Change is a Muscle

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Change is a muscle that we forget how to flex. As a result, it weakens. At some point, we pass an invisible marker and have little tolerance for any kind of change. We lose that child-like sense of curiosity. We stop exploring.

We say that habits are good (and they are), so build a habit of change. As with any other muscle start slowly, then build your capabilities. Begin somewhere. Anywhere. Avoid becoming wedged between your habits — and the inability to envision something new.

Today, I changed my Sirius radio presets. (Which have never been changed). I happily discovered a couple of genres of music. I’ve also added a couple of new outlets to my morning reading routine. (There is nothing like a new writer with a fresh perspective.) To be quite honest, I didn’t know what I was missing.

Even small changes can feel like a burst of energy.

I challenge you to change one element in your routine today. Challenge your team to do the same. Embracing change is a foundational skill that breeds resilience.

See what comes up.

Change is a muscle.

Flex it.

Read more about it here:

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Disrupting a Short-Cut: Understanding (Unintended) Bias

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By: Kristin Backstrom

Bias. Stereotyping.

Ugly words, indeed.

However, the positive aspects of bias play a valid role in our day-to-day lives that is, at best, under appreciated.

Let’s take a moment to explore how the process of bias might have developed — along with a strategy to successfully disrupt negative bias and stereotyping at work.

Through millions of years of adaptive evolution, our brains have evolved to make things a little easier for us to process our world. First of all, there is a ton of information that comes straight at us every single day. (Our filters allow only 2-3% of it in. Yes, that’s right. Most of the stimuli that comes our way, we don’t ever address.)  With just the small bit that does come through, we tend to process it in one of two ways.

One —  through quick, effortless thinking — and two, through deep, thoughtful, slow work that takes much more time.

In most situations (about 95% of the time) we engage in quick thinking methods to lighten our brain’s processing load. One of these methods is the dynamic of generalization. An example of generalization would be how we learn to open doors by pushing on them — so that’s how you approach doors day in and day out. (Then, one day, you’ll be flummoxed by a door that you have to pull to open it.) Because our brains use this “short cut” to keep it’s processing time available for other things.

Other developed values, beliefs, and attributes contribute to the situation. This is of course, is where bias is born. (Read about 20 common forms of bias, including stereotyping, here.) It can simply become too much of a good thing,

While it would make sense to reduce all cognitive short cuts to eliminate bias — think of the difficulties we would have getting anything done — if we never relied on any of our past experiences to make sense of our world.

The challenge is this: It’s difficult to change a generalized belief once it becomes installed in our brain. While change can occur, this requires the deliberate, hard work  that our brains only engage in approximately 5% of the time.

So — one effective method is to kick-start more deliberate thinking, by providing people feedback about things they may say or do, that can open a door to modify generalizations.

Bias can creep in to our workplaces is during the hiring process, for example. Have you seen a CEO on board members who seem to be a reflection of them? Because of how we sort our world, we tend to hire people we like us, because they make us feel comfortable. We trust in them the idea that ‘our intuition’ tells us they are a good fit.

But this is where our “short cuts”, “short out” and negatively affect our decision-making. Without additional information (assessments, interviews, etc.) mistakes are often made. It makes sense to guard the hiring process by slowing down seeking information to make sure that predictive analytics, rather than gut instincts – are driving the hiring.

Again, kicking in that slow, deliberate thinking helps move bias out of the way.

If you personally experience bias or stereotyping at work, this can be extremely frustrating. It’s important to remember to keep emotions in check and offer specific feedback to inform a more deliberate process. Describe the situation where the bias occurred, identify the specific behavior, and explain the impact this has on you and others. For example: “Joe, last week at the staff meeting you told everyone I was really helpful on the project I was tasked with.  While I do appreciate the compliment, when you tell others that I (as a woman) am helpful, you’re casting me in a supportive role rather than a leader role.  This supports the unconscious stereotype that women aren’t leaders.  So, while it was a nice thing to say, I’d appreciate it if you would describe my contributions in terms of the work to be done. Perhaps instead you could say “Karen successfully managed the project time line to complete every objective.”

That substitute language might seem long-winded. However, it’s purpose was to be specific about what happened and also provide an alternative for the future. This signals the need for the slower, more deliberate thinking.

And remember… this is dialogue, not debate.  There doesn’t have to be a clear winner.

The goal is to simply create new levels of awareness — and that’s more than likely to happen over time than right on the spot.

However, that is how we change minds.

Have ever struggled with bias or stereotyping?

Read more about it:

Dr. Kristin Backstrom is a business psychologist who works at the intersection of human behavior and motivation, and business goals.  Dr. Backstrom works with leaders to build their emotional intelligence, competencies and skills, supports them in building effective teams, and guides them in aligning strategy, goals, mission and people to ensure success.  She is passionate about helping women achieve their career goals, and offers mentorship for professional women to help them overcome obstacles in their path and reach objectives.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect fragrance. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

Want to Simplify Your Life? Examine the “Myth of More”

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“Two things define you. Your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything.” – George Bernard Shaw

By: Alison Ellison

What does the “Myth of More” look like to you?

If you have you ever thought “more is better” or “two would be better than one?” — you’ve crossed into its territory.

There is an undercurrent to our lives that more is necessary (and needed). However, when it becomes part of our everyday vocabulary, it can quickly complicate our lives; creating an overflow of stress and worry.  I used to fall prey to this myth, secretly looking for ‘more’ in the form of projects, possessions, activities and friends.  Money, promotions, trips, and trinkets had been the object of my affections — in what I thought was a very innocent path.

Isn’t this what I am supposed to want? Isn’t this the American Dream?

When I began asking myself what mattered most in my life — the projects, possessions and titles did not even make the list. So what was I really doing? I woke up to the realization that I didn’t “own” my job or the “stuff”.

The desire to amass more owned me.

I realized that I needed to deal (and banish) the myth and the process was certainly more of a journey than a single “aha” moment. When I actively changed the focus from material desires to more meaningful needs — my life became simple. It felt infused with purpose.

“More” is an operative word that can grip us. Our wants, desires and cravings continue to ramp up. (The myth begins to require more feeding, with increased regularity.)  The endless loop we get caught up in can look like this:

1)   The more we want, the more we desire.

2)   The more we desire, the more we crave.

3)   The more we crave, the more we reach for something, anything to fill that need.

Getting off this roller coaster requires something entirely different. It requires getting quiet — and moving away from the work and digital distractions. It requires solitude. It requires reflection. Put your hand and over the heart and ask, “What matters most to me?” and “What experiences do I want to seek?”

Craving often begins, with a sense that we are missing something — a need. We would like to correct that defect and feel better. Cravings come in many forms (we usually think of food and habits first). However, we should consider other types of cravings as well. Seeking validation from the outside world to feel happier, loved, or approved of, can also be a craving that can direct us to seek “more”.

However, don’t despair. Just as we shift into a counter-productive habit, we can shift into an improved habit. Small steps and consistency are the key.

Try the following — and with practice, you will soon be able to separate the desire for more money, promotions, toys, trinkets, with the desire for more time, connection, resilience and confidence.

1)  Identify what you are seeking. Hint: Seeking is often something outside of ourselves. Be honest. Do you envision a promotion, love, money, travel?

2)  Identify the feelings you would like to come with manifestation. Chances are you are looking for something other than the actual physical manifestation. Could it be possible you desire contentment, connection, abundance, adventure, or joy? It is quite important to connect the desire to the experienced emotion.

3)  Ask yourself if your body, mind, and spirit supports that answer. Does that little voice inside your mind or your intuition have guidance any to offer? If the answer is no, then go back and ask WHY and identify where the desire was born.

Here is one experience with the myth from my own life. During a particularly challenging project, I was feeling extremely anxious and nervous. After some reflection, I realized that I was actually seeking approval for a new idea that I was introducing. To feel more confident, I undertook a relentless quest for research, information, guidance and instruction — so I could validate that the idea was sound. If I just reviewed one more study and provided more, I would satisfy that need for validation.

This lead to overload. That is, until I fought (and banished) the myth. When the scale finally tipped toward overload, it was time to consider who was running the show.  (Learning to listen to my inner voice, helped me.)

While taking a deeper dive into why I was seeking validation, I realized the overwhelming need to race and become an expert. However when I paused, I possessed far more wisdom and knowledge than I gave myself credit. (I was trained and prepared for the challenge.) In this situation, with the desire to prove my project worthy, I became entangled in the motivation to provide more. More time. More energy. More emotion.

Banishing the myth of more is one method to simplify your life.

Letting life and work become simple once again, through the identification of what you are really seeking.

Are there “mores” in your life that should be banished? What is truly behind the need?

Alison Ellison, is a soulful simplicity “strategist”. She writes about ways to shift from a busy, “stressed out” existence — to an authentic “stress-less” soul style. She loves to share methods to let go of chaos and embrace a simpler, more soulful life. Learn more at www.moresoulplease.com

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect handbag. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

How You Start the Day Matters. Why Not Start with Art?

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Claude Monet’s Water Lilies at MoMa, Source: Wikipedia.

How we begin our day is a window to how it might unfold. If things begin on a rough note, the day is likely a tough one. If the day starts smoothly — well — things just seem to naturally sail along.

Advice about eating a proper breakfast and exercise, is all well and good. (Research discussed here, explores how A.M. negativity can affect us hours later.) However, I rarely see creative initiatives aimed directly at this vital time of the day.

Until now.

Leave it to NYC to come up up with something simply brilliant.

I happened to come across this post, which describes how NYC’s MoMa (The Museum of Modern Art) opens its doors early the first Wednesday of each month. The initiative named “Quiet Mornings” — stresses the importance of calm and mindfulness before the start of the workday. You can wander through the exhibits and even join a guided mediation session, before your brain becomes clogged with emails and texts. It can help your workday develop into something quite different.

Here is a little of how MoMa describes the event:

See your favorite works from MoMA’s collection and take in select new exhibitions, all without the crowds. For these specially priced early hours, we encourage visitors to take time to look slowly, clear your head, silence your phones, and get inspiration for the day and week ahead.

I can’t think of anything better. Besides adding coffee, of course.

Check for future dates at MoMa here.

We need to bring this idea to every city. If an early morning program doesn’t exist, try sneaking in a walk around as soon as your local museum opens — then begin your day.

What elements help your day start in the right direction?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk writes about life and career. Her posts have appeared at various outlets worldwide including US News & World Report, Forbes, Quartz and The World Economic Forum.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect gift. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

Live Life at Your Own Speed (and No One Else’s)

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I find myself wondering how social sharing impacts our lives. Endless highlight reels. Exotic vacations. It’s all well and good. Yet, how all of this affects our well being does weigh on my mind. We truly have to remind ourselves to seek our own best life — not someone else’s. The pressure to seek what another might seek, could become deafening. As an individual who has always required a much slower pace, more peace and more quiet (and far less travel) — I’ll weigh in with some very simple advice: Be you.

We can lose ourselves, ever so slowly, with a nod to please others. With the sense that others may not approve of what we enjoy (the slower side road with the vegetable stand). With the judgements that other people’s paths, are somehow better than the path that is perfectly suited to us.

So. Keep all of this in mind.

If you enjoy quiet moments in a garden, seek those spaces.

If you want to stay home, stay home.

If you enjoy rooms filled with music and raucous celebration, find them.

If you enjoy the turn of a book’s page, make a date with that story.

If you feel compelled to absorb the smell, the lights and bustle of the city — open that window and breathe it.

If you seek secluded places, near salty ocean air, set your sights to reach them.

If you feel the need to slow down (or speed up), block unhealthy comparisons and refrain from the judgement that what you are seeking falls short.

Above all.

Live your life.

No one else’s.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect fragrance. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

It’s Friday: Time For a Playlist About How to Manage Yourself

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It’s Friday. If you’ve had a challenging week, I’m sure you are grateful it’s over. One thing I can attest to: when things are challenging, we require strategies to manage ourselves. Whether you have run amuck with a mountain of negative thoughts or you’re just plain feeling stuck — listening to experts sharing their research and perspectives — can help us re-frame our own challenges.

This week we’ve picked our favorite videos to help you through the rough patches and offer a boost. Click on the link to our YouTube channel. Then scroll through to the “How to Manage Yourself” playlist. Happy viewing.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPobAd0urxAGPaVu4PNWsIQ

Here are our picks:

  • Developing a Growth Mindset. Psychologist Carol Dweck reminds us that potential has much to do with our own perspective.
  • How to Make Stress Your Friend. Health Psychologist Kelly McGonigal talks about stress and the beliefs that we hold about it.
  • True Grit: Can Perseverance Be Taught. Angela Duckworth lets us know that intelligence is a much smaller part of the story where achievement is concerned.
  • Mindy Kaling’s Advice for Young Girls. Actress Mindy Kaling tells us to focus on your art — not the aspects of you that you feel will hold you back.
  • Getting Stuck in the Negatives (and How to Get Unstuck). Social psychologist Alison Ledgerwood touches on how we are overwhelmingly affected by negative information — and what it takes to get unstuck.

Do you have a favorite video to add to this list? Let us know.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect gift. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

Struggling to Connect? The Beatnik Movement Offers a Simple Clue

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By Allison McClintick

At 16, I began a love affair with the beatnik movement.

Inspired by the ghosts of Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, my friends and I wandered unwashed around downtown Detroit with backpacks and Doc Martens. Nights filled with Henry Rollins, open mic poetry slams, exotic tea in dark, dirty coffee houses and Black & Tan’s in darker, dirtier bars than we should have been able to frequent.

I loved how the legends of angst could bring everyday life “home” to the seeker in all of us. Just recently, I read an article in Lion’s Roar magazine interviewing Gary Synder; poet and author (and possibly inspiration for Kerouac’s On the Road). He was asked about being a Westerner traveling in foreign lands — and the inherent challenges that posed. His simple answer on the topic was the following:

“As long as you speak the language and have good manners, you can go anywhere.”

Beside the obvious literal reference — I was struck by the profound meaning this statement can offer concerning both communication and connection.

Everyone is coming from somewhere.

Their experience and perspective could be similar or vastly different from yours or anywhere in between. However, if you really intend to connect with someone — you must understand who/what/where/they are. Assess their context. To effectively communicate you must be aware of and speak the language of their “world”.

As a coach who helps other build influence, I find that “people complaints” are often hot topics of discussion. Where as you might guess, problems with communication are a common offense. While most people understand they could improve this skill — more often than not — they reflexively point to other people as the culprit when signals get crossed.

What I have observed is that while we may believe that we are communicating clearly, we may not be “speaking the same language” as the individual. This includes failing to appreciate the context of their words and actions.

As an example, one of my clients is a project manager for a large construction firm — he’s a detail oriented, organized, efficient and forward thinking individual. He is also, however, a little rigid, micromanaging and reluctant to delegate. He is struggling with issues with a long-time contractor who is excellent at his job and close to retirement. Needless to say, the contractor functions on his own timeline (and this is usually met with great results).

However, in this case urgency was an issue for my client. And urgency wasn’t a language this contractor spoke. Pressing him for updates and detailed time-lines, only exacerbated the conflict. It didn’t compute with his own “context”.

To meet this issue, my client thoughtfully scaled back his requests and attempted to meet the contract “where he was”. Although the final results were not perfect, things did improve.

Try the following when you are challenged with differences in context:

  1. First, know where you are really coming from. If you don’t know yourself — you cannot listen non-judgmentally to others. Knowing yourself requires that you are aware of your triggers, passions, your biases and how you generally communicate. This is a TALL order. However, if you aren’t aware of all of the above, you’ll have a rougher road to travel. Pushing your own agenda rarely works, when you are struggling to find shared ground.
  2. Ask questions to determine what language they are speaking. The art of inquiry is priceless. Unfortunately, it occurs far less than necessary. I train and coach hundreds of people a year and when we examine how many questions they are really asking, everyone is stunned to learn that they really aren’t doing this enough. The only way to know what language someone speaks, what framework they use to make sense of data, is to explore it. The only way to explore? Ask questions.
  3. Pose questions based upon active listening. Active listening is anything but passive. When you are listening with intention, you should be working to really hear what someone is expressing. From there, the questions you ask should be aimed to capture their “language”(perspective) so you can find what you need to make things happen.
  4. Drop the ego. Ego isn’t welcome here. When you determine the language someone is speaking — you may find it isn’t yours. When this happens, your defenses could threaten to rear their ugly head and spoil the process. When we learn someone’s perspective, we might find that we don’t like or agree with it. Apply wisdom and do not judge. This means refraining from generalizing, accusing, assuming, shut-downs, tangents, “talking at”, writing off, marginalizing, projecting, scape-goating or attacking.

Connecting with people can be complex. However the way through can be simple. You must be willing to do the internal work.

If you’d like some help in this regard — look for me in my beret, clutching my weathered copy of Howl and smoking a Clove cigarette.

Snap! Snap!

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect fragrance. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

Allison McClintick is a seasoned coach & speaker — specializing in influence and consciousness development. She’s a Mom of 2 (20 years & 6 years), a ridiculously talented house painter, lover of quantum physics and is currently pursuing a PhD in Psychology. To balance all that life, work and play — she’s attempting to “think” more effectively with practiced meditation. She’ll keep us updated.

 

 

Do We Complicate Things?

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Visual: GapingVoid

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated – Confucius

I’ve just spent the last 3 days researching the annoying horizontal lines that appeared on my computer monitor. I completed searches, visited a number of tech sites and read many, many suggestion on forums. I installed the updates that were recommended — and I cursed —  a lot.

Finally, as a last ditch effort, I decided to tighten all of the connections to the computer screen. (Interestingly, this was the very first suggestion I came across, however I dismissed it.)

So — to my complete surprise, no more lines.

Wow.

Really?

Why do we make our lives more difficult by complicating things? Life could be much simpler if we would restrain ourselves from over-analyzing nearly every step of our path.

Think about this for a moment. We might take great advice without debate. We could  say “I’m sorry” to a client or customer or a family member, when things run amuck. We could listen more and talk less. We could say “thank you” more often to our co-workers or spouse. We could make decisions without a committee or meeting (Read about satisficers vs. maximizers here). We could pick up the phone instead of writing yet another email.

We might then have more time for the simple beauty that is everywhere.

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I’d say there are at least one hundred ways we might uncomplicate our lives — and improve it as well. Let’s go for it.

What will you do first?

Read more about it, by clicking on the photo.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect fragrance. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

You Should Carry a Notebook

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Throughout much of my career I’ve opted to carry a notebook. I suppose it is my own form of “idea GPS”. (Moments of clarity deserve to be recorded.)

Notebooks have so much to offer, including a dose of balance to our ever-growing online lives. They are easy companions and can accompany you on business trips, vacations and rare moments of solitude. Other methods might prove to be superior in certain situations. However, there is nothing like putting pen to paper. (The physical process of writing helps to commit information to long-term memory and can aid idea development.)

Da Vinci utilized notebooks and that alone is good reason to employ one. He often used mirror-writing — but don’t let that deter you. Mirror writing is optional.

In the past, I’ve carried standard spiral notebooks (I enjoy college logos). However, today there are so many interesting choices that I splurge on notebooks that catch my eye. They are little like a “statement” piece. The purchase is an everyday luxury, like a really great cup of coffee.

My notebook habit may seem old-fashioned. However, it’s a habit I don’t intend to break. I have some quirky habits that are captured. For example, glancing at my notebook “system”, there are project notes and “to do” lists at the front and client interview notes toward the back (dated with contact phone numbers). On the very last page, I keep a running list of discovered music to visit on YouTube.

I’m sure your system is equally as quirky.

However, notebooks are very forgiving.

Below you’ll find a few interesting options. Click on the item photo or link to learn more, read reviews or purchase.

I hope you find a notebook that can help your great ideas come to life!

Classic:

Rhodia: This one is great for meetings:

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Hand Crafted & Playful:

Blooming Branch Notebook by Fabulous Cat Papers: http://tidd.ly/29884294

BloomingBranchNotebook

Custom Spiral Option by Paperien Co.: http://tidd.ly/12a622fb

CustomJournalPolkaDot

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics from running a company — to the perfect fragrance. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

We All Change. Your Work Life Should Too.

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As human beings we are destined to evolve — and as we morph into the people we are about to become — other areas of our lives often require adjustment. Yet, most of are hell-bent in thinking that our days of change are long behind us. (We couldn’t be more wrong.)

As luck would have it, our lack of ability to predict when and how we might change, has become the subject of study. Longitudinal research completed by Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert has aptly named our lack of foresight concerning how we change,  “The End of History Illusion”. It is the belief that the end of our history is today — when in fact we will continue to change with the passage of time.  (You can watch Dr. Gilbert’s TED Talk, “The Psychology of Your Future Self” below. I guarantee it will rock your world.)

In a series of studies, Gilbert explored the process of how we view personal change over time and its impact upon our lives. Their research revealed that we tend to underestimate changes in both our core personality traits (represented by the “Big 5”: conscientiousness, agreeableness, emotional stability, openness to experience and extroversion) and our core values (measured by the Schwartz Value Inventory) over the decades of our lives. While, the magnitude of the illusion seems to decrease as we age,  it remains present. We continue perceive ourselves as “complete” — which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Meanwhile here is a bit of sage advice related to this finding:

Try not to view your career path as inflexible.
Just as we see our own persona as unchanging, we can feel stuck or stalled because we see only one career path — and that path likely travels in one direction. If we can step back, (down or even sideways) to learn something new, interesting doors present themselves. Yes, it is challenging to be a “rookie” once again. However that same challenge can be the key to a more fulfilling future. Whitney Johnson, author of Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work offers this advice:

“Be willing to step back. Backward could be your slingshot.” – Whitney Johnson

Let your personal brand evolve.
Acknowledging how we have changed over time — and aligning this with our communicated personal brand is also something to consider. Has what you truly desire to accomplish career-wise changed? Do others understand that shift? Cynthia Johnson, co-founder of Ipseity Inc, a firm that helps others develop their brand voice, encourages individuals to differentiate their personal brand in a way that is authentic. (See more of her tips here.) Utilizing digital avenues to craft and communicate your evolving personal brand, may also help align career goals with the new you. She advises you take this in steps:

“It is important to include short-term and clearly defined goals while mapping out your brand strategy. If you try to do everything at once you will become overwhelmed and do nothing at all.” – Cynthia Johnson

Bring on the new.
Aspects of work and life, that may have thrilled you in the past — may no longer motivate you. What could you bring into your world that would “meet you” where you are now? I love the advice of Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project) concerning work and those painful feelings of “envy”.  She advises that feeling envy when considering another individual’s role, may signal elements that you might incorporate.

 

 

Marla Gottschalk is an avid blogger and Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. You can follow her at LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics — it is designed to share lessons learned, from a variety of perspectives.