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Five Reasons Why You Need a Coach in 2019

Five Reasons Why You Need a Coach in 2019

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:

coaching_benefits

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.  

What is your mindset?

What is your mindset?

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.

 

Reference

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: The Random House Publishing Group.

5 Techniques to Stop Overthinking Now!

5 Techniques to Stop Overthinking Now!

Every organ in our body has a specific function which warrants its existence. The mind is no different with its main purpose being to think, process and understand. It will think about things that are relevant and important to us and will equally consider trivial, mindless things. Its full-time job is to think, but that doesn’t mean that all the thoughts we have are valuable to us and warrant attention. We need to use self-awareness to distinguish between the thoughts that are helpful and motivating for us to move in a positive direction, versus those that swirl around aimlessly in our mind resulting in an endless sense of worry, and a repetitive loop anxiety.

 

Rumination and Reflection

The two self-awareness types described are called reflection and rumination, and they discern the quality and quantity of our thoughts. Reflection and rumination both originate from the same internal source of self-focus; however, they are different in terms of their intention. Rumination is a self-focused perception of the threats to your life; loss, regret, unfair social comparison, or unpacking injustice. It is laden with an undertone of psychological distress, anxiety and endless worry. In contrast, reflection is a curious, open-minded and non-judgemental observation of self (Trapnell and Campbell, 1999). In both cases, our mind is doing its work of contemplating, but the outcome is completely different.

We all know that from self-preservation and societal influence our minds are programmed to look for the negative in all aspects of our life, this means our minds will naturally spend more energy and attention on rumination than on non-judgemental reflection. But is ruminating beneficial to us?

If you are ruminating to understand a past disappointment, frustration or angry moment, it serves you for a certain time but generally once we start to ruminate we can’t stop which results in us overthinking and isolating ourselves. What follows is a vicious, negative downward spiral. Overthinking doesn’t solve any problems. In actual fact, quite the contrary happens – it worsens the situation, makes you miserable, hampers your decision-making ability, impairs your concentration, and drains your energy. It certainly won’t bring out the best in you.

 

 Making the Shift from Rumination

When you are in the vortex of rumination, you feel pushed and pulled in all directions and you will need to become self-aware that only you have the autonomy to halt the process and step away from it. As a starting point, give yourself permission to stop overthinking things, shift to a more reflective mind-set, and work out how you can think about these ruminating thoughts in a positive light.

I am going to share various techniques to stop ruminating. Try one and see if it resonates with you; if it doesn’t, move on and experiment with another one until you find your personal fit.

We all ruminate in our lives but having techniques will assist you to move out of the overthinking space faster to a place of reflection and balance.

 

 

The Five Techniques to Stop Overthinking:

     

  1. Self-Compassion:
    Shift your relationship with yourself to a kind and loving one that is non-judgemental or self-critical. Observe a situation as if you were your loving best friend and then become curious about what you are learning about yourself and what opportunity appears in front of you. Embrace failure, disappointment and inadequacies as opportunities to grow and develop and not to be critical of your shortcomings. Ask yourself questions such as: what could this situation mean; what can I learn from this experience; what opportunity presents itself here; and what strengths can I develop as a result of the situation?

 

  1. Put it into Perspective:
    Learn to sit back and see the situation from a bigger picture viewpoint and ask yourself if this event will matter in a years’ time or even a months’ time. If it is unlikely to have such a lasting impact, then rephrase and reframe your thoughts to: “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and “this too shall pass”. But if the answer is yes, then shift into reflection mode and become curious and open-minded to determine what you have control over to make it a positive outcome.

 

  1. Loving-Kindness Meditation:
    This is a type of meditation where you consciously send love, blessings and kindness to yourself. Use short periods of five to ten minutes where you go inwards and repeat these three phrases: May I be safe, may I be healthy, may I be happy, may I be at peace. Each time you repeat the phrase, you go deeper and really feel the power of the words in your body, in your heart and in your mind. The meditation is extremely powerful and will calm you, increase self-compassion and decrease overthinking.

 

  1. Time Out:
    Give yourself a set time, such as half an hour, to ruminate. You now have official permission to ruminate without feeling guilty. Set a timer and once the time is up you have to stop and engage in something completely different, preferably something fun such as listening to and singing your favourite song, doing a sweaty cardio workout or watching a comedy show.

 

  1. Reframing your language:
    During moments of rumination, we are extremely self-critical and may be using harsh, negative language. We are unlikely to speak to others in the same way but tend to be our most mean and unforgiving to ourselves. A powerful first step in breaking this chain is to become mindful of the negative language and thoughts you use towards yourself. Thereafter, rephrase the language as if you are communicating with a dear friend and apply that to yourself. Pay attention to your tone of voice and how you would like to talk to yourself in the future.

 
Ruminating is a natural phenomenon that we are wired to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for us, in large doses. Through continuous self-awareness and discernment of the quality of your thoughts, you can assess if your thoughts are serving you or not. If not, you are likely overthinking things and mainly living in your head. If you bring in a combination of reflection and the techniques described above, you will have the practical tools to transform your thoughts into positive ones and experience a much lighter and easier life.

In the words of John Milton:

The mind is its own place, and it itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

 

Reference

Trapnell, P., & Campbell, J. (1999). Private self-consciousness and the five-factor model of personality: Distinguising rumination from reflection. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 284-304.

Set yourself up for success with your own Personal Balanced Scorecard

Set yourself up for success with your own Personal Balanced Scorecard

The holiday season is over, and our lives are slowly getting back to normal in terms of our daily routines. Over the last few weeks you may have given your body and mind a well-deserved break and will be getting ready to embrace the year with renewed energy and optimism. Setting New Year’s resolutions seems to be an outdated ritual and no longer in fashion, but the philosophy behind it remains: the concept of self-reflection where one reviews, re-assesses and evaluates the past year. Everyone will use their own method to work out if the past year was great, mediocre, or a not too great, thank goodness it’s over year.

After we have evaluated the past year, we can shift our attention and look forward to the upcoming year; being curious what the stars have in store for us. We might daydream about where we want to be at the end of this year, or we may be crystal clear on the goals we wish to attain. Most often, our annual evaluation highlights for us what we want to achieve, what we want or even need to let go of, and what we want to start with, replacing negative habits with positive healthy ones being a common goal that we strive for. Somehow, that language has a negative energy and seems as if we have to give up something to gain something. Perhaps it’s the combination of wishful thinking, not setting clear goals and sacrificing something that results in New Year’s resolutions being overrated and failing dismally.

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water as the concept of evaluation, assessment and setting new goals is a powerful and necessary step for personal growth and development. What if we try it with a more abundant, comprehensive and guaranteed for success approach, such as designing your own Personal Balanced Scorecard? You may be wondering what a Personal Balanced Scorecard is, and why you have never heard of it before. It’s quite simple: the Scorecard has its origins in the business world and only found its way into our personal lives in the last few years. It was initially developed in the early 1990s by Dr Robert S Kaplan and Dr David P Norton with the intention of measuring an organisation’s progress towards its business goals and vision. The framework comprises of a mixture of financial and non-financial performance business goals. Data is collected and scored to determine progress, targets met and deviations. It sounds technically complicated and corporate, but through its personal adaptation to fit and suit our busy lives it has become a very practical and handy method to ensure that you balance your life with all other important domains such as work, family, health, leisure, and travel, etc.

You can design your own Personal Balanced Scorecard and make it simple and easy to use or more fancy and advanced. This will help you to keep focused on the progress of the goals you have set for yourself. The power of the tool is that you receive a visual tool that tracks whether you are on track, lagging behind or totally off course; this realisation will make you quickly reassess, re-evaluate and take action. You can customise how often you want to re-evaluate your progress, either monthly quarterly or six-monthly. Remember it’s your Scorecard and you can make it work for you.

Where to start

Begin by defining and articulating your personal ambition and aspirations, including all areas of your life. You can regard it as your personal balanced life plan which would map out your ideal life for the next 12 months. If you like, you can stretch it to a three- or even five-year life plan. Putting it into small, medium and long-term goals is always a recommended approach.

Write down all the areas in your life that matter to you (work, family, friendships, health and fitness, and finances, etc.). Add the areas in your life that are meaningful and valuable to you. This is a very important point because only if you truly value and find meaning in the domain will you be motivated enough to sustain it with energy and vigour, even when things are not going too well.

What’s next?

Score each domain as you see it right now out of 10. As an example, I would say that I am about a 7,5 with regard to my overall health. Then ask yourself if you are satisfied with this level and if your answer is yes then move on to the next one. If the answer is no, then state what your ideal score would be, so in my case it would be a 9. Think of about three activities that will bring you closer to your ideal goal. Make these tangible and measurable and establish regular dates when you will check-in on how your progress is going.

How to maintain this

Ensure that your goal is broken down into bite size chunks. We tend to be over-optimistic setting ourselves challenges that are too big and then get demotivated when we don’t reach them. Remember that slow and steady usually wins the race. It’s natural for us to have moments where our motivation dips and we question if we can sustain the journey of change to attain our desired goal. Choose people or groups that can support and motivate you in these times. It’s easy to give up, but it’s not easy to persevere. You can also use a professional coach to be your champion throughout the change process.

Today is a great day to invest in your personal development. Regardless of whether you have or haven’t set your 2018 goals yet by using the Personal Balanced Scorecard, you will know exactly what and how to go about reaching your success. If you need support in ensuring your goals become reality and not another dream, drop us an email at info@4seeds.co.za to schedule your consultation. Click here to download a FREE sample of a Personal Balanced Scorecard.

Resilience through growth and change

Resilience through growth and change

Resilience is an essential component to our overall wellbeing. Not to mention that it is a fundamental strength to have when engaging with dynamic change situations. We might think it is an inborn trait and that everybody has it, but that is a false assumption.

Resilience is core strength to obtain in this ever changing world, where seldom one day is the same as the next. Adversity and flexibility are survival tools and we need resilience when the going gets tough. When things do not play out the way we planned or hoped for.  That adds to many days.

Resilience is standing up when we get knocked down, to dust ourselves off after a fall and have the energy to try it all again. We do this because we believe that the end result is worth it! We want to give it all and we know that a setback will not stop us from trying again and again.

A growth mindset and resilience are like mother and daughter. I guarantee you that you will experience failure in life situations and that you might detour before you reach a goal, but it is all about your mindset during the process. Focusing solely on the final destination, the outcome is draining and often a recipe for disaster. The smarter method is to concentrate, plan and work on the multiple processes that lead to the desired outcome. For these continuous forward-moving mini-steps we require resilience, as the path is seldom smooth.

The brilliant news is that resilience can be learnt and developed, but how? As a starter by asking these questions:

  1. Why not? We often find millions of excuses of why it will not work but let us for a moment think why it could work?
  2. Design and create a personal “pick-me-up” mantra that you can repeat to yourself over and over in tough times. Do not sensor it, even if you think it is cheesy. If “Just do it” works for you GREAT. Program yourself for success. What is your personal positive mantra?
  3. Develop a reliable and supportive social system around you for those moments when you cannot do it yourself. A person who you can lean on for encouragement and motivation. Who gives you the strength to try again, because they know you can.

Resilience is a mental mind muscle we all own but in some of us it is more prominent. Visualize resilience as your personal six pack. Some of us have really worked our tummy abs and have developed an admirable six pack whilst others have opted to relax the muscle and make it is less visible. Fact is we all possess these stomach muscles; we just need to train them consciously. Resilience is exactly the same, an impressive six pack. Train that mental mind muscle and become more resistant to life’s “punches.”

Sound all too easy? Guess it is when you commit to develop your resilience muscle.

Before we leave you to train that resilience-six-pack the question might be “What’s in it for me?”

Here are 5 reasons on how you can benefit from resilience.

  1. Cope better with pressure and stress
  2. Feeling more energized at work or with life
  3. Improve focus and attention span
  4. Enhancing personal self-development and growth
  5. Build stamina to commit, engage and perform

Happy training!

The missing link in New Year’s resolutions

The missing link in New Year’s resolutions

We are constantly being bombarded by the media and social networks with tips and advice for making New Year’s resolutions. You can’t open any social media platform these days without seeing recommendations on goal setting, planning, resolutions, statistics and self-improvement advice. The suggestions are endless… “try this, stop that, and change this…”, and the list goes on!

 Research shows that more than half of the population do not make New Year’s resolutions. I’d like to know how that figure can be true if we look at the information flood in the media? Also, a meagre eight percent of people successfully accomplish their resolutions. The generation who are under 30 seem to be the most successful with thirty-seven percent of them who are successful with their resolutions. With such a low success rate, I find it hard to believe that we still continue with this “mindless” tradition.

 Let me transgress for a moment and explore the origin of this tradition. New Year’s resolutions date back 4000 years to the ancient time of the Babylonians who celebrated New Year for three months from January to March. During this time, the Babylonians promised their Gods that they would dutifully repay their debts and return borrowed objects to their rightful owners. These intended gestures were so that the Gods could bestow blessings and good fortune onto the people. Fast forward to the 21st century and this religious tradition has shifted to us making promises to ourselves on self-improvement and development.

Studies have shown that self-improvement focuses on four main topics. Forty one percent of people resolve to enhance their personal development and education, followed on the heels by forty percent promising to improve their money matters. Then there are thirty-four percent who focus on health and weight topics and twenty-two percent on cultivating healthier relationships.

Also, the origin of the word “resolution” stems from the 14th century Anglo-French and Latin language and directly translated means “to break down into small parts”. Taking the lead from this definition, it provides a possible answer as to why by the end of January our positive intentions have petered out and lost energy.

Perhaps the answer lies in our mindset thinking? Our New Year’s resolutions might be hairy, audacious goals that we truly want to achieve, but with an unrealistic timeframe. It took us time to master our existing habits, and obviously, they cannot be undone in 10, 30 or even 90 days. We consciously, or sub-consciously perhaps, repeated the negative habit on a very regular basis, which allowed pathways to be developed in our brain. If we look at neuroscience, the evidence suggests that neurons that fire together wire together. To replace negative with positive wiring, we must undergo two simultaneous processes. Firstly, we must stop thinking and doing the negative stuff so that with time the neuropathways starve and die-off. At the same time, we should very diligently and regularly engage in new positive behaviour to get new pathways connecting with each other. This process of the new neurons starting to fire together can take anything from ninety days to six months, depending on the conscious regularity. Only after six to nine months does the new positive habit become automated and part of our natural behaviour.

A second reason for the high New Year’s resolution failure rate is that we are not crystal clear of the underlying reason, the WHY, for the desired change. The WHY factor is a very important and often overlooked component and is the motivation driver that keeps us focused and committed when we have wobbles, self-doubt, exhaustion or feel overwhelmed. Start with understanding the WHY for the New Year’s resolution. Write down reasons and benefits WHY you want to pursue change.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to change for the better and setting resolutions, however it’s a mindset to keep throughout the year. Going back to the Latin origin of the word “resolution” (break into small parts) we should consider breaking down our resolutions into monthly ones. At the end of every month we should take stock of the progress made, the learning experienced and then celebrate our wins. It’s important to do all three of these elements every time.

New Year’s resolutions are positive intentions and promises for our own self-betterment and improvement, so let’s move the success ratio upwards.

Starting 2017 with the right mindset will help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions

Starting 2017 with the right mindset will help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions

The year is just about done! You’ve survived another twelve months that at some times felt like time was flying past and other times was dragging. For some, 2016 was a magical year while for others a challenging one. Either way, we’ll all agree that it was an adventurous year filled with unexpected events, surprise outcomes, joyful moments and heart-breaking sadness. Like a good soap opera… a bit of something for everyone.

December is usually a time for reflection where we look back over the past year, and look forward to the new one. We savour moments, events and people who made the year unique and special, and think about personal changes that we need to make or things that we want to do differently next year. We all have dreams and goals; some are large and will take proper planning while others are small. Then there are those niggly behaviours that we want to change; we want to stop this or that and start something else. Both involve that dreaded word “change”!

Planning on setting goals

Even with the best intentions, we sometimes don’t move forward towards change. We’ve got the willpower and desire, but external factors get in our way. We need to learn to prepare and expect these external factors and work with or around them. You may not be able to control your external environment; however, you can control how you choose to perceive them.

Are these factors excuses or opportunities?

Are they moments to be flexible, and realign our thinking so that we can achieve our goals?

The path to goal attainment is like a treasure hunt. You know you’ll get to the finish line but on the way, you encounter challenges, detours and obstacles. That’s life – it doesn’t flow in a straight line.

As you reflect on what changes you want to make next year, take some time to answer these 10 questions will crystalize your way forward and help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions:

What precisely do I want to change?

  1. What will I gain from the change?
  2. Out of a score of 1 to 10, how much do I value the outcome?
  3. What are my options to reach my goal?
  4. How am I going to track my progress?
  5. Whose support can I count on?
  6. What will indicate that I am stuck?
  7. When am I going to start?
  8. What action am I going to take in the next 3 hours, 3 days and 3 months?
  9. Who is going to partner with me and hold me accountable?

Often, we don’t have the discipline to hold ourselves accountable. It’s human nature to find reasons when we start going off track. We don’t have the willpower to stay outside of our comfort zone, and it takes loads of energy to persistently do something differently and progress is at a snail’s pace.

When you’re working towards stretch ‘Everest goals’ it is advisable to have a coach and mentor by your side. It’s important to do this right from the start and not only when it gets tough. Find someone to cheer you on, be your sounding board and raise you up when you are feeling low.

If you need assistance in setting your 2017 goals or want a coach to support and motivate you, please send an email to info@4seeds.co.za. Alternatively contact us for our coaching package specials.

Training your brain for happiness

Training your brain for happiness

Happiness is a concept, a feeling and an inner state that we wish for others and for ourselves. When parents are asked what they’d like for their kids, the answer is always “For them to be happy with their life”. When we write cards for birthdays or other special occasions such as weddings, we bestow happiness on the person or couple.

Happiness is an exceptionally important ingredient in our life, and often we don’t take it seriously. How many times have you said “Just be Happy” without consciously registering what that involves?

Every human being wants to be happy – it’s something we all share; a golden thread that runs through our collective lives which connects us. For some, it is more conscious than for others, and can even be an elusive idea, another fallacy, or even a trend.

Positive Psychology, the study of human well-being and flourishing, has helped to take this topic and transpose it into a tangible, robust science that is empirical, measurable, noticeable, repetitive and valid. The words well-being and happiness are often seen as one and the same concepts even if they are not, but for the sake of this article we’ll turn a blind eye.

For a moment let’s consider the relationship between Neuroscience and Positive Psychology. Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system and brain activities on a cellular and molecular level. We can’t physically see the brain working during the day, except if we were wired to a brain image scanner. However, we can feel how our brain’s state impacts on our thoughts, actions and behaviour. Brain imaging has given us the opportunity to observe the internal structure of the brain, and to see what sections in the brain are activated through activities or emotions. This technological advancement has helped us to understand where happiness is located in the brain.

The neuroscience behind happiness

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It’s incredible to think that true happiness has an actual place in the brain, and by identifying the brain-happiness area, experiments have been conducted that determine what neuro-pathways stimulate and lead to increased happiness.

When people are in a state of happiness, their prefrontal cortex (located in the forehead and responsible for allowing us to think, make decisions, focus, and attain goals) is noticeably more active. Another commonly-used name for the prefrontal cortex is the Executive brain which takes up a huge amount of energy. Besides allowing us to think, it has another important function of regulating our emotions and assisting us to recover from negative thoughts and emotions. If we learn to train our brain, we can indirectly influence our psychological and emotional well-being, also known as our level of happiness.

There are a few ways to train your brain to be happy, without the use of chemical substances.

Meditation – ten minutes of quietening the mind stimulates the prefrontal cortex and provides feelings of joy, calmness, serenity and well-being. These are ten powerful minutes in which you can empty the thoughts from your head.

Loving kindness meditation (LKM) – is a meditation where you intentionally send love, kindness, protection and well-being to your loved ones as well as to yourself. It’s a visual image where you consciously see the loved one in-front of you and then send them abundant love. It sounds strange, but if we’re honest, we do this naturally to the people we care about and love.

Gratitude awareness – taking a couple of minutes to become aware of who and what we are grateful for in the day. This can be gratitude for people, situations or events, and observing the beauty of our surroundings, relationships and life. You can have fun here and write this down in a journal, take a snapshot of it, draw it, sing it, dance it or just think it.

Strengths mindfulness – reflecting over the day and listing strengths that you applied that day. Again, it’s a conscious decision to focus on what inner strengths you used during the day in certain situations without being mindless. This can be varied from being patient and kind to an infuriated colleague, to using humour or empathy in a tough situation.

The benefit of training your brain to be happier leads to a more productive and focused mind as well as becoming happier. It’s in your control and your choice to pursue happiness in your life. Contact us for more information about crafting your happiness.

Craft your path to happiness by understanding what gratitude is and isn’t

Craft your path to happiness by understanding what gratitude is and isn’t

Society holds gratitude in high esteem. Everyone wants to be more grateful which is a desirable human characteristic, however few actually are. Gratitude is about acknowledging that we have received something from someone else that we value and appreciate. The purpose of being grateful is to make life better for ourselves and others and to overcome the human tendency to take things, people or situations for granted. We shouldn’t feel entitled to the benefits, or to resent others for their benefits and nor to take credit for our own success. There were always others involved. But why do we struggle so much with this hugely inspiring characteristic? Gratitude doesn’t come naturally for all of us, whereas resentment and entitlement do. Gratitude is a virtue, which means that it needs to be taught, modelled, and regularly practiced until it becomes an automatic habit.

To complicate matters, gratitude has been identified as a trait (hereditary disposition), an emotion and a mood. It starts off as an emotional reaction of feeling thankful and recognising the contribution others have made to our life and wellbeing. It then develops into a mood of a subtle, longer-duration of conscious state and ends as a permeable character trait.

The personal benefits to enhancing our level of gratitude:

  1. Promotes optimal functioning
  2. Promotes feelings of empathy, forgiveness and helping others
  3. Facilitates coping with stress and loss
  4. Reduces upward social comparison that often results in envy and resentment
  5. Reduces materialistic striving
  6. Improves self-esteem
  7. Allows us to savour positive and pleasant memories
  8. Builds social resources
  9. Motivates moral and ethical behaviour
  10. Fosters goal attainment
  11. Promotes physical health
  12. Increases one’s spirituality

After reading those powerful benefits, I am certain you are excited to learn and grow your gratitude levels. Here are some ideas on how to do exactly that:

  1. Start off by taking the GRAT Assessment which will measure your level of gratitude, resentment and appreciation (Watkins, Grimm and Hailu, 1998). Don’t skip this step because it’s good to be aware of where you are right now and how you are progressing. Email us at info@4seeds.co.za to attain a free copy of the GRAT Assessment.
  2. If you enjoy journaling, this one is for you! Take five minutes at the start or end of your day where you write down what you are grateful for. It can cover a wide range of things from the mundane to the magnificent.
  3. Express gratitude directly to another person. Write to them or tell them what you appreciate about them as a person or what they did for you. Expect some tears with this one!
  4. Take note of an ungrateful thought that popped into your head and consciously reframe it to a positive thought.

Whichever idea you use, remain curious and open-minded. If one suggestion doesn’t work, swop it for another one. Experiment and play with this. Keep it varying and fresh. If you want to engage in an online self-learning module on gratitude please email us on info@4seeds.co.za.

Have fun!

References: Chapter 16 – R.A. Emmons & A. Mishia pg. 248-262 Watkins

Contact us to learn more about our personal coaching and craft your happiness programme today.

Six steps to sustaining change when making personal development goals

Six steps to sustaining change when making personal development goals

Most personal development changes don’t endure for long periods; rather for brief moments. We have all experimented with changing some aspect in our life. We had to increase this or decrease that, do more of that and less of this. We might have seen the results, but in the long-run we didn’t sustain the process and fell back into old patterns and habits. Grrrrrrr.

The process is frustrating, disappointing and energy depleting which causes us to treat the word “change” with scepticism. The core reason our change plans don’t last is because we don’t assimilate and internalise them. We don’t identify with the new habit and somehow latch onto the old way, even if it has harmful or has negative consequences for us.

To sustain change we must establish a new identity – one that resonates with us. How do we focus on a new identity as we often are unable to visualize what that new identity actually tangibly looks and feels like?

Letting go of the old and replacing it with the new requires clarity on what must change, honesty about the need for change, courage to get started and ownership of the change process.

 

Establishing a new change identity 

These six principles recommended by Dave Ulrich (university professor, author, speaker, management coach, and management consultant) are useful and effective in establishing a new change identity.

Principle 1 – Focus

What do you want? This question requires reflection but results in clarity. Stay disciplined until you are clear what you really want. You can even reverse the process by stating what you don’t want.

Principle 2 – Explore

What are your options? Explore ideas and options on how you can get what you want. Look for alternatives, be innovative and consult others. Think big here and don’t censure your thinking.

Principle 3 – Claim one choice

Knowing what we want gives us direction. Having options provides paths on how to get there, but claiming and owning a choice creates momentum. We often stop here because we get lost in the choices that we are tempted to try. Claim one choice and give it all your energy!

Principle 4 – Decide

What decision do you need to make? Deepen the “Claim one Choice” principle and shift into action. Think about the two or three decisions you can make. Work out who needs to make the decisions, and when they need to be made by.

Principle 5 – Act

What concrete actions do you need to make? Until now the change process has been mostly in your head. It’s time to shift gears into doing, behaving and experimenting. As the saying goes “We often judge ourselves by our intent, but others judge our intent by our actions!”

Principle 6 – Learn

How will I know and grow? This is a powerful question that is critical to sustaining the change identity. What tangible results will indicate to you, your change progress? If you don’t approve of what you see ponder on how will you readjust or make improvements on your change process. Measurement outcomes without learning fail to sustain change. Two types of measurement are important in this stage 1) Behaviour – what did you do right 2) Outcomes – what did you accomplish.

Sustaining change is a journey and a process. It has no finite start or ending. It’s the regular pattern of behaviour that supports us to shift to a new identity; one that personally resonates with us.

Contact us for more information about our personal development and coaching services.