Tag Archives | self awareness

BEING GROWN UPS AT WORK

I overheard a conversation on the bus the other day, where someone was talking about how she had been to see her child’s teacher, to ask her to help with some minor bullying that had been going on. She had clearly handled it well, with both politeness and firmness – a lovely example of being grown-up – and she had achieved the outcome she wanted. Her finals sentence was: ‘If only I could be like that with my boss!’ and that left me wondering why not as well?

Somehow we have generally learnt to behave more like children than grown-ups at work: there are goody-goodies, shirkers, those who hide at the back of the class, little cliques, the popular ones – it sometimes looks and sounds more like a school playground than a workplace! I know, I am exaggerating, but you know what I mean.. And we give away our control to ‘them’ – some ill-defined stereotypical people in authority, the ‘bosses’ – and then moan about our lack of autonomy.

I think this happens because of the history of the workplace: once upon a time it was generally true that bosses ram the place by command and control, and treated workers as if they were unreliable, unruly children with no intelligence or maturity. But I believe the story has changed, and there is more recognition of the importance of working together to produce results, and of the need for people to feel empowered to achieve that.

However we all then have to choose to be empowered for it to work – no-one can give us empowerment, we have to choose to behave in that way – and we are habituated to being victims of circumstance.

So how do we become more empowered? We have to take responsibility for our own actions and attitudes. If we know that we have done the best we can, we stand by that: if we know we have made a mistake, we own up, apologise, make it right. We recognise if we’re not in the mood for something we have to do, and do something to change that mood. We admit if we need help, and ask for it. And we treat others as we wish to be treated, even if they don’t reciprocate.

And if you are one of those ‘bosses’, then you need to encourage your team members to adopt the behaviours I’ve listed. Notice and acknowledge when they are behaving in a grown-up way. Encourage them to show initiative, to be proud of what they achieve, and to feel Ok about admitting to something that isn’t so good, even if it doesn’t always work out. And don’t fall into the ‘boss’ trap: remember to adopt empowered and empowering attitudes and behaviours yourself.

Most people are grown-ups and are good at making their personal lives work for them. Let’s apply the same attitudes and capabilities in the workplace, and have organisations where people feel in control and valued for being the grown-ups they are.

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THE CHOICES WE MAKE

What sort of a day have you chosen to have today?

Most of us would respond to this question by starting with: ‘I was OK until such-and such happened,’ or ‘Well, I had to do such-and such, so I was affected by that’, or just with irritation: ‘If only I could choose!’

I’m here to remind you that those are all choices too – that’s the bad news! And the good news is that once we really grasp that it’s always a choice, we can choose differently and feel better for it.

So what do I mean when I say that we always choose? When I first came across this concept, I couldn’t make sense of it. I thought that there were too many outside influences on my life – my work, my relationships, the weather, the state of my finances, the traffic – the list goes on and on! So I rarely felt as if I could choose what my day was like; it depended on what was happening around me. I was a fairly typical victim of circumstance.

Then gradually I began to realise that maybe it was a choice of sorts, to be a victim of circumstance, and that just made me feel worse! When you get this, you just feel cowardly or stupid: why don’t I just walk away from this job, this relationship, that makes me feel like a victim of circumstance?

Eventually I began to grasp that it isn’t necessarily about running away from things that adversely affect you; in fact, that’s not possible. If we are used to being a victim of circumstance, then we will take that attitude into any situation. It is about becoming conscious of what choices we do have in any situation.

The essential distinction is between passive and active choices. A passive choice is where ‘they’ or ‘it’ have made us feel or react this way. We allow the circumstance to be in control of our destiny, our mood, our attitude, and we passively accept its influence. We say, ‘There’s nothing I can do about it.’

Yet this is not how we are naturally wired. For evidence, look at how we handle things as children, before we learn to be passive. Children don’t think, ‘Dad’s in a bad mood today, so I will have to keep quiet and not be a nuisance.’ They think, ‘Dad is in a bad mood today, so I will see if I can make him laugh, or I may go and play with my favourite toys and leave him to it – he’ll get over it.’ Children find a way of making it work for them, by choosing how they react.

We are intended to be in control of our own destiny and we have the ability to do it, by consciously choosing how we react to circumstances. It is up to me to decide how I will react to bad news, someone being unpleasant, a traffic jam, and this is what gives me control. It becomes an active choice.

We are capable of doing this – we all do it sometimes. For example, ‘I’m tired and I had a bad day, but I want to go and see my friends and have fun, so I’ll have a good shower out on my favourite perfume/after shave and put on my glad rags, and then I’ll be up for it.’  So let’s just choose to do this more often!!

  • We can choose to make bad news a reason to allow ourselves an indulgence to make us feel better, or a prompt to make a change in our lives
  • We can choose to let someone being unpleasant keep their attitude to themselves and let it go past us – walk away and leave them to it
  • We can choose to use a traffic jam to listen to our favourite music or an audio-book

By making a conscious, active choice, we take back control of our own mood, our own attitude, our own state of mind. This helps us to make our lives work, no matter what, and keeps us in a place where we feel we can always make a positive difference, should we choose to.

Life is too short to be influenced by the negativity or adversity around us so let’s choose to enjoy our time here and make it work!!

in peace and love Di and Jo xxx

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BEING DEAD IS BAD FOR BUSINESS

Consider this your wake up call.

Yes, I’m talking to you.. the person reading this. If you’re working right now, the likelihood is that you’re working TOO HARD.

“What? ‘TOO HARD? What’s that Jo?”
Well it’s when you work yourself into the ground, for no real good reason. Its when you work really hard and don’t feel like you’ve achieved anything. And its when you’re working faster and harder but less effectively.

You see many of you right now are tired. Tired of work, tired even of life. Why? Because you are all working TOO HARD.

Working hard is fine, WHEN you get results. But when you are working apparently for no good reason, it gets soul destroying after a while. Every day you work hard and all your bosses can pick up on is what you didn’t do or got slightly wrong, rather than the shedloads that you did do. Either that or they then ask you to do more.

Business right now has reverted back to its own etymological meaning: no longer is it a place where we get things done, it’s a place where we are busy, being busy! (etymology – Business: a place where we are busy)

You see when the financial crash happened we were all happy to step up, chip in, do that bit more to ensure the survival of the businesses that we worked for.

“Of course I’ll work that extra hour to get the project done,” you’d say, “Yes, its OK I’ll take a pay freeze if it means that the business stays in business.”

“Yes, I’ll work longer hours if it means that I keep my job.”

Why did we do that? Because the vast majority of staff are essentially good people who want to do the best they can in their jobs. They are not ‘shirkers’ who avoid work, the majority of people want to do a good job and will do what it takes to get the job done well, even if that means staying after hours or putting the business first over their personal lives.

So what did businesses do during the recession?

They streamlined, they restructured, they stripped themselves back to the bare bones so that they could reduce costs and keep their losses to a minimum. Sound business sense you might say, and indeed it is. However the new structures relied on the remaining staff working flat out, often doing the jobs that were previously done by two or three people.

That kind of workload is perhaps sustainable for a little while, 6 months, a year – we can all understand the need to do that for a short while. But it’s been 6 years now, and people are just worn out, dog tired, knackered.

You see as soon as businesses moved back into profit, rather than re-investing in their staff (the people that helped keep the business afloat through their tireless working in the recession years), they carried on reducing costs and streamlining their businesses, so that their shareholders/owners could recoup their capital from the profits that started to come through before giving anything back to their staff. The result? Those that were left staffing the by now anorexic organisational structure had to carry even more of a burden. They were loading their staff up like pack horses, and rewarding them not with a carrot but a stick.

“Well if you can do that, you can do this for me too.”

“I don’t want to hear the reasons why you can’t do it, I want to hear that you will do it and when it will be done by.”

“How about you step up into a interim senior manager role? We can’t pay you any more, but you’ll the have the experience and it’ll be good for your career.”

“It’s just one more project in your portfolio, I don’t see what the problem is.”

AND to top all that off, no pay rises (or minimal ones) or bonuses, for the majority of staff – the organisational machine was an insatiable beast, hungry for more, in less time, for less money, with just as good a quality, to create more profit for the business.

Now why am I saying all this?

Because it is WRONG.

Someone needs to say it. So I’m saying it. How business is being run right now is just plain wrong.

It’s not the way to treat people that have helped you out of difficult times, and it’s not the way to do good business. It’s not sustainable, and people are becoming ‘resources’ not real human beings and are being treated like animals.

“WOOOAH!” I hear you cry! “Jo, that’s a bit emotive isn’t it?”

Yes it is, but isn’t it time that we put a stop to bad business practices? Isn’t it time that we at least had a frank discussion about what’s really going on?

On the television every couple of months we hear that the economy is now nearly at the level that it was pre-financial crash. Now I don’t know about you, but that just makes me angry. To hear that ‘the good times’ are here again, is just ridiculous, because I don’t know of ANYONE right now who is in a better position than they were before the financial crash. Never mind that, I don’t know of ANYONE who feels GOOD right now, full stop!

So if the economy is really that good (and let’s bear in mind that the economy figures do come from the office of statistics – a governmental department), where has the money gone from the profits in business? It certainly hasn’t filtered down to most managers and leaders that we know. Isn’t it time that businesses began to pay back their employees for the selfless work they have been doing over the last 6 years?

It’s not happening at the moment, and the likelihood is, that sadly, its probably not going to happen. In fact most managers/staff that we know are working longer hours and working harder than they ever have.

So what to do?
Well, when we are stressed and overworked, we tend to narrow our focus, it tends to become about ‘me and my to-do list’. We don’t think about the wider picture or the grander vision, we just have to get through today and ensure that our boss is happy and that my to-do list just gets a bit shorter. We haven’t got the time or the energy to do much else. Work becomes all-consuming, its demands mean it ends up being a tide of work that never quite goes back out again. We let it slip in to our personal lives, we don’t push back, we just let the tide come in more and more and more. The result is that now most people will work when they get home in the evenings, and most people will work at least to clear emails on the weekend.

The problem is, that we don’t know how to say no anymore. And as a result work has become the main time consumer in our lives.

“Well Jo, its always been like that, it’s just how it is.”

Actually it’s not always been like this. Yes we worked hard, but we also worked in a way that was more natural. I was watching a documentary on the first world war recently and the government ministers would clock off at around 4pm to ensure they got home for dinner! Even factory workers had shifts that are probably a lot shorter than the ones that we have now!

You see bio-chemically we are not designed to work these sorts of hours consistently. The amount of sustained stress that our bodies are currently facing is greater than probably ever in our histories. We just don’t know what effect those stress hormones have on our bodies when sustained for so long, however one thing is for sure, it’s making us very sick.

Right now everyone reading this will know of at least one person who is off sick with stress. Everyone reading this will know of at least one person who is seriously ill as a result of overworking/stress. I’ve been working at Meta for 13 years now and during that time I have seen a tremendous increase in the amount of stress related illnesses and I’m seeing a worrying trend of people that we know and love getting serious, life threatening illnesses as a result of their work.

So I want to tell you something, something that I’d like you and any  organisational leader that reads this to hear. This is something that needs to be said and it needs to be read out at every staff meeting and every board meeting and every shareholders meeting: to remind those that are at the very top that their staff are not just a ‘resource’, they are human beings, human beings that are reaching their limits of capacity and in many cases are already beyond them.

“BEING DEAD IS BAD FOR BUSINESS” 

It may seem shocking for you to read. But I know personally of at least 10 people from the Meta Family who have had life threatening conditions brought on by work related stress in the last 5 years.

So i’ts time for you, the reader of this update, to do something about what is happening to you. You may not be able to change your organisation, but you can change how you treat you. You are tired, you are worn out most likely, so it’s time to begin to look after yourself again. If your work is demanding more and more of you and you cannot see that stopping, then consider your health, consider your family. Being dead is not only bad for business its also bad for families, loved ones and bad for you!

You may think that I am over reacting, but I am not. I am seeing too many people that I love getting seriously ill and it’s time we said something very loud and clear about it. At Meta we stand for a different way of working, a way that is more natural, sustainable and less stressful, where MORE gets done because we are working more effectively, with the natural ebb and flow of our own working patterns, where organisational structures are not based on reducing costs but what will be the most effective to get the work done and where people are thanked for their hard work and rewarded properly for the time and effort they put in.

It’s time that businesses started thanking their staff for frankly saving their skins these last few years. Shareholders, think for a minute, haven’t you earned enough? Isn’t it time to reward your staff for bringing you and your organisation back from the brink to profitability? Directors/Chief executives, isn’t it time that you started thanking your staff for all the hard work they put in and started looking at how to work effectively rather than just harder and faster? Managers/team leaders, make sure that you are looking after yourselves, so that you can find the time to notice, thank and develop your staff and treat them in the way that you would like to be treated.

So what I am saying is this:
It’s time to start looking after you, time to revisit all those tools you’ve learnt from Meta over the years that are to do with self-management and filling your fuel tank. Most of you are now running beyond empty and you really need to take time to refuel and recharge. When you are fuelled up, when you feel that you are in a better more resourceful state, THEN it is easier for you to start standing up for yourself and for your staff. You will start to believe in yourself again, and perhaps you will start to put in some boundaries to stop the tide of work overwhelming you and taking up your precious personal time with your family.

When someone writes your epitaph, you won’t want them to write “He was a bloody hard worker.” Or “She gave her all to that company.”

So let’s put work back into perspective. It’s not the be all and end all. Yes it pays the bills, but it’s not worth killing yourself over and it’s not worth losing quality time with your loved ones either.

Remember the mantra:

‘BEING DEAD IS BAD FOR BUSINESS” – (and it’s even worse for you..)

Got it?? 

If there’s one thing you take away from this update, it’s to look after yourself better and to make sure you begin to create time for you and your family/loved ones. It’s time to re-balance, time to re-focus on what really matters. I’ll leave you with this thought..

How would you like to be remembered?
As a hard worker?

Didn’t think so..

Time for a change, don’t you think?

And you don’t have to do this alone by the way!
Oh no, if you’re reading this you are part of the Meta Family, so if you don’t KNOW how to get the balance back, if you don’t know how to get out of the place you’re in, if you’d like some help or advice, a rant buddy or just a friendly ear, then both me and Di are ALWAYS available to you. Just give us a call or arrange a catch up over a cuppa. We’d love to hear from you, and we’d love to help if we can.

Much love to you all,

Jo xxx

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HOW ARE YOU THINKING?

Often, when we are pensive, others will ask us what we are thinking about.  There is a more important question: How are you thinking?

It is how we think about things that has a dramatic effect, on both us and what happens.  Consider it for a moment.  If you are thinking about your summer holiday, it can have a different effect on you, depending on what sort of thoughts you are having.  Remembering the fun you had and feeling again the sense of relaxation and happiness will make you feel good, and ‘feed your soul’ for whatever you are doing now.  Adding to that memory, thoughts like: ‘I wish I was there now instead of here’ will create some resentment and reluctance in your performance in the here and now.

Similarly, when we think about the future, if we imagine things working out, we approach them with a positive mind-set and generally manage to overcome any obstacles.  However, if we are anxious or negative about them and imagine things not working out, we approach them in a way that betrays our feelings about them and often create the very story we didn’t want.  On top of that, we approach what we are doing immediately with that same mind-set and often upset other apple-carts that had nothing to do with what we were thinking about!

Because we think all the time, we are often unaware of the fact that we are in control of our thoughts – we can catch ourselves and choose to think in a different way about things

If we stop the spiral of negative or anxious thinking in ourselves, we do ourselves and the world a favour.  That sort of thinking creates stressful chemistry in our bodies and wears us out, physically and emotionally.  And it doesn’t help us to deal with things better, it perverts and narrows our perspective and wisdom.  The knock-on effect is that we deal with whatever we are doing less effectively and, with the people around us, less usefully.

On the other hand, choosing to have more useful thoughts calms our body chemistry down and reduces our stress, leading to us being more effective.

So, how do we choose to have useful thoughts?  When you find yourself in that negative spiral, ask yourself some of these questions, until you find one that works:-

What different angle could I take on this?

  1. How would someone who wasn’t anxious or negative about this be thinking about it?
  2. Is how I am thinking about this helping me to deal with it and, if not, what would be more useful?
  3. What would distract me from thinking about this at the moment, so that I can regain some perspective?

Our thoughts are very powerful in creating our realities which means that it is worth our while to take back control of them, so that they are more useful in creating the reality we want.  So have a go – don’t let them run the show!!

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WHAT ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION TO?

When I was a child, I had a magic torch – did you? If you turned it on and switched it round, it shone different colours at things – red, blue, green, and yellow – I loved it! It changed how everything looked depending on which colour you used.

Why am I describing this? Because our minds work in the same way. If your mood is ‘dark’ or ‘blue’, then everything you think about takes on that colour. The sun shining becomes a problem rather than a delight, and then it rains and we are bound to have floods! Someone’s chance remark is obviously aimed at making you feel stupid, and then the next person you encounter doesn’t speak, and you know they are ignoring you because they don’t like you!

On the other hand, when you are feeling ‘sunny’, then it is wonderful to have a sunny summer, and when it rains, that is great for the garden. You laugh at the remark someone makes, knowing that it isn’t aimed at you, and you feel sorry for the person who doesn’t speak to you, because they are obviously so busy they don’t even have time to say hello.

And all this is not out of our control – it is something we can switch around if it doesn’t suit us, just like the torch. Our minds follow what we tell them to follow. So if you notice that the day seems to be going wrong, switch the torch of your attention around – turn it to sunny. Begin to notice what is right about the day, and if you can’t find anything there, go for the bigger picture – what is right about your life, your family, your health – any category where there are things that are going right. This will switch your mind to a more useful beam of light.

Remember that our culture tends to have the ‘dark’ beam on, so we need to counteract that – the news is almost all about what is wrong in our world. We hear about the person who injured someone else, but not about the thousands who were being kind to others at the same time. So you need to help yourself to switch the colour of the beam by choosing not to get taken in by the cultural tendency – stop watching or listening to the news for a while, or subscribe to Positive News, a newspaper which reports the good things happening in our world.

Why is it important that we consciously switch our attention to what’s right? I can hear the cynic saying that it is like wearing rose-coloured spectacles, and is avoiding the real world. But excellent people don’t ignore what is wrong; they just approach it from a different angle. They start by counting all that is working, to give themselves a positive and useful frame of mind, then ask themselves what they can do to handle what is not right. From that useful frame of mind, we are able to find much better ways of handling the situation – we all know that when our mood is sunny, we can sort most things! And if we can’t sort it, at least we can keep it in perspective.

So start practising today, whether you need to or not. Put on the sunny beam and notice what is right in your life, in the world.

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BEING WHO YOU ARE

Do you ever wonder who you really are? We all have a version of ourselves with the traits that we recognise, and often a second version which is how we would prefer to be seen, but accepting the whole of who we are is another matter entirely!

I find that most of the time I like who I am, and can deal with my own quirks, and be forgiving of them, but once in a while they really catch me out. Examples would be: when I am ill, and become very sorry for myself, and at the same time, very cross with myself; when I don’t know how to handle something, and I begin to question my ability in other areas as well; and when I know what I would prefer to do, but I feel myself bowing to the pressure to follow other people’s way rather than my own.

Learning to take a step back and accept things as they are, including my own behaviour or reactions, is for me a vital part of being who I am, that I am gradually getting better at. I also realise that it is sometimes helpful to have someone else’s view of you, to help you to keep it in perspective.

Growing into being who we really are is a lifelong job that we all have, and one that it is worth considering once in a while. So, some questions worth asking yourself:

  • Do I like me? And if I don’t answer positively, what does make me likeable?
  • Do I accept my own quirks of character? And if the answer is no, what would help me to be more accepting of them?
  • Do I follow my own preferences, or am I swayed by what others think, or the pressures around me? And if I am swayed, what would help me to stay true to myself more often?

Remember that none of us is perfect, and all of us are wonderful, unique and special, and appreciate yourself in this light, before you look at anyone else.

 

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THE SIMPLE REMINDERS

It is so easy to get caught up in busyness isn’t it! We have so many things to do, and never seem to get to the end of it.

I have been given the opportunity to write this month’s update, and at first I thought, ‘I am too busy…’ Then I thought again, and realised that it was the perfect time to consider what the busyness is all about. After all, we are called human beings, not human doings!

When I am being me, I tend to be gentler, less hurried, and I pay attention to the important things. I have time to walk with my granddaughter, Amber, stopping at every cat, every flower, and enjoying them. I have time to talk, with friends and strangers, and enjoy the conversation. I have time to appreciate being in my home, and the pleasure of making it really feel like mine.

When I am thinking about what I have to do, I become more rushed, more stressed, notice the lacks rather than the positives more.

Do I end up doing nothing if I allow myself to be before I get into doing? No. I do what I have to do, with more heart involved, with more effectiveness. Our being is driven by our hearts, our doing is driven by our heads. My heart will allow my head in, but my head is less willing to give space for the heart as well.

And when I die, I would like to think that people will describe me in terms of how I was, and how I approached things, not what I did. None of us want an epitaph that just says: ‘She worked hard, and did lots of things.’

We sometimes forget that everyday spirituality consists of a smile, a friendly and patient ear, a kind word, a thoughtful gesture, a sense of humour. Our spirits thrive when our heart is brought into whatever we are doing, and when we remember that we are above all about being.

So next time you are about to rush into the next task, just stop for a moment, and allow yourself to be, then take your heart into what you are doing, and help to change the world.

 

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KEEPING PERSPECTIVE

I am suffering from a bad back, and have been literally handicapped in carrying on with my ordinary life. I can’t lift anything, walk properly, stand up and sit down easily, and it has really made me realise how many good things we take for granted in our lives.

There are many simple everyday things that we don’t even think about, like being able to get a drink when we want one, being able to nip to the shops when we run out of something, having friends we can contact by phone. Can you imagine your life without these abilities?

And in attempting to stay independent, I have probably made my problem worse, when in fact there were lots of people willing to help, if only I had asked earlier.

I have been reminded that there are more important things than those we often wish we had, or those which we feel driven to achieve. And I have been reminded that people will help if they can, and we don’t have to try and manage on our own. And I thought I would pass the reminders on!

So during today, just notice:

  • All the things you can do for yourself and be independent in
  • All the things you have available to you that a refugee in a camp would be delighted by
  • All the people who are friendly towards you and willing to help, should you need it

And notice what frustrates you, what irritates you and what is driving you. Are they really so important?

Life isn’t usually an emergency, and when we appreciate what we do have, maybe the rest of it will stay more in perspective!

 

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