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Archive for the ‘Personal Development’ Category

Being Mindful

It would seem superfluous disputing that the mind is the most important cognitive part of the body; assuming that’s so, being ‘mindful’ should be at least in the highest echelon of good default positions.

What does mindfulness mean? An article in the February edition of Toastmaster magazine gives this a thoughtful (as it were) look.

The author wastes no time in maximizing the scope of mind matters: she uses the example of a familiar cartoon called ‘The Worrier Pose’, which illustrates that we typically juggle a miasma of concerns, to make the point that what may be top of the whirlpool of our mind is – everything!

Engaging in mindfulness helps divert us from self-judgement and other distractions of consciousness. It has been a part of practices such as yoga and Buddhism for centuries. In our times, this subject had come to influence a range of fields, from psychotherapy to sports.

To dissect what mindfulness really encompasses, consider these elements:

  • Focusing on the moment: ‘secular’ mindfulness is considered to mean paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment in a non-judgemental way; in this way one’s senses are tuned in to now; accepting that the mind will wander, meditation can be a valuable way to address this, as an “activity of bringing your mind back when it wanders”, training it to settle on the present
  • Focusing on the mind itself: another perspective sees mindfulness as being aware of our mental states, non-judgementally; adhering to this practice helps one to breed an inner balance along with self-confidence, and moreover one can “more readily access creativity and intuition necessary for publicly communicating a vision and problem-solving”; feelings such as anxiety can be recognized for what they are, minimizing their impact
  • Focusing on colleagues and others in supportive groups and professional organizations: understand and encourage the diversity in others one encounters in these groups, reducing barriers and increasing connection, as well as enhancing our communicative skills in speaking and listening

There are also a few suggestions on to how to ‘cultivate’ mindfulness.

  • Keep some physical distance from one’s cell phone
  • Concentrate on one task at a time (multi-tasking is multi-muddling)
  • Try changing habitual responses, such as using the less dominant hand for tasks usually done with the other
  • Pay attention to all of one’s senses
  • Use the meditative practice of focusing on the centre of the body, which substitutes awareness of the present moment in lieu of attention on thinking

These approaches contribute to enhancing ‘mental strength and clarity’, laudable resources for coping with our fast-paced lifestyle.

A Hurdle is not a Stop Sign

Perhaps all of us, at one time or another, have been tempted to feel discouraged, perhaps quickly, by setbacks on the long journey to accomplishing major goals.

Indeed, if looking at statistics, one can easily be ready to throw in the towel, especially if that towel is frequently coated with rejection.

Many of us are familiar with the 80/20 rule, which anecdotally applies to a wide range of endeavours: 80% of the output, such as the reward, comes from 20% of the input, primarily effort. The classic example is sales, wherein about 80% of income inevitably seems to be generated from 20% of clients.

Statistically, numerous activities determine success via variations of this truism.

The flip side indicates that 80% of effort produces only about 20% of the benefits. Stated another way, the majority of our efforts will be either limitedly successful or not at all so. The measuring stick differentiating achievement and failure is predicated on the latter being the more common result, even for those deemed to comprise the upper strata of success.

Baseball is a good example. An offensive player has a decent chance to be in the Hall of fame with a long career average of .300 – meaning having averaged three hits for every ten official at bats! A pitcher can win the Cy Young award giving up an average of one earned run every three innings.

Similarly, with acting, a good income earning performer can still face a turn down rate when reading for jobs of about 70%. Moreover, as they acknowledge themselves, the denial even after many years stings because it is the performer personally, not a separate product or service, being rejected.

An article in the current month’s Psychology Today provides some mental ammunition to help cope with these realities.

The author focuses on “five problematic moments one is likely to encounter on the path of goal pursuit”, and considers our likely reactions followed by positive ways to respond.

  • Re getting started: committing to begin is hampered by our realizing we have the furthest distance to completing our objective; our response should be to identify the few initial steps, then write down a date to get going while informing others to make oneself accountable
  • Re giving up ‘at the first hurdle’: we feel doubts about whether the effort is truly worthwhile; our response should be to appreciate that ‘the relationship between effort and meaningfulness works both ways’, that meaningful goals may require more effort so ‘the more rewarding, satisfying, and empowering’ achieving them becomes, with ‘a huge emotional return on the investment’
  • Re giving up at a later hurdle: we feel the goal is too difficult, so ask ourselves why we keep trying; remember that a setback or obstacle is not a stop sign, it’s a detour, which requires problem-solving and confidence both to get around this problem and to try to avoid having it recur
  • Re ‘giving in to procrastination’ during the process: our reaction is to feel negative, and wish to escape with some outside pick-me-up; rather than switching to a more enjoyable diversion, remind oneself that it’s O.K. to feel bad, knowing the unpleasantness can be tolerated for a while, and keep in mind the value of the goal
  • Re sabotaging the effort before the finish line: we feel that failure will be devastating, and we can only try so much; so, while fearing failure can become an excuse which is self-fulfilling, one can also imagine success, being aware there are challenges, such as that two steps forward are often accompanied by one step back, and ultimately dreams can be attained

We may have to halt for stop signs, but not for hurdles.

Adding Value

The proposition of ‘adding value’ has been an underlying foundation for success in service-oriented businesses for many years.

If one wants to generate a positive, lasting and loyal, relationship with customers, providing those extra ingredients of value is vital. This could be indirectly related to business, i.e. taking clients to lunch, paying for tickets to events, etc., or more directly, such as keeping in regular contact, or going the extra mile in solving problems quickly, or obtaining more helpful data for decision making.

As someone who spent more than two decades in the financial services industry, I can attest that these qualities helped me retain clients for the long term.

An article in the January edition of The Insurance & Investment Journal looks at the value proposition playing out in the marketplace for current advisors. The gist of the perspective is that, to cope with technological change, not least of which is the growing impact of artificial intelligence, advisors need to exploit adding value through specialization and breadth of product knowledge. Changes involving online selling and administration demand making positive use of technology.

Into this mix one can add the evolving demands of consumers, to which advisors and businesses both must adapt if they want to remain in the picture.

There are, of course, other creative ways in which to add value:

  • Hand out colourful PLUS signs to help keep top of mind the goal of having an ‘add(ed)’ mindset
  • Provide clients with pocket magnifiers so they can more easily see data they actually want
  • Sensitize frequently used forms to personify them in presentations and administration requirements
  • Have some delicately coded ‘dirt’ on robot advisors to make it easier to damage their competitive credibility if need be
  • Secretly buy share certificates in AI technology, and include them as promotional gifts to clients
  • Bring along visual specialists, to strive to make every environment shown in the best light

10 Alternate Strategies for Self-Reflection

In a recent posting, The Look of Reflection, it was noted that the human impulse to making comparisons seems pervasive. Therefore, finding effective strategies helps us to cope, and hopefully in time thrive.

It’s worth considering that there are many other available strategies to reflect on, for uncovering and energizing the ‘better you’. (more…)

The Look of Reflection

How vulnerable are you to an overload of envy about the success of others, especially people you know well?

An article in the December issue of Psychology Today delves into this subject, with a subtext of measuring how happy and successful we feel about our own lives. The ease with which this can become a personal issue has been dramatically escalated by the rise in access to and influence of social media. (more…)

What’s in Some Words?

In looking through our Toastmasters club file of words of the day, as individually used in our meetings over the years, there are some interesting revelations.

Words chosen by members, in turns as ‘Wordmaster’, show quite a range of choices, from relatively familiar to quite obscure, as well as varying degrees of efforts made in their presentation (font size, definition, etc.). (more…)

The Karma / Janus Connection

The expression that there are two sides to just about anything applies, in many peoples’ anecdotal experience, to karma.

What is karma?

Stemming from east Asian religions, karma relates to the culmination of a person’s actions in life (potentially added to by one’s previous ‘states of existence’) impacting, or even deciding, one’s fate moving forward. More simply, karma = destiny, or fate, as influenced by one’s actions. (more…)