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3 Strategies to Keep You Motivated Towards Year End

3 Strategies to Keep You Motivated Towards Year End

As the year starts to wind down and we begin to reflect on the past year in anticipation of another year end, motivation can be a huge challenge. It’s sometimes difficult to stay dedicated to what we want to achieve when the finish line is in sight. Keeping ourselves motivated at work and at home takes intentional action, clear objectives, and using our social networks to keep us accountable.

Before we unpack some proven strategies to keep you motivated, it’s important to understand how motivation works. A key framework for understanding motivation is the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) which was developed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan.

What is the Self-Determination Theory?

Most of us recognise motivation as either intrinsic (self-initiated) or extrinsic (for rewards or recognition). While motivation can be either internally driven, or for external gains such as money or social recognition, the Self-Determination Theory posits that motivation exists in a continuum. An example of this is training for a marathon which may be motivated both intrinsically (for the love of running) and extrinsically (for social recognition). Self-Determined motivation therefore needs us to focus on what is driving us on both sides for most cases- however true intrinsic motivation is also possible and achievable.

The Self-Determination Theory also presents the idea that motivation is driven by our desire to meet three universal human needs:

  • Competence
  • Autonomy
  • Connection

Basically put, we all have the innate human desire to grow, learn, and accomplish our goals. We want to feel as if we’re accomplished, competent, and that we’re valuable contributors. We also want to determine our own goals, have our own ideas, and craft our own identity, without being controlled or told what to do. Lastly, as humans we’re naturally social. We need to feel connected to others, understood, and that we belong. Each of these three universal human needs underpins what is at the core of our motivation.

In this article we will share three proven strategies to keep you motivated, guided by these three universal human needs. These strategies work to increase your sense of accomplishment, to empower your sense of autonomy over your own life, and to support you to remember and connect with your social networks so that you can continue to succeed and feel driven towards reaching all your personal goals for 2019.

 

3 Proven Strategies to Keep You Motivated

1)     Motivated by Competence: Reflect on your achievements, and re-evaluate your goals

Often when we set goals at the beginning of the year, we write down big and often unrealistic expectations of what we can achieve. Taking time now to reflect on what you have accomplished can help you to recognise your achievements, thus boosting your motivation to pursue what is still on your list. Once you’re feeling more competent in what you have done, it will make it easier to re-evaluate what you still want to achieve. Re-evaluating your goals requires you to be realistic about what you can do, and asking these questions can help:

  • “Is this goal actually my goal?” and “What is driving this goal? Is it an intrinsic desire or is it extrinsically motivated?”
  • “Is this goal realistic for me to achieve?” and if not “How can I make this goal more specific and realistic?”

 

2)     Motivated by Autonomy: Reward yourself for your personal accomplishments, and remember to rest

When you start to reflect on your year and all the efforts you’ve made, you may realise just how tired you are. It’s really important for your resilience and stamina to know when you need to rest and restore your energy. We’re not machines and without enough rest we’re unlikely to reach the finish line successfully. Knowing when to reward yourself for work done – and when you deserve a break – can be difficult, because we’re often our harshest critics. This this is where your autonomy can come into play.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • “What am I proud of that I have achieved this year?”
  • “What is the best way to reward myself for my hard work?”
  • “What is the best way for me to restore my energy?”

It’s also important to keep the bigger picture in mind. Why have you been so driven and what are you working towards? When we remember what we’re moving towards we learn to see that life’s biggest accomplishments are a marathon, not a sprint. They take time, and usually you’re the only one who will give yourself that time. Make sure you’re using your autonomy to increase your stamina, so as not to exhaust yourself to the point of burn-out.

 

3)     Motivated by Connection: Appreciating and Engaging in Your Social Networks

Motivation is largely impacted by our social circumstances, and there is a growing body of research which is proving the value and importance of gratitude. When we learn to focus on what we have, and feel appreciation for the moments, achievements, and the people who have positively impacted us, we become more productive and satisfied and feel more connected. When you start to feel your motivation wane (especially at this time of year), reflect on the people who have supported your goals so far. Write down their names and the ways they’ve helped or supported you in achieving your goals. If it feels appropriate, tell them. Sharing your appreciation may be just what they need to feel uplifted and motivated.

Practicing gratitude can be extremely helpful in team meetings. Try asking your team to:

  • Write down the names of 10 people who have supported them this year.
  • Share one quality or strength they appreciate in each of their team members.
  • Write down the resources they need to reach their goals, and then ask people for help.

We often feel isolated when we want to succeed because we want to feel wholly responsible for our achievements. When we learn to ask for help we’re more likely to actually reach the finish line.

 

In Conclusion

Motivation can be difficult when we’re tired and isolated. Self-Determination is a spectrum which may require external support to achieve our personal goals. The important take-home message is that motivation is governed by our internal needs. If we remind ourselves of our accomplishments, acknowledge the people that support us, and remember to rest and restore, we’re more likely to reach the finish line without illness or exhaustion.

Are you booking your year-end function? Are you looking for one with sustainable results and a real sense of personal and team satisfaction? Then 4Seeds is the perfect company to organise this for you. We develop bespoke events to suit your team’s needs, and make sure that everyone walks away feeling motivated, satisfied, and connected.

If you’re interested in one of these bespoke events, contact us at info@4seeds.co.za.

Everything You Need to Know About Flow Psychology

Everything You Need to Know About Flow Psychology

What is Flow, and Why Do we Need it at Work?

Flow psychology is one of the main concepts behind employee engagement in Positive Psychology theory. First researched and coined by Positive Psychology co-founder Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow has gained a lot of attention in recent years because of its powerful personal and organisational benefits.

In this article, we will share what flow is, the benefits of increasing flow at work, and how to increase flow experiences.

Let’s dive in!

 

The Definition of Flow

Have you ever felt as if you lost time and your mind stopped analysing and planning while you were doing something you loved and valued? That was a flow experience. Flow is a unique state of high motivation, achievement, and satisfaction in what you are doing without external motivators or a perceived reward.

According to Csikszentmihalyi (1990), flow is “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved and you’re using your skills to the utmost.

Flow is the unique state that can be reached through the healthy balance of challenge and skills. Have a look at this image.

 

 

 

 

If we are over-challenged and under-skilled we become anxious. However, if we are under-challenged and over-skilled, we become bored. Flow is the perfect “sweet spot” where our skills and our challenge meet.

How to Know When you are in Flow: The Eight Characteristics of Flow

Not sure if you have experienced flow before? Csikszentmihalyi describes flow according to these eight characteristics:

  • Complete concentration on the task at hand
  • Clarity of goals with immediate feedback
  • The transformation of time (either slowing down or speeding up)
  • The experience is rewarding and grows intrinsic motivation
  • There is a feeling of effortless ease
  • There is a healthy balance between challenge and skill
  • Action and awareness are merged (there is a loss of self-consciousness)
  • There is a feeling of confidence and control over the task

 

The Benefits of Flow in the Workplace

The extensive studies exploring the effects of flow for individuals and organisations have found some positive and powerful benefits to this “sweet spot” state.

From the brain perspective, two things happen when we are in flow. Firstly, there are five different neurotransmitters that are released into the system when we are in flow. Each of these contribute to the flow state being innately pleasurable, rewarding and motivating. Secondly, when we are in flow, we have reduced prefrontal activity (the part of our brain responsible for self-consciousness, self-doubt, and time awareness) which means that while we are in flow we are able to turn off our inner critic, forget about our other pressures, remove time urgency, and “be in the moment” with what we are doing.

These two processes of the brain activate some amazing personal benefits to flow including:

  • Increased sense of confidence
  • Increased information retention and learning
  • Increased productivity (even 15% more time in flow can boost productivity by up to 50%!)
  • Better sleep
  • More positive emotions
  • The ability to cope better with stressful situations

While these benefits alone are motivation to want more flow experiences, the more individuals who have flow experiences at work, the more positive benefits for the workplace as a whole. These company benefits include:

  • Improved employee engagement
  • Improved productivity and product output
  • Improved employee morale and intrinsic motivation
  • Greater sense of meaning in work tasks
  • Better overall team performance
  • Increased commitment to company outcomes

Now that you have a better understanding of what flow is and how it can benefit the individual and the company in powerful ways, we’re ready to introduce some methods on how to increase flow experiences at work.

How to Support Flow Experiences at Work

“People reach a flow state three times more often at work than in their free time.” Csikszentmihalyi and LeFevre, 1989

This is an important statistic to consider when thinking about flow. The workplace can be a conductive environment for flow because it already has some key components needed such as clear, structured goals, immediate feedback, and challenges that require a high level of skill to complete.

There are many factors at work that prevent flow experiences, including high levels of occupational stress, poor role clarity, a lack of immediate and specific feedback, or a negative attitude towards one’s work. While an organisation cannot be responsible for many of the individual differences needed for each team member to experience flow, there are some general guidelines that can make your office more conducive to increased flow experiences.

 

Physical Structures for Flow

In recent years, the “bullpen” structure has become more popular for workplaces because it encourages collaboration, information sharing and social bonding, however this nature of working is not conducive to flow. In order to go into a flow state, one needs to be uninterrupted, undisrupted, and able to concentrate. If your organisation enjoys the “bullpen” office layout, then a good idea is to have a quiet zone where people can go to get into flow. Or perhaps look at having sectioned areas where people can do teamwork or individual work.

Sensory deprivation can also help to increase flow states, so become aware of the noise, visual stimulation, and the amount of movement in your office. If there is a constant change in the sensory pace of the environment, it makes it almost impossible for people to go into flow for long periods.

Another consideration is the physical comfort of your employees. When we are uncomfortable (ergonomically, changing desks regularly, or next to the toilet) we are less likely to get into flow as we will be distracted by the desire for more physical comfort. If the body requires attention, the mind will step out of the flow state back into the prefrontal cortex to analyse.

Social Structures for Flow

Flow states require immediate and direct feedback, whether this is from the task itself, management, or team members. The best way to ensure that this happens is to have a communication system in place which provides immediate feedback on completion of the task (an app which gamifies validation is a fun and progressive example, however it may be as simple as a quick daily check-in with each team member).

Another consideration in order for people to go into flow is for them to have fewer distractions – a culture of immediately responding to emails, urgent phone calls, and constant damage control are just a few examples of how your office culture can break down the chances for flow at work.

In Conclusion

A flow state is the optimal state of human functioning where challenge, skill and intrinsic motivation meet. A sure-fire way to enhance performance, boost employee engagement and increase company outputs is to encourage more flow experiences at work. While this is an individual process, there are certain physical and social strategies to consider which can boost the number of flow experiences employees have at work.

We hope you have learnt something new from this article, and welcome your questions and feedback on how this influences the flow states in your organisation.

If you require further assistance, or have some specific concerns or questions, please send us an email to info@4seeds.co.za

6 Facts About Employee Engagement Revisited

6 Facts About Employee Engagement Revisited

The other day I stumbled across an article that I wrote in September 2017. Reading through it, I realised that engagement is an even more pertinent topic than it was back then, and that I have deepened my knowledge on engagement since then and would like to share it with you.

Today, employee engagement is a necessity for organisations who want to remain commercially successful. In addition, employee engagement is essential for employees to be happy in their work, to find meaning in life, and to have an opportunity to be productive.

 

Defining Engagement

Let’s begin by defining engagement because there are many definitions of this term. Researchers classify employee engagement as a unique, persistent and pervasive psychological state that uses self-investment of personal resources and energy to express oneself in work tasks and connect with others.

What that means in layman’s terms is that engagement involves an emotional, physical and cognitive focus; so we commonly refer to it as combining the head-heart and hands into a work task. Engagement is often used interchangeably with job satisfaction, attitude, behaviour, involvement, and commitment. In as much as thinking isn’t incorrect, the key and critical component to engagement is the psychological state of the employee during their work experience.

Psychological Safety

You may be wondering why it’s challenging for people to be engaged at work, and the answer lies in the words: psychological safety.

When people engage they are attentive, connected and completely integrated with a task and/or person, and for that to happen people need to feel safe in their environment, safe to be themselves, safe to bring their authenticity to the work environment, safe with the people they work with, and safe with their leader; they need to feel that they can trust.

Safety is the second most important need that has to be fulfilled in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and if we don’t feel safe we aren’t able to deliver our best thinking, decision making, and tasks. So ask yourself how safe your employees feel in their work environment.

Here is the original article written in September 2017

The engagement concept has become a workplace buzzword over the past seven years. Every organisation wants the best part of their workforce to be fully or semi engaged, and less disengaged. However, many attempts have failed to create this shift, and our engagement levels remain at around 13 to 19 percent. This means that a lot of employees are disengaged at work. So, what are we missing?

We know a lot about engagement, and equally are left with many unanswered questions. There are so many definitions of the term “engagement”. There’s a very definite lack of consensus of what engagement is, what factors make it up, or how to practically measure it. Some people refer to engagement as employee engagement, while others as job or work engagement. There are several words all referring to the same thing, but it’s confusing when there isn’t an overarching consensus. This is a huge problem, but one that is often overlooked and brushed aside because that’s for the researchers to dwell on – as leaders we just want to have engaged employees.

Engagement is not an old concept. In 1990, Dr William A. Kahn, a professor of Organisational Behaviour at Boston University, was the first researcher who spoke about the word personal engagement when he contemplated how much a person brings of themselves to their work tasks and performance. He was way ahead of the curve and nobody was interested in the topic back then.

After that, no one spoke about engagement for 12 years, until 2002 when it reappeared as being the opposite to burnout. This development can be seen as reasonable, but it still didn’t explain the factors that make up engagement. And again, there was no traction on the topic until in 2010 when it started becoming a management and organisation buzzword.

Engagement is believed to have many benefits to both the individual and the organisation. Some of the benefits have been scientifically validated, and others widely speculated on. We would like to ask leaders and organisations to be cautious when rolling out an engagement strategy because it requires planning, thought and dedication. A hasty, unclear strategic plan can do more harm to employee happiness than is often anticipated.

Some facts to consider are:

  1. Engagement isn’t a noun, it’s a verb. You don’t DO engagement, you become actively engaged with your activities and tasks. Engagement is who you are and become as an organisation, similar to your culture.
  2. Define what engagement means in your organisation and perhaps write down some examples.
  3. Be specific about what the benefits, rewards and recognition for becoming more engaged are for employees. You are expecting more input from your workforce, which means that you have to be transparent and reciprocate fairly.
  4. We take the worldview that engagement is a positive construct from which the individual and the organisation will benefit. But, what if it doesn’t have such a tremendous benefit for the individual? What about when going the extra mile brings their work-life out of kilter and negatively affects their personal relationships?
  5. Let’s be considerate. Not every human being has the physical or psychological ability to operate at high levels of engagement. There could be limitations and illnesses to consider, and they are doing their best every day, albeit that the organisation doesn’t see it as good enough.
  6. Lastly, is engagement the utopia solution we are making it to be? Is it the be-all and end-all where the individual and organisation has a perfect win-win? Is this approach realistic?

Please don’t get me wrong! I am an avid supporter and lobbyist for employee engagement in the workplace. However, I want to challenge you to think about the engagement concept from a long-term moral and ethical angle before you go ahead and quickly roll out something that will make employees happy.

In summary

I hope that you have gained further insight on engagement and its importance in the workplace. It starts with the employee because they get to choose whether they want to engage or not. As an organisation you cannot force people to become engaged; however you can create possibilities that enable employees to engage.

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.

The “just fine” Culture and Our 5-Step Strategy to Combat it

The “just fine” Culture and Our 5-Step Strategy to Combat it

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.

“I’m fine…”

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?

Basic Instincts

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.

 

5. Rest

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!

In Conclusion

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”.

Are You Flourishing? 6 Components of Living The Best Life

Are You Flourishing? 6 Components of Living The Best Life

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
  • Perseverance
  • Enhanced self-efficacy, and
  • Mindfulness

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.

 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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)

Directions

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.

Scoring

Add the responses, varying from 1 to 7, for all eight items.

Interpretation

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.

 

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.

Gratitude: What it is and what it isn’t

Gratitude: What it is and what it isn’t

Society holds gratitude in high esteem. Everyone wants to be more grateful which is a desirable human characteristic, however few of us 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 supported, guided and believed in us.

But why do we struggle so much with this hugely inspiring characteristic? Gratitude doesn’t come naturally for most 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 pre-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 well-being. It then develops into a mood of a subtle, longer-duration of conscious state and ends as a permeable character trait.

There are multiple 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. 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. However, vary it and challenge yourself to look for new gratitude nuggets.
  2. Express gratitude directly to another person. Write to them or tell them directly what you appreciate about them as a person or what they did for you. Expect some tears with this one!
  3. Take note of an ungrateful thought that popped into your head and consciously reframe it to a positive thought. This takes some practice in catching the 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. As the year draws to an end it’s the ideal time to reflect and express gratitude to the people who have supported you through the year.

Have fun and spread gratitude!

 

 

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

The Science behind Acts of Giving

The Science behind Acts of Giving

Recently, a phenomenon called Acts of Giving has been popping up all over the media. It’s even more noticeable over the festive season when we are urged to give more to others. However, being kind and giving to others has a direct impact on our own happiness levels and not just for the person we are giving to. In fact, if done well, the giver has many benefits that can last a couple of days. It’s a virtuous circle where giving to others raises our happiness level and happier people help others more. Evidence shows that givers are more satisfied with life, feel more competent, have a greater sense of meaning and usually a more positive mood.

What does it mean to give to others?

It means giving without expecting anything in return. It’s an act that requires thought and attention and we give because we care. The Act of Giving does not need to be money-based, but can be something as simple as being kind to someone, letting someone in front of the queue if they’re in a rush, listening to them, cutting colleagues slack when they are going through a hard time, giving a compliment, visiting a lonely or sick person, or carrying someone’s bag. You’re getting the gist.

You may be wondering… if Acts of Giving provide such mega-benefits to the giver, then can that not be regarded as being selfish or even altruistic? Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton Business School, identified two types of giving; selfless-givers and other-ish givers. The selfless-giver has a high interest in other people’s well-being and little interest in deriving their own benefit. The other-ish giver scores high on both counts; the other person and themselves. They have found a healthy balance of accepting kindness and giving it to others.

That being said, not all giving raises our happiness. If it is expected and not done out of our own free will or we feel socially obliged, then it is apparent that we give reluctantly and even with a degree of resentment. This will definitely not raise our happiness, but rather deplete it.

Three factors must be present for you to get an ultra-happiness boost:

  1. Connect – the act must increase your connection with the person; it must also be an act that you personally value
  2. Control – it must be done voluntarily and out of your own free will
  3. Impact – the act of giving should make an impactful and meaningful difference to the other person

You might be thinking that this giving stuff is all well and good, but you just don’t have the time. The Act of Giving can be a super-quick five-minute activity and doesn’t have to be long-winded.

Try these five-minute Acts of Giving

  • Return someone’s call
  • Connect them to someone who can assist them
  • Make a person smile
  • Pay for a stranger’s coffee or parking ticket
  • Assist a person who is lost
  • Offer change to someone who is struggling to find the right amount
  • Let another car in if they find themselves in the wrong lane
  • Push an elderly person’s grocery trolley
  • Say thank you when being served
  • Stop what you are doing and listen attentively to someone

Giving to others increases our psychological and physical well-being. It makes us happier and allows us to ask for help when we need it. Pay it forward!

 

References:

Aknin, L., Dunn, E., & Norton, M. (2011). Happiness Runs in a Circular Motion: Evidence for positive feedback loop between pro-social spending and happiness Studies. 13(2), 347-355.

King, V. (2016). 10 Keys to Happier Living. London: Headline Publishing Group.

Your Personal Quarterly Review

Your Personal Quarterly Review

The first four months of 2017 have galloped passed us, and we are fast approaching the second half of the year. At the start of the year, we set out with good intentions and goals we wanted to achieve by the end of the year. Well, this is your personal quarterly review!

Sit back and reflect on the areas where you’ve made progress as well as the ones you haven’t. Maybe some goals were nice-to-haves, but didn’t mean enough to us to get going with them? Let’s drop those or tweak them a bit. There are other goals that you may have fully accomplished; give yourself a high-five for them. Some goals may still be in the making. Use the reflection to determine what is going well and how you can maintain it. Let go of any judgement that doesn’t add any value besides making you feel guilty. You still have time to realign or get into action.

As much as we might be focusing our goals to improve or avoid some habits that we have adopted which no longer serve us, we should also focus on goals that grow and develop us as human beings. These are goals that add to our overall level of happiness and well-being. Here are nine questions to ponder on.

  1. What do you want to accomplish in 2017 that will make the year different?
  2. What professional skill do you want to hone in on?
  3. Whose support do you need to keep you going?
  4. What is capping your energy?
  5. How can you think about these energy-zappers differently?
  6. Which relationship do you want to improve and strengthen?
  7. What makes you happy and how can you add more joy to your life?
  8. How can you simplify your life?
  9. How can you express kindness and gratitude in your life?

We get so absorbed in our daily lives that we put off these questions and areas of well-being. We’ll do them on a day when life is quieter, calmer and when we feel rested. That day is unlikely to come! You need to make a choice about whether you want to slow life down a bit, or to think about the questions and then to concentrate on areas that matter to you.

It is entirely in your control to adjust and make changes in your life. Raise your moments of joy, connect with others and be grateful for all your progress, regardless how big or small.

Enjoy the second quarter of the year!