Monday, December 27, 2010
Let's take charge!
Dr Mate claims this and many other very helpful findings, in several interviews and in his 3 best-selling books. And he’s not alone. Countless research studies have – over more than half a century – shown the connection between stress and disease, stress and dysfunctional behaviour, stress and lack of productivity, and now parental stress and ADHD in children. When are we going to start paying attention? Start applying some of all these great findings? Findings that, when applied, empower us and actually give us back control of our lives....................Maybe this coming New Year? (I wonder, ever hopeful.)
Watch Dr Gabor. He may inspire another kind of New Year’s resolution!
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Wishing You a StressLess Holiday
Again, equally useful for any age, person, group or situation you might be 'managing'!!!!
Coach self-awareness in others - your staff and family. Integrate non-confrontational language that draws people’s attention to themselves. Ie: when you ask someone how they are, stop and listen to the answer. Share a personal anecdote about your own self-awareness such as ‘I was so stressed this morning I didn’t even say hi properly. I do apologize. I should have noticed my shoulders were up under my ears! Do you ever have that happen?’
Practice self-management – stop every so often and stand up, take a deep breath and extend the exhale for as long as you can. Check your neck, jaw & shoulders for tension. Shake it off1 Take another breath and sit down. This need only take 20 seconds! Another 20-second tool was suggested to me by my eye doctor: 20-20-20: every 20 minutes take your eyes away from your work and look out at least 20 feet away (at a tree outside for example), for 20 seconds. Then back to work Either of these 20-second tools will renew your energy, your focus and your creativity.
Practice compassion, for others (no matter what the age), and yourself – self explanatory (I hope!) - For those of you familiar with Maslow’s Pyramid, having one up on the wall can be a helpful reminder.-
Get support for yourself – this can be in the form of coaching, counseling, peer group get-togethers, and self-care strategies such as regular massages, a meditation group, yoga class, or journaling about your day just before bed.
I do love feedback, so as you try these suggestions out, let me know how you fare!
Wishing you a wonderful holiday weekend, and a New Year filled with love, joy, and other pleasant emotions!
Monday, December 13, 2010
Parents & teachers will find them easy to adapt to kids & families!
Define goals – Are your goals clearly enough defined? They may be in your head, but are they to your people or family? (Agenda Free Listening can help you discover this :-)
2 Levels of planning – are you only using your head (in a semi-adrenaline induced state) to problem solve? When you’ve finished ‘brain-storming’ for ideas, engage or recall a positive emotion, breathe & get centered. Then try again; use the Spider-Map (or mind-mapping) technique, to help access your right brain capacities.
Habituate the positive – Take time to reflect on - write it down - what works and what doesn’t, then make a habit of doing what works!
Use a Decision Making Process – All 4 steps (in the following process) are equally necessary:
A) Identify where you want to be
B) Identify where you are
C) Create a practical plan for how you’ll get from A to B
D) Do it!
Communicate – with peers and employees, (or family members) about any or all that you've arrived at from the above points EVERY DAY.
Next posting – some tips on effective stress management, my favorite subject!
Monday, December 6, 2010
These ideas are just as readily applied to managing kids!
Self-Management – Ensure you yourself are internally managed enough that you can put your own agenda or views aside and ‘tune in’ to others’ stress.
Find the feeling – How bad is the stress or lack of motivation? Are people scared, frustrated, resentful, apathetic? Their behavior and motivation will be different for each of these different emotions. Try to check in whether your perception is correct, then tailor your response accordingly.
AFL – (Agenda Free Listening). Those of you who are familiar with this technique, practice, practice, practice! This is powerful stuff! (If you’re not familiar with it, feel free to contact me and I’ll send you more information.)
Appreciate effort, sincerely! – Voice appreciation for all effort, no matter how successful (or not) the result of that effort. Make sure you really mean it, though. (Appreciation that isn't authentic can feel condescending and create mistrust.)
Facilitate the feeling –Focus on creating a positive, feel-good environment to help everyone get into an internal state where their brains are switched on and they can function creatively.
Empowerment – Allow space & time for problem-solving – give people/kids time and the autonomy to come up with creative solutions that your business or family can implement. Believe me, autonomy can work wonders - at any age!
Let me know how these work for you........
Next posting I think I’ll share some ideas for Change Management……
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
In my next posting I’ll be offering up some suggestions for motivating people that you may not be familiar with ….. watch this space!
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
What’s your indulgence?
Thursday, November 4, 2010
New Website 'Member Zone'
Monday, October 25, 2010
More About Purpose
Brings to mind that saying: Be careful what you set your heart upon – for it will surely be yours.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Health & Well-Being
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The Female Stress Response
Next time you feel an unexplained urge to talk to someone, stop for a moment and check whether it’s in response to stress. If you determine that it is, then use this knowledge about yourself to make 3 choices:
- Choose who you talk to, with careful consideration
- Choose your words mindfully, so they becomes a constructive stress-relieving process, rather than a 'whine & complain' session.
- Choose to move on to something positive afterwards, even if it’s just having tea in a favorite cup, reading something funny, or buying a new cologne!
Monday, September 20, 2010
An Inspiration to Practice
Some people identify more with the analogy of a savings account in the bank; practicing generating positive emotional states is like putting money in the bank; after a while, when you need to call on it (or you need ‘funds’), you have it there to draw on, rather than draining the overdraft!
Whichever way we see it however, whether it's as daily practices or daily investments, such frequent attention can only lead to good results. Mao's Last Dancer is just a particularly beautiful example!
Monday, September 13, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
The Handwriting On The Wall
Lugging groceries through the kitchen door
Awaiting her arrival was her 8 year old son,
Eager to relate what his younger brother had done
“While I was out playing and Dad was on call
T.J. took his crayons and wrote on the wall!
It’s on the new paper you just hung in the den,
I told him you’d be mad at having to do it again.”
She let out a moan and furrowed her brow,
“Where is your little brother right now?”
She emptied her arms and with purposeful stride,
She went to his closet where he’d gone to hide.
She called his full name and she entered his room,
He trembled with fear – he knew this meant doom!
For the next ten minutes, she ranted and raved,
About the costly wall paper and how she’d saved.
Lamenting the work it would take to repair,
She condemned his actions and total lack of care.
The more she scolded, the madder she got,
Then stomped from his room, totally distraught!
She headed for the den to confirm her fears,
She saw the wall and her eyes filled with tears.
The message she read pierced her soul like a dart,
It said “I love Mommy”, surrounded by a heart.
Well, the wallpaper remained, just as she had found it,
With an empty picture frame to surround it.
A reminder to her, and indeed to all,
Take time to read the handwriting on the wall.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Who Has Time for Reflection!
Adults and older children are usually busy and involved in ‘doing’ or anticipating, or being stimulated by activity, and, (as was perfectly demonstrated before my eyes), will tend to sweep any dreamy toddler away from a savoring moment with a “Come on, we’ve got to hurry!” or “Stop daydreaming!” or “We haven’t got time!”
Stillness, time for refection, contemplation, just BEING in the moment, is for most people largely absent and not something we tend to prioritize in our day-today lives. Yet it is a very basic need if we are to effectively handle the stress, uncertainties and over-stimulation of today’s world. What a conundrum – no time to implement the one thing that would help us to handle our perpetual ‘no time’!
Maybe what we really need to do is turn to our little ones for examples and inspiration and reminders to take a moment for contemplation, reflection, even awe and wonder at the moment we are in. Maybe then we will have the experience of making more sense of it!
Monday, August 23, 2010
‘Like this cup,’ the master said, ‘ you are full of your own opinions, speculations, and hypotheses. How can I show you wisdom unless you first empty your cup?’
I love this story - such a good reminder of how ‘knowing what we know’ can interfere with our opportunities for learning, and so finding wisdom. It also makes me think of a study I once read about judgment; feeling judgmental is apparently one of the most insidious emotions we can have and the hardest to shift. The best counter-feeling? Appreciation – of what is!
Lovely. I am just now appreciating a nice cup of tea .................
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Well, ten days, two broken bones, one surgery, unlimited excruciating pain and a course of antibiotics riddled with side effects later, I think I know the answer: Rest and focus. Or should I say rest SO I can focus. Although this concept is not completely foreign to me(!), now I have had no choice but to implement it.
Interestingly, this ‘answer’ and having no choice but to carry it out, has given me a feeling of peace, (I AM resting more!), and so even with one arm incapacitated by a cast & sling, I am now experiencing being more focused, more creative, and getting more done than before. Amazing! Lesson learned?
Monday, August 2, 2010
Neither parent responds immediately, but the little boy can feel the tension and knows that all is not as it should be. “What’s wrong?” he says, in a sleepy, husky voice.
His mother drops her hands and swings around towards him as his father turns his attention to him with a sudden smile on his face. “Hey son, what are you doing up?”
His mother also has that smile on her face now, as she crouches down to his height. It feels weird.
“I’m thirsty,” he mutters. “What’s wrong?” he asks again before anyone can divert his attention.
“Nothing sweetheart,” replies his mother, with a smile he doesn’t believe. “Let me take you downstairs for a glass of water.”
“Are you fighting?” asks the little boy, undeterred.
“Of course not!” says his father, with an outraged voice. “We never fight!” The boy is sure he has heard them fight, many times. Why is his dad lying?
“Now go with your mother and get that water. You should be asleep, you know!”
“Yes, you should be asleep,” his mother echoes. “Come along now, let’s fetch that water and get you back to bed.”
The little boy goes reluctantly with his mother. He thinks about the cuddle, but is afraid to ask – they’ll probably say no. He feels confused. He doesn’t know why.
After he drinks the water, his mom takes him back to his room. “Don’t worry, honey. There’s nothing wrong. It’s just your imagination. Everything’s fine!” she smiles - that smile. It doesn’t feel fine.
“Go to sleep now, ” she whispers, shutting the door behind her.
He slides down under the covers and lays there in the dark, thinking. He feels an uneasy feeling in his tummy, just like when he is nervous or worried. Why is he feeling this way? He doesn’t like it.
Mom said everything was fine. Moms and Dads are always right, aren’t they? That means he must be wrong. Yes, that’s it! He is wrong about what he feels is happening, about the fighting and tension and weird smiles. He must stop listening to his feelings - then he won’t feel so yukky. “Everything’s fine, I’m wrong, everything’s fine, I’m wrong, everything’s fine……..” he whispers, like a mantra, to himself in the dark.
Many adults recollecting their childhood may remember such an incident, - when they started to disbelieve their own ‘inner knowing’, or intuition, because a parent or other well-intentioned adult told them that they were imagining something that they thought they knew. How about you? If this does resonate, how much work have you had to do, as an adult, to re-connect with your intuition? I know for my part, I cannot count how many hours I spent in workshops, therapy & self-help to get back in touch with and trust my own inner knowing.
Suggestion: Whatever your intention, next time you want to tell a child that he or she is imagining something, STOP, take a breath, and ask yourself if they really are…..
Monday, July 26, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Type-Testing for Better Relationships?
From Myers-Briggs to Enneagrams, whether it’s a ‘typology indicator’, a personality profile, or an assessment of temperament, we love to use methodologies to categorize people! Used by many career counselors, psychologists, teachers, and employers, they seem to be increasingly popular on the Web, providing entertainment and amusement and at times even helpful information both for understanding oneself and others.
All too often, however – at least in my experience – they end up doing more harm than good. I am aware that this statement may push some buttons, but what the heck, my experience is my experience, and I feel compelled to share it only because I continue to witness the misuse of these ‘assessments’. Because such tests imply quick-and-easy insights into colleagues, peers, partners, and even children, they lead us to believe they will magically make our relationships/ management abilities/collaboration or even parenting much easier and so are too tempting to resist! Unfortunately they are too frequently used to judge or label, forming images of limits to what people must be capable of, restrictions in our ideas about their potential, and often an increase in rigidity around our expectations. The truth of the matter is that we are all much more complicated than such assessments allow, as are our relationships. Aside from the fact that these tests have no convincing validating data to support them, I have never witnessed a relationship that has been improved by them in any significant way.
In fact, you are much more likely to succeed in building a better relationship or helping someone to grow by the simple act of noticing and appreciating the positive qualities you observe in the other person. Rather than reading up on types, taking or giving personality tests, take a moment, on your own, to observe each person, each employee, each colleague, each peer, each child, and ‘play’ a lone game called “Spot The Good Stuff”. Once you have identified good attributes, actions and potential in each person, find a way to share and celebrate all the goodies you identify, celebrate the successes, celebrate the contributions, celebrate all you appreciate. In my humble opinion, “Spot The Good Stuff” is one of the best-kept secrets to successful leadership, parenting and indeed any relationship!
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Where's The Stress?!
A study I once read showed that men feel stress and tension more in the thighs and buttocks, whereas women feel their stress more in the upper bodies! (Maybe this accounts for why men’s butts tend to stay slim as they grow older? All that tension must keep the gluteal muscles nice and taut!)
Seriously, stress- producing emotions, like all emotions, live in our bodies – in every cell! I don’t need research - recent or otherwise - to tell me this; I feel it in my own body. I feel love in my chest, anger in my jaw, worry in my neck, caring in my cheeks, loneliness in my shoulders, and humor in my stomach & collar-bone(!).
Do you know where in your body you feel your various emotions? I am sure you have a rough idea of where you take your stress. In my experience, most people are usually aware of 2 or 3 places. After increasing our self-awareness, we can often quickly notice 30, 40 or more and a whole new dialogue develops, a dialogue that can inform us often long before we otherwise would be conscious of an emotion ‘brewing’ like for example irritation, offering us the opportunity to intervene, take a break and change it. OR if we catch ourselves feeling say appreciation, which could be fleeting, our awareness can allow us to relish it, and extend it to last and benefit us for sometimes hours! The body is an amazing source of information and paying attention to what it is telling us can actually improve our stress- management, our communication skills and even our intelligence – give it a try!!
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Someone once likened what happens to the brain during anger to a ‘self-inflicted lobotomy’ :-))))
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Friday, June 18, 2010
Emotions Determine What We Think!
Mike looked down at his spunky little four-year-old with her tiny hands on her hips, looking up at him as if this was an issue of national importance! At first he just stared at her, incredulously. Then he felt the urge to laugh, and then suddenly, a surge of love for his little girl welled up in him. His feelings instantaneously shifted from annoyance and almost anger to love and laughter. When recapping the story to me, he concluded; “And you know what? After that we could have waited in that line all day and I wouldn’t have cared!”
To read full Article, go to http://bit.ly/cJhQFY
Thursday, June 10, 2010
I eventually decided to learn to manage my stress (leaving showbusiness was a big step!) I began taking proactive measures, like de-stressing on the way home.
After some practice, I learned how to manage my emotional energy – the invisible kind - and I realized what had made Barnum hide….
I discovered I could also make Barnum purr; just by activating a good feeling inside - an 'inner smile', so to speak - not by ‘doing’ anything visible - Amazing! I wondered how else I could be effecting my environment, and the people in my life.... Many lessons later, I am still exploring & discovering.....
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
A False Assumption
As a species, if we did not have this urge to learn and grow we would die. We need to learn about our environment and how to respond for our very survival; to defend ourselves against danger, to provide sustenance and shelter, to belong and be a part of a family or tribe. The brain is hard-wired to learn and to improve, to build a library of information from which to understand and respond to our world. Yet, it is interesting to observe how adept we as a society are at quelling this curiosity, this natural urge to grow and be better! Why? Because we operate from a basic assumption that children, and indeed adults, are innately lazy and do not naturally want to learn or do better.
As a result, we believe we need to direct, to coerce, to bribe, to threaten and generally to find ways to force learning, know-how, and proficiency. We do it in our schools, by coercing children to learn what we think they should learn, when we think they should learn it, with little or no regard for their intrinsic motivation, unique interests, or individual developmental readiness. We continue to compel and impose our agenda, removing any autonomy they might develop up through the years and into adulthood, as we insist on ‘managing’, often micro-managing employees and others, coercing them with incentives or ‘carrots’ to do what we want them to do – or penalizing them for not, as the case may be. All of this we do because we have this basic assumption; we assume that most human beings are innately lazy, unmotivated and need to be coerced and prodded if any learning or improvement is going to take place.
As I am sure I have in common with many of you, since I was a child, I have known this assumption to be false. And over and over again I have been witness to just how false it is. As those of you who have done my work know, the steps to freedom from this assumption are embedded in there! And now, great news, there is a N.Y.T. Bestseller DRIVE by Dan Pink, that offers the research and anecdotal evidence that prove it! At last, in mainstream publishing we have some really great arguments and a hugely persuasive case for autonomy – and for mastery (yeah!) and purpose (of course!). All completely intertwined with (yes, you guessed it) emotional intelligence. (I know I recommended it a few weeks ago, but it bears repeating.)
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us If you don’t have time to read the book, at least check out a 15 minute talk by the author: at http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Beauty From Within
I beg, as they say, to differ. In fact I insist: Beauty comes from within. Literally. Feeling good makes you look good – and younger! Conversely, stress makes you look older and less attractive! You, reader, are probably aware of this, but do you consider it as you go about your day?
How do you handle your stress – in the moment?
Try this: Think back to the last time you had an unpleasant feeling or felt a little stress. How did it feel? Allow yourself to re-experience it, just for a few seconds……..
Now look in the mirror. What do you look like?
I know that when I do this, it’s not a pretty sight – so let me suggest you give it up, right now!
Instead, take a deep breath in and as you exhale, let the feeling go – blow it out if necessary! Repeat it, if you like.
Now smile, just physically make the grimace of a smile. Now, try to FEEL the smile, think of something that makes you want to smile, so you really mean it. Enjoy the smile.
Now just relax. Feel better? Look better?
I rest my case.
Next time you feel annoyed or stressed, try this again. You may find you not only look better, but your thinking is clearer too!
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Motivation & The Feel Good Factor!
Friday, April 23, 2010
Blessings in Disguise
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
How Many People D'You See?
We only have to look at any team sport to see how futile this thinking is (one person cannot, obviously, play a team sport) or at all the jokes and comedy sketches where a family has mother doing all the work while dad and the kids sit in front of the TV!
Passing the ball, sharing the load, asking for help, is all a part of the collaborative process. Any team is only as effective as its members’ ability to collaborate and look to each other for support; be that a sports team, a management team or a family ‘team’.
When I really got this concept for the first time, I was a young mother with a seven-year old. Her dad (who was from Trinidad and had that culture’s no-nonsense approach to parenting), one day asked our daughter:
“How many people d’you see in this house?”
She hesitated: “Three….” she tentatively ventured.
“And how many people eat the food in this house?” he continued
“Three,” she responded, looking like she knew she was being led down a path she wasn’t sure she wanted to go.
“How many people cook the food we eat?”
“One – no two,” she corrected herself, remembering that dad sometimes made breakfast.
“Hmmm. And how many people buy the food?”
“Two.” Was her sullen reply.
“How many people do you see wash the dishes, then?” There was no stopping him!
“Two.” She wriggled impatiently.
Her Dad paused for dramatic effect. Finally he said,
“D’you think that’s fair?”
Our daughter looked across at me then back at her Dad, with the look of one who has just gained a new understanding., an ‘aha!’. “No,” she said, shaking her head so her curls bounced around her now slightly more confident expression.
“So, what d’you think we should do ‘bout it?”
There was a pause.
“I can help wash the dishes?” she said with a questioning lilt.
After that, the rest was easy. She had understood that we were a team and we all needed to pitch in, without my husband (or me) ever having to preach this to her. And we never had to, ever! I on the other hand, would continue needing reminders to ask for help, and not think I could do it all (only to become resentful afterwards). The adage about old dogs & new tricks’, definitely applied to me; my daughter was a teenager – and a helpful one at that – before I ‘really ‘got it’!
Nowadays, I still witness clients (and others) struggling with the same issue – and I recognize the feeling, for a feeling it is, an actual emotional need that will only change when we identify it, acknowledge it isn’t serving us, understand and take charge of it, so that we may step up to the task of collaborating, really collaborating! The way our world is heading these days, I don’t believe there is an alternative. In the words of one of my favorite authors, Satish Kumar, “We need to have a declaration of dependence –not independence! We are all dependent on each other,…. and on the earth.” No pun intended, but the days of plowing ahead independently are over!
PS: Recommended read: Satish Kumar’s book “You Are, Therefore I Am.”
Monday, March 1, 2010
Overcast in Paradise
I used to be a proponent of long vacations. I still am - but recently I gained a new appreciation for short getaways! The island we visited for 3 days was beautiful but the weather was, admittedly, not! Windy, overcast, sometimes rainy, even chilly. We could have been annoyed – we had such little time! However, we chose to take advantage of what we were given. Wind was good for sailing! – we borrowed a small catamaran and went for a sail! The waves soaked us, continuously, but hey, what a problem! I wasn’t about to complain! The water was bright turquoise for goodness sake!
An overcast day was good for a walk, exploring and stopping for fresh bread at a local bakery, a coffee at a sidewalk café, and a delectable lunch in the not-really-needed shade of a palm tree and a parasol…………
The last rainy day could be good for driving around the island ---- if it was beautiful in the rain, imagine what it would be like when the sun came out! Intermittently, we were able to stop the wind-shield-wipers and open the windows, enjoying the most peacefully serene picturesque views – not merely ‘easy on the eye’ but veritable ‘scenic candy ‘!
Nights being lulled to sleep by crashing waves were only matched by waking to the knowledge that we were still on a paradise island. Freshly caught seafood by the beach concluded the blissful holiday – blissful because we chose it to be so, having learned at last that true joy and pleasure comes solely from our own perception of life – the ‘inner view’.
Monday, February 15, 2010
We don’t necessarily need studies to demonstrate this, but they can help, and many studies, (most recently an Organizational Psychology study), have found clear evidence that if we avoid conflict – if we withdraw or suppress it, or try to smooth it over – conflict runs the risk of seething under the surface, and coming out much worse later on. (We all know this on some level, but such formal studies can give us more confidence to act on what we innately know!)
The thing about conflict that creates avoidance is that conflict is unpleasant, it doesn’t feel good in the moment, and it can also be a contradiction to our values! However, if we can be mindful within the conflict, if we can manage our emotions so our brain stays ‘switched on’ and mindful, conflict can be used to create a tension, an energy that ‘gets things done’. It can also create learning about how we can improve and do better. Most importantly, it is within a conflict that we can capture the differences and diversity that make the group or family a strong unit at the outset!
The key, of course, is to manage our emotions well enough that we can stay true to our values and be mindful of the value of the conflict itself, so it becomes an energy that propels us forward, a tension that helps us act or ‘perform’ better, be more authentic, learn about each other and keep communication open, thereby avoiding those subtle and insidious behaviors like manipulation, subversion and intrigue – now there’s a real cause to be uneasy!!
For tips on how to manage your emotions better, go to Articles, or read any of the books for sale in our Shop – excerpts from all will be posted soon on this website!
Monday, February 1, 2010
Praising Children - Right or Wrong?
What does seem to build self-confidence and a healthy self-image, according to the research, is praising children for effort, persistence or diligence, and what I like to call stick-to-it-iveness. This makes sense to me, because reward for something you do rather than for who you are is bound to create a more predictable and therefore safe reality for a child, and act as a motivator to do more of what works; you cannot be more of who you are when you, especially as a child, have no real developed sense of who you are; however you can certainly do more (or less) of actions and behaviours that gain praise! Recalling my own childhood, I can relate to that – never mind my own daughter and all the children I have known, taught, been taught by and worked with!
Now being referred to as ‘the new science of children’ this thinking has been long coming! It is all based on information we already know and which certainly has been well documented by the immense developmental research done over the last few decades. The most significant thing this ‘new’ evidence is revealing is that what works for adults does not necessarily work for children! Take gratitude for example – the very popular core of the current positive psychology and self-esteem building movement – and something I strongly espouse for my (adult) clients. Interestingly, gratitude exercises and processes that work so well in helping adults become more clear, confident, empathic, and emotionally balanced, seem to have the opposite effects on children. One study done with children in affluent Long Island communities, showed that children who focused on gratitude not only did not feel better nor more empathic than the control groups, many of them actually felt worse! The researchers don’t appear to have a satisfactory explanation, except that it may have something to do with kids feeling controlled by adults. Personally, I believe it has more to do with the brain’s developmental process, individuation, and the child’s still growing center in the brain that governs the understanding of being part of a greater whole. It is the fact that children have not yet fully developed their capacity for abstract empathy nor do they have the life experiences to create context for gratitude the way adults have, that creates a different perception of gratitude altogether.
When I work with children I ask them to make a list of things that make them happy (that is happy, not grateful). I help them create a safe place to go inside their imaginations and facilitate them to begin to use this ability to self-soothe and self-regulate, to help them make better choices for themselves. Asking a child to feel gratitude in the bigger picture is inappropriate; gratitude needs to, indeed it must always relate to any individual’s developmental stage and be authentic in the context of their unique life. As must any aspect of building self-esteem.
Expecting childrens confidence and self-esteem to respond the same way an adult’s does makes little or no sense, because they are children!
Healthy self esteem, in my experience, develops from the inside out, and is cumulative. First a child must feel loved and valued for who he or she is, just because they are. Conversely, their achievements are about what they do and the praise they receive and how they are judged needs to relate to just that, what they do, not to the lovable being that they innately are – and that we all are. Herein, I believe, lies the crux of many of our adult neuroses, that as children we were praised – or not – for who we were, and that what we did was confused with who we were. Let’s not make the same mistake with our own children; evidence based or not, we have enough information to know to build our children’s self-esteem and confidence from the inside out, developing first the inner life of the child and then – only then - the way that inner life relates to the outside world – which includes the context for gratitude as well as the feedback about their own performance. What it means to bring up emotionally balanced, coherent competent, & confident, socially aware children amid the glitz and glamour of our consumer culture, is, in essence, a balancing act, on a tightrope strung up between who the child is and what he or she does. And the greatest tool we can give them is to teach them how to negotiate that tightrope themselves, by learning to know themselves.
More about building self-esteem with children in my book Children Believe Everything You Say (Element Books 1997), available on our website and at all good bookstores, including Amazon.com
Monday, January 25, 2010
Teams & Families
Reviewing the last few years of working with parents and leaders, it strikes me how very parallel the issues of these two groups of people are; parents want their kids to learn to be responsible and accountable, they want good communication and high achievements; and leaders want the same from their employees; families want honest communication and everyone to pull their weight – as do leadership teams! Parents have problems maintaining boundaries, understanding their offspring or meeting them where they’re at, and getting them to do what they want! Leaders seem to have the same issues! Families are often brought together by shared values and the need to collaborate over something (as they are split when these are missing!); leadership teams - ditto!
I find that when I witness parents and leaders who ‘make it all work’, those who are succeeding and reaching their goals, I notice they ensure that their children or employees feel that they each have a sense of real purpose (rather than just a job, a chore, or a commitment); a value in being the unique person they are with their unique strengths, in the unique position they’re in; the employees / children know that they have a special contribution to make without which the team (or family) would not be doing as well! Leaders and parents that flourish do so because they have employees and children with a strong sense of belonging & purpose, who therefore are more likely to feel motivated and inspired, loyal and happy!
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
From the TAO TE CHING
We know good because there is evil
Being and not being,
having and not having,
create each other.
Difficult and easy,
long and short,
high and low,
define each other,
just as before and after follow each other.
I love this quote ~ it reminds me to embrace the shadow, and that all is relative.
Monday, January 11, 2010
A 'Badge of Honor'?
Far too many people 'wear' stress like a badge of honor; "Oh I'm SO stressed!" a man exclaims at the local coffee shop as I quietly sip my cappuccino. He continues, "but at least that means I'm working hard and being productive!"
He leaves hurriedly and I wonder whether he will get any more done today than me...... somehow I don't think so. Work we do and decisions we make in a stressed out state, frequently lead to more stress. Interestingly, it's when we are in a relaxed, calm state that we are most likely to be the most creative problem solvers and make the best decisions - because that's when our brain is fully 'switched on".
Time to recognize that the belief that 'only through hard work and stress will you be successful', is a myth! Not only is 'hard work and stress' not a prerequisite for achievement and success, it absolutely never guarantees it, (if it did, there would be a lot more successful, non-struggling people in the world.)
Time to recognize the value of relaxation and self-care, of having a life of ease and balance, of ensuring our brain is as fully switched on as possible - and that means activating the 'feel good factor"!
Try this for a week; start every day generating a 'feel good' state - whether it's through focusing on feeling appreciation for something in your life; reading something inspiring; listening to a piece of music you love; doing yoga or other physical activity; or whatever makes you feel like smiling! I'd love to hear about what differences you notice in your life.
Personally, I have found that as long as I take the feel-good factor with me as I go about my day, I am way more effective and successful than when old beliefs about 'hard work' surface and stress becomes the order of the day!
Please join me in expanding the 'feel-good factor' - increase its frequency in your day .................. It may become a movement!