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!

How can you lengthen holidays benefits?

How can you lengthen holidays benefits?

How can you lengthen holidays benefits?

While vacations are useful to rest and relax, they provide also great opportunities to create positive emotions. You can enjoy wonderful, warm feelings from recalling good memories. Research has shown that being able to call back concrete, detailed good memories can boost positive mood.
 
So here is a resilience practice we invite you to cultivate this week:
I lengthen holidays benefits by recalling a positive memory from my vacations.
Finding your Ikigai: how to drive organisational purpose and engagement

Finding your Ikigai: how to drive organisational purpose and engagement

Written by Stuart Taylor.
Originally published in Inside HR on July 9, 2019

Ikigai is a Japanese concept akin to one’s purpose and reason for being, and Stuart Taylor says that uncovering this on an individual level and driving it on an organisational level is critical to success.

Searching for a clear and driving purpose in our lives, or one’s Ikigai, is something humans have been in pursuit of for generations. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that purpose plays a key role in the health of employees and the overall success of an organisation.

And as we become a more secular society, people are searching for purpose and meaning through their work life, and we’re seeing a progressive shift where employees care less about monetary fulfilments and more about how their work seeks to fulfil a greater purpose. In fact, a recent study by LinkedIn found that 74 per cent of job candidates want a job where they feel like their work matters.

A workplace culture thrives when an organisation and its employees identify and nurture their collective purpose.

Purpose in the workplace
While it’s been found that knowing your purpose leads to numerous personal benefits including improved health and longevity, sleep, mental health, cognitive function and resilience, it’s often forgotten amidst increasing demands, deadlines and in striving for the bottom-line is that in the context of the workplace, purpose is powerful.

In the workplace, a collective purpose refers to the shared goals and values of the organisation and its people. It is the understanding of the ‘why’ of the business – why it exists and why it is important. In the absence of purpose, organisations almost inevitably become focussed on metrics, and miss our human need for purpose and our desire to engage in meaningful work. A shared purpose operates as a propelling force behind staff, encouraging them forward with a clear sense of direction and a mutually acknowledged destination.

Without organisational purpose, your employees are simply putting in time. Their minds might be engaged, but their hearts will not be. However, when a business establishes a collective purpose it loses the need for a hard-line approach on productivity and innovation. Workers who buy into the company’s purpose are motivated from within, meaning the age-old method of top-down pressure for performance and results becomes largely unnecessary.

“Without organisational purpose, your employees are simply putting in time. Their minds might be engaged, but their hearts will not be”

In an individual sense, leaders who understand their personal purpose are more likely to be focused, efficient, and productive, and less likely to experience distress and worry. They are also more likely to be confident in their capabilities and more resilient in the face of complex tasks and problems. In the long term, people with purpose experience increased vitality, optimism and job satisfaction. In the majority of cases, they also retire later in life than those without purpose.

Finding your purpose
Finding your purpose begins with the task of identifying one’s values. Start with highlighting what is most important to you, both in the context of home and the workplace. The simple task of identifying values effectively prioritises life’s commitments and requirements, resulting in a grounding sense of perspective from which purpose emerges.

You can do this by landing on your Ikigai, a Japanese concept that can be understood as your reason for being. Ikigai calls you to draw on your passions, talents and skills to identify your role and meaning within society.

Finding your Ikigai leads to a clearer sense of purpose and increased positivity, which is reflected in your attitudes, behaviour and overall wellbeing. Ultimately, these benefits also have an impact on one’s work life, with people who have identified their Ikigai reporting higher levels of productivity, efficiency and better decision-making skills.

To find your Ikigai, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you love?
  • What are you good at?
  • What does the world need?
  • What can you be paid for?

“When a business establishes a collective purpose it loses the need for a hard-line approach on productivity and innovation”

How to drive organisational purpose
As relates to business, most organisations have a mission or vision statement that communicates what the business is and what it stands for. The problem is that most organisations treat this as a tickbox exercise, rather than a valuable tool that can be used to drive comradery and communicate purpose.

To drive organisational purpose, try integrating the following steps:

  1. Lead from the top. Creating a purposeful workplace requires commitment and action from all levels of an organisation. In order to enable staff to find their purpose, leaders must first strive to find and articulate theirs.
  2. Communicate purpose often. Communicating organisational purpose, encourages employees to come on board. This includes the genuine desire to improve the working lives of employees.
  3. Anchor your decision making to purpose. In every decision you make, ask yourself, “is this decision in line with organisational purpose?”
  4. Get employee buy-in. Ask employees what is important to them and try to integrate their feedback into the overall organisational purpose.

It is easy to disregard the concept of purpose as superfluous, particularly in the context of the workplace, however, it is purpose that separates an average business from one that is successful, healthy and fast-growing. An understanding and appreciation of one’s purpose are what drives workers to go above-and-beyond, sustaining them in their wellbeing, and in turn, sustaining the organisation well into the future.

Image source: Depositphotos

Inside HR

Making Sure Your Stress Isn’t Contagious

Making Sure Your Stress Isn’t Contagious

Stress doesn’t feel good to have, nor does it feel good to be around. Eighty percent of Americans say they feel stress during their day. In many organizations, stress feels baked into the work culture, even as everyone wonders what to do about it.

Like a contagion, stress spreads. We literally catch the stress of others. Simply watching someone else tense up can trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol in our own bodies. When I conduct interviews as part of my coaching work, I hear stressed-out colleagues described this way:

  • When he gets stressed, I try to avoid him.
  • Everyone knows when she’s having a bad day. It’s all over her face.
  • When he gets spun up, he gets everyone else spun up. It’s exhausting.
  • I’m seriously worried about her health.

Most of us think about the damage that stress causes us. Yet, few consider the negative impact of their stress on others. And it’s most certainly negatively affecting others, especially if you’re a manager. In fact, a leader’s stress is felt acutely as it impacts the emotion of an entire group.

People avoid stressed-out colleagues for their own psychic protection. If people don’t want to be around you, if they don’t find you energizing or rewarding to work with, you will be far less effective. After all, who wouldn’tprefer to collaborate with people who seem sturdy and resilient?

To stop your stress from impacting others (and wearing you down), consider these steps to better manage it.

Pinpoint your true stressors

When people talk about what stresses them, they tend to describe generalities like “my job” or “unrealistic deadlines” or “the new boss.” We don’t typically dive deeply into the triggers, because we’d rather not wallow there. However, we can’t solve what we don’t truly understand.

Try this: keep a stress journal for one month. At the end of each day, jot down when you felt stressed, including details about the specific situation and what was happening at the time. Reflect on these questions: What conditions caused me to feel stressed today? What about the situation felt important at the time? How was the situation meaningful to me?

One consulting client who tried this strategy learned that her hands-off management approach — which was meant to reduce her workload — was actually worsening her stress because she lost visibility into how projects were progressing. Worried that she’d end up in a fire drill at the last minute if the work wasn’t correct, she spent lots of time running through possible scenarios. She was still feeling the stress even if she wasn’t doing the work.

By uncovering what’s causing you stress, you can develop workable solutions to address the sources and not just the symptoms.

Change your reaction first and the workload second

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson describe in their book It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work how excessive workloads are touted as badges of honor in many organizations, even as employees complain about how overwork is detrimental to their well-being.

In fact, the top goal of many of my stressed clients is to get a handle on their workload by finding strategies that reduce the amount of work, such as better delegation or expectation setting. It’s not that this isn’t helpful, it’s just rarely enough. You can make adjustments, but there will always be more work.

You’ve probably seen how the very same job, with the very same workload, will stress one person while not bothering another. A salesperson I worked with marveled at how her colleague, Raj, never took rejection from clients personally. Rather, he’d say it was “part of the game.” She ended up adopting Raj’s mantra when she found herself agonizing over what more she could have done. Her work didn’t change, but her attitude toward it did.

Create pockets of sanity

Every job has busy periods when the best strategy is to hunker down and look for the light at the end of the tunnel. But this becomes soul-crushing when your work never lets up.

If your job doesn’t have natural breaks, create recovery periods for yourself. These can be organized around common stressors like business travel or key meetings, or spaced at regular intervals. Be as vigilant (and guilt-free) at scheduling activities that relax you as those that are work-related.

One client who felt drained from excessive business travel restructured his time to build in rewards. He selected hotels with spa services and booked massages during his stay — something he never found time to do at home. When possible, he extended his trip an extra evening to visit friends in the area and committed to not working during the flight home. He also made sure to keep the first day back relatively free from meetings so he could catch up.

You don’t have to make big moves to create space for yourself. Setting aside one half-day a month for reflection time can help to redefine priorities and reduce stress. Even micro-moments of sanity, like taking a walk to lunch, can offer a needed break.

Don’t just say you’re stressed; share how you’re working to manage it

Because stress is so prevalent at work, we talk about it — a lot. While sharing our stress can make us feel better momentarily, we’re actually contributing to a stressful culture because emotion spreads. In short, saying “I’m so stressed” increases stress for other people. Plus, what we focus on gets stronger, so we can even increase our own stress by talking about it.

This doesn’t mean that you should be inauthentic. A more helpful approach is to share that, while work is stressful, you’re trying to manage yourself so it has less of an impact. By sharing strategies you’re employing, you model for others that it’s acceptable to push back against stress instead of accepting it.  As a bonus, if you state what you’re doing out loud, you’re more likely to follow through on your commitments.

When Daphne, a leader of a lobbying group in a tumultuous industry, announced to her team that she was trying to stay off email over the weekend to get a break, she found that others were relieved of the pressure to respond. Her entire team exercised more caution about sending emails on the weekend, clearly marking what was truly urgent, and people started showing up to work more refreshed on Monday.

Plan for stress by planning around it

While most of us have accepted the idea of stress at work, we still feel surprisingly besieged by it. We can even have meta-stress — where we stress about having stress. Perhaps a better solution is to consider it the norm and plan for it. Jobs are stressful, industries are turbulent, and there are rarely enough resources or time. If that’s the case, how can you keep from adding to the churn and swirl? What are ways you can sustain your own energy and that of others?

We’re not as helpless as we might think. By exercising your own sense of agency, you can reduce your own stress and show others how to do the same. You might just shift the culture. Because while stress may be contagious, so is calm.

Harvard Business Review

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