THE HEALING POWER OF LAUGHTER

This week I was having one of those weeks when everything seemed too much: everyone seemed to be making unreasonable demands on me, I had an overwhelming list of things to do and it all looked like drudgery – sound familiar?

And then a good friend phoned and quickly picked up on my mood, and responded by making me laugh – big, belly laughs that continued long after the conversation was finished. My belly ached, but What a gift!! Nothing felt quite so important or overwhelming anymore, the tension had gone out of my body and mind, and paradoxically, I set to with a new vigour on my list of tasks, and cleared heaps of it!

Laughter is such a simple thing, that we sometimes forget how powerful it is. Physically, mentally and emotionally it is a healthy way to release tensions and negativity. Laughter reconnects us to our souls, our child-like nature, to our enjoyment of life.

Laughter is proven to trigger the release of endorphins (our pleasure giving drug) into our brains, and helps refill our ‘feel good’ tank when it is empty. When our energy tanks are full again, it’s always good to share a laugh or two with others, after all laughter was made to share! In fact it is incredibly infectious! So go ahead and spread some Laughter!

So…Homework:

  1. What do you have to make you laugh out loud? – Note if your list is short you may need to go out and buy yourself a funny treat!
  2. Help someone else to laugh this month – when life is getting them down make them laugh

 

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‘TOOLS FOR CREATION’ – SING LIKE NO-ONE’S LISTENING

This workshop is meant to be light-hearted and fun because there seems to be this misconception that to be an ‘Artist’ one must be in angst and constant turmoil. However, wouldn’t it be great to have the same inspiration without all the hard work and emotional strife!

Well the key lies in children… When you were 3 or 4 you had the wonderful ability of singing like no one’s listening. Remember bathtime? Or watching that Disney film? There was no-one telling you to shut-up, or criticising your atonal rendition of ‘the bare necessities’ you just sang absolutely from the heart and loved every minute of it! The words and melody were of absolutely no consequence; the most important thing was to sing as loudly and as proudly as possible. Take the wonderful Bohemian Rhapsody scene from Wayne’s World – Wayne, Garth and the Wayne’s world team are in the car when on comes Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen and as one they mime, rock-out and sing a long to it- this is the essence of what singing like no-one’s listening is all about!

It’s funny isn’t it, we make stars out of singers and songwriters and yet we are often discouraged from singing ourselves. The jolly scene of someone singing to themselves in the bath or shower has been the butt of so many jokes, jibes and digs that many people feel ashamed to even do it anymore..Well we at Meta say ‘bring back bathtime karaoke!’ and let’s re-learn how to: sing like no-one’s listening!

So what can we do to re-learn this vital tool of fun and creation – where can we practice our ‘sing like no one’s listening’ skills?

Well are some ideas we came up with…

  1. Sing like no-one’s listening when in your car
  2. Sing like no-one’s listening when your on a walk
  3. Sing like no-one’s listening in the bath
  4. Sing like no-ones listening in the shower
  5. Sing like no-one’s listening home alone
  6. Sing like no-one’s listening with your kids
  7. Sing like no-one’s listening when you need a pick-me-up
  8. Sing like no-one’s listening with your bestest mate!
  9. Sing like no-one’s listening at the concert of you favourite band
  10. Sing like no one’s listening to your favourite Disney films

 

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BELIEVING IN OTHERS

Many years ago, I was working with groups of young people who had been thrown out of school for ‘bad behaviour’. They were a great bunch of kids, once they decided they trusted you. Having been given that honour – of being trusted – I was curious to know what I had done to earn it.

Ade told me that two things mattered to them:

  • I didn’t talk down to them
  • I had never once seemed to doubt their ability to achieve whatever they wanted to

I wondered why that was, and then realised that I had been brought up to believe that everyone has something special about them, so that’s what I looked for in others. And whatever you look for, you find…

It is a vital perspective, if you want to bring out the best in those you work with. There was a piece of research done in the USA, where they took two mixed ability classes, but told their teachers that one group were high achievers, and the other group were slow learners. By the end of the first term, the teachers had proved them right!

The group classed as high achievers were all achieving, the other group were all being slow learners.

With beliefs, you tend, as in this example, to get what you expect. So, stop and think about what you expect your colleagues to be like. If they don’t get your point, do you think they are a bit slow or not bright enough? Or do you think that you have expressed it badly?

We can prove any belief we like to hold, so why not make it easier for you to enable people to be at their best, by deciding to believe that they are pretty special, your job is just to bring that out in them.

Homework

  1. List your beliefs about others, including the contradictions – be honest in this one
  2. Now go through your list and choose the beliefs that would be useful to you in enabling others to develop, then add some if you want to
  3. At your next team meeting, read through the ones you have chosen, and decide to act as if they are always true, for the whole of that session, and see what happens

 

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SCHOOL’S OUT

Do you remember this time of year when you were younger? The exams were over, the weather was glorious, and we were about to go on the holidays that seemed to last forever. The mood was anticipation, and a sense of something finished, with a break before we started the next stage, and a gentle wind-down was beginning.

Then we go to work, and there is no longer that long summer break, or time to enjoy the good weather, when it comes. But a part of us is still reacting in the same way.

So give it some permission this month:

  • Allow yourself to take a slightly longer lunch break – or maybe just take a lunch break! – on one of these warm days.
  • Allow yourself to go home a little earlier a couple of days each week, and enjoy sitting outside on a warm evening, or playing with the children for a while longer
  • Allow yourself to have a barbecue on a weekday evening, when the weather is good, rather than hoping the warmth will still be there at the weekend
  • Allow yourself to be slower at something than you usually would

This is not pure self-indulgence, it is a vital part of looking after yourself. If we don’t cater for our longings at all, but force ourselves to work like machines rather than humans, our spirits build up a resentment that can become unhealthy for us and for those around us. If you ever find yourself envying the children their summer holiday break, recognise it as a sign that you need to give yourself some permission!

 

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ROLE MODELLING IN LEADERSHIP

When we are young, we are greatly influenced by our role models.  As children, we learn to mimic or parents at a very young age and, in later years, whilst our role models may change, we continue to learn from those we admire.  These will include our heroes, whether fictional or real, those at school who may be brighter, better at sports than we are or those who are the most popular.

Whilst our tastes may change, as we grow older, the desire to learn and emulate others does not diminish.  At work, we try and understand what makes people successful and recognise the behaviours of the most influential.   Our own leadership styles are more likely to reflect what we have picked up from others than what we may have learnt from our own experiences.

Before we notice, others are watching us closely and seeing what works and what they like.  And if what we do does not seem to match what we say, we build suspicion, distrust and potentially lose others’ commitment to our leadership.

So I would like you to think about the behaviours that you demonstrate at work.  Do these reflect the ways of working that you are trying to encourage or are there inconsistencies.  For example, are you trying to encourage others to have a better work/life balance, but are the first to arrive and the last to leave?  Or are you trying to improve team working within your department, whilst being openly proud of your independence and autonomy of decision-making?

We are often unaware of these inconsistencies between what we say and what we do, but they are glaringly apparent to others.  So, ask yourself some key questions:

  1. What are the behaviours and ways of working that you are trying to promote within your team or department?
  2. How consistent are your own actions in demonstrating these changes?
  3. What improvements or changes in your leadership style do you need to make to ensure that there is greater consistency?

Finally, why not take the opportunity to explain to others the changes you are planning to make?  This will demonstrate your commitment, show them that you believe in adapting your own style and so encourage them to take similar actions themselves.  And isn’t that what being a good role model is all about?

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TOOLS FOR CREATION – NATURE

This month’s workshop is inspired by nature. As I write this update, the sun is streaming down and there’s a Magritte blue sky with whispery light clouds. The birds are singing, and you can almost hear the grass growing..

Nature has been the inspiration for artists and creatives throughout human existence. From the crude drawings of pre-historic man, through to the landscapes of Constable and Turner. Yet how we harness nature for our own creativity is not as predictable as it may sound.

Nature is all around us. I want us to look at nature, not as ‘watercolour challenge’ or a Constable ‘village scene’ but something vibrant and dynamic that can inspire!

Begin to look at nature with fresh eyes. Begin to see nature as a tool for creation. I have a few exercises which may help…

  1. Find a place in nature – this can be remote, a park, a garden, even an urban environment
  2. Take time to notice what is around you – what do you see? Make a note of everything in your place in nature.
  3. Take a slow walk, again noticing the bounty of nature around you. If you want to stop, pick something up, study it, do.
  4. Take time to study in depth a piece of nature, – a leaf, a hill, a berry, a cone, a feather – maybe sketch it, maybe take it home with you.
  5. The wonder of nature is in its perfection on a miniature scale– a bumblebee’s tiny wings, the veins on a leaf, the spiral on a snail’s shell.
  6. The cyclical nature of nature is everywhere. See new birth, life, death, growth, and reproduction. Does this have parallels in our own lives?
  7. What are we doing to this environment we live in? What is our relationship to it?
  8. How does it make you feel? What are its smells, tastes, sounds? Make a note of them.
  9. Nature is awash with colour, vibrant and full of life, let nature’s colours inspire you, be the starting point of a new piece of creation.
  10. What shapes can you find in nature? Take the outlines/shapes use them in your own work.

Nature is vast. It is a vast topic to cover in such a small workshop. But if the British summer does hold out, do take the time to go somewhere new and record in whatever way suits your own creativity, the way it makes you feel.

 

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MAKING WORK PURPOSEFUL

I often hear that work is a means to an end for people. They do it so that they can earn enough money to do other things. What a shame to spend so much of your time doing something which doesn’t have any intrinsic fulfilment!

Yet we also come across all sorts of people doing all sorts of jobs who do feel that their work is worthwhile. What’s the difference? These people have found something to make their work purposeful.

Ways of making your work purposeful can be identified by asking yourself:

  1. How does what I do make a difference in the world? For example you may be contributing to a service or product that improves people’s lives.
  2. How does what I do help other people? For example you may help to make their job easier, or make them feel good by treating them well.
  3. How does what I do use my talents and personal qualities? For example, you may be good at communicating and use that to please your customers, or someone whose sense of humour lightens the day for others.

When our work feels purposeful, we give of our best, and feel satisfaction with what we are doing. It gives meaning to all those hours spent at work. What is the purpose for you of your work?

Homework

  1. Ask yourself the questions above and find at least one thing that makes your work feel purposeful.
  2. Encourage others to do the same.

 

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EMPOWERMENT

This month, I would like to explore the concept of EMPOWERMENT.  This became a buzzword for the nineties, along with other management concepts, such as de-layering, re-engineering and even, dare I say it, “leadership” itself!  Many organisations embraced the concept and empowered their people, but the results have not been inspiring.

Empowered staff often complain that they are not really empowered, as decisions are still taken by their bosses.  Managers complain that empowered workers ignore the rules and are quick to explain that they “tried empowerment”, but that it just did not work.  Leaders need to anticipate the needs of those that have been empowered.  How will others react to them, will they want confirmation from “the boss”, will they resent their authority?  Leaders and others may also need to show greater tolerance for mistakes and support people, so that they are able to learn from their experiences.

A useful metaphor is a teenager who becomes “empowered” through having greater independence, often financially as well as socially.  As parents, we recognise the need to set boundaries, to gradually develop trust in our sons or daughters, to tolerate their occasional mistake and for them to know that we will always be there for them.  But as managers, we can often operate with a different set of rules.  We do not outline the “do’s and don’ts”.  When people fail, we take back control (after all, it was a daft idea, anyway!) and if things get tough, we are not always supportive.

Think about how you have empowered those who work for you.  Have you provided them with the support, at both a day-to-day level and also at an emotional level?  Are they flourishing, as would a growing adult, or are they floundering like a child in the wilderness?

  1. Spend some time thinking about the people that you manage?
  2. How are they coping with the degree of “empowerment” that you have given them?
  3. Have you outlined the “rules-of-the-game” (both written and unwritten) within your company or are they stumbling into problems on a regular basis?  If not, jot down some of the rules and discuss them at the next opportunity.
  4. How are you supporting them on a regular basis?  Do you share their experiences and discuss ways of improving things next time?
  5. How do you react to mistakes?  Do you support them?  Are you there to help when things go wrong – in a way that is constructive?

Be sure to treat them as individuals, since they will be at different stages and will have differing needs.  Finally, consider the benefits that effectively empowered staff will offer to you.  Perhaps, more time to think strategically or to network with others outside your company or even the chance to occasionally go home early!

Write these down, as they will be useful reminders to you when you are tempted to abandon empowerment and to take control back again!

 

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Experimenting

Why do we have to get it right first time, every time, or else we feel bad? It just doesn’t fit with our experience as humans does it? And it certainly doesn’t fit with being a learner! Actually we don’t call it experimenting, we call it ‘getting it wrong’ – no wonder it makes us feel bad!

Yet the way we grow in our lives is by trying things out, and gradually establishing what works for us. No, it’s even more than that, it is continually experimenting, because what works for us at one point, may change within moments, and as we move into it, we can see even more possibilities.

As children, this way of growing into our true selves comes naturally to us. We love to experiment and find different ways of doing things, thinking about things, and reacting to things. It is only a taught behaviour to try and find the ‘right’ answer that will last forever.

So let’s be children again! Let’s experiment and play with ideas and approaches. And don’t feel bad if your experiment is not perfect – be delighted that you have more exploring to do!

  1. Experiment with a different route home, or a new type of cereal for breakfast – anything that takes your fancy!
  2. Next time something doesn’t work quite how you intended, smile to yourself and say, ‘great! More experimenting to do!’ (OK, I know that’s a tough one, but it might at least make you laugh instead of being upset! After all, it’s not the end of the world!)
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GIVE YOUR SPIRIT A LIFT

Inspired by my own flagging spirit, this month’s workshop is a good dose of the nice medicine – for me too!

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the drama of life. After all, we did come here to forget what wondrous beings we truly are..but every now and again it’s good to catch ourselves out and let go of our ‘human frailties’ and remind ourselves of just how special we are. All it is, is that we have started to ‘believe the hype’ that we are just humans and forgotten our true nature. We have managed to forget where we put our angel wings and well and truly hidden away our inner self behind one, two or three big solid looking, locked doors. No wonder we start to feel that the world is conspiring against us…we’re conspiring against ourselves!!

So give yourself a break, and give your spirit a lift!

When you find yourself in the office or at home, and nothing seems to be going quite right – nothing major, just niggling little things. – what you need is a Spirit lift. This workshop is for you. Little things you can easily do, to give your spirit a lift and lighten your day. Renew your friendship with your-self and get back in touch with your spirit.

How we feel is reflected in what it is we create for ourselves in our lives. When we feel good, things generally go well and we attract good things into our lives. But when things falter, we tend to spiral very quickly into a negative mind-set and hey presto! We only seem to attract the not so good stuff.. If only we could catch ourselves before we slip too far…

Well here it is, the Meta-Spirit team’s: recommended tasks for flagging spirits ‘ Go on give them a try! And please do send in any further suggestions to add to our list, because this list is by no means exhaustive.

RECOMMENDED TASKS FOR FLAGGING SPIRITS:

  • Buy yourself some sweets/chocolate (I bought ¾ lb of sweets today…my bad day, just got better!)
  • Phone a friend, or visit them – true friends have the magic ability to help you forget all your troubles, they help you remember how special you really are.
  • Treat yourself to a take-away on the way home – mmm..curry!
  • Cat/Dog Therapy – Here in the office we have ‘cat breaks’. Basically Angel and Funky come up and will literally stop you from working by walking all over the computer until you’ve had your 5 minute break! (as I write this, Funky is curled up in front of the computer keyboard, having given my spirit a lift)
  • Read something inspirational – I like to surround myself with books by inspirational people. Books to pick up and help you remember.
  • Music – I love music, and music can beat the blues any day and I recommend a good dose of Mozart to revive flagging spirits.
  • Walks – simple but effective – nature will always bring you back to the wonder of it all, and these crisp, sunny, autumnal mornings were created for us to share in.
  • Ice cream – brings back memories of my childhood, walks in the park and a 20p ‘99’ ice cream with raspberry sauce…what will it spark off in you?
  • Cookies – There’s a cookie monster in us all – go on let the monster loose!
  • Listening to something inspirational – Words of wisdom from your favourite spiritual teacher, never fails to reinvigorate a flagging soul.
  • Videos – curl up in front of the telly with your loved one, (cats make an excellent substitute if loved one not available), ice cream/sweets /cookies/popcorn/all of the above and watch your favourite video.

 

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