“Our essential nature is one of pure potentiality.”
~ Deepak Chopra
I was invited to spend the day with a group of manufacturing managers. "We want something in the area of professional development," my host, who extended the invitation, told me. "If it can also be uplifting-you know, pick up their spirits-that would be especially helpful, because this group is overworked and feels overwhelmed and unappreciated most of the time."
This vague request was both satisfying and frustrating; satisfying because the client, who I have worked with previously, trusted my judgment, but frustrating because his description provided little direction. One thing seemed to be clear, though: this group was not in a good place physically or emotionally ("overworked and unappreciated"), and they expected me
to "pick up their spirits."
After a few days of thought and still no sense of what to do, I found myself reading over an email before hitting the send bottom, and my sentence jumped out at me: Awakening, Inspiring and Empowering Human Potential.
Yes. That was it. I would develop a program using my sentence.
I wake up most mornings to this thought: What opportunity will present itself to me today in which I can awaken, inspire and empower human potential?
The answers don't always pop into my head, and there are days when I find it difficult to awaken, inspire and empower my own
potential, yet it is amazing how just keeping that thought present allows opportunities to present themselves. In these instances I find a way for my sentence to move from my head to my heart to concrete action.
Working with these manufacturing managers, I found myself facing a new opportunity to put my sentence to work. Now all I had to do was deliver.
I started by telling the group about how I came up with the idea for the presentation. I shared my sentence and explained how it has impacted me since I crafted it five years ago. Then I asked the participants to partner up and provided each with an agenda. On it, a quote by Jane Wagner: "A sobering thought: what if, at this very moment, I am living up to my full potential?"
I asked everyone to respond, and it was unanimous-no one believed they were living up to their full potential. They all felt lost or thwarted in their ability to do so. Unsurprisingly, they identified the primary potential-blocking culprits as stress
and a lack of direction or purpose
Fortunately I was prepared. Not because I have great predictive powers, but because I seen and heard the same response over and over, and I understand the extent to which stress and the absence of purpose entomb potential. These two "potential killers" block individuals and organizations from experiencing the rewards and benefits of their return on potential
(ROP). The four batteries of potential energy
We need energy to find and unlock our potential. And our four batteries-our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being need to be at or near full capacity for us to live up to our potential. If even one dips below capacity, it drains energy away from the other three, and that stress is a disease that ultimately drains all four.
I talked with the managers in depth about how to maintain your physical energy through exercise, nutrition, sleep, and setting aside time every day for mindful and reflective activity. We practiced a progressive muscle relaxation exercise for five minutes, which helped everyone let go of the tension they were holding in their body and regain a sense of balance and relaxation. I also introduced the Seven Rituals of Renewal,
which if practiced daily will help keep all four batteries charged.
Next we explored our emotional battery. I asked them to identify what feelings or emotions they experienced going to work, during the day, and driving home at the end of the day. The list ranged from "anger" to "zoned out," all of which were unproductive in creating and maintaining the energy one needs to access one's potential. The emotions they were experiencing made them feel so drained of energy they were questioning if they could even find
One key learning was that most of the group had fallen into an emotional rut, meaning they had accepted their unhappiness and forgotten that we choose our feelings the same way we choose which shoes to put on in the morning. This realization alone was an awakening that stirred their interest and opened the door to emotional empowerment. What about that sentence?
How can a sentence keep our batteries charged and lead us to our potential? Daniel Pink has a wonderful short video I shared with the group called "What Is My Sentence?" The video highlights the ways in which one sentence can focus our energy and provide the motivation we need to live up to our potential.
The video and discussion afterward awakened their interest and curiosity, and now they needed some inspiration. I decided to show them the DeWitt Jones film Celebrate What's Right With the World.
In it, Dewitt uses the sentence "Celebrate what's right with the world"
to show us that no matter how bleak things may appear, if we are willing to open ourselves up to the possibilities, we can always find something to celebrate. Through his photography he demonstrates how our mindsets can make all the difference between an average photo and a great photo. The key is remaining open to the possibilities.
I could see everyone engaging with his words and photography. I could feel they were becoming inspired-inspired to discover and live up to their full potential, and to put effort into accepting that there was much more to celebrate that what they were experiencing at work. After the film I shared a story that ran in my local newspaper. To me it demonstrated the power one sentence has in helping a person live up to his or her potential.
Our local AHA hockey team, the Providence Bruins, is in the playoffs against the Hersey Bears. One of the players had a dream during a pre-game nap. The dream was about hockey, but then a sentence appeared: Be the better bear.
The player wrote it on the locker room bulletin board and the team immediately took it to heart. The Bruins were in a must win situation needing to win the next two games or be eliminated. Every member of the team used "Be a better bear" to be the better hockey player. They won both games and moved on to the next round of the playoffs.
When asked about his dream and the sentence, the player responded, "It means when you line up against your opponent, you have to take it upon yourself to be a better hockey player."
The Bruins may not win the championship, but they are living up to potential
they didn't realize they had and celebrating
victories they didn't think they would experience.
As the day came to an end, I asked, "How many of you were awakened, inspired and empowered to live up to your potential today?" The answer was a hearty applause. I have since received emails from individuals in the group sharing their sentence-and I have my own sentence to thank for that.
The Boston Marathon bombings are still running through my head and heart.
I know why my heart can’t seem to let go—it’s because of the many connections I have to the race and the area.
I grew up in New England and once again live 52 miles from the Prudential Center where the race ends. I used to be baffled and amazed by the marathoners when I was younger and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to put his or her body through the agony of running 26.2 miles. As a teenager, I would throw up after running the fitness mile during the first week of football practice, only later to be amazed that I could run 26.2 miles myself and enjoy it. Running became my avocation that led to my qualifying and completing the Boston Marathon in 1982.
Today, each of the stories of the victims inspires and disturbs me, especially disturbing is that of eight-year-old Martin Richard who was waiting with his family to see his dad finish. It awakened memories of my daughters waiting to catch a glimpse of me crossing the finish line and to share in my relief and excitement.
Even today weeks after the bombing there continues to be an outpouring of support, compassion, and empathy from everyone across the country, which has been a healing balm for the psychic trauma for all those affected. This coming together has helped families and friends to regain balance, hope, and faith in the reality that the human spirit is truly meant for good and not evil.
I know it is also during these times when we individually and collectively call upon our resiliency to help us move beyond and transform our pain into a deeper commitment to live every moment with purpose. We know the standard phases: Life is short. Time is the least we have of. Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today, because tomorrow may never come. And we would all be better served if we held these words not just as clichés, but also as the wisdom of being alive and living in a world where there are no guarantees.
In the midst of the chaos, immediately after the bombs exploded people, ordinary heroes responded. People there to celebrate life instantly began doing whatever they could to comfort and care for the victims. This passion to help continued throughout the day and into the week. Police and FBI put out requests for pictures, videos, and any bits of information that might be a piece to solving and preventing more chaos and tragedy. Phone lines and websites were flooded with residents sending pictures and videos and calling in information. While there were many factors that led to the death and capture of the brothers who committed this horrendous crime, it could not have ended so quickly without a community’s commitment to be part of the solution – to not accept that evil is stronger than good.
There are many lessons and insights that I continue to digest and try to make meaning of stemming from this event. The most important is, what will I do to not let the one life I have to escape without fully celebrating how scared it is?
I also think about our spirit of community—the compassion that people have when they allow their human nature to flow through their hearts and into their hands to hold those in need close. When there is a clear need or purpose and we see a way to contribute, we just act; we give whatever we can and we feel good about giving.
I wonder why leaders and organizations don’t believe in the goodness of the human spirit - the desire that lives in our hearts to be part of the solution not the problem.
Why do we manage by establishing rules to prevent a few from doing ill, all the while killing the spirit of the many more who want to be part of something and to contribute to the benefit of all? Why do leaders believe they are the ones ordained to solve organizational problems? Why do they often divide us by placing blame on one group or the other? The criminals who committed this terrible act were caught because of the thousands of onlookers who provided pieces to the puzzle. So can the folks on the shop floor. They know what’s wrong—you just have to invite them and ask, “What can we do to solve this problem?”
I recently had a conversation with a leader who experienced a crisis at his organization and was surprised at how everyone pitched in to do whatever it took to prevent the crisis from occurring. I asked, “Do you think there is any learning from this situation that could be applied to other issues you are challenged with?”
“It’s the difference between war and peace,” he told me. “The two situations are completely different.”
How many more bombings and crises do we have to go through before we trust that ordinary people—everyday workers—want to be part of the solution, not the problem?
The answer is simple: if we articulate a why everyone can share in and invite their participation, we can solve many of the issues challenging our organizations, communities, and even our planet.
Had the Boston Police Department said, “Stay out of our way! Let us professionals take care of the problem,” more chaos might have transpired and we still might be looking for the criminals. But instead they asked every single person in the city for help.
Let’s not let ego and fear kill the human spirit. If Boston can do it, surely we can too.
I recently reviewed a case study of a project of which I was a member of the development and delivery team. The project was designed for the US Navy Chaplain Corps at a time when they where in the midst of transformation, it was titled, Accelerating Change With Emotional Intelligence
. What I didn't realize was that this project would have as much an affect on me as it did on our participants.
In 1969 I graduated from college and within a few days received notification that I was required to report for my induction physical. The Vietnam War was still raging and every night the news was filled with body counts from both sides; it was a frightening and tumultuous time both for our country and for me.
I was recently married and fortunate enough to have been accepted into grad school that Fall, but our country needed more and more bodies to fight the war and deferments had run out for me.
Reporting for my physical, I boarded a bus in my hometown with about 30 other guys; a few were acquaintances from high school. We traveled a few hours to the induction site. The bus was very quiet; not much talk at all. Everyone was somber and seemed to be contemplating their future. Where will I be a month from now?
we all wondered. We were commanded to get of the bus and line up. There had to be more than 300 boys, all there for the same reason. Guys in uniform were yelling and pushing us from one station to another. Much of the examination took place in large rooms. It was my first taste of military life.
Under my arm I carried a large brown manila envelope that contained x-rays from three knee surgeries I had during my senior year of high school and first year of college, a result of playing football. Except for my knees I was in perfect health. Although my knees eventually forced me to quit playing football in college, I was still able to run and be athletic. I thought surgeries might disqualify me, but in 1969 the rumors were that only being disabled would keep you from passing.
As I was standing in line I was approached by an aggressive man in uniform who yelled, “What’s in that envelope, boy!” Before I could answer he grabbed it out of my hand and left without a word. I wanted to protest, but it was obvious this was not the time or place to protest or put up a fuss; it could only lead to something I wasn’t ready to handle. My orders were simple and didn’t need to be verbalized: keep my mouth shut, follow the person in front of me and stay on the yellow line. Stop whenever I’m told and do whatever I’m commanded to do.
At some point later in the day I was pulled out of line and told to report to an office at the far end of the room. I knocked on the door and a voice commanded me to come in. The person behind the desk said, “Sit down.” He asked me to identify myself and then told me to drop my pants! As I was unbuckling I noticed he had my x-rays on the desk. He then asked me to stand up on a stool, and as I did he looked at the surgical scars on both my knees. “Get down and pull your pants up. You’re through.” He put the x-rays back in the envelope and told me I was unfit for duty and to report to my station and wait for my bus to leave.
I sat very still for about another hour before the contingent from my hometown finished the process. We boarded and headed home. About 30 minutes later it started to sink in. I wasn’t going to be drafted and in a few months I’d be attending classes instead of learning to survive in the jungle. I wanted to laugh and stand up and yell with relief, but didn’t because surely no one else on that bus was feeling as joyful. In fact, that ride home was one of the most difficult ninety minutes I have ever experienced in my life. It was obvious that I was the only person on that bus who knew what his fate would be. Everyone else was once again in deep contemplation. There were occasional laughs and remarks – “Can you believe what just happened?” “I’ve never been through anything like that in my life.” “Did you see that guy crying in the corner?” As soon as these words would leave someone’s lips, most knew more days like this waited ahead.
The war came to an end a few years later. I graduated from grad school and took my first job; I was on my career path. Over the years I noticed that I would experience a sense of guilt and remorse about not being part of the war. I felt like I didn’t do my duty. I had escaped; I chickened out. I had hid while others took my place.
In the mid-80s I moved to the Washington DC area and after work one evening I decided to visit the Vietnam War Memorial. I had heard so much about it – how it was a healing place for many. But for me it only deepened my sense of guilt about not having fulfilled my duty. I never let anyone in on these feelings and thoughts. They didn’t haunt me over the years, but they would certainly visit. And although I knew it hadn’t been my decision not to serve, that didn’t stop the guilt from returning.
In 2003 I had the good fortune to work with 6 Seconds on a project for the US Navy and Marine Chaplains Corp. It was to develop a program to equip chaplains with the tools to be effective change agents. They are key influencers and resources to captains, commanders and the men and women who look to them for solace, guidance and forgiveness at sea and in battle.
For over a year I worked with chaplains from Norfolk, VA to Okinawa, Japan. At first I didn’t realize why this program took on such significance for me until we presented the pilot program in Newport, RI. In the opening introductions I realized I now had my chance to redeem myself, to serve my country and to heal my wound.
I would like to take this time to personally thank 6 Seconds and our team, and most of all the near-900 chaplains around the globe who invited me in and allowed me to share my story with them. We helped each other in ways that were much deeper and more important than how to become an effective agent for change and transformation. Every day they heal psychological and spiritual wounds and I’m very thankful to be one of the many they have touched.
I invite you to read the case study of this project. It’s an excellent description and demonstration of how emotional intelligence can be applied to help organizations and change agents effectively implement and steward change and organizational transformation. Resources:Military chaplain: Marines in Iraq look to pastor for answers to tough questions, Christian Science Monitor ArticleMinistering to Soldiers, and Facing Their Struggles
, NYTimes ArticleEQ: Case Study, 6Seconds
"Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be." George Sheehan, MD
The preceding quote from George Sheehan
MD, a person who inspired me, and thousands of other runners, to achieve our best, also planted the seed that maybe if I trained hard enough I could qualify for the Boston Marathon. I still can feel the exhilaration on seeing the finishing clock as I crossed the line at the Marine Corps Marathon; I knew I had qualified for the 1982 Boston Marathon. I was beyond excited; Boston was the pinnacle of marathons in the 60’s thru the 80’s and I had achieved the right to be at the starting line with number 3451. My emotions were about to intensify even more; approximately a mile into the marathon I noticed Sheehan just ahead of me. I had no doubt that it was him: I had seen him run in a number of films and read his book, Running and Being
, all of which had motivated me to start running.
Sheehan’s running style was unique, but his breathing style was unmistakable. Huff and puff is a mild description of the steam engine locomotive sound he made as he ran. My recollection is that he was in his 70’s and I was 35 and I was soon to pass him. I thought for a moment, should I say something to him as I pass? When I pulled along side, I looked over and he looked back. I said, “Dr. Sheehan thank you, if it were not for you I would not be here today.” He smiled and wished me the best. I felt blessed by a sage who had been to the top of Mt. Olympus, and for a fleeting moment I thought I might just win this race! However, Alberto Salazar had other plans and a stronger finishing kick, beating me by a mere 52 minutes! Alberto broke a record that day, and I finished. He was determined and courageous and beat a rival by a mere 2 seconds, but he was no more determined and courageous than 5,000 thousand other runners that day, including yours truly.
I also remember the day before the race. I was having breakfast at the hotel with a best friend and we started up a conversation with a guy sitting next to us. He said he lived for marathon day. He went on to say that 363 days of the year he’s a mailman, but on this one day he feels special, successful and the crowds treated him, as they do all the runners, as a hero.
Isn’t this at the heart of George’s wisdom? “Success in life is the determination and courage to be whom you are meant to be.” In the mailman’s case it meant not only to be a marathon runner on this one day of the year, but to be a man who delivers birthday cards to other people’s three-year-old grandkids in every condition nature can throw at him.
George Sheehan was a cardiologist. No doubt he repaired and saved many hearts. But George was meant to be a teacher; not the kind of teacher who stuffs you full of information, but in the true sense of the Latin word educere, he was able to bring forth the best in you. In his role as teacher, philosopher and runner he opened and touched the hearts and minds of thousands and helped to prevent the very disease he was trained to treat.
I started running about the same time I assumed my first CEO position. I wasn’t sure if I was meant to be a leader and I knew I was never going to be a professional runner. However, running helped me discover what kind of leader I was meant to be. Running helped me experience a deeper and more intense level of determination and how to summon the courage to push through adversity and complete the goals I had set for myself. I also learned that there were aspects of leading that I was just not going to be good at.
What I came to understand is that, like George, I was meant to be a leader who enjoyed creating organizations where Educere became the operating philosophy. Much later I learned that my core strengths include a love of learning, creativity and curiosity, which affirmed why I felt most comfortable, passionate and challenged in pursuing this brand and embracing this particular style of leadership.
DeWitt Jones, in his film, Celebrate What’s Right With the World
, offers a similar message and worldview. Finding out who you are and being able to see and celebrate abundance is a formula not just for success but also for significance. So don’t burden yourself with what you are not – Celebrate What’s Right For You. Celebrate the leader you are meant to be. When you do this, the people you serve will thrive also.
Tips to “Being” a Successful Leader:
Have an open and flexible mind: Rekindle the curiosity and drive you had as a child to explore, understand and learn.
Become intimately connected with your strengths, and celebrate them by using them as often as you can. (See Resource below)
Let others contribute their strengths; a team is the sum of its individual strengths and so is a leader.
Celebrate, Celebrate, Celebrate: We devote an enormous amount of time and energy to dissecting our weaknesses and failures, and so little time celebrating what’s right.
Don’t let yourself get stuck in a rut: Every day, find something that gives you relief, fun, health and inspiration. Run, paint, write, sing, play music, dance, read non-fiction, play with your kids like you are one of them.
Resource: Log on to the Authentic Happiness
Web Site and register to take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths
A recent study found that MBA's
who have an optimistic mindset are significantly more successful in landing jobs, receiving recognition and getting promotions. Additional studies have found that optimism is also a trait and or characteristic of resilient and emotionally intelligent people. In today's turbulent world where continuous change, daily stress and adversity are ever present, optimism is critical
to living a healthy and productive life.It's importance in leadership is also paramount. The ability to successfully navigate a highly competitive global
marketplace requires leaders to be realistically optimistic. Skepticism is important and healthy, but it must be tempered with optimism to see opportunities and to energize a workforce to pursue and capitalize on the opportunity.The following is a mindset frame that you can use to assess if you are perceiving a circumstance through an optimistic or pessimistic pair of glasses
. If you notice that you are feeling powerless because the situation appears permanent and it has infected all aspects of your life, you have a pair of pessimistic glasses on. It's call the Permanent, Pervasive and Powerless view. But the reality is that most situations aren't this way. Most difficulties and adversities are Temporary, Isolated and Effort Possible. This is the TIE approach. This mindset and worldview keeps you energized, focused and feeling OPTIMISTIC. Try it out; put the TIE glasses on and re-assess your situation. It may take some practice, but the effort will be rewarding, and it just might get you that job or promotion you've been after.
I have been a witness to the power of Resiliency that is imprinted in our genes. It was not an experience that I chose, although I feel privileged - life has a way of making choices that we must accept. Days ago my Father reached a point in his 92nd year in which his physical, mental and emotional resiliency needed to sustain his life were no longer strong enough for him to win the fight.
He had made it clear that he wanted to survive only if he had the resiliency to do it on his own. He had always been self-reliant; he didn’t want artificial resiliency imposed on him at the end.
My Father encountered and overcame many adversities in his life. He married just before leaving for Africa in World War II. Shortly after he arrived his wife died accidentally. He was not permitted to return home from the war for her funeral. Before the War life was difficult. He was part of a large immigrant family, 9 children in total, that struggled to make a home in the United States. He was nine years old when the Great Depression hit. He helped his family manage during this crisis until he was inducted into the Army when he was 22. He survived the War and the deaths of his parents and three brothers.
After the War he married my Mother and they both worked hard to provide a comfortable life for my sister and me. My Dad was never one to complain and always worked a second job on weekends. I can’t recall him ever being sick or missing a day of work. In fact, he continued to work part-time at a local country club where he caddied as an adolescent until he was 89. I remember him telling me that he didn’t think he was going to work that spring and summer at the club; almost apologizing for his decision to finally retire. That year the club gave him a lifetime membership.
I know that he and my Mom had difficult times during their relationship, but they both worked to not have their problems become our problems. He was committed and devoted to his family. My Mom experienced a number of serious health problems. She was diagnosed with lymphoma and went through a course of chemotherapy. She later had a series of cardiovascular problems that required surgeries. Throughout all her health difficulties my Dad remained at her side and optimistic.
My Mom died eleven years ago during open-heart surgery. She was kept alive with machines for a few days hoping that her heart would recover and take over – it didn’t. Dad had to make the decision to let her pass. I know he was deeply pained, as we all were by this experience. After Mom’s death, Dad lived on his own, frequently visiting her grave to leave flowers.
He kept active playing golf, attending church and mowing the fairways at his country club. After being away for many years I had the opportunity to move back into the. We became good buddies. We bought season tickets to UCONN football and enjoyed our tailgate lunches before each game. He enjoyed visiting our home, making friends with our neighbors and taking trips over the holidays to see his granddaughters and great grandchildren.
He no longer takes in food or liquids; he does not speak – it’s only a matter of time before his body will shut down. I know there is no going back and I know that this is his choice. It’s not easy watching the ebb and flow of his breathing – there are times when his chest stops. I place my hand on his chest wanting him to breathe and at the same time to not suffer. After a short time he takes in another breath and so do I.
The nurse listens to his heart and lungs and marvels at how strong it is. He has a resilient heart. Even under these extreme conditions it keeps beating. His heart always pursued life and now it is carrying him to the precipice of death.
I realized that when resiliency flourishes in one’s life – there is no giving in or up. This man never did, why should his heart? It knew only one way; it had only one choice; it must go through a process of using up every last resilient beat.
I just knew that his chest wouldn’t rise again. After three days of knowing, I still wasn’t prepared. My hand and his chest were motionless. My heart was desperately reaching for its resiliency.
The power of resiliency is astounding and positive and yet there is a hardness to it. The process of overcoming and transforming adversity in one’s life is not easy or pleasant and sometimes can be painful. Resiliency doesn’t promise an easy road it; only promises to take you down that road as far as you want to go.
My Dad came to that point in his journey. I know it was easier for him to accept than it is for me. What I will remember most is the twinkle in his blue eyes, his loyalty and his resilient heart.
The Seven Rituals of Renewal ™ are behavior choices that will change your life, and by incorporating these Rituals into your day you will notice a decrease in your stress level, which will give you more energy, focus, and a positive outlook. You might be saying to yourself, “I’m already to busy; I can’t fit one more thing into my day!” Well, what’s the alternative? Is it to continue your day of “hurry and worry” and eventually wear yourself down to the point where you don’t have the physical, mental and emotional energy to enjoy life! Recent studies indicate that most people waste about 2.9 hours a day.
The healthy and resilient alternative to “hurry and worry” is to build a practice of these Seven Rituals. There is one practice for each letter of the word renewal, and the beauty of this practice is that all seven will take about 60 minutes, which you can schedule throughout the day, and still have 1.9 hours to waste!
The Alchemy of the Seven Rituals of Renewal is that each one has the capacity to have a positive affect on your body chemistry, which in turn has a beneficial impact on your mental, emotional and physical being. When you practice the A of Appreciation you will stimulate the production of a hormone called oxytocin, which has a mitigating effect on the stress hormones, particularly cortisol. Oxytocin can reduce hyper-vigilance, which cortisol is responsible for, and give you a sense of calmness.
Seven Rituals of Renewal™
R: Take 10-15 minutes each day to Reflect. No special topic or requirements other than to turn off all electronic gear, sit quite without any interruptions. Take yourself off the grid; be quite and reflect.
E: Get some Exercise everyday. This doesn’t have to be at a fitness center; just do something that gets your body moving e.g. park your car a distance form your office, take a short walk during lunch, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. 10 minutes is great. This is not a weight reduction and muscle building routine; its about getting oxygen into you body and brain.
N: Select and eat one thing that is Nutritious everyday; select a piece of fruit or unsalted almonds instead of chips or candy. You’ll feel good about your decision and they’re good for you! Many people report that they don’t eat breakfast or take lunch; use this ritual as a healthy snack in the morning or mid-afternoon.
E: Engage with someone you love every day. It’s best face to face, but phone or one of those video phone services will suffice occasionally; make sure the engagement is about the love not about a TV program. Call a child or grandchild; your goal is to feel the love! Once again take yourself off the grid.
W: Take time to experience some Wackiness in you day. Find something that will give you a good round of laughter, the more the better. It’s not as hard as you might think. Just think about laughing and you might crack a smile and begin to laugh. You actually may find yourself laughing about nothing and enjoying it! However, the absolute best is whenever you are in the company of young kids and they start laughing about something goofy, just let yourself enjoy and join in!
A: Spend a moment in Appreciation. Think about all that you have to appreciate. Each day find something in your life that deserves your appreciation. I know, when we’re stressed we only notice what’s stressing us, and that’s exactly why you need to stop and appreciate that you have oxygen to breathe!
L: is for Letting Go. It’s amazing how much negative stuff we acquire from the time we get up in the morning to the time we retire. Anger, regrets, disappointments are just a few. Forgive, forget and move-on. There are so many more important things to use our limited energy on. There is a saying, “It’s not worth sticky palettes!” You know, the things in our blood that get thick and stick together when were stressed.
The amazing thing about each of these rituals is that each one has the power to change your entire being and when you incorporate al seven on daily basis they can change your life. The decision is yours, continue the hurry – worry game and reduce your health, effectiveness and joy in work and life or start right now to practice the Seven Rituals of Renewal™ and experience the best of you.
The Renewal Group can assist you in changing your life with our four one-hour Seven Rituals of Renewal coaching program. Our commitment and belief is that this program will improve your well-being, and continued daily practice will have a significant benefit to your health and satisfaction with life and work.
Stress is a form of terrorism that infiltrates and attacks our hearts and minds and the effectiveness of our organizations. It’s an assassin waiting to strike at our Resiliency. Unfortunately the full significance and seriousness of stress is misunderstood and under valued. We use the word indiscriminately, and can’t seem to connect the dots. We stress equally over the inconvenience of a hangnail, and the fear of a global financial meltdown. And like the terror attacks we can’t seem to connect the dots until we suffer a major setback, such as a heart attack. As our lives have become increasing complicated, our ability to assign an appropriate level of threat to a stressor has decreased, leaving us increasingly vulnerable.
Since it’s inception the Advisory Threat System has been at yellow and above, and our lives and organizations have been in lock step with the system.
We cannot solve the issues of Homeland Security, although it might be healthy for our country to be continuously at yellow or above, it is not sustainable to live our lives’ at an elevated level of stress. If we consciously and or unconsciously continue to live at yellow or above we have become our worst fears – we are the terrorists.
Stress is a Disease:
We cannot rid our lives and organizations of stress; in fact, we need certain levels of stress to be productive. We need to educate ourselves about the different types of stress, acute and chronic, and learn ways of managing both types to prevent our lives and organizations from becoming drained of vitality, creativity, and the resiliency required to be effective and successful in these stressful times.
Stress is a bio-psycho-social-spiritual disease that is a major contributing factor to increased healthcare utilization and costs, illness and disease and lost productivity: personally, professionally, organizationally and nationally.
The following points highlight the enormity of the problem and its costs:
* Princeton Survey Research study, three-quarters of employees believe that there is more on-the-job stress than a generation ago.
* A Northwestern National Life study found that one in four employees viewed their jobs as the No. 1 source of stress in their lives.
* Gallup reports 80 percent of employees suffer from job stress with nearly 40 percent reporting that they need help in managing their stress.
* Job stress costs American businesses hundreds of billions of dollars a year in employee burnout, turnover, higher absenteeism, lower production and increased health care costs.
* The American Psychological Association estimates that 60 percent of all absences are due to stress-related issues, costing U.S. companies more than $57 billion a year.
* Heart disease is the second largest killer next to cancer. It is estimated that some 80 million Americans exhibit some of the symptoms that will lead to heart disease. The six contributing factors to heart disease are Diet, Exercise, Stress/Sleep, Lifestyle and The Environment. A recent study found that women with stressful jobs have a 40% higher risk of major coronary problems than women with less job strain.
Our current worrisome and stressful social and economic climate is compounding the risks to our health and performance; just worrying about losing a job can increase your coronary risks. These findings should be a call to raise the national Stress Threat Level to RED; alerting leaders to the dangers stress poses to their ability to reduce costs, increase productivity, and remain competitive. A stressful organizational climate is a petri dish for breeding illness, accidents, disengaged employees, inferior customer service, and unproductive team and organizational behavior. And like many infectious diseases it is pervasive and has no boundaries. It is a factor in poor school performance, abusive and violent behavior, and relationship discord.
Stress and the Brain: The Amydala is our 911 Call Center
Stress is personal. How one interprets a situation, will determine how they feel and how they react; yet, our brains stress response mechanism is basically identical. The paradox of stress is that the parts of our brain responsible for igniting the stress response, by releasing the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol, and driving emotions such as fear, the amydalae, think they are doing us a service! And when we need to take immediate action to avoid a threat it does; however, there is a down side.
Our brain’s stress response mechanism is designed to handle acute stress. These stressors are usually perceived as immediate threats to our physical, psychological, and emotional well-being, and they are time limited. An example of an acute stressor is what you might experience when an 18-wheeler wants your lane, and doesn’t ask for permission to take it – Stress Level RED! If you’ve been in this situation or can imagine it, you may have noticed an increase in your heart rate, and a few other physical and emotional changes; the critical factor is that it provides you with the focus, energy, and ability to immediately blow your horn, and move into the breakdown lane. This almost instantaneous response, sometimes referred to as Hijacking, allowed you to survive this threat! Within a few minutes your body begins to return to “normal”, but your eyes and ears stay finely attuned to all the other 18-wheeler threats still on the road. When you encounter the next 18-wheeler you may notice a bit of tension until you are safely back into your lane. Your amydalae will remain hyper-vigilant (Level Yellow) scanning for all additional potential threats, as well as retain this stressful incident for future reference. And this is the problem – we remain on hyper-vigilant mode. We are constantly at threat levels yellow, orange, or red, which cause us to exaggerate every other stressor we encounter.
In stressful work climates, employees are on constant alert, which reduces their creativity, increases tension, frustration and fatigue - adding a negative overlay to all situations, which increases the chances of numerous Amygdala Hijackings.
In today’s uncertain and turbulent times we are experiencing numerous acute stressors, “My computer won’t boot as fast as I want it to.” compounded and complicated with chronic stress. The difference is that chronic stress is stress we experience over a prolonged period, and our perception is that we have minimal or no control over it, e.g. an unsatisfactory job or a stressful work climate. Chronic Stress creates a constant level of strain, which has an eroding and corroding effect on our well-being and performance. This is double trouble; the combination of chronic and acute stress reduces and constricts our personal, professional and organizational health and effectiveness.
Stop Acute Stressors from becoming Chronic:
In most cases an acute stressor will come to an end. Remaining optimistic and keeping things in perspective helps acute stressors dissipate and end in a timely manner. Be cautious not to convert an acute stressor into a chronic stressor. Here’s an example. During a meeting you perceive a colleague’s comments about a proposal you have made to be inappropriately sarcastic. You react rudely, you’re short and dismissive – maybe you even yell at the person. This exchange sets off the stress response in both of you. Hopefully, sooner than later, you recognize that you were Hijacked and your behavior was not productive for the relationship and the team. By offering an authentic apology for your reaction, you can begin to lower the threat level from yellow to blue or green, and bring the stressful situation to a conclusion. If you keep the threat level at yellow or above, you and your colleague may carry this stressful baggage into every other situation increasing the chances that another reaction will occur. What should have been an acute stressor can linger and turn into a chronic negative relationship, which doesn’t serve either of you well.This is not unusual, most people have stories similar to this situation, and it frequently happens when people carry stress home with them and respond to a loved one with their pent up stress from the workday.
Commit to Address your Chronic Stress:
Chronic stressors require more thought and effort to deal with. If you’re in a job or relationship that is not meeting your expectations, it’s very hard to just quit and move on. You may need the job for income and health insurance. And although the relationship has features that are not meeting your needs, there may be many aspects that are. In both cases take time to reflect on want you want and then take action that provides you with a sense of moving towards a resolution. Take small steps and focus on aspects that you have control over. By taking small steps towards a resolution you will reduce your stress, feel more hopeful and will benefit from an increase in energy to address the problem more fully.
In the job scenario you can start looking for another job or explore how you may move within your organization to another position that better meets your interests and strengths. In both situations outside assistance or counseling from a friend, mentor or professional can help you find perspective and suggest a process that will help to move the job and the relationship situations in a positive direction.
Three Steps that are helpful in Addressing Chronic Stress:
* Take time to reflect on the situation. What is it that you want? Be as clear as possible.
* Ask yourself, “What am I contributing to the situation?” and commit to changing your behavior first.
* Most Chronic stressors require a process of taking small steps. Identify pro-active, positive steps that you can take. Be patient, but be active in the process of moving in the direction of a resolution.
If you chose not to address your personal and organizational chronic and acute stress you are risking your health, performance and satisfaction with work and life. Most of all, you are eroding your resiliency at a time when everyone needs his or her resiliency to be at its peak. However, the dangers of untreated stress are far more significant than one might realize.
Stress s a symptom and a transmission factor to a communicable disease that is preventing individuals and organizations from achieving their highest potential; we call it Chronic Human Wasting Disease™. CHMW is an infectious disease that strikes at the heart of individual, team and organizational performance. It subverts and steals the essence of human and organizational effectiveness and success – intrinsic motivation and potential. If CHWD is not treated, it will eventually destroy what you need and value most, your human resources and their potential.
The Renewal Group is your source for preventing and treating the causes and consequences of stress, which is one important step in preventing Chronic Human Wasting Disease™. If you believe that people are your most important asset, and if you are committed to achieving a healthy and effective organization where people thrive and their potential and performance flourishes contact us for a consultation.
“The brain is lazy. It changes only when it has to. And the conditions that consistently force the brain to rewire itself are when it confronts something novel.” This unflattering statement about our brains comes from the book, Iconoclast, by Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist. Recently my lazy brain got energized when I was listening to a radio series titled, No Place Like Home, on Bob Edward’s Weekend. What got its (my) attention was that it isn’t only novelty that opens our brains up to rewiring; it’s also adversity.
This radio series was about the aftermath of Katrina and how the city is rewiring itself to move forward with even greater resiliency. Tim Williamson, co-founder and CEO of The Idea Village was discussing his organization’s mission to help identify and support local entrepreneurs to build a varied and thriving business climate in New Orleans. Tim was asked, “New Orleans has its ways – is it open to new ideas?” His response was a textbook description and metaphor of how brains work and the process of building resiliency on micro/individual and macro/community levels. His response and I’m paraphrasing, was that indeed, New Orleans was a city of closed networks and it was difficult for anyone or anything new to break-in or through. What Katrina (adversity) did was fracture these networks, providing the opportunity for new ideas and ways to take hold. This process was assisted by thousands of volunteers, celebrities, and outsiders (novelty) coming in with compassion and new ideas and ways of doing things. At a time of need the people and community of New Orleans was more open than at any other time.
We could all benefit from being more resilient than we are, particularly in these stressful times. One obstacle that prevents us from developing and strengthening our resiliency is that our brains:
· Are lazy and like routine
· Avoid discomfort
· And thrives on familiarity and predictability
Our brain’s preferences can be traps to building and strengthening one’s resiliency. Most of what prevents us from being resilient is a set of hardwired brain patterns and habits that have developed over years. Berns says, “That novelty equals learning and learning means physical rewiring of the brain.” The same is true for adversity. When we experience adversity it is an OPPORTUNITY for learning. The question is, “Are you open to learning?” Are you curious enough to push your brain to explore or will you follow your brains preference for being a couch potato? The evidence is conclusive; our brains are capable of rewiring. There are amazing examples of stroke victims not accepting a victim’s role and rewiring their brains, with effort and perseverance, so that physical capacities initially lost were re-learned and rewired to other regions of the brain.
In another profile segment of, No Place Like Home, Paul Baricos of the Hollygrove Market and Farm shares an uplifting story of how one acre of urban land in the heart of New Orleans has become a thriving center of community where folks learn and share urban farming techniques. The center brings people together to learn, gain strength and courage in a community of common values.
In his description of how this came about he says, “The storm created an opportunity – it forced people to do it themselves. We had to go through a self-assessment. What kind of life do we want?” Once again you can see the process of confronting an adverse situation, learning from it and transforming it into an opportunity to be more self-sufficient and resilient.
These same principles, concepts and actions that the people of New Orleans are employing to rebuild a thriving and resilient city are the identical steps you can take personally, professionally, organizationally and in your communities to strengthen your resiliency in these turbulent times.
Key Principles of rewiring your brain to be Resilient:
Purpose: What is my purpose and meaning for being? What do I want out of life and what do I want to leave as my legacy? From an organizational perspective, the key is does our purpose speak to the needs of employees as well as to executive and customer needs?
Self-Assessment: What is preventing me from pursuing my purpose and experiencing the best of others and myself? Organizations must assess what are preventing employees from being engaged and believing that they make a difference.
Commitment to Change: Can I commit to be open and to challenge my own point view? It is important to commit to be a learner and to let go of the “I’m the knower role?”This is essential for leaders and managers also. To motivate people to use their creativity, to be innovative and to engage in their work,a leader needs to listen and to be open to new ideas.
Practice: Altering and changing a habit isn’t easy. To rewire, one has to practice, practice and practice being the person/leader you want to be. Not the old way, the new resilient way! Organizational execution isn’t magic; it’s a function of training, practice and continuous supportive feedback.
Continuous Reflection: Am I focusing on what is most important? Am I moving towards my purpose? What have I learned and what is working and what is not and why?
Be Curious: The world is fascinating place. Don’t let your lazy, couch potato brain keep you from exploring it. Take yourself for a walk outside your comfort zone; even tiny steps can be insightful and energizing. There are two sides to a coin and at least that many to every issue. Make a point to see the other side of the coin.
In my previous article/ blog I presented Salvatore Maddi’s, Hardiness Belief’s of Commitment, Challenge and Control. They clearly show up in the words and actions of the people interviewed for the program, No Place Like Home:
Commitment: “What kind of life do we want?”
Challenge: “The storm created an opportunity.”
Control: “It forced people to do it themselves.”
The 3 Cs are the cornerstones of resiliency. Everyday the world presents us with enormous challenges and opportunities. Change is a constant and the speed and force of change will only intensify. Are you prepared physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to experience it through resilient eyes or will you let your Lazy Brain accept the role of couch potato and victim? “What kind of life do you want?” It’s your choice.