I recently read the book THRIVE by Arianna Huffington where her tag is that she has finally learned how to sleep her way to the top. Very clever Arianna. Clever indeed. It’s focus is on a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.
I had heard about her book a while ago when she was interviewed in a mock store at the Starbucks support center, sipping Oprah Chai with Oprah (cue MASSIVE product placement violation). I thought the talk was interesting, but not inspired enough to read the book.
However, there are moments in time when I become hyper aware of the messages that are being sent my way. Have you ever experienced that? You hear something once and then it shows up again and again and again? I call it putting on my “dog ears” and paying attention.
I was on a flight this spring after an intense engagement with a client. I’d want to relax with a movie. I was exhausted. I was nostalgic for a film I’d seen before, but had forgotten, “Surviving Picasso” with Anthony Hopkins. I am intrigued by his passion and his never-ending desire to remain young and vibrant, to thrive all the way through the end of his life. Then I watched the credits. It was based off the biography of Picasso by ARIANNA HUFFINGTON. Who knew?
And then there were three … I’ve been surrounded by people that simply can’t breath right now. A lot of us 40-something, overwhelmed with life, work and expectations of “success.” Some we created and some imposed. Myself included. To which someone asked me… “have you read THRIVE?”
Okay. I get it. Read the book. And so I did.
It wasn’t new information per se. Eat Right. Sleep More. Get rid of stinkin’ thinkin’. So why don’t we do it? Why don’t we change and slow down?
As humans were not that complicated, motivated by either pleasure or pain. Anything in between can equate inaction.
For Arianna it was pure exhaustion resulting in her collapsing on her desk breaking a cheekbone. She stopped to research what it meant to slow down. In her book, there’s a lot of data to prove the “duh”… why we should slow down:
- Researchers at Carnegie Mellon found that from 1983 to 2009, there was between a 10 and 30 percent increase in stress levels across all demographic categories.
- Studies show that U.S. employers spend 200 to 300 percent more on the indirect costs of health care, in the form of absenteeism, sick days, and lower productivity, than they do on actual health care payments.
- A study published in Science even calculated that for the sleep deprived, an extra hour of sleep can do more for their daily happiness than a $60,000 raise.
- One study found that meditation can actually increase the thickness of the prefrontal cortex region of the brain and slow the thinning that occurs there as we age… what else do you need to know to know that it’s worth it?
For you, what will it be? A broken bone? A relationship lost? Pure overwhelm? Or can you just stop right now and ask yourself… am I breathing or running without breath?
I firmly believe that the teacher presents herself when the student is ready to learn. With all the over stimulus in life right now, I am ready to learn. Are you?
Until you read the book, I’ll offer some tips on how to start creating clarity, focus and breath:
CHOOSE the RIGHT WORK: WHERE are you spending your time?
- Carve out an hour for this Friday afternoon. Start with the end in mind. What did I say success was going to look like at the end of this year? (And if you haven’t, start there).
- Write a comprehensive list of all the things you are working on right now.
- Which work should you continue doing because it is critical for you achieving your Vision? Of that work, what can you delegate?
- Which work should you delay or stop doing all together? Because if you really think about it, it doesn’t support your measurement of success.
- Next Friday? Check in again…
FIND time to BREATH:
Here are some great tips from Austin’s Mindfulness Expert, Paige Davis:
- Mindfulness Minutes (1 minute exercises you can do anywhere)
- App Recommendations
- 5 Mini Meditations You Can Do Anywhere
You can also visit her site Soul Sparks for a ton of inspiration and insight.
Stay light with tips, tools and insights + receive a FREE guided body awareness meditation by signing up for her newsletter.
And finally… HIT the PILLOW:
Sleep your way to the top by clocking in 7-8 hours a night. Arianna joins many other thought leaders in the plea for recognizing sleep as a critical factor in both our well -being and performance. Julia Kirby, an editor at the Harvard Business Review wrote a great blog, “Change the World and Get to Bed by 10:00,” where a chart likens getting drunk to not sleeping enough, both having roughly the same impact on performance.
So where can you start? For me… it’s wine on the weekends, sleep during the week, meditating daily, and challenging where I’m spending my time. Next time, I’ll let you know how it’s working!
A bit off topic from leadership, but not really…
You know “the wave?” Not the one done by face-painted middle-aged men at a Packers game. I’m talking about “the wave” that someone gives you from the car or the street after you’ve made a small gesture. Like…
“Thanks giving me that parking space.”
“Thanks for letting me back out of here.”
“Thanks for telling me my lights weren’t on.”
“Thanks for moving aside.”
So simple. Takes no time. Zero cost.
I do it all the time. I’m a firm believer in the wave. In between all my singing in the car (see this post for further explanation), I’m usually waving “thanks” for someone’s gesture. And I love receiving it.
So why doesn’t everyone do it?
And, why, when someone doesn’t, do I literally feel a small rage inside of me? Almost like the lack of “the wave” is akin to flipping me the bird.
Are we really that tired or busy to wave a little?
Maybe it’s because I really like the small human connection that happens with the wave. For that small moment, there was an exchange of kindness with someone just for the pure purpose of exchanging kindness. I don’t like being robbed of that.
Again, simple, no time, free.
We each have a choice with every exchange we have with another human to say thanks even in the smallest ways. Are you living your everyday moments with others with a smile and a wave? It could be the one small gesture in a tough day that gives someone levity and peace.
And that someone could be a peer, a boss, a direct report. Maybe it’s your spouse who covered you all week for evening events (thanks Steve) or your kids who finally brushed their teeth without asking.
Small thanks and waves add up. So start the adding! What is your favorite way to give a small thanks? Any other things you do besides the wave?
I had an amazing opportunity to go to California this week to work with a group of entrepreneurs. Only, this time, the coaching was for me, the entrepreneur.
It’s the ole case of “the cobbler has no shoes.” Well, I’m taking the time and working on my business. It’s exciting, exhilarating, overwhelming and did I say, exciting?! It is amazing to be building my business while I work as an executive coach with others on how to manage their leadership through growth. It’s provided me some incredible insight and learning.
On the plane ride out there, I was gazing out the window as we were heading toward our descent. I’ve always loved observing the clouds. It’s otherworldly. Peaceful. But, there it was. In the midst of all these pretty, airy, white clouds, there was a streak of a very dark cloud. The darkest cloud I’ve ever seen (my picture doesn’t do it justice). It was the only one.
What makes a cloud so incredibly dark, almost black? Yes, we know that it means that it might produce rain, but why is it dark? It has everything to do with how deep and densely packed the water particles are. In general, the color of a cloud depends chiefly on the cloud’s relationship to the sunlight.
Wow… that’s deep. The color of a cloud depends chiefly on the cloud’s relationship to the sunlight. Does that apply to humans as well?
As I walked into the room the next day, I found myself in a room of white clouds. “Hi! How are you?!” “How have you been?” “How is business?” and there it was, plopped down in the middle of the room. Heavy, weighted, energy draining and about to release some precipitation from the eyes. It was the dark cloud.
This woman was a mess and I wondered, what would happen if she released this negative energy. Would she become a white cloud? What could get her there?
As humans, when we see the dark cloud, our human nature provokes us to reject, walk away, maybe even judge, “What’s her deal?”
What I observed over the two days is what I would challenge all of us white cloud leaders to do. Resist the urge to walk away. Step up as a leader, reach out, listen, empathize. Build a relationship to sunlight. Allow the space for the release.
Next time you see the dark cloud, what choice will you make? Tell me what you do when you encounter a dark cloud in the comments section below, and be sure to link me to your webpage/blog/facebook/twitter/etc!
Welcome back to the real world after the holidays. Still working on your goals?
Recently I talked about the power of consistency and it’s impact on reaching your goals.
There is also power in writing a goal that is “SMART”… Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely. That is critical to achievement.
The other reason I mentioned for keeping up goals or resolutions is a compelling reason to change. As humans, it’s pretty simple. We are motivated by pain or pleasure and we need to think about what the gain will be if we accomplish our goal.
Have you also invested the time to write down the costs if you don’t achieve the goal and benefits when you do? What’s it worth to you? It’s this type of visualization that is often missed. If you can’t truly think through the value of achieving the goal and really see it, will you actually achieve it? You don’t have to be Einstein to know that “What you can conceive and believe, you can achieve.”
Psychologists speak frequently about the power of visualization when it comes to exercise, weight loss, etc. In fact, one interesting study discussed in Psychology Today on everyday people by Guang Yue, an exercise psychologist from Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, compared “people who went to the gym with people who carried out virtual workouts in their heads”. Dr. Yue reported that there was a 30% muscle increase in the group who went to the gym. Interestingly, the group who didn’t and only conducted mental exercises of the weight training increased muscle strength by almost half as much (13.5%)!
A SMART goal might look something like this… I will improve my engagement and relationships by scheduling lunch twice a month off-site with a direct report and focusing on purely on connecting and how we can support one another.
Next step… why? Why not? Visualize it. Imagine what things will look like when you achieve your goal. Engage all of the senses. What are you seeing? Hearing? Feeling? For the goal above, your visualization might sound something like…
By spending more time together, my direct reports will get to know me as a person, not just “the boss.” The air of tension and straightening of backs when I enter the room will go away and instead, people will be relaxed and in the rhythm of their work. I will start to understand what motivates each person, what is important to them inside and outside of work. With a stronger relationship, there will be more effort towards making each other successful and achieving the goals. I will see higher engagement and the company will profit from this. And ultimately, I won’t be as stressed and feel confident that we’re all on this team together.
Review your goals daily, if not weekly as that helps with consistency. PLUS review your compelling reason… read your visualization along with your goal. How has visualization helped you? Let us know.
Really. Just 7 minutes? Who couldn’t find that time, right?
I am constantly on the go as many entrepreneurs/wives/mommies/aunts/
sisters/daughters are. Whether I’m supporting my business or others, I find 7
minutes hard to find.
As a coach, I ask myself what I would ask a client, “Is that really true? Can
you really not find 7 minutes in a day to relax and do nothing?” And as a client
responding, I would have to say no. It isn’t true, but it’s certainly become a
bad habit… being constantly on the go until my head hits the pillow.
This was pronounced today when I was granted 7 minutes. Not because I chose
to take 7 minutes, but because that is what the box of my frozen Pad Thai said
it would take to cook it thoroughly. Three minutes stir. Three minutes take
out. Wait one minute. You would have thought I was asked to stand there an
hour if you had seen how impatient I was.
In fact, I found myself having this internal dialogue:
Linda, what’s wrong with you.? Just relax. It’s just 7 minutes.
Yeah, but maybe they just put 7 minutes, but it can really cook in less time.
Maybe I could cook it in 5.
Consider it a challenge to wait the whole 7 minutes. Wait. Relax. Breath. Enjoy
Well, what do I do with this 7 minutes? I could check my email.
Maybe I’ll call home and check in.
How about dinner? I haven’t planned anything yet.
I can’t wait for time off with my family. Wait, I haven’t planned anything.
Will we kill each other?
I’m really cold right now, I wonder if I should step outside for some sun. No,
I’ll stay inside. In or out, I can’t decide.
Is my lunch ready yet?
Really?! Seriously?! 5 ½ more minutes?!
STOP. ENJOY THE GIFT OF TIME TO DO NOTHING.
You may find my internal dialogue mildly insane or maybe even relatable. I
found that during the summer, I made a very conscious effort to get up early
and mediate or, at a minimum, take brain breaks during the day. Just like any
diet, it takes practice and conscious discipline. Since a very busy fall kicked
into gear, I lost my gift of time. And my brain suffered.
So, what’s the impact? Well, I’m a bit moody. Tired. Foggy. Did I say, tired? My
brain is giving me all the signs that I’m not getting enough oxygen.
Per Visual MD… “Your brain is your body’s single largest consumer of oxygen.
Although it represents only about 2% of your body’s weight, it utilizes about
20% of your body’s blood. If they don’t get the oxygen they require, brain cells
start to die in minutes. That’s what happens during a stroke.”
Okay, got it. My mother almost had a stroke. My grandmother and my two
aunts did; all to devastating outcomes.
So, I’m about to go spend time with my family, away from work, away from
email. I already got my early Christmas present from my husband (thanks for
the boots babe!) And now, I’m giving myself a gift. Everyday, I am scheduling
at least one section of Pad Thai Time to STOP. RELAX. BREATHE. As soon as I
finish this post, it’s going on my schedule. But first, I may indulge in another 7
How do you maintain time to breath? What is your best advice?
Do you know the difference a few words can make in your environment? Whether it’s in the workplace, at home, or with your friends, positive, active communication can have a huge impact in the happiness of the people around you. And it’s FREE!
With my strengths being “Adaptability”, “Positivity”, “Learner”, “Empathy”, and “Connectedness” I am naturally inclined to communicate positively. I am instinctually more positive and am motivated to make others feel positive as well.
However, this skill or inclination doesn’t come easily to everyone. Perhaps one of your strengths is “Deliberative,” and while you are great at making sure every detail is covered, and have naturally good judgment, you are also careful to not give too much praise. Or maybe you have strength in “Focus” and where that can be great for keeping everyone on task, it might inhibit you from automatically taking the time to slow down and acknowledge accomplishments along the way.
And for many of us, our conversations focus around getting right to solutions as quickly as possible. While your analytical or deliberate thinking is a great strength and a needed part of any organization, it can hinder positive communication.
Today I offer you a simple way that you can help your culture be one of “can-do” people who want to work with and for you. I warn you, that while I say this is “simple,” I do not mean easy. For many of you, doing this on a regular basis will take practice, but the ROI for your company culture is there. I promise.
Firstly, you need to be an active participant in any communication you’re having, positive or negative. Most of us are familiar with passive positive communication (whether we are aware of it or not). It consists of the sweeping general positive interactions we have, such as your husband or wife commenting, “That’s nice,” and moving on to another subject after you tell them about your great day of work. It’s the “atta boys and girls”… why bother?
Passive negative communication is a little less obvious, and has a surprisingly large impact on morale. It means essentially ignoring what the other person is communicating to you, and it’s easy to do when you’re busy, focused, or tired. We’ve all had the times when someone told us something, and instead of reacting at all, we gave an “uh-huh” and kept doing what we’re already involved in. This can easily make someone feel like they aren’t important and can lead to them losing interest in communicating with you at all.
Here are four quick tips to consider:
- Don’t say no, say when. If someone is interrupting work that can’t be interrupted, stop to nicely say, “I’m sorry I am right in the middle of something and I really want to listen to what you’re saying. Would you mind giving me five minutes to finish this, so I can give you my full attention?” Of course, you need to be sure to follow through or you’re still being passively negative.
- Ask yourself if you need to point out something negative before you do. As leaders, we are working with other people toward a goal, and sometimes it can be easy to gloss over when one hurdle is jumped, by pointing out all the hurdles left in the race. Chances are that your coworker hasn’t lost sight of the finish line, they are just excited about what they have accomplished, and outwardly appreciating that will help them have the energy and motivation to jump the next hurdle, not make them forget it’s there.
- Be specific. The impact of a general “good job” is very minimal; especially if that is largely what people hear from you. To make this statement active, take the extra time to be specific. For example, when you compliment me on this blog post, think about what part of stuck out to you as especially good, and compliment that, such as, “Good job giving an example of how to be actively positive, I know that will be really helpful when I talk about my team’s progress on Monday.” Adding in this specific lets me know that you took the time to read my blog, and you appreciate what impact it has had, and it will make me excited and energized when I go to write for next week. (Thanks in advance!)
- Practice. Consider practicing with kids. Want some honest feedback and reaction to your words? Practice with your kids or borrow the neighbors’. When Billy says, “Hey I got an A on my Book Report!” Instead of “Great work.” How about, “That’s great! What did you like most about your report? What do you think made it so successful.”? You might even have a full conversation with an otherwise resistance teenager.
What are some examples of positive, active, communication from your life? The more examples we share, they easier it will be for us all to find a way to fit positive communication into our daily interactions, so please share an example in the comments section.