Performance Improvement Facilitator
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Every day you make decisions. The decisions you make come in a variety of ways; people, events, or things vying for your attention, time, or resources. Hopefully many of the decisions you make add value to you and your world. What happens when they don’t? What can you do to ensure you are in your optimal zone and adding value to your world? The answer – focus on what you can control and influence and let go of your concerns (things outside of you area of control or influence).
In life, there are many things about which you are concerned about yet have no control or influence over. Fortunately, however, there are many things you can control and influence. Highly successful people embrace this and spend their time and energy where they can make a difference. They realize they can influence a great deal; resulting a tremendous value being added to their world.
When you find yourself focusing on what you cannot control or influence; pause, take a deep breath, think, stay calm, and choose one item from your list and make a difference. You can’t always control the things that cause pressure, but you can control your reaction. Remind yourself that difficulties in life happen, they are a normal, unavoidable part of life.
Positive self-talk focusing on what you can control and influence is a useful way to help you stay calm while under pressure. It will also help you stay solution focused and avoid negative thoughts that may want to dominate your mind. Use your energy to focus on the present and what you can do to move forward. Focusing on what you can control and influence can help you to optimize your performance, increase your energy levels, recognize opportunities, and respond creatively to challenges.
Things you can control, right now:
- Your actions.
- How often you smile.
- Your level of honesty.
- The effort you exert for tasks.
- How you act on your feelings.
- How much time you spend worrying.
- Taming the negative gremlin in your head.
- How often you ask questions and listen to others.
- How often you show gratitude to yourself and others.
- How often you notice, appreciate, and share small acts of kindness.
Continue your control and influence list…….and then ACT on it! There are twelve months in a year. That gives you 52 weeks in which to choose your priorities. You have 365 days to decide where to focus your time, your attention, and your efforts. You have thousands of opportunities to choose, to try, and to learn. In twelve months you can achieve miracles. You can, to a remarkable degree, create the life you want. Be courageous and show determination to take the time needed to modify, impact, transform, and reinvent things in your life. You may not be in complete control; that is no excuse to deny the power you do have. Choose well. Use your power.
“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”
It’s the middle of the year, are you on target to achieve the goals you set earlier this year?
Now is a great time to step back and analysis the progress you are, or are not, making with your goals. Use the below looking-back and looking-forward questions to identify how you want to spend the second half of your year.
- Key Accomplishments
- What are all of the great things that I got done over the past six months?
- What goals did I achieve?
- What things am I most proud of accomplishing?
- Which of my goals did I really miss the mark on?
- What opportunities to learn new things did I take advantage of?
- What were the things I learned most?
- What mistakes did I make and what did I learn from them?
- Time Management
- How well did I manage my time?
- Have I been focusing my time on the most important things in my life?
- Are there any significant “time wasters” that I need to reduce or eliminate from my life?
- Top Three Goals
- What are my top three goals for the remainder of the year?
- Why are those goals important to me?
- What habits and processes do I need to adopt to support those goals?
- Learning and Knowledge
- What areas of learning do I most need to focus on?
- What new skills do I need to develop or strengthen?
- What things do I need to “keep current” on?
- What one skill, if mastered, would have the greatest impact on the achievement of my goals?
- What time management habits do I need to develop and strengthen?
- What three habits, if developed and sustained, would have the greatest positive impact
on my life?
- What habits do I need to drop or replace?
Taking time to check in with your goal status provides you an opportunity to celebrate your accomplishments and regroup where needed.
If you are having challenges with meeting your goals taking time explore why, how, and where will help you create an action plan to overcome your obstacles. Methods to overcome hurdles:
Taking time to be mindful with your goal pursuit will give them a more gentle, realistic, and achievable tone. Find a quiet place to sit, take a few deep breaths, relax, and visualize what it
will be like when you achieve your goals. Imagine what it will feel like to be in this space of accomplishment.
“I’ve always found that anything worth achieving will alw
ays have obstacles in the way and you’ve got to have that drive and determination to overcome those obstacles on route to whatever it is that you want to accomplish”. ~ Chuck Norris
What changes have you been experiencing lately? For many of you, besides the day to day challenges, you are also experiencing the end of a business quarter, a new season, and daylight savings time.
With all these changes now is a great time to take a step back and acknowledge the progress you are making with your goals and adjust them, if needed. (See post R&R: Reflect & Regroup.) Pausing periodically on the path to achieving your goals provides you the opportunity to see what’s working and what’s not.
As you work towards a goal, you develop discipline, learn to overcome obstacles, and gain insight into your personality and your vision. Not taking time to reflect as you make progress will cause you to miss out on valuable insights about who you are.
When considering the progress you are making avoid giving yourself a simple pass or fail on your goals, dig deeper. Schedule some quiet time when you won’t be interrupted, and ask yourself open-ended questions to get clarity on how you’re really doing. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What have you been doing (or not) to actively work on your goals?
- What tools or skills did you use or do you need to get the desired outcomes?
- When you stop working on your goals for a while, what stops you?
- What excuses keep you from taking action?
- What skills or talents do you have that will help you move towards your desired outcomes?
- What skills or talents need to be improved if you want to achieve them?
Write your responses down, and be as brief or as wordy as you want. Don’t overthink it. The important part is to uncover opportunities that you may not be aware of. When you’re done, read back over your answers. Better yet, wait a day or two before reading your answers.
Once you have a clear picture of how you’re progressing, look for areas where you may need to change strategies. Brainstorm ideas of how to make those changes, seek input for your mentor, and formulate your new plan.
Then – and this part is just as important – celebrate your victories. No matter how small. Give yourself a pat on the back or call someone who will gush over your accomplishments with you. Making changes is hard, and you should feel good about every single step you take toward them.
If you did not make the progress you were striving for, here are some things to think about:
- On days when you don’t make progress toward your goals, what’s holding you back? Is it truly a time constraint or is it about your priorities?
- When do you find yourself most motivated? How about discouraged?
- When are you most energetic? What distracts you from your goal?
Asking yourself these questions and taking stock of your feelings and tendencies will help you:
- Adjust your goals and plans.
- Provide insight into your strengths and opportunities.
- Continue to learn and grow as a person.
Today is the day, schedule time to consider what progress you are making and what you have learned from your past experiences so that you can create the future you want.
“I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt – 1884-1962
When is the last time you stopped to reflect upon the type of choices are you making? Every day you make choices, more choices than you may realize. Some choices may not seem like choices at all. These mindless choices are our habits or normative behaviors. Habits are choices we make so regularly that over time they demand less and less executive control. As a consequence, they start to seem automatic. But they aren’t. When it comes to habits, you may even be motivated to make an excuse that you are at the mercy of the automatic choice that has become a habit.
There is always a choice, even when life gets bumpy because of choices you had made along the way. When you reach a bumpy path or fork in the road, take time for yourself to reflect and evaluate the choices you had made and identify alternative or new choices you can make to bring you back to your desired path. Use positive energy to focus on solutions and positive changes you can make. Choosing to turn bumps and forks in the road into an experience that will put you back on the path to success will inspire you, enhance the quality of your life, and bring positive transformation.
Taking time to reflect on the daily choices you are making will also motivate you to achieve more in life, to reach new levels of learning and self-awareness. This can then lead to an increased sense of self-esteem, confidence, courage, wisdom and inner peace.
Here are some tips to help you reflect and determine which path to take next time you find yourself standing at a fork in the road:
- Listen to your intuition. Tap into your intuition. You intuitively know what you want.
- Weigh the pros and cons. Take time to thoroughly analyze the pros and cons of each situation. Work to determine which situation will provide you with the best choice.
- Get outside input. Seeking input from others may provide different perspectives on your choices. A variety of opinions and words of wisdom may help you make your decision.
- Don’t let fear decide. Change can be scary. Making choices can be intimidating. Fear tries to convince you that keeping things the same is better and that change is not worth the risk. Learn to push fear aside and recognize that you need to make a choice that’s based on what’s best for you, not a choice based on avoiding what you are afraid of.
- Do what’s best for you. Do what’s right for you. This can be hard to determine sometimes when you’re weighing all of the options and getting various words of advice, but ultimately you have to focus on yourself. Tune everything else out and really ask yourself, “What is the right choice for me?” If you took away all of the details and distractions and “What if” questions, you’ll come to the realization that you know what’s best for you. Once you determine what’s best for you the question is: are you going to do what’s best for you? Sometimes this is much easier realized than acted upon.
- Trust in yourself. This ties in with the first point, but it’s not entirely the same. Once you’ve done all of the things above and you reach a decision, you may find yourself stepping back and questioning the choice your about to make. Even after all of the work you’ve done to get to this point, your mind might be filled with doubts. Don’t let those doubts overcome you. Remind yourself that you are doing what’s best for you and you’ve taken great steps to come to this conclusion. Believe in the choice you’ve made and, above all, remind yourself that everything is happening just as it should.
- Don’t ever look back. Once you’ve made your choice, make sure that you commit yourself to it and refuse to look back. It’s easy to begin doubting your choice, but looking back and wondering about what could have happened if you had made a different choice will do you no good. Realize that there is no such thing as a bad choice – if you choose with the right mindset then every choice brings learning and growth. When you accept and move forward on your journey then choosing loses some of its daunting weight and becomes a joyful experience.
- Choose something. Analyzing, assessing and agonizing are important, but can only go on for so long. Life is lived through actions; acting on your choice is the most important.
Life is a journey, not a destination.
Have you taken the time to analyze your personal ethical standards and the implications of these standards as a professional in your field? The following is an excerpt from a paper I wrote for school and a methodology you may find helpful.
Ethics are what helps you choose between right and wrong behaviors, or right and right behaviors, based on your own beliefs and values. Rothwell and Sullivan (2005) recommend you take the time to define your personal ethics and align them with professional standards. In order to complete this exercise, you need to have a high degree of self-awareness and self-development. Taking the time to identify personal and professional ethical frameworks is not a onetime activity. You must regularly take time to reflect and contemplate on your experiences. This will help you discover and maintain a high sense of personal and professional standards throughout your career.
Once you search for and identify your desired personal and professional ethical standards, Matousek (2012) found you will be able to re-wire your ethical behaviors through neuroplasticity and practice. The goal is to strive to do the best thing, not just do what is right. It is searching beyond behaviors to seek wise ethical choices that lead to satisfying personal and professional relationships and life.
When creating personal and professional ethical standards, the Josephson Institute of Ethics (1999) encourages you to find and use courage, honor, humility, and forgiveness. Striving to live up to these values over the years will help you create positive relationships, a strong reputation, and a solid support system and with good returns, some refer to this as karma.
Personal ethical standards can be a few sentences or many pages. The key is they should inspire deep thought, reflection, and identify unique temptations to your life. Once personal ethics and standards are defined, Williams and Anderson (2006) encourages you to work through the below ethical checklist to verify for practicality, focus, and logic ensuring the decision will promote respect, authenticity, and responsibility.
Ethical Checklist (Williams & Anderson, 2006)
- The legality of policy test – does my decision break the law or corporate policy?
- The newspaper, light-of-the day, or family test – would I mind sharing my decision publicly?
- Respect all – have I encouraged people of other cultures to express themselves in their uniqueness, regardless of the prevailing corporate culture?
- Involvement test – Have I involved others in the decision?
- Walk the talk, pursue authenticity – Does the client perceive me as motivational and able to retain highly capable people?
- Personal responsibility – Do I accept personally the consequences of my actions?
- Relevant information – Does the organization practice glass-wall management, in which people openly communicate their actions and objectives as they relate to organizational initiatives?
- Fairness test – How do I interpret fairness?
Being consistent by matching intention with ethical behaviors and actions will help you build a strong reputation.
Howard and Korver (2008) warn not to blindly adopt the ethics of others. It is vital to draw thoughts and feelings from within. Take time, using the below ‘Area of Contemplation’ list, to examine, identify, and embrace your personal and professional ethics and standards. This will help you prepare for challenges and uncertainties when they arise, even if they are between right and right (Kidder, 1995).
|Area of Contemplation||Ethics and Standards|
|Field of _______.||·|
|What purpose brought you to the field of ____? How does that purpose relate to the work you take on?||·|
|Whom do you serve? Is the focus a single client, the organization, the employees, a higher power, myself, society as a whole, or something else?||·|
|Reflect on the principles and values that guide your work. What are they?||·|
|How have your principles and values guided the type of work you accept and how you do your work?||·|
|How have your principles and values been challenged in your work?||·|
|How have you resolved those challenges?||·|
Source: Wheatly, Tannenbaum, Yardely-Griffin, and Quade (2003).
Howard, R. & Korver, C. (2008). Ethics for the real world: Creating a personal code to guide decisions in work and life. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School.
Josephson Institute of Ethics. (1999). Five steps of principled reasoning. Retrieved May 21, 2014, from http://ethicsalarms.com/rule-book/ethical-decision-making-tools/.
Kidder, R. (1995). How good people make tough choices: Resolving the dilemmas of ethical living. New York, NY: Harper.
Matousek, M. (2012). Ethical Wisdom. New York, NY: Anchor Books.
McDowell, B. (2000). Ethics and excuses: The crisis in professional responsibility.
Rothwell, W., & Sullivan, R. (2005). Practicing organization development: A guide for consultants (2nd ed). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.
Williams, P., & Anderson, S. (2006). Law and ethics in coaching: How to resolve and avoid difficult problems in your practice. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.
Are you feeling frustrated because the meetings you attend are long and end with no clear outcomes? Research suggests a meeting with mindfulness creates a more efficient and successful meeting.
Mindfulness is not just a corporate trend, but a proven method for success. Mindfulness – being focused and fully present in the here and now – is good for individuals and good for business. Taking the time to practice mindfulness, whether it is simply taking a few deep breaths, or actual meditation has been shown to alter the structures and function of the brain, which allows you to learn, acquire new abilities, and improve memory.
Mindful meetings are being aware of the ‘now’ and create the opportunity for participants to be engaged, effective, and focused on the priorities of the meeting. This mindset creates an environment for exploration of new ideas and different perspectives.
Steps you can take to lead a mindful meeting:
- When planning the meeting, do your best to create a comfortable environment:
- Meet in an area with enough space for everyone to fit comfortably.
- Do what you can to ensure the room is not too hot or cold.
- Remind everyone to bring a beverage.
- Start each meeting with a pause. Ask each participant to take a moment to notice where they are and their current mental state. This will prompt them to bring their attention to the present moment. Moods are contagious, taking time to pause will allow participants a chance to breathe, regroup, recharge, and reset. Recognize where everyone is with compassion. A best practice for a starting a mindful meeting:
- Start the meeting by having participants close their eyes and take two – five minutes to just breathe. During this time ask individuals to let go of unneeded thoughts and to bring themselves completely into the meeting room.
- Share the intentions of the meeting, include intentions that go beyond the meeting. End the meeting with answers to the following questions:
- What have we decided here today?
- Who is going to do what, by when?
- How will we resolve the issues that are still open?
- What is likely to get in the way of us implementing what we agreed to today and how will we handle it?
- Ask participants to truly listen and participate in the meeting with curiosity, appreciation, or contribution. Encourage everyone to have their say, bring a different perspective, and support openness. This will prevent groupthink.
- Meet face to face, which provides a powerful sense of connection. If face to face is not feasible – use video conferencing, this will help participants see expressions and connect with each other on an emotional level.
- Respect the fact people have a limited attention span – keep meetings brief and to the point with breaks when necessary.
- Give the gift of time – end meetings a couple of minutes early.
By bringing just a bit more mindfulness to your meetings, you can take what most people consider the most painful part of their day and turn it into a highly productive, even enjoyable experience.
Breathe and be mindful.
Stop! Where are you? Where are your thoughts at this very moment? Are you trying to quickly read this post so you can check it off your ‘to do’ list and move on to your next task? Is your mind filled with activities you need to do? Are you thinking of emails or phone calls waiting for your reply? People you need to connect with? Or have these questions reminded you of tasks you need to complete? Are you caught up in the culture of ‘Hurry, I need to finish this task and move to the next!’? Take a moment, pause and take a deep breath. Yes, take a deep breath now. Breathe in slowly and deeply. Exhale slowly and completely. One more time. This time as you breathe in, focus on centering your mind, let the chatter in your mind float away. Be still in the moment. As you exhale experience the sensations of your body and your surroundings. One more round; while you slowly breathe in experience your current feelings, sounds, and surroundings. Be present in the moment, this current moment. Slowly exhale. Being mindful in the moment takes practice, the benefits are substantial. You will feel calmer, centered, and will experience a deeper sense of the moment. Your family, friends, and peers will also appreciate your mindfulness and the benefits it brings to them. Research shows clearing away distractions and living in the moment can alter the structure and function of the brain. Over the next couple of weeks raise the bar with being fully present during your daily activities. Take time to check in with yourself, being mindful of moments. Be truly present while you drive your family members to their activities, listening to and participating in the chatter taking place in the car. Be mindful during meetings, experience the verbal and non-verbal cues of your peers provide. Truly listen and experience what your peers are saying and doing. Step out of your comfort zone with mindfulness – slowly and deeply breathe in, now slowly and completely breathe out, one more time, deep inhale . . . full exhale. How do you feel? Do you feel more relaxed? Grounded in your thoughts? At peace with yourself? You have control of your mindfulness at any given time, where ever you want. The journey to mindfulness is yours! Enjoy your journey! All the best!