What if it Were Up to You?

My dad was a wise man. Of the many gems he shared over my lifetime, one remains with me clearer than all others. He said, “Your job is not to change the world, only the piece of it you touch.”

That line has been remarkably helpful as I am aware of the extreme number of things in our lives that need attention. Global warming, country unity, personal respect and acceptance, resilience in tough times, racial inequality, political division – the list is overwhelming.

With an agenda this great, it is easy to inspire feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, leading you to throw your hands up in the air and say, “Why bother?” At least until you remember my father’s guidance.

His statement is as much a statement of purpose as it is mindfulness. It is our job to pay attention on purpose, noticing where we are at this moment, and asking the question, “What could I do to make this (whatever is right in front of me) better?” Not the whole world, but just this piece, right here, right now.

Supporting my dad’s perspective is the wisdom of the Chinese Confucian philosopher, Mencius. He shared that we would like the world to be stable and predictable. That good things happen to good people. But in fact, the world is actually more unstable and capricious. Tough things happen. Bad things happen to good people. We can be disappointed by this, or we can realize that in the presence of tough times, there is the opportunity for us to improve what is right in front of us – to continually make things better. Not that we each have to be responsible for making everything better, but rather just the things that cross our paths. And these improvements can activate the performance and commitment of others.

So, improving the world (because there is always something needing improving) is not up to you. However, improving your piece of this world (your relationships with people who don’t agree with you, your use of power and natural resources, your acknowledgement of others’ greatness, your appreciation for others’ diversity) is up to you and can make a profound difference. The goal is not to be discouraged by the lack of large progress, but to focus on consistent, local, small progress. That is yours to see, own and do.

We have a lifetime to stop and notice the things around us and make a commitment to improve them. And, as the flame of one candle can light thousands of other candles, your work to make things better in the piece of the world you touch can activate the same spirit to make the larger and necessary global changes.

Take Action
See the value in doing your part. What can you do today, right now to make the piece of the world you touch better? How will you not look at the massive scope of our challenges and problems and get discouraged?

Stop and notice the areas that you can influence today. Start here. Make a commitment to stop and notice yourself and your world, and continually ask, “What could I do to make this better?” Then go do it.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Make the Most of Tough Situations

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Confidence in a COVID World

Man, the world is weird right now. Sure, we’ve all laughed at the ever-changing guidelines, the uncertainty around existing guidelines and which ones to follow, and how our world will never be the same (perhaps it’s a coping mechanism, but I digress). We’ve wondered when – or if – we’ll ever be able to go somewhere without masks. We’ve been uncertain about whether we’d be comfortable leaving the house without masks. We’ve had nightmares about loved ones losing their battle to the virus. We’ve been worried we might get it ourselves.

But then things seem to settle and life goes on. You create new routines. You get into a new groove. And just when you think you get a handle on things, something changes again. You lose control of the situation, again.

It’s hard to stay positive and confident in a COVID world.

Let me tell you a story that put a lot of this into perspective.

My middle son was talking to my Mom on the phone. As is the norm now, it was a video chat, so he was walking around with the phone, showing her what he was playing with and talking about what he was going to do for the rest of the day. My Mom asked him if he would like to play at her house soon. He paused for the briefest of moments as he looked at me and said, “I’d like to, but we have to wear masks so we don’t get sick… it’s probably better if I just stay home for now. I think it makes more sense to just be home.”

I felt so many emotions. Sadness. Anger. Frustration. Pride.

Never when I dreamed of being a mom, of raising my children, did I ever think of parenting in a pandemic and what that would feel like for me (as a parent) or my kids. Never did I think about the impact these rules and guidelines would have on such young kids. Never did it even occur to me that, despite the constant touch points with grandparents and friends and family through video chats and phone calls, relationships would be forever changed.

But perhaps the biggest realization is that through all of this, I noticed all of my boys were showing up confident to the world they live in. They are working on discovering their strengths and flexing those what-else-can-I-try muscles. I was seeing their resilience, their ability to move with whatever life was sending them.

Though my heart broke hearing him talk about the need for masks and how it’s safer to just stay home, my heart was equally as proud. He was confident and adaptable. He didn’t see it as a problem or a challenge; life is what it is.

And this little boy continues to remind me that there is so much to learn from kids who have yet to be negatively influenced with the anxiety and fear that seems to fill an adult’s mind.

The confidence we choose to have each day, the way we decide to show up in every aspect of our lives, is so easily impacted by external forces.

But what if we decided, instead, to adapt to change and not fight it? To acknowledge when we can and can’t control a situation and to manage ourselves and our response to it? Life never promises an easy road. It does, however, give us plenty of opportunities to use strengths we never knew we had.

So, to be confident in a COVID world means recognizing what you do and don’t have control over. It’s about committing to being yourself and knowing that you are already equipped with everything you need to navigate life’s road, the smooth ones and the bumpy ones.

Take Action

When you find yourself getting frustrated that things are still not “back to normal,” take a deep breath and ask yourself: is this something I can control? If it is, then ask yourself: what can I do to fix it?

If it’s not within your control, ask yourself: how can I learn to be flexible, resilient and not fight with life?

Your confidence will grow as you learn to appreciate life as it is, celebrating the good times and using the tough times to grow, learn and develop into a stronger, wiser and more resilient you.

By Kristin Allaben

Continue reading A Lesson from Kids: Finding the Good

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Experiencing Emotions

Sometimes, you feel angry and you can’t seem to get out of the downward spiral; everything just makes your mood worse. Sometimes, you just need to cry and can’t stop. Sometimes, you’re so contagiously happy you seem to be operating in your own world.

I can guarantee that as a human, you regularly experience these emotions. We all do.

Experiencing any of those emotions is not good or bad, right or wrong. It’s what you do when you experience them that determines your degree of happiness or suffering as you go through life. Remember, life and its events are neutral. We add the meaning. Each emotion we experience is telling us something about us and our world. Sometimes we like it; sometimes we don’t. But when we really tune in, we get to experience all of life.

Consider how you would fully experience these events.

  • You wake up happy, rested and excited about the day. The sun is out, the sky has no clouds. There is the smell of coffee coming from the kitchen. Spend a moment with this.
  • You wake up upset and tired. You have a headache. You spilled breakfast on your work clothes and need to change, which got you caught up in traffic and made you late for work. Spend a moment with this.
  • You received some tough health news. More tests are needed but your next appointment is not for two weeks. You will have to distract yourself while you wait for the additional tests. Spend a moment with this.

I’m the first to raise my hand to say “been there!” Whether happy, nervous or sad, our emotions help us make sense of our world. So, consider how you can choose to experience and learn from your emotions – to help you either focus on the joy or the lesson in each moment? Feel, then manage your emotions to help you wisely, successfully and productively show up fully present, aware and authentic in life.

Take Action
The next time you find yourself experiencing an excess of a specific emotion, take a deep breath. Allow yourself the time to fully experience it – what it feels like to be happy, relaxed, worried or upset.

Then ask yourself: what emotion(s) do I want to stay in and what do I want to learn from then move away from? Hold on to those that bring you joy, happiness and contentment. Learn from, then let go of, the others.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Are You Putting Bricks in Your Backpack?

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Three Ways to Help Your Employees Become More Mindful

Mindfulness is all the rage, and for good reason. Mindfulness is the process of using what you gather by being aware in this moment to be more intentional and effective in your next decision or action. Think of it as going through your work day on purpose (not in habit mode or on autopilot).

Most employees do their jobs without much intention. They get into a routine and they look at customers, their workplace, their colleagues and their lives in very much the same way they did the day before. It’s not a flaw, it is just that we haven’t learned how to be really aware of what is going on in front of us to mindfully and intentionally use it to make our next choices, actions and decisions better. We’re unintentionally mindless, stuck in our habits, missing out on opportunities to see more, do more and be more.

But imagine if all of your employees paid attention on purpose and regularly asked the question, “What could I do to make this better?” What improvements and efficiencies could you see or benefit from? What improvements could result in your customer relationships? How might your workplace culture improve?

Here are three ways to help your employees become more aware and mindful to be tuned in and present, and to do more in the workplace on purpose.

  1. Reframe mindfulness. Many people think mindfulness means meditation – and they are either pulled to it or repelled by it. Though you can certainly develop mindfulness through meditation, I find reframing mindfulness for the workplace to mean “focused attention – paying attention on purpose and using that information to make better decisions.” This reframed definition helps organizations openly support and welcome mindfulness training. Consider making mindfulness an expectation of all roles and a core value of the organization.
  2. Teach mindfulness. Helping your senior managers learn how to be more mindful enables and empowers them to develop the same skills in their people. Engage a coach to help your senior team learn how to be both more aware and mindful. Then, provide education and practice for your employees to help them learn, use and benefit from being more aware and mindful. Constantly reinforce the value of attention and intention as a means to achieve goals and improve results, both personally and professionally.
  3. Applaud mindful performance.  As the saying goes, “what gets rewarded, gets repeated.” When you applaud your employees for their effort and progress in tuning in, thinking more intentionally and acting more mindfully, you encourage them to continue. By naturally paying greater attention, employees will see opportunities to resolve challenges, think differently and improve responses. Be on the watch for these improvements to applaud, support and encourage them.

Being mindful is a way of being in work and life. It is about being tuned in, present and watching on purpose to use the information in this moment to make your next moment better. This yields greater results than the habit and autopilot approaches most of us currently have.

Take Action
Develop your mindfulness habits then commit to helping your employees develop theirs. There is a great big world filled with information for you and your team to notice it, so you can use it to make your next decisions, actions and choices better.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading When is it Okay to Do Just Enough at Work?

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Don’t Panic (Unless You Absolutely, Positively Need to Panic)

I had a great weekend visiting family and family friends. We talked about everything from our kids to hobbies to our jobs. At one point, one of the family friends shared an incredibly wise mantra that I want to share with you: Don’t panic until it’s time to panic. I’m going to take it a step further: don’t panic unless you absolutely, positively need to panic.

We live in a world where anxiety and panic-mode are seemingly the norm. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “Oh, that gives me anxiety.” Or “ugh, panic mode setting in!” These phrases regularly show up during a normal day. Why do so many things seem to push us to the edge?

It is because we react instead of respond.

Don’t panic unless you absolutely, positively need to panic reminds you to beaware. To be aware of the situation. To be aware of yourself. To be aware of how you’re showing up to the situation – reacting or responding – and which one will help you create the best outcome.

A big part of our coaching process explores the difference between reacting and responding. By understanding the difference, you have the ability to choose how you want to be. The noise, challenges and pace of life don’t have to make you panic. You have the ability to sort through what is going on to determine what to do and how to respond. You become smarter on your feet. You become more thoughtful in your everyday actions. You become more aware and mindful about your world and your role in it.

Don’t panic unless you absolutely, positively need to panic.

Be aware. Be thoughtful. Choose how to respond (not react). Notice the difference.

Take Action
What is something you can do today, or this week, to start to catch yourself in reactionary mode? How can you move yourself from reaction to thoughtful response?

Notice the difference it has on you and your world – your work, your relationships, your well-being. Set yourself apart from the rest. Don’t bring panic until you have considered other, more constructive options. Only then, when it’s absolutely, positively time to panic, can you panic.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Value of Setbacks

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3 Reasons Why Your Best Employees Will Leave you in 2019 (and What to Do About It)

Some of your best employees will leave you because you are not intentional about giving them a reason to stay.

Similar to the behaviors you follow to create a high-value relationship with customers to inspire their loyalty, you must also do the same for employees. This requires you to know what engages and retains your workforce, and to have a plan that routinely delivers it. Without this process in place, the organizations that make this effort will attract and poach your best employees.

Here are the three reasons why your best employees will leave you, and some thoughts on how to stop it from happening in 2019.

  1. You manage instead of coach your employees. Employees want a supportive, encouraging and guiding relationship with their managers. They want to feel valued, respected and included. Our industrial age trained managers to direct, tell and control – an outdated approach with today’s workers. To help employees choose to stay and perform at their best, help your managers learn how to think and act as coaches. The shift from managing to coaching is the single most important talent engagement initiative every organization should be focused on.
  2. You don’t make employee development a daily event. Employees know that in a fast-paced and constantly changing workplace, it is important to constantly develop the best skills. Organizations that provide continual (i.e. daily) performance feedback through coach-like relationships, as well as active on-the-job skill development, encourage their employees’ engagement and loyalty. Consider training managers to provide recurring performance feedback using the “what’s working, what’s not working” approach. On a daily basis, review an element of employee performance by assessing what worked and what didn’t work in the performance. Engage the employee to be more mindful in their performance, to consider ways to do more of what worked and to develop a plan to improve what didn’t work. This encourages adaptive learning and continual development, while also ensuring that all development is built both around technology and human connection.
  3. You don’t align the career path to the employee’s strengths and interests. Employees perform best in roles that need what they do and like best. So many organizations insist on moving employees through existing career paths that routinely take them from what was once a highly engaging role for an employee to one that can quickly become disengaging. This can be the result of a number of factors, but primarily it’s due to the fact that they lack the competence and abilities to excel in the role. Review your current career paths or advancement approach to ensure they, like when you hire, assess for employee alignment and fit, rather than just tenure with the organization. The goal in any career movement is to ensure the employee’s or candidate’s success. An assessment process must always exist to ensure alignment.

You must be intentional in creating a process to bring in the best talent, and once you have that talent, you must be intentional in developing a plan to keep it. Your organization, its culture and its focus on developing the relationship employees have with their managers all influence an employee’s interest in doing good work and choosing to come back each day.

Take Action
Stop and notice what works and doesn’t work in the way you engage, develop and retain your employees. Do more of what works and address what’s not working before your talent finds an organization that does all the right things to keep their best employees.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading High Disengagement Rates = Challenge and Opportunity

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Looking Back, What Did 2018 Tell You?

By Jay Forte

Another year comes to a close. As with anything that we call the past, it has lessons to share.

I find that this time of year invites us to be reflective. If we can carve a few minutes out of the noise and busyness of the holidays, shopping and festivities, we could learn from our past to be ready to make wise decisions about our future.

Here are two great questions to ask yourself that are worthy of review at this time of year.

When looking back at the past year, what worked that I should probably do more of?

Our habit is to be more tuned into our failures than our successes. But your successes have a lot of information for you if you make the time and effort to notice them. As you look at 2018, what were your successes and victories – large and small? What improvements, growth and opportunities happened – and why? What do these events tell you about you – your attitude, your strengths, your dreams or even your goals? What do these events tell you about who you are and who you are becoming?

You are amazing at some things. Know these things and do more of them. You are passionate and inspired by some things. I imagine your successes were in these areas. Know them so you do more of them.

When looking back at 2018, what didn’t work that needs improvement for 2019?

Our challenges and failures – the job you didn’t get, the relationship that failed, the out of control finances, the poor eating habits – are all just information. You made decisions that resulted in these outcomes. Notice what didn’t work and ask why. This will give you great information to consider what you could do to make improvement(s). No need to waste any energy feeling upset or sorry for yourself. You made some decisions or had some events that didn’t work out. Simply notice that they need improving and use your energy to notice them, understand them and to come up with the first few steps to make a change. Know them so you can improve them.

Both successes and failures are life lessons. Successes teach you how to celebrate and remind you of your strengths, abilities and capabilities. Challenges and failures remind you of the areas that need improvement and greater attention. That’s it – it’s just information. But you can’t learn from these to make a better 2019 if you don’t make the time to review and reflect on what lessons 2018 has for you.

So, as you approach the end of the year, commit to making time to let 2018 speak to you. It has lessons for you. Learn the lessons – do more of what works and improve what doesn’t work – only you can do this for you. And when you do this, you will have a more amazing 2019.

Take Action
We learn how to celebrate and continue through our successes, or we learn how to improve from our failures or challenges. Either way, it is just life doing what life does – constantly giving us the ability to be better tomorrow than we were today.

Take five minutes today to think about the past year. What worked? What didn’t work?

 

Consider reading You Can’t Improve on Something You Don’t Measure

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Living Life On Purpose

By Jay Forte

Most of us move through life too quickly. We rush from one event to another, barely aware of being part of them. We fall into bed at night, remembering very little of what happened during the day. Not only do we not remember our moments, but we didn’t use them to celebrate our successes or learn from our challenges. We actually miss out on our lives.

We don’t do this on purpose. And that is the problem: we don’t do a lot “on purpose.” Most of what we do, we do out of habit. The same ride to work. The same coffee in the morning. The same food for dinner. Same old, same old. Not that doing something over and over is a bad thing, it is just that when we allow ourselves to mindlessly go through life, we miss out on really experiencing what our world – and our unique lives – can offer.

So how do you start to live more purposely and intentionally? Here are three ways to start.

  1. Take a walk down memory lane. Our memories, when we take the time to make them and revisit them, give us a deeper connection to our lives. We reconnect to who we are and what we experience. We see things more clearly and show up more intentionally.
  2. Slow down instead of speed up. Do fewer things but be more involved in them. Rushing to get things done limits both how effective you are in what you do and the quality of what you experience. Commit to being fully present to where you are and to what you are doing. You will see more, feel more and connect more to your moments.
  3. Listen to your inner voice. Most of us let the outer voices direct us through our lives. Though it is important to have input and information from those in our lives, we each truly know ourselves best. Living life on purpose also means living your life – the one you have and the one you direct. You must learn to hear and trust your inner self – it knows you best. You are accountable for your impact and happiness.

Life is best lived with intention, so do things on purpose. Communicate on purpose. Celebrate on purpose. Learn from your mistakes on purpose. As you tune in with your greatest attention, you learn the lessons of life and participate more fully in each.

Take Action
What is one area of your life that would benefit from approaching it on purpose? Start small but start today. Show up like you mean it and in the process, take note of how everything about life will improve.

 

Consider reading Living Today on Yesterday’s Beliefs

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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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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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