How to Be Grateful

Coaching isn’t all about achieving happiness, but it certainly is almost always focused on the pursuit of what the client believes will make him happy.  You may have heard already that the happiest people are happy because they are grateful rather than grateful because they are happy.  It is not a chicken/egg proposition.  It is in the research – The Happiness Advantage, The How of Happiness.  Consciously choosing to constantly scan the environment for what you are grateful for, and keeping lists of the same, changes the brain and literally makes you happier.  So if want to be happier, there is one super simple easy thing you can do right now.  Today: this minute.  Be more grateful.  Not just once a year on Thanksgiving, not just when you get a promotion or good news.  All the time.  But how you might ask: how do I be more grateful?  Well, David Steindl-Rast explains it perfectly in his TED talk – you can take 14 minutes and watch it or you go with my Cliff Notes.  Here they are:

 Stop. Look. Listen.

That’s it. 

 Stop. Look. Listen.

 Notice what is going on that you are grateful for – the sun, the rain, running water, indoor plumbing, shoes that fit, electricity, your adorable dog/cat/child, your funny colleague, your car started! Your new desk chair you had to lobby five years to get. Functioning internet. So much.  An endless list.

 When?  As often as possible.  Here are some ideas to get into the habit:

  •  Any time you start obsessing about your To Do list, stop and think of things you are grateful for instead.
  • Anytime you start second guessing what you should have said in your last meeting, stop and…
  • Set a timer on your phone to do it every 15 minutes. 
  • Every time an email/text/tweet comes in.
  • Every time you hear a beep of any kind (I do this; you would be amazed how much beeping goes on.  It makes it much easier not to be annoyed at the sound of trucks backing up!).
  • When waiting at a stop light.
  • When brushing your teeth (Oh the possibilities, unlimited clean water, hot water! toothpaste, dental care!).
  • Every time you sit down at your desk. 
  • Every time you get up from your desk.
  • When you get into bed.

Other ideas? Try it, and see what happens.

Running on Fumes

I recently spoke to a friend and colleague who needed my input on something.  This colleague has the highest IQ of anyone I know ( not exagerating), and an intimidating work ethic.  She is literally the gold standard for productivity in our companygas tank on empty.  After a string of emails, I failed to understand what was required of me so I picked up the phone to chat and found my friend literally incoherent with stress.  It took me several minutes to get her calmed down enough to explain what she needed from me.

It made me stop and think. 

We forget that we are a finite resource.

We can do so much and no more.  Even if we practice (highly recommended by coaches everywhere) extreme self care*, we can do so much and no more

My sister Mia is a lovely person, does for others all day long.  She is chatty, fun, highly engaging and extroverted until about 8 o’clock at night at which point she says “I am out of words”, and goes to bed with a book.  Such a role model.

It is critical for all of us, as  leaders, professionals, parents, and friends to know at what point we “run out”. Out of gas, as it were.  Do you know when you are at a quarter tank?  Do you have reasonable boundaries around your rest time?  I have found that it isn’t so much others we have trouble saying no to, it is ourselves.

Stop and think.  Remember, you are a finite resource.

 *Extreme Self Care: A term coined by Thomas Leonard, a pioneer of the coaching profession and popularized by Shirley Anderson, considered to be a Yoda of the coaching profession. It could be defined as: enough sleep, proper nutrition, exercise, down time, meditation and/or prayer, time to connect with others, and fun as you need to operate at 100%.  Click here for more information about the multiple aspects of well being from a Neuroscience standpoint.

5 Questions to Match Your Style to Your Job

Man Working on Personal ComputerAre you a jack of all trades or are you a subject matter expert? Review the two definitions below. Think about the type of work you do now…which term best describes you in your current role?

generalist: one who has broad general knowledge and skills in several areas.
specialist: a person devoted to one particular branch of a subject or pursuit.

Some people are very passionate about having extreme task variety. They love to do a little bit of everything and get bored when focused on one thing. Others are very passionate about having a specific area of focus and being able to dedicate the majority of their time to learning and mastering that pursuit.

Now review the two definitions again. Think about the type of work you like to do…which term best describes you when you’re happiest and at your best?

If you answered the same way both times, then you’re likely on the right path. If the type of work you perform in your current role is not in alignment with how you work when you’re at your best, then it’s time to consider some changes. Analyze your current role to see if there are adjustments that can be made to position the role to better suit your style. Or, perhaps you need to consider if the solution is to find a more suitable position within the organization or elsewhere.

Begin by asking yourself some questions…

What does my ideal job role look like?
Where are the gaps between my current role and my ideal role?
How can I begin to close those gaps?
What obstacles to change am I likely to encounter?
Who can help me facilitate the changes that need to be made?

If you’ve discovered that you’re a specialist in a generalist’s role, or vice versa, preserve your sanity and increase your happiness by making the necessary changes. Navigating this type of journey can be a difficult, overwhelming adventure and you’ll need help.

Sounds like you could use a good coach.

Follow me on Twitter: @adammorris21 | Add me on Google+: gplus.to/AdamMorris21

Going With the Flow

Flow : The Psychology of Optimal Experience  by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi  (pronounced mee-high  chick-sent-mee-high, my friend David Rock told me that, and he is important because he wrote one of my top books The Brain at Work) is another book that stopped me in my tracks.  Published in 1990, my copy is old, much dog eared and underlined.  The author is more recently widely known as a pioneer in the Positive Psychology arena, and his early work outlined in Flow was required reading for coaches because it was solid research about what makes people feel good.  Absent real problems like psychological damage, war or pestilence, people were coming to coaches with the objective of optimizing their existence and more specifically, their time at work.  Csikszentmihalyi says that in his studies, when people reflected on their most positive experiences they seemed to share one if not all of these characteristics:

  1. “ the experience usually occurs when we confront tasks we have a chance of completing.”
  2. we must be able to concentrate on what we are doing.”
  3. The task has “clear goals and
  4. Provide immediate feedback
  5. There is deep but effortless involvement that shuts out the noise of everyday life
  6. We are able to exercise a sense of control over our actions
  7. Self consciousness disappears, but sense of self emerges more strongly after the experience is over
  8. The sense of time passing is altered; minutes can seem like hours, or hours can feel like minutes.” (Harper, 1991, pg. 49)

Csikszentmihalyi’s theory was that to achieve flow we needed to maintain the balance between the level of challenge of the activity, and our skill level – if the challenge is too low, we become bored, if it is too high we become overly anxious.  Each individual needs to monitor their own challenge level to keep it optimal to stay engaged. 

This rang so true for me, and it was extremely useful in work with clients who were clearly bored, but judging themselves for it, thinking they had perfectly jobs and should be happy.  Not so!  To stay in Flow, it is critical to constantly be raising the bar.  This is not totally true for everyone all the time, but for some people, some of the time, the model is extremely useful.

For more information on Flow

Habits Make All the Difference

The promise was books that rocked my coaching practice that are off the beaten path. OK, so maybe this one isn’t that original, and I must have stumbled on  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People  by Steven Covey in Barnes and Noble because I can’t remember who recommended it.   But I have to say that from the day I read this book, I changed some habits that utterly altered the trajectory of my life.  I don’t think it is a coincidence that when I started doing what  Covey said (and let’s be clear, not everything, just a few things made a huge difference) my business took off, my household became more orderly and calm and my quality of life shot up.  I developed a reputation for being freakishly productive.  I feel that almost every other “self-help” book that came after this one simply fleshed out some of the good ideas that were here in the first place.  

In the section called Put First Things First, the 4 box quadrant probably made the biggest impact on me.  The idea is that we all can put every single thing we do into one of the four quadrants. 

  Urgent Not Urgent
Important QUADRANT I
crises, pressing problems, deadline-driven projects
QUADRANT II
prevention, Principle Centered  activities, relationship building, recognizing and leveraging new opportunities, planning the future, recreation
Not important QUADRANT III
interruptions, some calls, some mail, some reports, some meetings, popular activities
QUADRANT IV
trivia, busy work, some mail, some  phone calls time wasters, pleasant activities

The ones who spend the bulk of their time doing things in the “important” quadrants are simply going to have a much higher life satisfaction quotient.   This very concrete model gave me the courage to say no to things that did not fall into the Quadrants I or II.  Today, I let people assume I am extremely busy (everybody does) and if pressed I will admit that I am no busier than anyone else, just extremely focused on what is most important to me and ferociously choosy about what I focus on.  Don’t tell anyone.

Who Do You Aim To Please?

Throughout the course of our lives, we’re constantly trying to impress someone.

As kids, we want our parents to be proud of us. We want our friends to think we’re cool. We want our teachers to think we’re smart.

As we get older, we still want our parents to be proud of us. We still want our friends to think we’re cool. And now, instead of teachers, we want our colleagues and clients to think we’re smart.

Then, one day we wake up and realize we’re spending most of our waking hours trying to live up to someone else’s expectations. We’re spending more time trying to make everyone else happy than we are on meeting our own needs. We’re not necessarily unhappy, but we’re unfulfilled.

Depending on how we choose to look at it, that unfulfilled feeling can be a blessing or a curse. We can either let it spiral out of control into a deep depression or, hopefully, we can choose to use it as a wake up call.

To determine if your life needs a slight course correction, ask yourself the following questions:

“Whose life am I living?”

You only have one life to live, you might as well make it your own.

“Am I being selfish enough?”

You can’t take care of others if you’re not taking care of yourself.

To have any chance at spreading sustained happiness to others, it’s vital to make sure that YOU are happy. From time to time, do a check-in to make sure that YOUR needs are getting met so that YOU are able to continue to meet the many needs of all the important people in YOUR life.

Are You Embracing Technology?

A few weeks ago, I stumbled into an opportunity to reconnect with a former colleague, Laura Goodrich. For a number of years, Laura partnered with Blanchard as an Executive Coach. I hadn’t spoken with her in a couple years but we are connected through LinkedIn. I noticed that she had a book release coming up and decided to send her an e-mail to show my support.

To my surprise, an hour later my phone rang and it was Laura. By chance, she happened to be in town for a conference. This was kind of a big deal since we’re based on opposite sides of the country. The next morning, we were catching up in person over breakfast!

This chance encounter resulted only because of the incredible technologies we currently have at our disposal. I saw an update on LinkedIn, I sent an e-mail, which she received on her cell phone, and then she called me during a break while attending a conference. Think about that for a moment. How possible is it that this would have occurred say 10-15 short years ago? Not likely. How radically different will this scenario play out 10-15 short years from now? To borrow a quote from a friend, “It boggles the mind.”

Now, think about how you use technology in your professional and personal life. Would a scenario such as the one I’ve described be possible for you today through your use of technology? More to the point, do you embrace technology or do you let it intimidate you?

In her new book, Seeing Red Cars: Driving Yourself, Your Team, and Your Organization to a Positive Future, Laura recommends, “Become fluid with technology so you can continue to learn, connect, and remain relevant – and, in many cases, remain employed. Confidence and competence in technology is becoming much more of a  requirement than an option.”

From the ever-expanding and always-enhancing software applications in the workplace, to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs (such as this one), cell phone apps, and the like, there are countless ways to utilize technology to stay connected and to get ahead, both personally and professionally. How are you embracing technology?

If you have a technology-related success story or strategy, we’d love to hear about it! Please share in the comment area below.