride because sometimes, that is how it is.

Remember, your response is always up to you. Be affected and be miserable, or manage your emotions and stay calm and happy. Or as a very wise Southwest Airlines flight attendant said one day on my flight to Dallas, “Sit back and relax or lean forward and be tense. Your choice. Either way, we are going to Dallas.”

Choose wisely.

Take Action

So, when is it okay to just do enough? Never. Do you best everywhere because every moment of work and life is worthy of your best. Choose it because how you act is always about you. Consider how you can become more self-aware and self-managed. Start by getting a better understanding of yourself with our free 3AboutMe Talent Assessment.

 

Consider reading Bad Days Don’t Have to be Bad

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Maybe We Just Aren’t a Kind People

By Jay Forte

Why is it we pull together when confronted with a catastrophe? Remember how we felt after 9/11. We cared about each other. We loved each other. We helped each other. We didn’t see our differences; we saw our similarities. We wanted to hear each other’s stories and cared enough about what they were going through to really listen and to try to help. We were united.

Now look at us. We see each other as enemies. We can’t listen to people who don’t share our perspectives. In fact, we demean, criticize and hurt those who don’t share our beliefs. We lose family and friends over a variety of hot button issues, like equal rights, free speech, racism, the environment and a variety of other things that fill the news.

I can’t remember a time when we have had so little regard for each other. We are so focused on having what we want that we forget we share the country with others. This realization could incite a range of emotions, but for me, it’s disappointment.

I’m disappointed with the churches that support and condone hatred and disrespect of anyone. I’m disappointed with anyone in a political office who disrespects any part of our population. I’m disappointed with anyone who thinks some of us are more valuable or more important and treats others poorly as a result. I’m disappointed with people who don’t have room in their heart for those who are suffering, homeless or in pain just because they don’t look like, act like or live like we do.

This behavior is seemingly so apparent that it makes me wonder: maybe we just aren’t a kind people.

But, we weren’t born hateful and judgmental. We learned it. So, if we can learn it, could we also relearn how to be kind?

Our country is an experiment. Could people who look different, believe different things and live in different ways learn to see what is great in each other, collaborate with each other and find a way to peacefully live with each other? Could we show the rest of the world that we don’t always agree but we commit to solving our issues fairly and respectfully? Could we show the world that when we are kind, caring and respectful of each other, we unite to do remarkable things both at home and in the world?

I believe we can.

If we are mindful enough, we can learn to shift from seeing what is different with others to seeing what makes them remarkable (because there are remarkable attributes in all of us). And as such, they deserve our respect, care and support.

Our founding fathers’ intention in creating a country committed to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness wasn’t about who could have the most stuff, so we could feel more important than others. It was the belief that we must work together to build a culture that allowed everyone to self-realize, to cultivate their potential so they could deliver that potential back to our world. This is how things improve. This is the formula to be our best to make things better for all of us in our country.

And if we can do this within our borders, we could learn to do it and teach others to do it with everyone on the planet.

The result? A kinder and more mindful world where everyone has a life that matters. We all live under the same big sky. Whatever life sends, we have the collective genius to handle it. But to do this, we need everyone. We need everyone to contribute their ideas, support and remarkable abilities. Life is big and complicated, but we have what we need to handle it wisely and well. To do this, we will have to learn – or relearn – how to be kind.

Take Action

Check in on yourself. Are you kind, caring and respectful to everyone? If so, bravo! If not, check in on whatever beliefs you have that give you permission to behave otherwise. Kindness encourages relationships; being unkind discourages them. Relationships drive trust, and trust drives the ability to work together and solve life’s challenges. Maybe it is time for a belief adjustment.

 

Consider reading Your Personal Board of Directors

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The Post-it Note as a Mindfulness Tool

By Jay Forte

Everyone is talking about mindfulness, but we can’t truly gain the benefits of being mindful unless we’re clear on what it is. So, let’s start with a couple of quick definitions:

  • Awareness means paying attention on purpose, in the current moment, without judgment. In other words, awareness means paying attention, intentionally tuning in to be present to gather the information that is in front of you.
  • Mindfulness, in my definition, means using that information to seek out, create and act in a way that can make your next moment more effective.

Awareness provides the information; mindfulness uses it to be better or to make better decisions.

A couple of examples.

Let’s say you have to talk to your son about something that happened at school. When you are aware of his body language and emotions, you can then better assess what and how to respond, leading to a more successful outcome. By being aware, and using that awareness, you can choose on purpose what and how to respond. Without this awareness, you could mindlessly react and miss the opportunity to accurately assess the challenge and work with him to come up with a solution that works.

Let’s say you are in a meeting with your team. When you stop and notice who is contributing and who isn’t, you’re tapping into an awareness that creates the ability for you to be mindful – to intentionally bring in the more introverted members of your team with a focused question or invitation to contribute. If you are unaware of who contributes because you are plowing through your agenda, you will miss the opportunity to activate the thinking of your more timid employees.

See, the challenge we all have is that we spend most of our time in our habits, doing what we always do and unaware we are doing it. To become more present and aware, we have to interrupt our habits to be able to gather the information in this moment, to mindfully use it to make our next moment better.

Enter the Post-it note.

A well-placed Post-it note with an important message for you can act as a great interruption to pull you out of habit mode. The Post-it note might say, “pay attention,” or “stop multitasking,” or “ask questions,” or “everyone contributes,” or even “go walk around and talk to your employees.”

You create the message you need to be reminded of and where to place it to be sure it gets your attention to interrupt your habits. This encourages you to be more aware, more mindful and more intentional in your actions.

Because your brain is powerful, it will soon look right past your Post-it note. So change out the colors regularly or move your note reminders to different locations, all within view. The benefit is that you will create an awareness and mindfulness tool to help you tune in, pay better attention and choose more wisely because you have given yourself the ability to see and consider what you regularly miss.

Take Action

Start today. Leave Post-it notes in areas that will get your attention, with messages that will remind you and encourage you to be more aware, so you can be more mindful. Where are you going to put your first three Post-it notes?

 

Consider reading The Way to a Great Life? Tune In, Reflect, Then Respond

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Are Your Employees Sitting on the Sidelines?

By Jay Forte

You have some amazing and remarkable employees who do great things in your workplace. And then you have some employees who do just enough not to get fired.

Sure, these employees show up, but they don’t have the energy, drive and commitment to do the important things in the workplace that advances performance and success. Is it you or is it them?

It is likely a little of both.

The Gallup Organization regularly cites statistics on the engagement levels of employees in the workplace. And alarmingly, nearly 70% of employees are in some form of disengagement. This disengagement happens for many reasons but the most significant are the lack of job alignment and meaningful relationships with managers. Both need to work in concert.

Let me explain.

Alignment is the process of knowing the success attributes of any role and using those attributes to wisely source, interview and hire someone who fits that role. This also applies to knowing and using the success attributes of any role when developing or promoting employees. It is critical for someone to have the abilities needed to be successful in a role.

Alignment, however, cannot stand on its own. You also need a strong, effective and professional working relationship.

In a 2015 study by Peter Massingham and Leona Tam titled, The Relationship Between Human Capital, Value Creation and Employee Reward, the researchers state, “Employee capability may or may not generate value. It is only when individuals are motivated to use their knowledge that it creates organizational benefit, otherwise it is an idle resource.”

Though you may (and must) hire wisely, the job alignment combined with the quality of the relationship the employee has with his or her manager ultimately dictates success. When we feel inspired by those we work for because they make the time for us, value us, develop us and treat us like we matter, we volunteer our best abilities and deliver them with greater energy and effort in the workplace. The result? Greater productivity and performance.

When we don’t make the effort to build the manager-employee relationship, we encourage our employees to move to the sidelines, to do just enough to get by, instead of really contributing. Though they may have what it takes to be great in their roles (they have the abilities), they still need the inspiration, encouragement and interest by their manager to move these abilities from idle to full speed.

Your employees choose how they show up to the moments of their days. Do they do just enough? Or do they fully engage, using their greatest abilities to invent, challenge and improve everything they encounter?

This choice is inspired by how you manage. Are you bringing a healthy combination of alignment and relationships to your workplace?

Take Action

Learn how to be a mindful and inspiring manager. Our Executive Coaching guides you through foundational tools to help leaders and managers better connect with their employees and deliver greater results. Contact us for more information.

 

Consider reading Stop Managing and Start Coaching

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Want to Change the World? Engage a Coach.

By Jay Forte

It starts with the word potential.

Few of us are aware of our potential – of what is possible in and by us. We haven’t discovered our greatness or our core abilities. Instead, we have allowed the world to fill in these details for us and, as a result, we show up as others want us to be instead of who we really are. We miss out on what we are capable of doing, being or contributing, shortchanging ourselves and our world.

And for this reason, people get stuck. They find themselves disappointed, aggravated and irritated with life. They don’t see its greatness because they find themselves in jobs, lives, relationships and circumstances that just don’t fit them.

As poet Mary Oliver says in her famous poem, The Summer Day, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Will you let others direct it or will you learn to discover who you really are, what remarkable abilities you were born with and how you want to develop and live them to make your impact in your world? Or, will you see that a great and amazing life is one you define, but for that, you must be aware of who you are and aware of what is going on in today’s world, so you can connect the two in an intentional way?

If all of us were able to discover, develop and live our greatness or our potential, think of the impact we could make in every aspect of life. We would put ourselves into the places that need what we do and like best. We would support others to discover and develop their abilities and potential so they could own their part of making a better world. We would begin to realize that we each have something important to discover, develop and share with our world – each of us doing what it is we do best to make things better.

Enter coaching.

Coaching guides you into developing clarity of who you are and how to define and work to achieve your potential in your world through an intentional and thought-provoking conversation.

The coaching conversation examines what you know of you, expands this and identifies what interrupts you from accessing your potential or achieving your goals. Coaching is not designed to relive your past or look to correct or improve you; you are fine as you are, no fixing needed. Coaching does, however, focus on helping you become more aware of who you are, your abilities and liabilities, your beliefs that direct your choices and decisions, and how this information is helping or holding you back from living your potential. Only by becoming aware are you able to navigate through these blocks and challenges to live a great, happy and successful life (in the way you define great, happy and successful).

Coaching creates the time and focus to examine the things in our lives that need a deeper review. Through guidance comes clarity. Through clarity comes direction. Through direction comes achievement. This process helps each of us tap into our own abilities and our own understandings to move ourselves in the direction(s) we want but may sometimes feel are out of reach. And in the process, we access what is best in us to deliver the thing(s) we are called to do.

How well do you know you and what you are capable of? How aware are you of the needs, challenges and opportunities in your world? How willing are you to find a way to bring your best and be your best in all you to to make your and our world better?

Want to change the world? Live your potential and help others live theirs. How can you start this process? Engage a coach.

 

Consider reading Are You Rigid or Flexible?

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The Way to a Great Life? Tune in, Reflect, Then Respond

By Jay Forte

Most of us move through life in a hurried and habit way. We rush through our days, rarely taking the time to actually stop and notice ourselves, how we feel and what is going on around us. We eat lunch and dinner without really even noticing or tasting our food. We have conversations during our days that we can’t even remember we had later the same day. We don’t really know what we like or are good at. The reason? We haven’t learned how to tune in, reflect and respond.

Your world is filled with information that is shared with you in each moment. This information has the ability, when used and reflected on, to improve your next moment, decision or response. This is the process of awareness and mindfulness – of tuning in, reflecting and responding in an intentional way to improve your outcomes.

Let’s use this thinking and look at your relationships, work and life.

Tune in, reflect and respond in your relationships. What if you actually looked at someone when you spoke to them, instead of also trying to multitask? (Newsflash: Multitasking is not a success attribute. Your brain can only process one thing at a time, so the more you try to do multiple things once, it actually shortchanges the impact of each thing you are trying to accomplish.) When connecting with someone, pay attention to them – what they are saying, feeling, thinking and saying. Then reflect on what they said, felt, thought or felt. Only by doing this can you have a more meaningful and intentional response.

Tune in, reflect and respond in your work. How much of your work day are you in habit mode, doing the same things? What if you tuned in and reflected on what you do, and asked yourself “what could be better here?” Make time to reflect on what, why and how you do what you do to determine if you can improve your performance and connection with customers or clients. The impact could be profound for you and for your workplace.

Tune in, reflect and respond in your life. How much time, effort and energy do you give to living a meaningful life that fits you, your abilities and your interests? What effort do you put in to learn what makes you different, unique and amazing? How often do you make time to reflect on where in today’s world are the opportunities that need what you do and like best? The more intentionally you approach the world – to go out and live it on your terms, not on the terms of the loud voices around you that are generally more interested in your compliance to their beliefs than to help you discover, develop and live yours – the more remarkable it can be. As poet Mary Oliver asks in her poem, The Summer Day, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

It’s a profound question.

What’s your answer?

Tune in to notice who you are and what is going on in your world. Reflect on the opportunities to connect the real you to the places in work and life that need what you do and like best. Respond using your greater clarity to live and work as it fits you, making a most amazing life and a better world in the process.

Take Action

Practice tuning out to tune in. Give yourself 5 or 10 minutes of quiet two times a day. Practice becoming aware. With awareness comes mindfulness, the ability to make informed decisions based on information about you and your world to make your next moment better.

 

Consider reading Tune Out to Tune In

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Living Today on Yesterday’s Beliefs

By Jay Forte

Discussing a client’s beliefs is frequently a large part of many coaching conversations. After all, beliefs are what direct most of the behaviors we employ in our days.

Our beliefs are developed throughout our lives. They are reflections of our interactions with parents, teachers, neighbors, friends, bosses, fellow employees, churches and organizations. They are also influenced by social media and today’s 24-hour news cycle.

Understanding how our beliefs are developed is important because our beliefs guide us, and they don’t always guide us well. In fact, many of our beliefs are unintentional – we do what we do because we have always done it.

You need to be aware of what you believe, why you believe it and whether or not it improves your life and makes your world better. If so, continue them. If not, assess where your beliefs came from and whether you want to retain them, modify them or discontinue them.

On the morning of the second day of a multiple-day coaching program, I ask my students to reflect on this statement: “When you went to bed last night, the world changed. What worked yesterday but may not be effective today?”

I ask you a similar question. When you went to bed last night, the world changed. Which of your beliefs should you review to see if they no longer serve you?

This question alludes to the existence of limiting beliefs. A limiting belief is something we believe to be true – whether it is or isn’t – that limits our ability to be fully present, effective or able to achieve our potential for our benefit and the benefit of our world.

Here are some examples.

  • You may believe that because you are the CEO, you have the right to boss people around – or you can see that old belief is now ineffective in today’s knowledge workplace.
  • You may believe that people who drive a specific expensive imported car are snobs, until you meet one who isn’t like that at all.
  • You may believe that life has it out for you, until you stop and notice the actual number of great things going on in your life.
  • You may believe that all successful people have been to Ivy League colleges, only to see that most of today’s most successful people attended non-Ivy League colleges, if they attended college at all.

Now, what if you examined your beliefs to better understand them and to choose those that both serve to connect you more fully to your potential, while also advancing and supporting others in achieving their potential? Which beliefs would you retain and which would you release? A good belief review and editing session is an important and recurring part of all effective self-awareness.

Nothing stays the same. Life is about change. That means to accommodate and use change well, check in regularly on the things that guide you. Be flexible and resilient to live life fully, kindly, successfully and with great intention. Commit to developing beliefs that allow you to be who you really are so you can bring to the world those very things you are capable or called to do.

Don’t be afraid to challenge or release beliefs that no longer serve you. Believe what you believe on purpose, not out of intimidation, fear or compliance. Own what you believe so you live as your true self. Don’t let anyone tell you or fill in your beliefs for you. Consider what you hear from your world then choose and own what is right for you.

This is the key to living an authentic, impactful and world-improving life. You can’t make your impact in life if you live someone else’s beliefs.

Take Action

Need help getting clear about your beliefs, which are supporting and which are limiting you? Contact us to discuss how coaching can help you develop life clarity and become your life’s owner.

 

Consider reading Are You Putting Bricks in Your Backpack?

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Bad Days Don’t Have to be Bad

By Kristin Allaben

I recently had a few very challenging and really tough days, back to back to back. My patience was tested, my breaking point was reached multiple times and my ability to “roll with it” went right out the window.

Have you had a day – or two or three – like this? I bet you have; it’s all part of being human.

The real question is how do you feel about those days looking back? Do you cringe? Are you embarrassed? Do you feel guilty?

I admit, there are more than just a few moments within those challenging days that I am less than impressed with myself. But you know what? Allowing yourself to be angry and upset for some time is ok. Sometimes, life doesn’t do what you want it to. Sometimes, you have to admit you don’t have control over everyone and everything in your life; people will do what they’re going to do, young or old. Sometimes being angry is a meaningful and effective response to let off some steam in situations that may seem too difficult to manage.

But challenging days don’t have to be bad. Maybe being angry is an effective response right now. Being angry can inspire action; it can help you move toward resolution. That’s productive. But what about holding on to that anger for 5 minutes? An hour? Tomorrow? Staying angry is unproductive. You may make rash decisions, you may unintentionally hurt someone you care about, you may inspire negativity around you.

Remember: you get to decide how you want your next moment to be.

So the next time you find yourself thinking you’re having a challenging day, ask yourself why. Take a moment to reflect on what you’re feeling. What caused it? How did you react? Then consider what could be a more productive response?

Life will always have some easy and some difficult times – that is life. Being self-aware and self-managed can help you know your triggers and emotions and manage them to make your next moments more controlled, intentional and successful. Remember this: with anger, visit but don’t move in.

 

Consider reading What Does a Good Day Look Like for You?

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