I recently read through some of my old blogs, and came across my very first article on resilience which was written on 11 August 2015. Since then, resilience has become a trendy personal and business word, with everybody wanting to raise their levels of resilience to support them to cope better in their life.
However, since 2015 I have expanded my knowledge on resilience, and would like to share some insights and new learnings with you.
Learning 1: Resilience is much more than the standard definition of bouncing back; resilience is actually about bouncing forward. You don’t want to be in the same position that you were before the adversity, and actually want to be in a more advanced position; you want to have grown.
Learning 2: Resilience relies heavily on reframing a situation to be positive, and being grateful for what is going well. However, resilience is about looking for the benefit from the situation and exploring how you can grow from the circumstances presented to you.
Learning 3: Resilience isn’t equal resilience. I have identified three types: (a) the everyday life resilience to buffer against frustrations and irritations such as traffic, (b) medium-size resilience which lasts for longer periods, such as a week or a few months, and is often needed in work situations when working with others on a project or task, and finally (c) life changing resilience which we draw from life-altering events which happen to us such as an illness, death, divorce, war or abuse.
Learning 4: To become resilient, you have to start being attuned to yourself. You need to understand what is happening in your life right now and how you feel about it as well as yourself. Resilience starts with a healthy dose of internal reflection.
Learning 5: Start practising resilience with small life challenges, and when your life is running rather smoothly. Practice it regularly until it becomes a habit; that way you are better prepared to apply it when you truly need it. It’s very difficult to learn to be resilient when life is throwing challenging things at you because you will automatically go into survival mode.
Keep in mind everybody can learn to become more resilient; it is just practice, patience and self-compassion.
Here is the original article from August 2015.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is one of those human states that we admire in others and often wish we had more of. What makes resilience such a powerful life skill to have, and can it be developed? Firstly, resilience is a positive thinking pattern that enables us to respond and recover from adversity very quickly. It is a key ingredient that we use as a buffer against life’s challenges so that we don’t spiral downwards too much when trajectories or traumas happen. Resilience is a crucial coping tool that helps us to manage daily life with much more ease. Most of us learn to become resilient the hard way through life experiences, but what if we could learn ways of building our resilience as early as in primary or junior school.
Before we explore techniques that build our resilience, let’s look at common sinkholes we fall into that prevent us from being resilient. The five key sinkholes are:
Five Sinkholes That Prevent Us Becoming Resilient
- Jumping to conclusions – responding reactively to a situation without having all the facts.
- Tunnel vision – focusing only on the negative without considering any alternative options.
- Personalising – internalising that the fault lies with us and that we are the actual problem.
- Externalising – blaming others for the problem and not wanting to consider our own contribution.
- Assuming – speculating that we know what the other person is thinking or feeling.
The downside to these sinkholes is that they keep us stuck in negative thinking patterns that can hamper us from moving forward. They drain our energy which means that we aren’t able to see or even try to see the positive side to a situation. When our energy is depleted we give up easily and often we don’t try again.
The answer to building our resilience muscle is brainstorming alternative solutions as well as predicting the level of success for each solution without accepting the first idea that presents itself. We need to dig deep until the right solution comes to mind. We must then test that solution and be flexible knowing that realignment of our actions or thoughts might be needed along the way. Don’t give up when challenges or obstacles appear – these must be seen with a level of curiosity and eagerness to overcome them.
Resilience, very much like well-being, has no finite endpoint and it, therefore, remains an ongoing process. This doesn’t mean that there is no point in developing resilience because each learning cycle raises our consciousness and facilitates a positive upward transformation. This is very similar to the threads of a screw where we spiral upwards with each full turn. Also, becoming more resilient doesn’t inoculate us from adversity, tragedies or traumas because they are a part of life and partially out of our control. We can only choose how we manage the event and ourselves.
We must also consider the difference between surviving and thriving in life. Surviving means we are getting by; we might feel all consumed with life, and perhaps even bitter or resentful for the injustice or hardship of life. We may feel that life is happening to us and that we are two separate elements. Thriving, on the other hand, means that we are actively engaged and participating in our lives. We regard life and us as one united element. We accept that adversity is part of life and learn to fight and overcome traumas. We learn to see the benefits in adversity which makes us value and appreciate the difficulty. It is no coincidence that successful people have high levels of resilience.
Leadership is not easy. Often, people find themselves in leadership positions without the adequate leadership skills to effectively manage their team’s performance, well-being and motivation. While these indicators alone serve as signs of a struggling leader, there are some other very clear warning signals that a manager is drowning under the pressure of their new position.
Moving from a team member into a leadership position is not easy, and the skills needed to manage a team are not often offered when someone steps into a new position. Our Meaningful Leadership Development Programme aims to provide new managers with the personal awareness and practical knowledge needed to bridge the gap, and support overwhelmed new leaders.
At 4Seeds we tend to lean towards offering advice and positive practical solutions to common organisational issues; however, in this article we aim to provide some clear indicators of what to look out for in your new leaders and managers.
Four warning signs of an overwhelmed leader
In an ideal world, before starting a new leadership position you would have the space to develop goals as well as a vision of what you want to achieve as a new leader. However, this is almost never the case. One day you’re an employee and the next you’re the manager. When this happens, a new leader won’t have had the time to align their vision with their actions and can easily become overwhelmed by the tasks ahead rather than seeing the bigger picture. This lack of vision and goal alignment can result in new leader starting to micromanage through poor delegation, incomplete information sharing, or excessive meetings. This becomes a challenge because without the adequate skills and support it can lead to mistrust, meaningless tasks and resentment from subordinates.
Constant state of damage control
A common trait of an overwhelmed leader is that they experience “decision freeze”. Paralysed by the pressure to make the right decisions (and the lack of vision mentioned above), the new leader goes into a frozen state of stress. They appear idle to the outsider, halting new ideas and managing issues only when they become urgent. While this can be a common position for many leaders, new and experienced, it is not a sustainable approach and can lead to a highly stressful and tense working environment for the whole team.
Increased rumours and corridor talk
Overwhelmed leaders often deal with their team ineffectively, in one of two ways. Either they will hold an excessive number of meetings, trying to keep everything in their control, or they will let everyone continue as normal and communicate very little with the team. This second style of communication can often lead to team members finding ways to discuss and gossip about leadership outside of formal channels. Corridor talk is dangerous to a new leader and it can quickly break down trust and affect the healthy, transparent dialogue needed to work together effectively.
“Head in the sand” approach
When one is promoted into leadership there are a lot of unspoken expectations and responsibilities that come into play – having a hand on the pulse of the team is just one of them.
An effective leader knows each of their team member’s strengths, goals and working style, and can manage the individual to further the outcomes of the team. However, as a new leader this awareness takes time and as there are so many tangible responsibilities to attend to, they may often neglect (consciously or unconsciously) this subtle but essential duty of their position.
A “head in the sand” approach becomes obvious when decisions are made without the leader’s knowledge, when absenteeism increases, or when employee retention rises. Employees need to be recognised and validated for their individual contributions to the outcomes of the team, the lack of which can quickly lead to dissatisfaction and disengagement. A new leader needs to be able to see the individual value of each team member and communicate this authentically – a skill which is not easy to learn under pressure.
So what now?
Stepping into a leadership position will always be challenging and it will take time to become comfortable with new responsibilities; however, a leader that has been given adequate skills and support will be more resilient to these difficulties and is more likely to succeed in their new role.
Equipping leaders with the skills, knowledge and personal awareness needed to be a meaningful leader is our job. At 4Seeds we believe that all leaders are unique and that with the right knowledge and support they can all become meaningful leaders for their teams and organisations.
Want to upskill your new leaders? Check out our Meaningful Leadership Development Programme.
There is a reason why coaching is one of the fastest-growing professions in the world. A coach provides new insights on personal struggles, perspective on workplace challenges, and accountability for your best possible self. A coach offers a safe and supportive learning environment where you can grow and progress your communication, life satisfaction and overall well-being. And, as time moves faster and the demands for it increase exponentially, the need for coaching to support your growth and progress at work and at home is greater than ever.
Coaching, while a relatively new profession, has already had a dramatic influence on some of the greatest athletes, CEO’s and innovators of our time. These graphs published by the International Coach Federation (ICF) show the value of coaching for productivity and interpersonal skills at work:
No matter what you do, or where you find yourself, a coach is someone who is invested in your personal and professional success, at times even more than you are. Below are five reasons why you should invest in a coach for 2019.
A Coach Keeps You Focused on What is Important
There are countless demands for our attention and a myriad of personal goals we set for ourselves, daily as well as at certain intervals in the year. New Year’s resolutions are just one example of the milestones we set for ourselves in order to aid our progress and growth. However, as we all know, despite our best intentions we often lose sight of these goals due to distractions and urgent deadlines, leaving us feeling agitated and dissatisfied with ourselves. A coach is an excellent resource to keep you on track with the goals you have set for yourself.
A Coach Provides Accountability
A coach becomes your personal accountability partner. Once you’ve decided what you want to work towards, your coach will remind you and keep you in check. Often, what we need in order to stay motivated despite our daily challenges is someone reminding us who we are, what we want and who we want to become. A coach knows your needs and goals and will support you to reach your potential, in your own time and on your terms.
A Coach Helps You Save Time and Stress Less
Time is one of our biggest stresses in this day and age. We are constantly required to attend to different projects and people, despite having our own agenda and needs. The inherent stress of managing our relationships, tasks and personal and professional goals can become overwhelming, leading to health risks and negative consequences. A lot of our working hours are spent in a state of high stress and low mindfulness. A coach can help you to build the skills you need to manage pressure without becoming worn out. A coach is an antidote to stress, providing you with a sounding board for worries and concerns, and a fresh perspective on challenging situations.
A Coach Can Help You Build Confidence and Keep Motivated
Motivation is a tricky thing, and we often find ourselves weakened by failures and setbacks. We become self-critical, and in turn, avoid or resolve ourselves to not achieving our potential. A coach can become an essential resource at these times, providing you with perspective, inspiration and objectivity which is impossible to achieve on your own. When you have a mirror to show you your blind spots, you can become aware of your limiting behaviours and harmful thinking patterns, and in turn, find new ways of living and working which can boost your motivation and show you your true potential.
A Coach Can Help Increase Employee Engagement and Allow Your Business To Gain a Competitive Advantage
A recent study by ICF found that 65% of employees with a coaching culture were highly engaged. This is a massive improvement on the 13% engagement findings of Gallup from 2015. A coach provides powerful individual progress which improves the team and organisational effectiveness. In a competitive and challenging economic climate, this becomes a vital resource to leverage off and set your business apart from the pack.
Are You Ready to Kickstart your Best Year Yet?
At 4Seeds we provide ICF-accredited coaching packages which suit any position or budget. With our professional and caring team of coaches, we can provide you with the motivation, accountability, engagement and insight to make 2019 your best year yet! Click here to book a free meet and greet.
Our mindset has a profound impact on our life because it determines how we interact, behave, perceive, and engage with the world around us. We seldom, however, give our mindset a second thought, perhaps assuming that it’s innately inborn and something beyond our control. Many people assume that we either have a positive mindset that sees the glass as half full, or a negative one that sees it as half empty. Fortunately, and because of neuroplasticity over time, our mindsets can change and grow.
In our day-to-day lives, our mindset determines how we approach challenges and obstacles. Do we see things from a more negative viewpoint, or do we see challenges as opportunities to grow and learn? The good news is that you can develop and change your mindset in any situation because you have one phenomenal component in your life: choice! You can choose how to see your world around you. Your mindset is the belief you have about something, and we all know that our beliefs aren’t always correct. Beliefs are concepts we deem to be true without having any empirical evidence, but we have the ability to change our beliefs and therefore our mindset.
According to leading mindset researcher Professor Carol Dweck, there are two distinct mindset types.
The Two Different Mindset Types
1. Fixed mindset
As the word indicates, a fixed mindset person believes that our abilities and qualities are predetermined. This means that we’re born with certain predispositions that we cannot change or control. A fixed mindset focuses on winning and achieving for the benefit of being acknowledged and respected by others. A fixed mindset approach requires constant validation from others. If the person perceives that he/she won’t be able to achieve an outcome because of the lack of capability, this translates into them not putting in the required effort because they doubt their success. If failure does occur, the person doesn’t try again but gives up and believes that they aren’t good enough.
2. Growth Mindset
On the other side of the spectrum is the growth mindset – here the belief is that a person’s qualities and abilities can grow and develop with effort, experience, discipline, and engagement. The focus is on learning mastery and competence in self-selected areas. Results and outcomes don’t determine who we are, or what our potential is; rather they’re an indication of the amount of effort we apply right now. If the person doesn’t succeed the first time around, they develop the thinking style of “not yet, but soon”. They get up, contemplate how to approach the situation differently, and try again. Their emphasis is on the process applied not the actual outcome.
You may be wondering why it matters which mindset type you have. It matters profoundly because it clearly affects your ability to achieve goals, performances and being successful. Our mindset type can hinder or enable us, and this determines which strategies we’ll apply. It dictates how we respond to setbacks, the energy and effort we use to tackle situations, and in the end our success in goal attainment. Statistics show that a growth mindset is successful more often and is able to maintain that level consistently.
Mindsets in Organisations
If we take this concept one step further and assume that companies operate in the same frame as individuals, we can then conclude that companies have a certain primary mindset culture. Let’s hypothetically assume that a company has a fixed mindset culture, which is shown in its structures, policies, processes, operational activities and task execution. Outcomes and targets are distinctly measured and not attaining them means failure. Mistakes are punished, people are labelled as incompetent, and no learning is taken from mishaps. Leadership cascades that energy into its workforce, which may hamper employees from being self-motivated, creative, innovative thinkers, learners of mistakes, and eager to experiment with new ways of doing things. Growth is overshadowed by the company’s habitual system.
If the above concept is true; should leaders not be focusing on changing their company’s mindset? Companies like Apple, Google, and Virgin actively apply a growth mindset culture and we know what phenomenal success they’ve achieved. Perhaps it’s time to review what parts of your company are stuck in a fixed mindset and which aren’t.
Make the shift to a healthier growth mindset culture where you can learn from mistakes, and focus on the processes you apply rather than the final outcomes.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: The Random House Publishing Group.
While the ever-present stress of working in today’s world puts strain on individuals and organisational cultures, there are some fundamental environmental and cultural factors which can ease the pressure. Unfortunately, even though we may want to do our best work and have a positive work experience, this is often compromised by factors outside our control, and these unresolved conflicts impact overall organisational culture and business success.
Most organisations don’t plan on being negative environments for their employees’ well-being; however if they don’t pay attention to the unseen culture of the organisation, it can lead to some serious negative side effects, including:
- High absenteeism
- Stress-related health conditions
- Reduced productivity
- Unhealthy and toxic communication habits
- Politics and internal conflicts
- High levels of dissatisfaction
These side effects speak for themselves in terms of the impact they have on organisational culture and employee well-being; however, what often happens is that we leave them untouched hoping they’ll resolve themselves. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, and prolonged negative work environments usually lead to:
- High staff turnover
- Reduced work satisfaction which impacts commitment and motivation
- Low staff morale and team unity
- Higher amounts of HR issues relating to employee conflicts
So how can we tell that we’re working in a negative work environment? Well, there are a range of factors, but the truth is – you’ll feel it. Mistrust, closed communication, reduced collective problem solving, increased discomfort and reduced motivation are key indicators that your organisation is on a downwards slope.
But how do you know if you’re working in a positive organisation?
In South Africa there appears to be a lot of focus on logistical elements of organisational management which, while important, can lead to the people focus being less highly regarded. In this article we aim to highlight the key signs of whether you’re working in a positive organisation, and through it we hope to expose you to the often unseen elements which impact your employees and, in the end, directly impact your bottom line success.
Indicators of a Positive Organisational Culture
It is all well and good to have a values list stuck up on a wall in the office, however truly positive organisations bring their values to life. It’s simple to say, “we value diversity”, however is your organisation really upholding this value? Does everyone have equal representation? Can everybody share from their personal viewpoint without being shut down or silenced?
Value integrity comes in many forms from the words said, the actions performed, and the morals upheld in the organisation. These will differ depending on the values of your organisation, however one of the key indicators of whether you value integrity in your organisational culture is whether your own personal values are in accordance with those laid out by your organisation. If there is a connection on a personal level, it will filter out into every level of the organisation.
- A Relaxed and Productive Environment Organisational Culture
While it may seem obvious that we need to work in an environment that is conductive to concentration and productivity, this may not always be the reality. Bull pens, casual interruptions, social media access and colleague conversations can all have an impact on our capacity to do the “deep work” that truly improves organisations. Another area to consider when reviewing your working environment is whether you’re relaxed in your work space. Our brains require a baseline level of relaxation before we’re able to fully commit our attention to the task at hand, so notice whether your work space allows you to relax and concentrate fully on your tasks. A positive organisation should be encouraging a conducive environment through physical, sensory and mental conditions, as much as is possible within the given industry.
A positive organisation prioritises quality as much as quantity when it comes to outcomes for its clients. This is a balancing act and requires attention to both features when considering employee performance. While this may seem obvious and most organisations already have quality audits to ensure they’re producing the best products, what can often be forgotten is the people side of what it takes to achieve excellence. A positive organisational culture should be supporting the employees within the organisation to upskill, learn, and progress in their careers, and experience personal development through their roles. When an organisation commits to the individual improvement of its employees, the overall quality of their outcomes grows exponentially. Is your organisation committed to excellence?
- Open and Honest Communication
Corridor talk, internal politics and a lack of transparency are just some of the common problems experienced in many organisations. When open communication is not present, this can often lead to mistrust, a lack of psychological safety and employees wanting to “vent” to their peers which fuels the cycle to continue. Open communication can be either formal or informal, written or verbal. A positive working environment and an organisational culture with open communication will be easy to identify as there will be fewer cliques, less gossip, rumours, politics and uncertainty.
- Collaboration and Support
A healthy and positive team environment is one that supports creativity, problem solving and collaboration. There will also be compassion, respect and understanding underlying interactions. If you’ve ever been in toxic team environment you’ll know the signs – taking credit for someone else’s work, backstabbing, rumour spreading, unequal opportunities for expression, and bullying. A positive team environment is perhaps one of the key elements to creating a positive organisational culture because once teams are working together effectively and supportively, it can quickly spread into the culture of the rest of the organisation. If you want to identify whether you’re in a positive organisation, start to notice whether you have collaboration, peer support, learning through doing (reflection and problem solving), and both formal and informal meeting opportunities.
“A good sense of humour is an escape valve for the pressures of life.”
In South Africa we’re incredibly lucky to have a culture of humour. To laugh at ourselves, at what doesn’t work, at our frustrations and at each other in a kind way is one of our biggest weapons against the potential slip into negativity. A good sense of humour creates a light and playful culture within an organisation and can really be the antidote to daily stress as it releases endorphins and reduces cortisol (our stress hormone) built up throughout the day. Do you laugh enough in your organisation?
Unfortunately, in the traditional working paradigm, the elimination of humanity is standard operating procedure. A progressive, positive organisation considers the individual, and with that comes a flexibility in management of resources, time, expectations, methodology and differences in outcome – of course without compromising the quality of the organisation’s objectives. Flexibility while challenging to manage can be a vital way for employees to experience autonomy and acknowledgement because when we’re seen and heard as ourselves we’re more in control (over time use, task completion and work-life balance) and will experience a rise in intrinsic motivation and commitment to the organisation.
- Emphasis on environment, family and health
In this millennial world, the nature of our organisations has changed. From CSI (Corporate Social Investment) initiatives, family fun days, unconventional team building events and wellness programmes, there’s a revolution happening when it comes to an organisation’s responsibility to support, respect and act towards improving the lives of its employees and the greater community. This is becoming more common in organisations across the board, but provides a good indicator to see whether you’re in fact working in an organisation that has positive intentions.
Take Home Message
There’s a lot of pressure to be a better organisation, a better leader and a better person. This article is not intended to cause guilt, blame or negative sentiments towards your organisation because it doesn’t meet these criteria. Rather, it may help to explain why you’re experiencing conflicts and chaos at work and will hopefully give you a starting point to begin making positive changes in your work place.
If you’re not sure where to start, then don’t worry. 4Seeds is passionate about building skills and resources for happier workplaces in South Africa and we’d love to help you.
We’ll gladly come to your office for a FREE 30-minute Positive Workplace Talk to help start the conversation and to build awareness about how you and your organisation can become healthier, happier and more successful. If you’re interested, or know someone who may need us, then send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to get involved.
The times are changing and we’re here to support you on your route to success.
We have all experienced it.
A lack of energy, fatigue, pain, fever, and the inability to get our brains to work effectively. Yet we still we go on, pretending that everything is alright… until it’s not.
This is one of the biggest lies we tell each other, and we do it so many times every day that we’ve probably lost count. We say it to complete strangers, our work colleagues, our bosses, and even our family and friends. But why do we do this, and what implications does it have on our well-being in the long run? Perhaps if we are aware of these, then having a 5-step strategy to combat its effects is just what we need to move from alright to absolutely awesome.
Our Perception of Illness
While we are becoming more aware of the holistic nature of illness and disease, the common perception is that illness is primarily physical. We need to see someone’s illness on the outside of their body to understand it and to empathise with them. For centuries, we have made huge developments in the field of medicine and healthcare; however, in daily life people still understand illness visually and we tend to be less sympathetic to “invisible” illnesses. Even more so those that can be categorised as psychosomatic or “all in your head”. Think about it, how do you react to someone with a broken arm versus someone who admits they suffer from depression?
We may think we have progressed, but in fact our instincts still run a lot of our lives – including our response to illness. We want to be healthy and strong because it’s good for us, but also because on an instinctual level it makes us more likely to reproduce and continue the line of strong offspring who will keep the good genes going. We focus on looking, acting and being strong and attractive, and illness – well that’s not part of the package. So, as we move out of the accepted childhood “booboos”, we become gradually more intolerant of illness, pain and disease (in ourselves and others) because on some level it shows weakness and vulnerability. Of course, this has created the “just fine” culture, where we would rather suffer in silence than admit illness to others. You might think this is farfetched, but how many people at your work have admitted to depression? And perhaps just as importantly, how would you feel about them if they did?
1 in 4 South Africans has been diagnosed with depression, while 80% continue to work, not disclosing their illness to work colleagues. – South African Depression and Anxiety Group
It’s a “just fine” Culture
We live in a cognitive world where technology mediates our activities and disconnects us from the bodies that house these minds. We seem to value mental efforts more than those of the physical – look at the salary of a stockbroker versus that of a plumber. And yet this has not eradicated illness; in fact, perhaps it has made us more susceptible, as we are numbed to the warning signs our bodies give us. Until we can’t anymore.
The gut contains over 100 million neurons and “up to 90% of the cells involved in [stress] responses carry information to the brain rather than receiving messages from it, making your gut as influential to your mood as your head is. Maybe even more.” – Psychology Today
In advertisements, we are sold the high life – the life that less than 2% of the world’s population experience. The truth is that most of us are living in a “just fine” culture, where “getting on with it” and “doing a good enough job” is the reality of our daily lives. And while most of us put a lot of effort to fitting in, moving forward and being better, we have numbed our awareness of our bodies. When things don’t feel right, we just drug ourselves to forget the pain but our bodies are trying to tell us something and we are ignoring the messages.
When we say we are “just fine” and we aren’t, we put our relationships on the line. At work, people expect a certain standard and if you are fine, then why are you not meeting expectations? This can affect your performance reviews as well as your job security. And at home there can be a loss of trust, because when you get a long-term illness because you didn’t pay attention to the warning signs, your family and friends will feel let down and shut out.
So, as you can see, here are some of the reasons (and there are many more) why we find ourselves in the “just fine” culture and some of the repercussions of doing so. So what can we do about it?
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmary.” -The World Health Organization
Our 5-Step Strategy to Combat the “just fine” Blues
It may sound very negative to start by encouraging you to say that you’re not ok, but in fact, all we’re recommending is to admit how you actually feel.
Here is our 5-step strategy to combat the impacts of being “just fine”:
1. Be Mindful
At least once a day take a minute or two to notice what is happening in your body and mind and do a non-judgemental assessment. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling today?”.
2. Self-Compassionate Breaths
We are often our harshest critics and it is the voice in our own heads that we need to combat. Before you jump out of bed in the morning, take four deep breaths and notice how you feel. Make a note of how you could ease any illness or discomfort in the way you go about your day.
3. Communicate Honestly
You don’t have to talk forever about your aching toe (no one likes that), but when people ask you, “how are you?” scan your body and your mind and be honest. The person will most likely be surprised by your response, but you are being truthful and in turn you are also helping to break the cycle of “just fine” for those around you.
4. Take Action
If you are taking the steps above, you will begin to notice more in your body and mind. If you notice pain, discomfort, irregularities or prolonged unpleasant sensations/thoughts, then get help. Consult with a colleague to assist on a project or go to see a doctor or specialist. Don’t wait for the long-term consequences to kick in. Get help and then you can carry on.
It may seem the simplest advice in the world, but if it was that simple we wouldn’t have such a rise in stress-related conditions. We need to break the cycle of presenteeism, of showing up, of being self-destructive and of being a liability to those around us for fear of looking weak. If we can learn to own, admit and accept our vulnerable human form, we are bound to recover faster and come back with more vitality, vigour and capability. And what company wouldn’t want more of that!
4Seeds specialises in the use of Applied Positive Psychology, a fundamental foundation of which is to experience the negative as well as the positive, fully. Of course, we don’t want to emphasise the negative, but rather to accept that we are not machines. As we like to say, “we are not perfect machines always functioning at our peak, we are human, just human”.
I was recently invited to a birthday party by a friend. She had chosen a handful of people from diverse areas of her life with whom she shared meaningful and deep connections. No one knew each other, and as these kinds of conversations go, everybody shared what work they do. When it was my turn, I said that I was a Positive Psychology Practitioner.
The blank stares I received didn’t surprise me, so I explained that I help people to flourish and achieve their optimal potential in their life. This stirred up a debate which continued for the rest of the evening.
The gentleman sitting opposite me was an accountant and I asked him if he thought that he was flourishing in life or languishing. He said that he wasn’t sure as he didn’t know what it meant to flourish. On the way home, I realised that many people would have answered the same way.
That evening led me to write this article on the six items that make up flourishing. The state where people experience a high level of emotional, psychological and social well-being. When people feel well and function optimally, this is flourishing.
Positive Psychology: A New Perspective to Health
To start, let me take a slight detour and explain the term Mental Health. In 1948, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (World Health Organization, 1948, pg. 28). Unfortunately, since 1948 the word ‘health’ has come to be associated with disease, disability, and mental illness.
In the past 60 years, there has been a strong focus on the medical model of diseases and how to cure them. This perspective has often partially, if not completely, omitted the holistic understanding of human health, encompassing psychological, emotional and social well-being. This means that, until recently, we had forgotten to look at what works well in human beings and how to enhance human potential to thrive. The factors that allow us to achieve, succeed and feel satisfaction are still being learnt and understood. The science of Positive Psychology changed this perspective and provided the platform for the plethora of research which supports the understanding of makes humans thrive.
What Does Flourishing Mean?
So now that you have a background of the Positive Psychology perspective on health, we are ready to dive into the concept of flourishing. The Encyclopaedia of Positive Psychology, defines flourishing as a positive mental state and a self-transcending phase which allows a person to prosper and grow beyond themselves in pursuit of meaningful actions and relationships. This also allows them to experience positive emotional vitality and to function well in all areas of their lives (Michalec et. al.,2 2009).
Sadly, only 18% of adults are flourishing according to the criteria, with 65% having modest mental health and as much as 17% of people are languishing. People need psychological, emotional and social well-being in order to flourish and sadly there is the incorrect assumption that being mentally healthy means the person is flourishing. However, the opposite is in fact true.
Most adults just function in their personal and professional lives when they have the capacity to be so much more than they are right now. They face the challenge of not knowing how to practically shift from being OK to being awesome.
You may be wondering why such emphasis is placed on flourishing and why it isn’t OK to languish. The many benefits of flourishing will convince you:
- Higher academic achievements,
- Increased creativity,
- Goal setting mastery skills,
- Higher levels of self-control and
- Enhanced self-efficacy, and
In a nutshell, the experience of flourishing is about positive human functioning. And who doesn’t want more of that?
The Six Components of Flourishing
Flourishing comprises of these six basic components. Read through the list and see which ones apply to you every day, and which are less frequent in your life. From here you will be able to make a more informed judgement about how much you are flourishing in life and you can then start your process of moving towards a life filled with more satisfaction and vigor.
- Self-acceptance is the acknowledgement of all parts of your personality. Liking and accepting yourself, including your best and worst qualities. Self-acceptance is about having a positive attitude and using positive language with yourself. It’s also about being kind and patient with yourself which includes feeling positive about your past and present life.
- Personal growth is actively challenging yourself to become a better version of yourself on a regular basis. It’s about continuously developing and improving your knowledge by engaging in activities that contribute to society’s well-being.
- Personal life is linked to experiencing a life that has direction, meaning and purpose through pursuing goals that are important and valued by you. It’s a feeling that you belong and are worthy in the community and the world.
- Environmental mastery is making sense of what is going on around you and effectively exploring opportunities that come your way. It’s about feeling a sense of control of the complex external environment around you.
- Autonomy is the independence to manage, think, express and apply your ideas, even when you’re under social pressure. It’s about being self-determined and regulating your behaviour to be aligned with your internal standards and values.
- Positive relations are about creating trusting, warm and loving relationships with others. It means being kind, courteous, empathetic and helpful to strangers and equally upholding positive, intimate, fulfilling relations with loved ones. It’s also about accepting other people’s diverse opinions and ideas without judgement.
Now that you know what the six components are that lead to flourishing, you can hopefully identify one or two that you want to develop. It needs to be noted that it isn’t good enough to flourish here and there as that doesn’t drive optimal human functioning. To thrive and achieve your potential that you are destined to, you need to flourish on most of the time.
Besides reaching your potential, flourishing has an added benefit of reducing the psychological wear and tear your daily life has on you. Flourishing serves as a protective buffer against depression, psychological illness, stress, low immunity and cardiovascular disease as well as having many other benefits. In this busy day and age, working on increasing your flourishing components is not a nice-to-have, but a must-have if you want to experience a fulfilling and satisfying life.
3 Activities to Start Flourishing
In closing I would like to leave you with three activities to kick-start your flourishing development:
Firstly, have a positive attitude towards everyone you meet. Acknowledge them for what they bring to your life and openly show appreciation. Go out of your way to thank people or perform random acts of kindness.
Secondly, enrol in a new learning activity be it a short course, a weekend workshop, or read a thought-provoking book.
Thirdly, accept yourself for who you are. At the end of the day jot down the strengths that you used during the day. And if you haven’t done so yet, take the Flourishing Scale Assessment below.
Remember you have every right to flourish and be the very best version of yourself. All you need to do is reach out and claim it.
Flourishing Scale (Diener et al., 2009)
Below are eight statements which you may agree or disagree with. Indicate your response to each statement using the 1 to 7 scale below.
7 = strongly agree
6 = agree
5 = slightly agree
4 = mixed or neither agree or disagree
3 = slightly disagree
2 = disagree
1 = strongly disagree
_______ 1. I lead a purposeful and meaningful life.
_______ 2. My social relationships are supportive and rewarding.
_______ 3. I am engaged and interested in my daily activities.
_______ 4. I actively contribute to the happiness and well-being of others.
_______ 5. I am competent and capable in the activities that are important to me.
_______ 6. I am a good person and live a good life.
_______ 7. I am optimistic about my future.
_______ 8. People respect me.
Add the responses, varying from 1 to 7, for all eight items.
The possible range of scores is from 8 (lowest possible) to 56 (highest possible). A high score represents a person with many psychological resources and strengths.
To lead ourselves can often be a challenge in itself. But when we lead a team or a company, the responsibility for ensuring productivity and motivation becomes all the more complex. Often leaving leaders feeling overwhelmed and under-satisfied.
There are many reasons for this, but this overwhelm is often related to three prominent limiting beliefs which society has cultivated, and which we have held close to our hearts for what I believe to be way too long.
This toxic triad includes a fixed mindset, a weakness focus and the belief that belonging and diversity are incompatible. When in effect, this combination leads to disconnection, hopeless and loss of esteem in self and society. An exhausting and destructive situation for any team or company to find itself in.
In this article, I will unpack these three beliefs and introduce a potential antidote for each one, which when applied in the leadership of teams can:
- Increase collective achievement
- Boost collaboration and innovation
- Encourage individual growth and development
So, let’s get started.
Shifting from The Toxic Triad
For as long as we can remember, there has always been a focus on what is not working, on where we are weak, and the differences between “us” and “them”. This worldview potentially served our empires, agricultural settlements and self-preservation efforts. However, as we move towards a more global community and economy, with every waking (and sleeping) moment, the need to build positive, collaborative efforts becomes of utmost importance. For us to begin breaking down these barriers, we need to know more about these three limiting beliefs and begin seeing how they are playing out in our daily lives.
Number 1: The Fixed Mindset
A fixed mindset is defined as when people believe that their basic qualities, talents and intelligence are fixed traits; that they are fully developed and thus unchangeable. This fixed mindset is what leads us to say things like: “I am not good enough” or “I am really bad at…”.
A fixed mindset can cause:
- Avoidant behaviours,
- Fear of failure,
- Reduced engagement,
- Increased depression and
- A higher risk of burnout.
But is there a plus side to this fixed mindset? The good news is that there definitely is. A fixed mindset is not fixed! Our brains can rewire and learn. And when we begin to notice the difference between “not good enough” and “not good enough YET”, we will start to shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
We can begin to look at our staff, our teams, our products and our companies as constantly evolving and pliable. This is a necessary move for any company looking to keep learning and developing. When our perspective shifts, we open ourselves up to real growth; and in fact, make success more likely.
Number 2: The Weakness Focus
We tend to focus on our development areas, our weakest links and lowest test scores. We do this because as a human race we want to succeed, improve and be better than those that came before us (including the you of yesterday). And while we know that this mentality has, in a way, led us to become incredible innovators, problem-solvers and constructors of our world, we are also stuck focusing on what is not working well.
This weakness focus leads to:
- Reduced self-esteem,
- Lowered efficiency,
- Narrow-mindedness and
- Reduced problem-solving ability.
Focusing on weaknesses also makes us tired; we become exhausted with our fear of failure. This in turn drains us of our creativity, playfulness and hope. In essence, a weakness focus in the workplace has a detrimental effect on our productivity, innovation and satisfaction with the end product.
As a leader, we tend to look at what went wrong, and we can forget what our people bring to the table. We all have strengths; some are better at execution while others are the relationship builders. Every individual within your team and company has a unique set of strengths and talents, and when these become the focus, we begin to build people and products which are collectively amazing.
When we work outside of our strengths, we become tired; however, when we work using our strengths not only do we become elated, motivated and dedicated, but we accomplish our goals and share the good news with others. A strengths-based approach is the number one most important leadership capacity you can develop for your company.
Number 3: Unity and Diversity are Incompatible
Compatibility is a curious concept. When we think of a romantic relationship where people are considered compatible, it is because they share something in common, have similar values and enjoy similar activities. They are familiar to each other and therefore it is more comfortable for them to settle with each other. However, many long-time married couples will agree that the most important thing is not in fact compatibility, but rather understanding. It is the differences we see in each other that keep our interest, teach us humility, and keep us learning.
So why should it be any different in a workplace?
Even people who appear the same, are all different. In fact, a quote from Gallup’s book Strengths Based Leadership (Rath and Conchie, 2008) describes this point perfectly:
“Look at people’s strengths, not their gender, race, or age.”
When we think of diversity, we think of demographics; however, if we were to assess the strength distribution of a workforce, we would see the multifaceted and unique combination of strengths a group of individuals has. With this knowledge, we can see that we are all different, from a twin sibling or a life partner, and more often than not, that is why we grow, innovate, and develop. It is through the collaborative efforts of individuals with differing views that great products and services are created. In fact, Rath and Conchie say that: “the more diverse the team is in age, gender, and ethnicity, […], the greater the level of engagement. And the greater the engagement, the greater the productivity and retention.”
It is therefore imperative that we shift the belief that homogeneity is better than diversity and begin recognising the potential that unique individuality can bring to a team and company. Only when we notice the individual talents and strengths of our employees can we begin to live our potential.
We are all familiar with the effects of the toxic triad. We have all in some or other way felt drained by our work, isolated or frustrated with our colleagues and employees, or limited in our cognitive capacity because of reduced motivation and disconnection from our work. Burnout, depression, low self-esteem, ruined relationships and lost opportunities are all results of this inhibiting combination of limiting beliefs.
Aren’t you tired of being tired, not good enough and isolated? The leaders who are moving companies across the globe towards becoming more meaningful and successful are those that are aware and active in shifting away from what was not working to what is. Don’t get left out or stuck in a rut. Move yourself and your company forward by focusing on strengths, noticing what growth is happening and recognising the value of diversity for success.
Good luck on your journey😊
Rath, T. & Conchie, B. (2008) Strengths-Based Leadership. Gallup Press.
You’re sitting in a team or leadership meeting where an important decision needs to be made but something just doesn’t feel right. The arguments presented appear sound and well-researched but still something feels off. It’s a hunch, a sense that you have, a gut feeling! Do you make it known to the other team members? And say what? “My gut tells me this isn’t the right decision but I can’t tell you why”. People might stare at you in disbelief, wondering about your mental well-being.
This has happened to all of us at some point in our lives. Sometimes we listen to our gut and at other times we don’t, but in hindsight we frequently wish we had. We’ve all heard of successful business owners and entrepreneurs who follow their gut feeling even when the logical, factual information says something else. Richard Branson is one of these people – he mostly makes gut decisions and his business success speaks for itself.
The gut is often referred to as our second brain; rational thinking occurs in the brain but insights arise from our gut. These two “brains” are connected through the spinal cord. Starting at our prefrontal cortex (just behind the forehead) down the brain stem at the back of our neck to our spine and our central neural system. Life experiences are stored in different areas of our body; it’s all neatly compartmentalised.
The nervous system is the high-speed fibre optic highway that connects these stored experiences in a flash and gives us this somatic gut feeling. It must be noted that as we age our intuitive sensory muscles become stronger. This is because with age we experience many rich life experiences, situations and events that make our brain gut repository so much deeper. Traditionally we used to label it “wisdom”.
Good leaders take their gut feelings seriously
The challenge comes when we don’t take our gut feeling seriously and ignore it as being some odd feeling or strange mood we’re in. Life can get loud and busy with so much going on, that the gut is often not heard. However, we should become more attuned to our gut because it picks up many subconscious clues that our logical brain doesn’t always notice. To tune into the gut, we need to start creating mental introspective pauses so that we can understand the subtle message our inner guiding compasses wishes to share with us. Like the brain, the gut is there to serve us with good intention and keep us protected.
Life is about using the brain and the gut to understand and assess situations based on past experiences and emotions. It isn’t a case of either or, but combined usage to make decisions that are good for our head and heart.
Contact us for more information about leadership training today.
Alcoholism is regarded as an illness of the brain wherein the person is unable to control their intake of alcohol. They require more alcohol to maintain their basic need. Alcoholism is often stereotyped by society as a negative condition that aims to suppress behavior such as loneliness, pain or emotional suppression. In contrast, a workaholic has similar symptoms as an alcoholic but society regards it as a super productive, motivated, industrious and conscientious person. But is it?
As trainers and coaches, we know that a workaholic faces the same challenge as an alcoholic as they slowly but consistently get sucked into the vortex of needing continuous work and that all the time. The belief is that work needs me and I need it, having withdrawal symptoms if not having enough work, therefore actively finding extra work and the compulsive idea that work cannot function without them. Both are brain illnesses that are in conjunction created by the environment and ourselves. Organizations to a certain extent, value workaholics but only to the point that the symptoms are under control.
As much as workaholics are applaudable by organizations how does it feel like living with one. The standard complaints are:
- The other person never features – you become a silent phantom in the relationship who is never taken consciously aware;
- Don’t actively participate in family events or special school functions. Not having the time as a more urgent pressing unexpected meeting just popped up. In those instances you are saying to your family and children as much as conveying the message that you do not matter right now; work does;
- Having a marriage with a third person present. A person against which you have no control over or can even fairly compete against;
- Needing praise and recognition from your peers and colleagues. Getting the short-lived adrenalin kick of they cannot do without me and I am needed;
- Sacrificing your sleep, exercise regime and health for extra time to squeeze in the work. The work gives you a high and becomes your legal drug;
- You never switch off your brain. It is on work steroids and every awake moment is spent on actual work or thinking about work. This may result in your sleeping as little as possible. Sleep is regarded as wasted unproductive time.
Why trainers think that work-aholism isn’t admirable
As much as work-aholism may be seen as an admirable trait it cannot be maintained and it comes at a cost that in the end you are likely to be alone. Through your behavior you have pushed your precious family and friends away from you. As organizational leaders we have the responsibility to balance and maintain our employee workloads and not stimulate or even breed workaholics. Sure they have a hereditary component but as organizations we might be exploiting this.
Let us rather foster employees who find their passion and meaning in work without sacrificing their personal relationships. Contact us for more information about coaching and training.