This month’s article was inspired by an incident that occurred recently, and a conversation with a client that followed. Here’s what happened.
A couple of weeks ago, I took my teenage daughter for her usual horse-riding lesson. It was a cold morning and I would be sitting outside watching, so I grabbed the first hat and scarf I found in the cupboard as I left the house.
At this, she complained: “Oh Muuuum, for once can you look normal and cool instead of old-fashioned?”
I laughed – frankly, nowadays my very existence is embarrassing to her!
Later, I shared this story with a client who said: “My daughter is the same with me. When we’re out clothes shopping, she insists on telling me what I ought to wear.”
We both like to think we dress in a modern way, but it occurred to us that maybe we’ve become stuck in our minds about what to wear. We used to be curious about what was in fashion, but somewhere along the way, we’ve lost that curiosity. Perhaps fashion isn’t important (unless you’re Karl Lagerfeld…) but a curious mindset is.
In a world where agility is demanded, we have to be reactive and adaptive. Being agile means we don’t have to be perfect, but long-term plans are less concrete. Things can feel chaotic and out of control, and (depending on your personality/preferences), this can feel stressful.
In addition, according to research by Columbia University, busy-ness is a malady of our age, particularly in the US. Being too busy links to social status because it makes other people think you are sought after and in demand. This contrasts with 100 years ago, when social status was linked to leisure time. But maybe this needs to shift again! We are moving out of the knowledge economy where we are rewarded based on what we know – knowledge is not so sacred now it’s all on the internet.
So how can you look after yourself and focus, plan and be productive in this new world?
In 1984, a New York Times survey on social anxiety found that people’s top two fears were walking into a room full of strangers and speaking in public. Death came third. (That means most people would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy.)
Being able to speak in public is an important skill to develop, as it has so much impact on how you are perceived and the influence you have on others. It builds your personal brand, helps you promote your department, and ultimately, benefits your career. It can inspire and shift mindset, and set the path for success by engaging the audience (maybe your organisation) to a new direction or initiative.
Once you’ve reached a certain level in your career, you’ve probably had some training to improve your presentation skills. So you might think you know it all already, But, like anything, best practice evolves over time.
This article explores the latest thinking on presentation skills, and is written in conjunction with one of my associates, Jackie Barrie. A professional member of the Professional Speaking Association UK & Ireland, and co-founder of the South East region, Jackie is an expert in getting your message across, whether on paper, on screen, or face-to-face.
“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”
Practicing compassion is a powerful way to help others, and is more sustainable than being empathic.
Whilst empathy is a wonderful trait, having too much can leave you feeling drained, because you absorb other people’s pain and distress into yourself. Whereas, by showing compassion, you remain sufficiently detached to show both care and a degree of resourcefulness that enables you to help people.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
Compassion is the cognitive understanding of how another person is feeling. It’s better for our own wellbeing and that of others. Buddhism calls it ‘Karuna’, meaning you have concern about another, not by sharing their suffering, but by feeling FOR them not WITH them.
Fear of rejection (whether real or perceived) is dangerous because it can prevent you from taking action.
This article explores ways you can be rejected, how that feels, and what you can do about it.
I have recently completed an eight-week course on mindfulness, and I learnt a lot that I believe will benefit leaders – for yourself personally and professionally.
This article is to share my personal reflections, experiences, and some of the key things I was taught that might be useful to you. Much of the content is based on course materials prepared by the teacher, Claire Garthwaite.
Let’s start by defining mindfulness:
Mindfulness is a quality of awareness that comes from paying attention to ourselves, others and the world around us in a certain way: with focused attention, in the present and without judgement.
Paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.
(The latter definition is by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who developed an 8-week course that’s followed by many mindfulness teachers, including mine.)
What is masterminding?
The concept was created by Napoleon Hill (not the Bonaparte one!). It was first published in his 1925 book Law of Success, with more detail given in his book Think and Grow Rich.
Hill defines masterminding as:
Coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work towards a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony. No two minds ever come together without thereby creating a third, invisible intangible force, which may be likened to a third mind.
In other words, the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
A mastermind group should feel like a safe place to go for support and development. In essence, you’ll receive feedback from your peers who will ask you good questions; give you space to think; help you brainstorm ideas and options; challenge you to commit to the next steps – and then hold you accountable.
Definition of gratitude
Gratitude is defined as:
“The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”.
True gratitude is deep, meaningful and long lasting. It goes far beyond the appreciation you may feel for a new car or handbag that quickly stops being new so you soon stop appreciating it.
Most religions, including Buddhism, advocate being grateful for your lot.
People who are high achievers often focus on what they are aiming for, achieve it, feel good momentarily, then immediately set off towards their next goal. They are never satisfied and always aiming for something that hasn’t yet happened: if you identify with that, I hope you’ll find these ideas particularly helpful.
Having a strong desire to achieve can help you be very successful; but if it’s not balanced it could put you at risk of burnout.
I see clients who are incredibly hard-working. They push themselves to be successful in their career and their life, but some don’t notice (or ignore it) when they feel tired and unwell, and end up functioning less than their best. This article looks at what you can do to recognise the warning signs, and maintain optimal health and performance.
Whatever you are trying to achieve, making progress naturally includes making mistakes. So it’s important to celebrate ‘failure’, and reframe it as ‘learning’ and a healthy part of living a full life.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Thomas A. Edison
This article builds on last month’s article How your mindset can enable or limit you.