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Can We Train Ourselves to Succeed in Relationships?

A theory emerged to describe the basic traits that serve as the building blocks of personality. The “Big Five” Personality Traits, as they are often referred to, are broad categories of personality traits that can be broken down into: Extraversion: characteristics such as excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness and high amounts of emotional expressiveness. Agreeableness: includes attributes such as trust, altruism, kindness, affection, and other pro-social behaviors. Conscientiousness: include high levels of thoughtfulness, with good impulse control and goal-directed behaviors. Those high in conscientiousness tend to be organized and mindful of details. Neuroticism: Individuals high in this trait tend to experience emotional instability, anxiety, moodiness, irritability, and sadness. Openness: This trait features characteristics such as imagination and insight, and those high in this trait also tend to have a broad range of interests. The “Big Five” Personality Traits examines the individual differences in people. We can use these differences to identify how someone might perform in certain work environments or tasks. For example, Openness is associated with tolerance of ambiguity (which means when something is not clear), a capacity to absorb information, being very focused and the ability to be aware of more feelings, thoughts and impulses simultaneously. The result is […]

To Just Be for a Moment

“The most relaxing activities may be the ones in which we do absolutely nothing. And if we can do nothing amid the sounds of nature – birds chirping, water bubbling in a brook, the wind rustling in the trees – so much the better. During these moments, away from the noise and chaos of our fast-paced, stress-filled lives, we commune most directly with nature. Without distraction, our bodies can totally relax; there is no danger, no need to be ready to respond to anything. All we have to do is be.”  That quote is from the book: Body, Mind, and Spirit and it reminds me to slow down, to smell and taste the rain, to hear the chirping of birds, the rustling of leaves and the beating of my innerds. Reality can be a difficult place to live. Sometimes it seems impossible to stay in the here and now. From time to time we all revisit the past, yearn for the future or stress/worry about what is going on around us. This is natural. Still, we can strive to be in the present, to just be, for as many moments as we can. When we can stop and just be […]

Using Marshmallows to Increase Employee Productivity

Walter Mischel’s 1960’s Marshmallow Study is one of the best-known self-control studies. Mischel took children, put them in a room by themselves, gave them a treat (a marshmallow), and the following deal: They could eat the treat right away, or wait 15 minutes until the experimenter returned. If they waited, they would get an extra marshmallow. Tracking the kids over many years, Mischel found that the ability to hold out in this seemingly trivial exercise had real and profound consequences. As they matured and became adults, the kids who had shown the ability to wait got better grades, were healthier, enjoyed greater professional success, and proved better at staying in relationships—even decades after they took the test. In a new study (PDF), Celeste Kidd, found evidence that, in addition to self-control, children’s wait-times are regulated by rational decision-making process that considers environmental reliability. Kidd’s own version of the Marshmallow Study was designed to test the effect of trust; being either unreliable or reliable. In the first part of the study, the researchers handed over a piece of paper and a jar of used crayons, then told a child to either use those crayons or wait for a better set of […]

Think, Act, and Communicate From the Inside Out

Many people can express what they believe is their life’s purpose, but often it is unsupported by real conviction or action. We express our rational thoughts, but in order to support it with real conviction or action it needs to be derived from our personal why. The personal why are our innerds. Innards are our internal organs. I use the word innerds (inner) to reflect our values and passions. Why does this have meaning or significance? Why am I doing this? Why am I compelled to feel this way? The results, outside forces or characteristics is the what, the action, or context of our lives. The outer what involves the neocortex or the outer layers of the brain. It supports “higher functions” such as sensory perception, generation of motor commands, conscious thought and language. It is our ability to be rational, factual, logical, detail-oriented, textual, and statistical. We can get caught up in an endless circular analysis of trying to comprehend or correct the outer what. Most often with little satisfaction or understanding of those forces because we can’t make rational sense of it or control all of the actions.   “When we communicate from the outside in, people can understand […]

Can We Fool Ourselves?

We have heard the expression “fake it until you make it”, but can we really fake it? I suspect that we have all been in situations or times where we had to put a smile on and make the best of a situation. That tends to be more situational and hopefully short term. Pretending we are not anxious, when we are, is a tactic that may fool those around you but you can’t fool yourself. We always know what we are doing, but sometimes we just don’t or are not able to acknowledge it. Attempting to deny or repress our fears and worries within our self does not work. The result is often the heavy feeling of carrying around extra emotional weight., depression or a physical ailment, indicating that in our subconscious, we know very well that something is wrong. Being rigorously honest saves us from playing destructive games with ourselves. A worry that we can define and examine in the light of day is far less threatening than one we are trying to tuck away in the darkness and hide.Most, if not all, anxiety is based on fear. So when faced with anxiety, the question becomes what it is we fear. If our […]

Navigating Work-Life Balance

When work life and personal life are out of balance, our stress level is likely to be high. Balancing work and personal life has rarely been an easy task but in today’s technology driven environment, the lines between work and personal life can be even fuzzier. Technology has allowed people to take work home and be accessible 24 hours, 7 days a week. It has also allowed people to be on the road for sales calls, leave the office for doctor’s appointments and kid’s events and still be connected to the office and productive. Although that flexibility can be beneficial for both the employer and the employee, it can make it hard to identify when work life stops and the personal life begins. Consider the consequences of poor work-life balance: Fatigue – when you are tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly might suffer. This can lead to poor performance, costly mistakes, and a feeling of not being present with family and friends. Lost Connections – time is a fixed commodity. When you spend too much time with work, family and friends suffer and the possibility of losing touch with them increases. Reduced Productivity – trying to do more usually results in […]

Redesigning Leadership

I came across this post by John Maeda talking about Creative Leadership vs. Authorative Leadership that I thought was a good quick summary of changing leadership styles. This chart represents a summary of the kind of creative leadership that is rising — and needed — in the face of our increasing interconnectedness due to global economies, mobile devices, and social media. In an age where anyone can “friend” the CEO, and where complexity and volatility are the only constants, what should leadership look like? I often say we are now operating within a “heterarchy” though I’ve also cleverly seen it called the “wirearchy.” In any case, it’s a world where I believe the natural perspective of artists and designers — who thrive in ambiguity, fail productively, and rebound naturally — will be become more and more useful in leadership contexts. The chart was originally created for a workshop at the Davos World Economic Forum in 2009 and became the basis of my book Redesigning Leadership, written with Becky Bermont. In my own observation, there are authoritative leaders and creative leaders everywhere — it’s not something wholly determined by industry, generation, or position. And every leader will need, on any given […]

Engaging Employees to Increase Performance

Dale Carnegie recently teamed with MSW Research to study the functional and emotional elements that affect employee engagement.  In their study, a national representative sample of 1,500 employees was surveyed, which revealed three key drivers:  • Relationship with immediate supervisor  • Belief in senior leadership  • Pride in working for the company This study and past research has shown, time and again, that employees who are engaged significantly outperform work groups that are not engaged. The study reinforces the idea that in order to create a competitive organization with superior performance, organizations should focus on their employees. It is the people who are in the company that can greatly impact the sustainability, profitability and the long term strength of the organization. The study found that 71% of the employees surveyed are disengaged or partially engaged. If almost three-quarters of the employees are not fully engaged it would be challenging, in not implausible, for the organization to achieve their full potential. This will be evident in employee productivity, customer service, and eventually the organizations profitability. For employees it is the “personal relationship with their immediate supervisor that is the key.  The attitude and actions of the immediate supervisor can enhance employee […]

The Need to Admit that We have Become Ineffective

The fact is that when most people are stuck they have lost the power of choice. They are unable, at certain times, to bring into their consciousness with sufficient force the memory of what being stuck does to them. They are without defense against it in the moment. We need to admit to ourselves that something is wrong. We have created this mess in our life. We admit this and quit trying to fool ourselves into believing something else. We realize that our lives with this issue have become ineffective. We do things that we later regret doing and tell ourselves that we will not do them again. But we do. We keep on doing them, in spite of our regrets, our denials, our vows, our cover-ups and our facades.These issues have become bigger than us. We need to admit the truth of where we are and that, for whatever reason, we are really ineffective with this issue and we need help. Now we can begin to find clarity.

Convergence of Circumstances

Most of us have heard many topics and discussions on priorities. We have heard concepts of prioritizing such as: big rocks first, four quadrants of urgent and important, making a list (checking it twice), and your calendar is an indication as to what your priorities are…the list goes on. I use many of these concepts myself. When it comes to prioritizing our lives, we should all have a system, or a combination of systems that we follow. What we value in our normal life is where we spend most of our time. But when circumstances converge we alter our priorities. We adapt given our current circumstance. I heard someone talk about how his priorities changed as he and his wife were getting ready for a vacation. The husband valued being on time and he scheduled his calendar accordingly. His goal was to pack the car and pull out of the driveway by 8am. His priority was to stay on schedule and to start their vacation. The car was packed and he was ready to leave. As he was trying to encourage his wife to hurry up, he crossed the line. He asked her to hurry one too many times and […]