OPTIMISM

OPTIMISM

Research Highlight: Optimism is a super skill

95% of the most successful 10% of people scored “I think and communicate with optimism” with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’ (in a sample of 21,000).

The human mind is Velcro for the negative. Based on a high threat environment, a negative and threatening explanation might have been advantageous. Today, pessimism disables you.

Only 9% of the least resilient people score optimism with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Question: How can I explain this adversity in one enabling sentence?

Condition: Notice but reject the easy negative self-talk

Discipline: Think and express yourself with positive language

Caution: Our times are testing. This will take courage.

What you can do right now?

  1. Ask someone close if you are optimistic or pessimistic. Explore an example
  2. Watch the content of your thoughts. Notice the words you choose to make sense of a situation. For example: “This always happens to me”
  3. Explore different ways to express the situation. For example: “What could I do differently” Notice the shift from blame to responsibility.
  4. Be alert for positive news.  Some suggest that we aim to express at least three positive observations for every complaint.

In the background:

  • Fatigue, isolation and distress will reduce optimism
  • Sleep well, be social, relax and play
  • Nurture your positive emotions – joy, gratitude, appreciation, hope, kindness

Note: With the current social instability, political malaise and climate risk, the value and importance of optimism will increase. It is well proven that optimism can be learned and has wide ranging personal and economic benefits. Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is proven an effective solution to depression. We use the term situational agility to describe the healthy and adaptive use of the optimism in key situations.

Own your joy!

4 tips to leverage EQ as a leader

4 tips to leverage EQ as a leader

Original publication in Forbes, October 17th, 2019

The Western world has largely been shaped by an admiration of logic versus emotion. Yet as humans, it’s impossible to operate with just one or the other. In today’s world, where artificial intelligence and digitization rule, many leaders and organizations are expected to adhere to a new social and environmental way of thinking, a more human way of thinking. Qualities like empathy and sensitivity, which used to be viewed by many as weaknesses, are now often seen as strengths. Emotional intelligence (EQ) has become more than a buzz phrase — it’s now a widely practiced tool embraced by progressive executives to increase their companies’ bottom lines and improve corporate culture.

I see the benefits of EQ every day in my work with executives and teams. Over the course of my career as a therapist, I’ve learned that many of the interpersonal skills we use to strengthen our personal relationships are the same skills needed to fuel success in the workplace.

However, the questions remain: How did we get here, and are we prepared for what’s to come?

The Origins Of EQ

Great philosophers like Aristotle studied the effects of emotions, what triggers them and how to deal with them. Aristotle is believed to have once said, “Anyone can become angry — that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” This statement demonstrates an early understanding of EQ, yet this way of thinking didn’t take off until much later. In fact, it wasn’t until around the 1980s that companies started to take notice of the effects of a positive work culture on employees. During this time, Reuven Bar-On, a clinical psychologist whose assessment tool I’m certified to use, began studying the answers to two questions: What makes people successful, and what makes people happy? The results of those studies started a journey of conceptualizing, researching and applying EQ.

Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer coined the term “emotional intelligence” in 1990, defining it as “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” Salovey and Mayer worked together to clearly define and measure the effects of EQ, which piqued the interest of larger corporations concerned with hiring and retaining top talent.

Clinical psychologist and author Steven Stein, who co-founded a business that publishes computerized psychological assessments, also contributed to the study and spread of EQ. In 1994, he met Bar-On, who asked him to publish his EQ assessment tool. Today, many coaches (myself included) use this tool in their work with clients.

Later, Daniel Goleman popularized the concept of EQ and helped spread the idea throughout mainstream culture.

The Modern And Future Leader

Today, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a leading company that doesn’t have a focus on EQ. Organizations all over the world have turned to EQ to help them hire, promote and develop their employees. They recognize that a positive work environment can help attract top talent, drive employee engagement and affect profitability and performance — and the right leaders understand this too.

Leveraging EQ

The modern and future leader integrates the realms of both logic and emotion. They leverage EQ in a way that goes beyond gauging how employees are feeling and toward successfully navigating complex business situations. They can nurture our strengths rather than pick apart our weaknesses. They create and foster meaningful relationships with a multigenerational and diverse workforce. And while they’re no less focused on strategy and competition, the modern leader operates with adaptiveness, compassion and mindfulness.

Here are some tips for how to leverage EQ as a leader.

• Practice self-awareness. Take stock of how you feel and react to certain stressors throughout the day. Notice how your emotions contribute to your actions. In order to understand the emotions of others, you first have to be in tune with yourself.

• Listen carefully. This is surprisingly difficult for some leaders. It can be tempting to think that listening is merely following rather than leading. However, in order to make and sustain more meaningful connections and tailor communication styles to the right people, learn to become a better listener.

• Be open and embrace conflict. A good leader is willing to problem-solve and dive into disagreements rather than run away from conflict. A leader with a high EQ level is much more likely to problem-solve effectively, rationally and with a certain level of poise and composure.

• Make culture a priority. Purpose-driven leaders understand what engages and excites employees and work to cultivate an environment that fosters their creativity and engagement.

Living In The Present And Learning From The Past

Today, smart leaders are driven by opportunities and the future rather than by the past or their egos. They might learn valuable lessons from past triumphs, but they don’t attempt to preserve the status quo. Instead of worrying about looking good or staying consistent, stay vigilant and on top of future trends, and don’t be afraid to embrace the flow of new ideas.

Written by Roberta Moore

How, doing nothing can help you thrive ? Check these examples !

How, doing nothing can help you thrive ? Check these examples !

Original publication in Thrive Gobal on October 2nd 2019

Many of us are so accustomed to a packed schedule that when we finally find a bit of free time, we don’t always know what to do with it. With the pressure to be “always on” and the prevalence of hustle culture, it’s easy to feel bad when you have even a little time to dedicate to yourself. As a result, you can become too wrapped up in the guilt to actually enjoy it. But downtime is good for everyone, no matter how busy you are — studies have shown that embracing a quiet moment or time off can lead to increased productivity, focus, and energy. 

We asked members of the Thrive community to tell us about a time they overcame the anxiety of “doing nothing” and used that time to their benefit. Check out the different ways they turned it into an opportunity to thrive, and how you can do so, too. 

Add some color to your life

“For me, doing nothing has lead me to a fruitful space where my often over-stimulated brain can thrive. I have taken up coloring, which I always enjoyed as a child. The creativity that it allows, and the simple joy I derive from the activity allows for moments of pure pleasure. I go back to work refreshed after I’ve had my coloring time.” 

—Jennefer Witter, CEO, entrepreneur, and public speaker, New York, NY 

Tune into a greater purpose

“I took a year off after college to recover from the burnout of operating with an ‘always on’ mindset for so long. During this time, I still had many commitments and projects, but focused on developing a more balanced approach to productivity, which included being more intentional about doing nothing. The key for me was realizing that time spent doing nothing can still have a purpose, whether it’s self-care, health, or just having fun. Although these things may not further our endeavors in a literal sense, they have a great impact on our productivity and creativity.”

—Andrew Gobran, people operations generalist, Minneapolis, MN

Read for greater empathy 

“I work from home and it’s easy to feel like you have to be ‘on’ all the time. A few months ago, I decided that I would  use the time I’d normally spend commuting to tune back into my favorite hobby: reading. I used to read all the time, and it always helped me better understand people and lead with more empathy. Now that I’ve committed to this downtime, I have much more energy, and it’s done wonders for my stress levels and overall outlook. I make better human connections, and I’m doing better at my job, too.” 

—Rebecca Taylor, sales, New York, NY 

Plan quiet moments 

“I can’t remember the actual moment I surrendered my control over everything. It was more like a gradual deconstruction. It could have started with the realization of how much I had lost in terms of time. I may not have associated value with space until it seemed gone forever. I’m still an overachiever, a mother of three, and a business owner. But having felt a loss so great, I now plan moments where I am doing nothing. This involves letting everyone around me know I am having a moment — my phone will go on silent and nothing will be scheduled afterward. That’s the key: Surrender to the mess, say no, and create space.” 

—Ali Davies, entrepreneur, New Zealand

Let your mind wander

“I have such an ‘on’ brain. Earlier this year, I found myself completely burned out — I was uninspired and completely devoid of joy in my work.  At my lowest, I reached out to my business community and offered to volunteer one day each week to help me find my mojo, but to also give my brain some off time. I helped my friend who is a ceramicist clean her studio and mix up glazes, and helped another friend make dog food, of all things! Through the process of standing on my feet, using my hands, and freeing up my mind to wander away from creative or strategic mode, I slowly came back to life. I’ve since stuck with the one day of helping or volunteering per week. I still get the same amount of work done in my business on a four day week, and I’m more creative after the day of chatting, marinating, and just “being” in manual labor.”

—Odette Barry, publicist and agency owner, Byron Bay, Australia

Spend time outside

“My husband and I became empty nesters in 2012. Initially, it was hard to deal with, especially since my husband had recently taken a new job and traveled for most of the week. I was truly home alone. At first, we started going out with friends and traveling together when he was home. We were trying to make up for all the quiet and alone time we now had. After a couple of years, we were even more exhausted than we were when we had the kids at home. Finally, we decided we could live wherever we wanted with his job. So we bought a small house and some land in the country. I found gardening, and I love it. I have also gotten back into reading. We have a hammock, and enjoy it under the moon and stars, and in the shade on a sunny day after working in the garden.”

—Becky C., office manager, Huntsville, TX

Embrace white space

“As a business owner, I used to think any time I didn’t spend working on — or thinking about — my business was time wasted. Then I suffered from burnout. I realized that no one is going to give me permission to slow down but me. Now I incorporate more white space — time where nothing is scheduled — and downtime, where I totally relax, into my schedule. I feel more creative, energized, and motivated every time I come back from a period of ‘doing nothing.’” 

—Stacey Hagen, coach and consultant, San Francisco, CA

Listen to what your mind and body tell you 

“I couldn’t wait to start an active daily schedule after I finished cancer treatment, but my body wasn’t ready to run — literally and figuratively. I had to learn to stop, slow down, and listen to what I needed. Though it was incredibly difficult at first — and sometimes still is — the lesson to slow down and do less completely changed my life for the better. I learned how to meditate, how to cook food that nourishes my body and soul, how long walks get me the movement and mindfulness I need, and I even started practicing calligraphy. In turn, my stress is much lower, my relationships with others are deeper, and my days are more meaningful. I can’t recommend learning how to ‘do nothing’ enough.”

—Calisa Hildebrand, communications, San Francisco, CA

By 

FULFILMENT

FULFILMENT

Research Highlight: Fulfilment is a super skill

Of the most successful 10% of people in a sample of 21,000, 91% scored “I am contented, joyous and fulfilled” with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Sadness (disappointment), fear (anxiety) and anger (frustration) are easy emotional traps to fall into. Far too many indulge in these destructive reactions. They will leave you in perpetual freeze, flight and fight states. This is deep suffering and ineffective.

Only 4% of the least resilient people score fulfilment with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Question: What is the constructive emotion for this moment?

Condition: Be intolerant of complaint, frustration and blame

Discipline: Actively seek positive emotional expression

Caution: When necessary, tell your truth with courage and empathy

What you can do right now?

  1. In every moment – even the darkest – there is a positive response. In sadness there is learning and growth. In fear there is courage and calm. In anger there is tolerance and altruism. Be assertive in searching and expressing the positive response.
  2. Complaint spreads discomfort. Reject it. Frustration disables you. Reject it. Blame steals your power. Reject it. Respect, experience and name these negative reactions. They are real. Use the signal to say “NO”. Seek the positive angle.
  3. Learn to strengthen your positive emotions. If sad, seek the lesson learned. Be grateful. If afraid, seek calm presence. Be content. If angry, seek kindness. Be compassionate. If fatigued, seek energy. Be resilient.

Positive emotions are like muscles. If you work on them, they will get stronger. Even the toughest moments can be fulfilling. Enjoy your discomfort. Appreciate the moment. Strengthen your joy.

In the background:

  • Secure your sleep
  • Stay physically fit
  • Relax, breathe or meditate
  • Work on connection with those who matter to you
Would you try this self compassion practice ?

Would you try this self compassion practice ?

Originally published in Forbes on September 3rd 2019

Innovators talk about the importance of being willing to “fail fast and iterate.” Like coaches, they espouse a growth mindset that embraces failure as part of the learning process. I am a big proponent of the growth mindset, but I know that it’s easy to talk in intellectual terms about failure and it is a lot harder to actually fail. Moving on and learning from failures requires resilience—the capacity to recover quickly from or adapt to adversity, trauma or stress. One component of resilience is “grit,” a species of toughness, passion and perseverance in the face of adversity. It’s “the drive that keeps you on a difficult task over a sustained period of time.” Think of Mattie Ross in True Grit, a 14-year old girl who travels long distances on horseback and endures many trials along the way to avenge her father’s death.

It only we could just pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and move on! But the truth is that failure hurts. When you don’t get the job or the promotion or when something you worked on fails, you are likely to feel disappointed, frustrated, sad, embarrassed and maybe scared. And if you are like many driven professionals, you are probably pretty hard on yourself—self-critical, focusing on your flaws and mistakes. You may even have found that this self-critique helps you to push yourself to excel. But maybe you are paying a price inside. Perhaps your inner voice is judgmental and harsh: “How could I have done/said that?” Your confidence and self-esteem get be bruised. Your thoughts spiral around what you should have done differently or you may beat yourself up about your mistakes. When you are in such a state of self-judgment, it is hard to learn or move on. Grit alone may not be enough. 

Self-compassion offers another path to resilience and to finding your growth mindset.

Self-compassion is an antidote to self-judgment, just as curiosity is an antidote to fear. According to psychologist and researcher Kristin Neff, it involves “treating ourselves kindly, like we would a close friend we cared about. Rather than making global evaluations of ourselves as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ self-compassion involves generating kindness toward ourselves as imperfect humans, and learning to be present with the inevitable struggles of life with greater ease. It motivates us to make needed changes in our lives not because we’re worthless or inadequate, but because we care about ourselves and want to lessen our suffering.”

Neff’s early research compared self-compassion to self-esteem as a source of resilience. Self-esteem relates to one’s feeling of self-worth and is often built upon accomplishment or comparison to others. Unfortunately, because self-esteem is based on an external assessment of our worth, it can desert us when we most need it—when we fail. We are left with feelings of inadequacy and self-judgment. Self-compassion is there for us. As director of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, Emma Seppälä notes, “With self-compassion, you value yourself not because you’ve judged yourself positively and others negatively but because you’re intrinsically deserving of care and concern like everyone else. Where self-esteem leaves us powerless and distraught, self-compassion is at the heart of empowerment, learning, and inner strength.” Self-compassion has also been linked to resilience in adolescents and young adults and to reduced effects of trauma among Iraq war veterans.

There are three main elements to self-compassion:

Self-kindness instead of self-judgment. Rather than judging ourselves to be less inadequate and beating ourselves up inside, we treat ourselves with kindness.

Common humanity instead of isolation. When we suffer, it is easy to feel alone, but through self-compassion, we connect to the fact that all people suffer, and all people are imperfect.

Mindfulness instead of over-identification. It is easy to get so caught in the grip of our emotions that we over-identify with them and become overwhelmed by our suffering. Mindfulness invites us to observe our emotions and thoughts with curiosity and non-judgment.

Self-compassion is not self-pity or self-indulgence. It is a mindful practice that acknowledges experience and supports individuals in moving through suffering to healthy change.

Here’s how to practice self-compassion:

Step 1. Observe and acknowledge your experience. You might say something like, “This is a moment of suffering” or “I am having a hard time.” Being able to observe your experience offers you the ability to step back slightly from it, even just momentarily and not be caught up in it.

Step 2. Connect to our common humanity. Remind yourself that you are not alone by saying, “Suffering is part of life” or “This is not abnormal, everybody suffers” or “other people face similar problems.” You are human and imperfect like all the rest of us.

Step 3. Offer yourself kindness. Imagine you are speaking to a beloved friend and adopt a gentle tone with yourself: “May I be kind to myself” or “I wish myself well.” Try placing your hand on your heart, chest or cheek if you find it soothing or grounding. After offering kindness, you might ask, “What can I do for myself now? What would help me move on?”

These three simple steps will help you navigate the suffering that can accompany failure or disappointment. People often say, “I’m my own worst critic.” Instead, try self-compassion practice as a way of being your own friend.

 

Written by Hanna Hart

How you can increase your Emotional Capital as a Leader

How you can increase your Emotional Capital as a Leader

Originally published in Forbes on August 29th 2019

By now, you’ve probably heard of emotional intelligence. But have you ever heard of “emotional capital?”

 

According to researcher Robert K. Cooper, Ph.D., “Emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of energy, information, connection, and influence.”

Emotional capital (EK), however, is the make-up of all the skills and abilities that allow you to understand your own emotions, to recognize them in others, and to function with other people in a perceptive and rewarding manner.

Think of it as the ability to empathize with other people and to effectively communicate with them, leading you to develop and enhance strong, effective relationships. Emotional capital is the foundation on which all motivational and decision making leadership skills are based. Defined by the French Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, it is “the set of resources that inhere to the person, useful for personal, professional and organizational development, and participates [in] social cohesion, with personal, economic and social returns.”

EK is absolutely essential to leadership success. Self-awareness, empathy and assertiveness are prerequisites for building your own EK.

There are several competencies that make up emotional capital. Some of them include:

1. Self-esteem

2. Self-regulation

3. Self-motivation

4. Self-reliance

5. Relational agility

6. Optimism

Think of learning these competencies as a way of making “deposits” into your emotional capital account. These deposits will later be effectively spent in your quest to become the best leader you can be. Emotional capital is built over time and sustained by consistency. It is a booster for human, social and cultural capitals. You can help make emotional capital more useful and beneficial by thinking about ways to generate more of it, as well as ways in which it can be advantageously spent.

Let’s look at these competencies through the lens of emotional intelligence and discuss how you can increase them.

Self-esteem is your emotional evaluation of your self-worth, which is formed by beliefs and values within. You increase your self-esteem by accomplishing your short and long-term goals. These successes, no matter how small, all go toward increasing your confidence in yourself and your ability to operate successfully in the world.

Self-regulation is your ability to calibrate and control undesirable behavior. By being aware that there is an emotion rooted in unwanted behavior, you can address that root cause directly rather than dealing with the more superficial result (undesirable behavior). You are able to replace the undesirable behavior with something more beneficial.

Self-motivation is the emotional energy that pushes you outside your comfort zone, creates changes and motivates enthusiastic action. The best way to increase self-motivation is through inspiring self-talk and achievable goal-setting.

Self-reliance is the confidence to rely on your own abilities. It calls on you to make the best possible decision using all available emotional data. You increase your self-reliance by evaluating the best and the worst-case scenarios with flexibility and impulse-control management.

Relational agility refers to an empathetic “win-win” approach with openly communicated boundaries. The way to increase relational agility is to listen from a place of curiosity, emotional flexibility and mutual respect, rather than from a place of viewing situations as simple, isolated transactions. In other words, you need to delve into the complexities of things rather than just accepting them as presented.

Optimism is a positive emotional outlook that everything will be OK instead of worrying and thinking with a “glass-half-empty” attitude.

Increasing your emotional capital is just like depositing into a savings account. The more you deposit, the more you can take out. Relationships function exactly the same way. If instead of withdrawing emotions, you deposit them, you will get them back but multiplied. Remember, relationships are an essential component of your well-being and happiness.

Svetlana Whitener