When The Going Gets Tough

“I’m stuck.”

“I feel I’m running on a hamster wheel with no scope to get off. “

“I’ve no time to think or look at anything else because I’m always swamped with so many things I’ve to do.”

How often have you felt this way or heard your friends, partners, colleagues say this at various points in your day or their day?

Several of my coaching relationships start at this point.

We all go through this at several points in our life or at specific points in our day.

Is it a regular phenomena or something you feel at specific points in your day or specific periods of time at a stretch?

If you look around you, you’ll realize many people are stressed out or at a breaking point.

What are these stressors ?

Is it with work?

Is it with some transitions that you are going through at work or in life?

Is it with overall life in general in terms of your dreams and priorities?

What is the cause of these stressors? 

Is it fear of being dispensable and losing your job or not being able to advance in your area of talent? Or being forced on account of lack of choices ?

What about your day-to-day stressors? Is it because you are not taking the required break ? Are you facing the fear of missing out, if you are not seemingly present in what you are doing ?

What is the impact of these stressors?

- are you being thoughtful in your responses on email and other forms of communication?

- do you tend to not pay attention to the tasks that you are doing and to the people around you ?

- how often do you play the blame game in these moments ?

- do you feel threatened and sense of fear or a fight or flight mode?

Why does this happen – our brain is complex and research from various neuroscientists are discovering more and more that the parts of the brain work together as a symphony, so as we separate one part out, we have to remember that it doesn’t work in isolation. The prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is the executive center controls our ability to understand, think, decide, analyze, memorize, inhibit and recall.   So the PFC is vital to our daily survival, and yet there are many factors (environmental, hormonal, and genetic ) that can impact how well it works. The activity of the PFC Is also extremely energy-consuming.

If anything internal or external is impacting the functioning of the PFC, the activities relating to the 5 things above become harder and harder. Decisions will be harder to make, you won’t understand things as easily and inhibiting behaviors, or emotions will be harder.

Most of us are used to reading a proposal, at the same trying to understand it, possibly recall something from previous information. The more we add to this mix, the tougher it gets for the PFC to manage.

And one of the biggest drains to the PFC is inhibition, humans have the ability to socially control behaviors and emotions. And we need this to be able to function. These inhibitions could be in the form of not deciding to drink another cup of coffee or  go to dinner with a friend since you have to complete the task at hand.

Social Control is draining to the brain, and that thrown in with the other activities of the PFC fuels the drain. The more drained we become, the less effective we are at being able to understand, think, decide,  question, memorize or recall.

The more the stress/threat to the PFC, the greater the chances of our amygdala (flight or fight response part of our brain ) to take over, thus increasing our emotional response, and reducing our ability to use the PFC in general.

Do we need to take breaks ?

Research participants were nearly twice as likely to give the correct response to a complex decision-making problem if they were distracted by a simple three-minute number-matching task before being asked for their answers, says a team led by Marlène Abadie of the University of Toulouse in France. A more-demanding distraction had no such effect. Extracted from HBR

How do we get away from these breaking points or stressors

1. Self awareness – do you know your limits? How comfortable are you in saying No? Self awareness is your knowledge, moment by moment of what is going on within you, what is your emotional state, and the choice you make at that moment on how to behave.

2. Self Regulation – are you setting your priorities ? Do you schedule your day and prioritize ? Do you tend to react to every phenomenon that comes by your way during the day? Self regulation is having a degree of present moment self-awareness.

3. Self generation – how often do you reflect and renew? Do you question your beliefs and assumptions and ready to challenge them and move on? Self-generation is about creating alignment between moment to moment behavior and action with the desired outcome.

Do you take downtime, no matter how busy a schedule you may have?

Leadership success goes beyond your talents, skills, knowledge and experience. All the talent and skills are of no use if the moment by moment choice in terms of your behavior and action is not mindful.

When the heat is on and the going gets tough, are you on a reactive behavior as a leader or are you one who takes a calm, focused and balanced view? Do you encourage your team and help them refocus, thus building the trust.

The mental fences or shackles is what we set for ourselves. Learn to connect with your inner self and focus on your vision but allow yourself to take breaks.

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How To Practice Positive Leadership

Pauline is sitting at her desk immersed in her own thoughts and going down the memory lane of her past 30 years.

Pauline still remembers the big day when she was 8 years old. She is waiting for her big day, the final competition for being declared “The Best Child Dancer under 10″ in the biggest competitions held by a TV channel in her country.  She is passionate about dancing and spends hours on her practice. The Finale arrives and she gives a mind-blowing performance. She wins the competition. She gets accolades, awards, appreciation of her performance.  She is exhilarated.

A smile returns to her face when she thinks about this moment.

She has won many awards thereafter not only in her country but also internationally. Dance is her passion but Pauline has always kept it as a hobby rather than make a career out of that. She is multi skilled and has never had any issues in trying out diverse things and out shining in each of those.  She is currently a Senior Executive with a top multinational  - she has spent over 10 years with this Company and has grown in her role.  She is one of the top performers and has contributed to the phenomenal growth of the Company. The Company will face a significant loss if she decides to leave the Company.

Pauline, however is not happy and she rarely shares or shows what is going on beneath the surface.  She continues to give her commitment to her role as a leader, manager and as a senior board member of the organization.  She manages to shut her emotions of not being content whilst she is at work.

A shrill telephone ring shakes Pauline out of her reverie….

Can you picture yourself in Pauline’s shoes ? You bring yourself to work and shut off some of your emotions and over time these get pent-up. No one at work asks you nor does your manager have the time for you, to connect or to find out how you are doing?  You feel like a cog in the wheel and over time it probably affects your productivity and your passion with which you do your work.

Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge – Plato

Strong emotions & feelings if not recognized tend to be a biggest drain and over time creates a vicious circle of Negative Emotions.

Not recognizing or appreciating the contribution of an individual in an organization affects the performance of not only that person but also the service to clients and possibly the competitive space of the organization.  Many times it isn’t only the financial rewards that count but it is necessary to improve the lines of communication, encourage positive energy which means work on building the strengths of an individual.

An organization is about people and each individual is unique. In meeting and surpassing revenue and growth targets, meeting deadlines, many a manager in an organization forget to truly connect with an individual, their interests and most of all create an environment to make them feel safe and wanted.

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10 Hurdles To Emotional Learning

When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity ~ Dale Carnegie

When I say Emotions, you almost immediately associate ‘Anger’ and ‘Sad’ as the synonyms.  Emotion is the mental state and this could be positive or negative.

There are seven major positive emotions : desire, faith, sex, enthusiasm, hope, love, romance.  And the seven major negative emotions are : anger, fear, jealousy, hatred, revenge, greed, superstition.

Our brains harbor a lot of emotions and it is the negative emotions that is worrying.  The amygdala  is most commonly associated with fear and anxiety.  Each of us have a chronic or habitual emotional level that determines the overall well-being or satisfaction.  If a threat is perceived,  the amygdala tends to hijack the reasoned response process.  We have certain triggers-things that cause us to have an emotional reaction and elicit our innate ‘fight of flight’ response.  This limits our capacity to think clearly and causes us to move to default behaviors that may not be skillful or effective.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the cognitive ability involving traits and social skills that facilitate interpersonal behavior.  The four main components of EI are : Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Management.

Our emotional level, thus is the manifested frequency level of everything and anything that is real (perceivable) to us in our world and actual life’s experiences.

Have you wondered as to Why are these negative emotions triggered?

1. Change  results in discomfort and stress – a lot of us expect life to be easy and when challenges and hurdles come along, it overwhelms us and may cause negative reactions.

2. Human Being rather than Human Doing - we forget many times that what really matters in each of our lives is what we are, what we build and what we share.  Living life with a passion and being your true self is the most important.

3. Relationships – many times we tend to chase people though they may have shown no interest in building and maintaining relationships. In our busy lives we ever so often forget to make time for those who matter the most.  We allow our pride and ego to be the mainstay of relationships and taking those, who have been with us through thick and thin,  for granted.  This leads to disappointments and triggers a lot of negative emotions.

4. Allowing our mind to control us – life is not perfect and sometimes we allow a bad moment, or a bad day to take control of our state of mind and the reactions to other unrelated events of the day.

5. Help – not asking for help when you need it desperately.  Each of us need help and cannot survive in isolation.

6. Know when to walk away and when not to give up - many times we hold onto things without asking ourselves the utility value in the same.

7. Surrounding ourselves with people who make us unhappy and drain our energy out – ignore those who hassle you, stalk you, embarrass you and step beyond the boundaries of decent behavior on social media and in real life.

8. Not being accountable & responsible - not walking the talk which leads to distrust and guilt. We loose our identity by not learning to say,  ‘No’ resulting in over committing and under delivery.

9. Not taking a break- many of us get into the rigmarole of  doing too much without pausing. In that we live without enjoying the simple pleasures that life has to offer. We are stressed out, irritable and a vicious circle ensues.

10. Focusing on past – allowing our past to continue to dominate us to such an extent that we become victims of it.  We focus on the negatives, loosing ourselves in the problem.  More often than not,  we repeatedly point to our unhappy circumstances to rationalize our negative feelings. This is the easy way out. It takes, after all, very little effort to feel victimized.   But the negative thinking and behavior hurts only one person the most and that is “You”.

So how do we deal with our Emotions especially those that trigger a negative response.

Adaptability is all about recovering from the anxiety  & adversity that change initially brings & then having the flexibility to move ahead vigorously.

I find that one way to practice this idea is to write or think about a good experience. Not only does this remind me that there’s life beyond bad feelings, but it also serves as an emotional anchor.   I find my memory can become a positive emotional reference point, to remind me of the range of possibilities when I am at my worst feeling down and out.

Refer my post on Twelve Ways to Inspire Yourself When You Are Feeling Down and Out

The role emotions play in shaping thinking accounts for a large part of why we see a failure of good thinking in most leaders.  You are free to choose behaviors that are truly in your own best interests.

We all have so much to give. We just need to consciously choose to access and share it.  When we give good vibes, good thoughts,  and a smile, we generally get it back.  Recognizing emotions is the basis of self-knowledge and interaction. An emotion comes up to the conscious level when we are ready to manage it.  I like to think emotions as colors, some simple, and yet others are blends.

Emotional memory management enables us to manage our emotions in a way that will produce more positive outcomes.  It is the “habits of mind” that reveal intellectual character.  Please watch my video on “Emotional Blindspots‘.

The 3 core development steps for all Leaders are:  Knowing Yourself, Choosing Yourself and Giving Yourself.  What do you think ?

Twelve Ways to Inspire Yourself When You Are Feeling Down & Out

“None but ourselves can free our minds.” ― Bob Marley

In our life today we face an enduring issue of one too many negative things and few positives. Right from newspapers, TV and other forms of media be it political, economic, or social there is a lot of negative incidents, news, events, mishaps. On top of this if you are having an out of sorts day, it is difficult to keep the positive momentum because we could be so imprisoned by our state of mind, that we forget to step back and look at things with a fresh perspective.

There is a confusion of values among the youth which is aggravated by the wrong portrayal of fame and success that mass media and social media often tend to reflect. There seems to be an  increasing number of people who are beginning to feel negative in their outlook.

I met a woman entrepreneur the other day who seemed dejected and felt that she was being attacked by stress and negative emotions.  When she told me her story, the positive takeaways for me were that she had determination, passion and love for what she did and had managed to grow her revenues by 20% and most important she had touched the hearts of many a tourist and child through her works of art.

This woman runs her own business of arts and crafts and supplies to museums, souvenir shops, gift shops and several private establishments. Today she is at a stage where she wants to expand and grow and is making efforts to achieve that. But she is overwhelmed by her negative thoughts, apprehensions and feels her life is out of control.

She is however not alone.   In reality, she may just be a cynic and not a negative personality. But the forlornness of the big cities, where youngsters follow their dreams and passion becomes the breeding ground for negativism and depression to flourish.

Statements like I’m no good at writing, or I am a born loser or I can never get any job done on time are self-fulfilling and ultimately strangle the personality they feed on.

We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.  The amygdala is most commonly associated with our emotions of fear and anxiety.  Negative thoughts trigger  electro-chemicals in our brains which in turn triggers our decisions and behavior. The more we keep getting such negative thoughts, the more our brain keeps getting hardwired to being receptive to such thoughts.

It is important to recognize these negative emotions but not allow them to control us. Here are 12 simple ways to break away from the Negative Emotional attractor

1. Reframe the Negative statements that you keep telling yourself. For e.g. Instead of saying I’m no good at writing, may be change your thought or statement to “I need to hone my writing skills and I’m working on it.”  I find positive self talk to be a great motivator.

2. Express gratitude. Make a conscious effort to do a kind deed.

3. Encourage someone. Make them realize that they matter and what they do matters.

4. Exercise – I find that exercise triggers the endorphins and releases the stress and flushes out the negative thoughts.

5. Focus on things within your control and things you are good at.  Feel good at doing those things first and then move on to new challenges.

6. Learn something new for which you have a passion for.

7. Talk to your dog, if you own a dog.. I find  dogs and puppies to be great stress busters. I feel a sense of joy, the moment I look at a cute dog picture or video.

8. Talking to a close friend or a family member or a Samaritan helps.  It’s imperative to have circle of positive friends who will inspire you.  “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you what you are … As goes the American saying.

9. Keep milestones and measure your progress against them. Checking off against an achieved milestone can be one of the most rewarding acts to keep moving forward.

10. Read a book or some inspiring quotes. These days there are several Self Motivation posts on various blogs which definitely would be a Positive Emotional Attractor.

11. Chin up - good posture and a smile always helps.

12. Listen to music. Music is to the Soul what words are to the mind.  ” I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” Billy Joel

Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live! Bob Marley