meditation

How would you rate your performance?

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Sometimes, you have to look back in order to understand the things that lie ahead.”  ― Yvonne Woon

Optimal Self

When was the last time you stepped back to reflect on your performance?  Are you meeting your own expectations?  Better yet, are you exceeding the expectations you set for yourself?  Reflecting on your performance towards your goals on a regular basis will ensure you stay focused on your path to your defined success.

Reflective practice is a skill that can be developed. Learning to reflect will help you move your goals from theory into behaviors that help your goals become a reality.  Reflective practice will also help you increase your self-awareness, a key component of emotional intelligence.

Do you have people you can turn to that will provide you with candid feedback?  How you see yourself and how others see you can be different.  Create a list of people you can rely on to help you reflect and stay focused on your goals. Offer to do the same for others.

During your reflective practice are you keeping track of your progress through documentation?  Capturing your goals and accomplishments in writing provides tangible results you can focus on when you need a boost or want to challenge yourself to go to the next level.

Schedule time to reflect and ask yourself:

  • What am I doing well?
  • What do I need to do differently?
  • What have I been doing and what type of emotions have I been having?reflection
    • What prompts them?
    • Do I need to make changes?

Personal development is a lifelong process that requires you to be honest with yourself. Taking time to reflect and measure your performance towards your goals provides you opportunities for continuous learning and growth. Taking time to reflect means slowing down enough to stop, enjoy the adventure and figure out what is really important to YOU.

LearninLearningGrowth.pngg without reflection is a waste. Reflection without learning is dangerous.”  ― Confucius

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Meaningful Work

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To be successful, the first thing to do is fall in love with your work.
 – Sister Mary Lauretta

What does ‘meaningful work’ mean to you?  According to Malcom Gladwell meaningful work is work that is autonomous. Work that is complex, that occupies your mind. And work where there is a relationship between effort and reward — for everything you put in, you get something out.

When was the last time you reflected on the work you do?  Are you focused and mindful with your pursuits? Are you able to answer the following questions?

  • Am I being challenged?
  • Am I growing and learning new skills?
  • Am I respected by my colleagues?searching
  • Do I believe in the mission of the organization I’m working with?

Think long term – Ask yourself what life you want. Think about where you want to be in five, ten, 20 years. Of course, you have to answer more immediate questions about what you want in your current job or your next, but do so only in the context of your longer, larger career goals.

Meaningful work will mean something different for each of us. I encourage you to look beyond the obvious things, like salary, title, or prestige of the company and reflect on the following categories:

Legacy
This is about the concrete outcomes of your work. What do you want to achieve? Sure, you may spend a lot of your day responding to emails or attending meetings — most jobs entail at least some of that ­— but what evidence do you want of your work?

Mastery
These are the strengths that you want to improve. The key is that you are using these strengths in a way that you find rewarding. Being good at something you don’t enjoy doesn’t count; it has to be something you love to do.

Freedom
This is about the salary, benefits, and flexibility you need to live the life you want. For some people, this may mean a high paycheck that allows you to take exotic vacations. For others, it could be the freedom to work when and where you choose. Here you need to know the lifestyle you want and ask whether your job is helping you fulfill that.

Alignment
This covers the culture and values of the place you work. This is not the same as mission; it is about whether you feel like you belong. What are the beliefs and priorities of the company and the people you work with? How do people treat each other? Do they collaborate? Have lunch together? It’s important to enjoy spending time with your colleagues and your manager.

The content of these categories will vary for each person. Make a list of all the things you value, and then prioritize them. This list will help guide your decisions and can be used to evaluate specific opportunities like a new assignment in your current role, a job at a different company, or a new career path.

Answers to the above questions are the things that will make the difference between being okay with your work and being truly happy.

The energypeople who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them. – George Bernard Shaw

 

 

Mid-Year Review

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“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”
~Eleanor Roosevelt

Optimal SelfIt’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.

Looking-Back Questions:

  • 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?
  • Learning
    • 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? 

Looking-Forward Questions:

  • 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?
  • Habits
    • 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? LearningGrowth.png
    • 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:

Recognize
  • Step back from the situation to get a better perspective. Taking obstacles personally may cloud your judgment; try to understand how you usually interpret difficulties.
  • Avoid blaming others or making excuses, try to define the problem clearly.
  • Be honest about what has happened – ignoring or downplaying the obstacle may only intensify its impact.
Reaffirm
  • Although your plan may not have worked out as you had intended, maintain a positive outlook and channel any negative reactions into productive behaviors.
  • Avoid making self-defeating assumptions about your abilities.
  • Control your initial response to obstacles by challenging pessimistic beliefs and focusing on your successes. One failure doesn’t mean your goal is no longer valid or possible.
Refocus
  • Learn from your mistake or oversight to prevent repeating it in the future.
  • Brainstorm ideas with colleagues to find an alternative solution. When brainstorming ideas, start by focusing on one clearly defined problem. Then identify strategies or tactics that have worked in the past, and adapt them to your current situation.
  • Change some of your goals if needed. Changing some aspects of your goal is better than abandoning it altogether.
Resume
  • Apply your new plan of action by focusing on factors you can control.
  • Explore factors that are out of your control but which you can influence.

sunset3

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

 

 

Embrace Awesomeness

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Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”  ― Marcus Aurelius

When was the last time you had an awe-inspiring moment that made you say “WOW!”?  When did you last feel a moment of wonder because you were in the presence of som12802876_10205873782189011_1700307018771663262_nething vast?  Do you have places that spring to mind when you think of moments that left you in awe?

Awe has been described as an emotion in the upper reaches of pleasure and on the boundary of fear. Awe consists of two qualities: perceived vastness (something you think to be greater than yourself), and accommodation, a need to assimilate the experience of vastness into your current mental structure.

Experiences of awe can change the course of life in profound and permanent ways. It’s an emotion that can have a tremendous impact because it takes you out of your own head. It minimizes your individual identity and attunes you to things bigger than yourself. It shifts your focus from your individual needs to a greater good.  Awe helps you to see things in a new light; giving you a sense of hope and the ability to see the bigger picture of life.  When you experience awe, you are more likely to feel that you’re rich in time because awe expands your perception of time, anchoring you in the present moment.

The actual feeling of awe and experiences that inspire it benefit you in all sorts of ways, from stronger health to improved relationships. Awe experiences make you more generous and more humble. Recent research is showing that positive emotions such as awe may help increase your immune system, lower inflammation and reduce the risk for heart disease, arthritis, depression, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

There is awesomeness in your everyday life, take a gander at your miraculous body. Look at yourself in the mirror, stare into your own eyes and contemplate what it takes for them to work at all. For many of you, it is awesome that water pours out of a faucet with the turn of a knob and you can have heat and cooled air with the turn of a dial. It is awesome that communication is beamed through time and space right into your hands.

Some peak experiences can be once-in-a-lifetime… but there are also everyday peak experiences that are equally amazing and available to you if you have your antennae up for the sense of wonder and awe that is everywhere. You are capable of experiencing awe, which can be invoked by anything that takes you out of your usual mindset and allows you to experience a connection with something greater.

Here are tips on how to attract awesomeness into your life:

  • Reminisce – Awesome experience. Perhaps it was a pristine place or a time you connected deeply with others during a special moment. Recall the details. Where were you? What touched you about it? What did it sound like? Feel like? When you can draw on your memories of awesomeness, you experience those feelings again.
  • Seek out beauty – Beautiful music, amazing art, or stunning natural views can invoke feelings of awe, so seek them out. Surround yourself with things that inspire you and make you feel good. Take time to notice and savor them. Common triggers for awesome experiences come from nature; in particular, water, mountains, trees, and flowers; dusk, sunrise, sunlight; dramatically bad weather and spring are often a catalyst for feeling awe.
  • Become present to the awesomeness in others – Look out for awesome performances. Surround yourself with people doing amazing things. Tune into the peak moments of life such as watching a baby being born, or someone you love triumphing after challenge. Savor the amazing and you will be elevated by awe.

When you experience awe, you are filled with positive emotion. You feel happier and more fulfilled. You are also healthier and experience greater vitality.12798828_10205873784269063_626824383491451793_n

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”  ― W.B. Yeats

Alter Your Mind With Music

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Music in headWhat songs inspire or nurture you? Do you have a theme song that captures the essence of you or your day?

When you play music, you are exercising your brain. Music is strongly associated with the brain’s reward system; influencing the brain to release the chemical dopamine. Scientists have found music and mood are inherently linked, listening to happy or sad music can change the way you identify with the world. Music can also be used to treat illnesses and restore harmony between mind and body. Recent scientific studies have found listening to music:

  • Can have a beneficial effect on your body by slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels ofstress hormones.
  • Can relieve depression and increase self-esteem ratings.

Music can be a tool you can use to dial up a mood or mindset on demand by choosing music that elicits a specific emotional response. Emotional responses to music is very individual; not all ‘happy’ songs are universally perceived as being uplifting or are guaranteed to put you in a good mood all the time. Experiment with music to find songs that strike a particular emotional chord in you, use music to create a targeted mindset. Ask yourself: “Does this song make me feel like the glass is half empty or full? Does this song make me feel energized or depressed? What state-of-mind do I want to be in right now?”

Take constant inventory of how a specific song affects your mood and mindset. Play around with a variety of songs, artists and different genres to create a playlist of ‘power songs’ that are anthems when you need to trigger a specific state of mind on demand.

One caveat, by overplaying any song you will dilute the original mindset associated with that song. This is why a song that you haven’t heard in decades can take you right back to all the emotions, and feelings of the original time. (The same is true with scent.) If you want a song to have an emotional impact linked to a specific person, place or experience from your past listen to it sparingly and make it part of a time capsule memory vault that you consciously preserve.

Have fun searching the vast amount of music to find what works for you. Use music to click into a desired conscious state-of-mind. Music

Choices You Make

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I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday. ~Eleanor Roosevelt – 1884-1962

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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:

Do you hear that?

  • 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. wandering mind

 

 

Resilience

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Feeling a bit stressed?  High levels of personal stress within and outside of the workplace are becoming commonplace.  Stress is not going away, which is why focusing on developing your resilience will help you deal with the daily stressors you are faced with.  Resilience is being able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. Resilient people have an ability to experience both negative and positive emotions even in difficult or painful situations. They are able to find potential or value in most challenges. The following characteristics will help you develop your resilience.

Filtering information and interpreting your world

  • Personal Responsibility – the extent to which you believe that your success at work is determined by you talents and motivation as opposed to external factors such as luck or good timing.
  • Realistic Optimism – seeing the world in a positive way, but also remaining grounded in reality. It is noticing and appreciating positive experiences whenever and wherever they occur, not taking things for granted.
  • Personal Beliefs– seeking and embracing the sense that life has meaning and purpose. This may be in the form of religious observance, spirituality, or devotion to a particular value system or cause.

Handling challenges

  • Self-Assurance– the extent to which you believe you can
    successfully perform work-related tasks or behaviors. Challenge your reflexive thoughts and negative self-talk; change emotional patterns, restrain your negative thinking and stoke your positive thinking.
  • Self-Composure – the extent to which you manage your stress and remain calm under pressure. Take stock of how things might Resiliencehave been otherwise, instead of just how they are, use strategic positive thinking to increase gratitude, which then builds resiliency.
  • Self-Care – good physical health, including a regular routine of healthy habits is foundational to both mental and emotional resilience. This includes taking mental breaks and time to relax, especially spending time outdoors and surrounding yourself with people you enjoy. Research suggests that spending just 20 minutes outside leads to more expansive and open thinking.
  • Problem-Solving– the extent to which you can plan and resolve problems effectively. One strategy to fostering a learner mindset is to use “question thinking” (“What is useful here?’ or ‘What are my available choices?’), as opposed to ‘Judger Questions’ (‘What’s wrong?’ or ‘Why me?’)
  • Goal Orientation– the extent to which you set appropriate goals and monitor your progress on those goals.  While it might sound cliché, the more you can consider challenges as opportunities to learn, grow and develop, the more resilient you are likely to be.

Communicating and connecting with others  

  • Courageous Conversations– the extent to which you communicate with others in a candid and courageous way in the face of difficulty.
  • Social Support– the extent to which you have a supportive social network.  Being of service to others is a potent way of fuelling resilience.  Studies have shown that serotonin (the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and well-being) is used more efficiently by people who have just engaged in an act of kindness. There is a cumulative effect to continued acts of kindness and the serotonin boosts that accompany them. You can fill up your well of resiliency when you consistently add to it. When times get difficult, you can draw upon this well

What are you going to do today to start depositing into your resiliency account?