Resilience

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FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS, NOT YOUR WEAKNESSES

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Goal Achievement

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Gratitude

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People: The Heart of Success in Organizations

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Positive Emotions Broaden Our Perspective

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We're Wired To Connect

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Flow

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Positive Psychology in action - lessons from the 1Life Fully Lived East Coast Conference

On May 21st and 22nd I attended the 1Life Fully Lived East Coast conference. I tremendously enjoyed being a part of this event both as a presenter (or 1Life Master, as Tim Rhode, founder of 1Life Fully Lived likes to call them) and participant. 1Life Fully Lived is an organization that gathers experts from all walks of life who give back by helping people develop the skills needed to dream, plan and live their lives fully. It was quite the experience and right in line with a field I am passionate about, Positive Psychology. My session at the event was on this very topic. Here are a few lessons from Positive Psychology that we saw at the conference:

 

A life fully lived is a life north of neutral

I mentioned about Positive Psychology and getting to a north of neutral state in a previous blog. The ingredients to live the life of our dreams and the method to plan for it was at the essence of the conference. Participants learned from the wisdom and knowledge of people who have mastered certain aspects of life or have come to live fulfilling ones. Through keynote speeches, panel discussions, and break-out presentations, participants learned about areas in which they wished to grow. Well-being and a life of flourishing are among the key objectives of Positive Psychology. The science helps give a researched based language to the concepts that a conference like this presents. Positive Psychology teaches the idea of moving to a state where one is not just seeking to alleviate the pains or weaknesses in life (neutral state), but finding the tools and strengths from within to push oneself from a neutral state to one that is north of neutral and extraordinary.

 

Effort leads to mastery, evidence of a growth mindset

There was no doubt that the more than two hundred people at the conference from all over the country, different parts of the world, various walks of life and diverse backgrounds were there for a common reason - to grow and move forward in life. This reason for being there is evidence of what is known as a growth mindset[1] – the belief that the development of intelligence is possible, and that effort leads to mastery. The ability to view life as full of opportunity and to believe in one’s ability to achieve goals are all elements of a growth mindset. A fixed mindset, on the other hand, is one where people see themselves as victims of situations where possibilities do not exist. When they fail, they see themselves as failures instead of just having failed in one activity, picking themselves up and moving on. They leave no room for growth. Not at 1Life Fully Lived. Attendees were there to open up possibilities for themselves and for others. They learned how to embrace challenges and be inspired by other’s success. Behaviors right in line with Positive Psychology.

 

Positive emotions lead to better behaviors

Not only was the conference packed with a lot of information and learning, but also with injections of humor, dance, music, food and lots of bonding. It was a joyous experience, to say the least, with positive emotions plenty abound. Everyone had an attitude of giving and an open mind to receive. The information and knowledge that the accomplished speakers such as Jon Vroman of The Front Row Factor, or Julianna Raye of Pop Go Zen, or Rock Thomas of Rock Thomas International provided were nothing short of inspiring. The role of positive emotions to increase well-being behaviors has been thoroughly researched by psychologist Barbara Fredrickson. According to Fredrickson, to the extent that wellness practices produce positive emotions, our brains create non-conscious motives which cause us to want to indulge in the behavior again, creating an upward spiral of more positive emotions that in turn broaden one’s awareness and builds personal psychological, intellectual, social and physical resources. To some extent, I witnessed this play out in the span of just two days at the conference.

Psychologically, I saw participants feel motivated and burst with optimism. People got inspired to launch businesses, change habits, write books and much more. Socially, the bonding between people and the development of relationships was visible; we were surrounded by it the entire time. Intellectually, I saw firsthand how people were grasping concepts and were open to learning.  Physically, the positive emotions I am sure relieved a lot of people’s stress and aided in the release of oxytocin. If not, the mindfulness keynote by Julianna Raye would have gotten them there. Positive emotions are an important part of Positive Psychology and the conference provided plenty of them.

               

Achievement, a key component of Positive Psychology

The achievement of goals was among the topics most discussed in the conversations that I had with participants. Many had found motivation or the pathways to help realize them. Positive Psychology speaks to the importance of achievement in life and how it contributes to a life of well-being. Many things we do in life are to accomplish things, and the way we create goals and take steps to meet them can have a direct bearing on the quality of our lives. Setting goals and holding accountability was an essential part of the conference.

 

Other People Matter, the essence of Positive Psychology

Never in my life have I met a person, so driven and inspiring as the founder of 1Life Fully Lived, Tim Rhode. A man whose purpose is to help others. Tremendously successful and now in a position to give back to society he is capitalizing on his strengths. He is using his past business experience, ability to connect people and phenomenal network to help others aspire towards and start living their dreams. He personifies the fact that other people matter. He does this by not helping directly, rather taking a coaching approach where he helps people build their own strengths and become resilient enough so that they can realize their dreams. In my mind, there is no better way to give back, and this personifies the simplest definition of Positive Psychology as per Dr. Christopher Peterson, that other people matter.

 

It is easy to attend an event like the 1Life Fully Lived conference and be in a state of being where one is genuinely happy, eager to learn and develop, care for each other and where everyone is on his or her best behavior. Positive Psychology allows us to take a step back and review why this is possible. Contact me if you would like to learn more about how you can use Positive Psychology to enhance the way you experience life.

[1] Carol Dweck - Mindset

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Listening: The extraordinary gift you can give anyone for free

5 simple tips for better listening

 

When I was a student at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Jaggard, one of my Leadership Class professors, stated the following: “Listening is the best gift you can give someone.” That statement has always stayed with me.

In today’s life, where the methods of connecting have become so vast, there has never been a time when we have become so disconnected. We are connected in the superficial sense, via email, text, social media, etc. However, when it comes to quality conversations, it is becoming more and more difficult to find someone who truly listens, as I am both increasingly witnessing firsthand and also hearing regularly from my clients who express concerns about a lack of deep communication with others. Just the other day, I had a parent complain that, despite her wanting to listen to her son, he doesn’t seem to have the time to sit and listen to her.

 

Amidst an increasingly busy lifestyle with people trying to cram in as much as possible in the available 24 hours, it’s no surprise that we don’t dedicate the time to listen to others, including our loved ones. How many times have you asked someone how they were, only to wish you’d never asked once they really started telling you how they felt? Have you ever been to a meeting at work and felt that your voice went unheard?

 

As a coach, I am trained to listen and have spent countless hours practicing and learning techniques that allow me to be a good listener for my clients. I often get feedback from those same clients that they felt truly heard and that they appreciated being listened to. I have learned to extend these skills to my daily interactions and it has now become second nature. While this blog is not aimed to be a comprehensive training guide to learn how to listen better, below are a few tips to help you begin to provide the gift of listening to others and to elevate your interactions towards becoming extraordinary:

 

1.       Be intentional about listening - If you have resolved that you will spend the time to engage in a conversation with someone, then why not be intentional about giving it your best? Why not be intentional about giving the other person a chance? You’re investing the energy anyway so make good use of it and don’t let your energy and time go to waste. Make it count, be intentional and keep that intention in your mind as you do.

 

2.       Avoid your inner voice - This takes training and, in most cases, undoing a lifetime of judging others, wanting to problem solve and all kinds of other mind chatter. One way to remove judgement and all of the other distractions going on in your mind is to remember point 1 - your intention - and then to make a conscious decision that when you are listening, it’s about the other person, not you. This is when the gift of listening starts to bear fruit, when the person you are listening to realizes that you are truly paying attention.

 

3.       Listen to the whole person - When someone talks, it’s not just about the words. It’s about how they are saying those words; it’s about the tone, the emotion, the gestures, the body language. Be a good listener by being a good observer. Observing and making a mental note of the whole person will help you delve deeper into the conversation, express emotion where warranted and react appropriately.

 

4.       Imagine if it were you who was being listened to - How would you want to be heard? Would you want to be given the distinct sense that you are not important and that other things matter more than you? Of course not. A conscious thought about giving the same respect to the other person and remaining aware of what you would want from them will help you focus on the conversation and listen better.

 

5.       Reflect back - Acknowledge and show that you are fully engaged with the other person by reflecting back what you have heard. Showing some kind of genuine emotional connection helps with this. Such feedback would allow the person to feel appreciated and to also make you an active participant in the conversation; and that is, after all, the whole point. Sometimes just keeping in mind that you will reflect back what you have heard the person say helps to both get and keep you engaged in the conversation.

 

Once you start practicing the above, notice the difference in the quality of your interactions. I guarantee you will get more out of your conversations. You will have productive meetings and accomplish more in less time. You will also feel better - listening causes the other person to know that they matter, that they are important and that you are there for them. Give people an extraordinary gift. Show them that they matter through better listening habits.

If you would like to learn more about how to listen better or how to improve your interactions with others to show that they matter, contact me and we can talk about how Positive Psychology can provide you with the tools to do just that.

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FOUR EXTRAORDINARY LIFE LESSONS FROM A HALF MARATHON

On April 10th I completed the Philadelphia Love Run Half Marathon. Named after the City of Brotherly Love, this was the second year in a row that I challenged myself to participate in the 13.1 mile run. Training for the Love Run was no easy task as I am not a long distance runner. I’ve always been a sprinter so challenging myself to this both last year and again this year was an attempt to try something different and to see if I would enjoy it (emphasis on ‘enjoyment’, more on that later).  I’d like to share with you four key points I learned from the experience:

 

1.       DISRUPT THE AUTO-PILOT AND KNOW WHO YOU ARE BEING: 

      Like most people, throughout my day I carry out a multitude of activities. From waking up in the morning to getting ready for a conversation with a client, to helping friends in need, to studying, to consulting… the list goes on. Most of these activities happen on auto-pilot; they are a part of my unconscious being and I simply get the work done. But do I ever stop to think about the impact of them and who I am ‘being’ while I go about my business? This year I had to do just that in order to re-arrange my schedule to accommodate the training needed to complete the marathon. I had to figure out a way to disrupt the auto-pilot. This involved creating a new version of myself, one that would make time for training runs, get to sleep on time, ensure my diet was appropriate and provide myself adequate self-care after each training jog so that I would not suffer injuries. All amidst the regular daily activities that I was also meant to be doing.  Long story short, I learned a lot about myself through this experience: that I am capable, that I can make changes in my life to meet my goals. Most importantly, I learned that I need to BE a certain person in order for all of this to work. This introspection allowed me to see that I had to be a different person than the auto-pilot version in order to succeed in my goal of running the half marathon. This version of me needed to train, was more disciplined, more active, able to prioritize, not a procrastinator, and was a version that was a lot closer to my best self. A stronger, more determined, faster, better version of myself. Wow, almost sounds like Superman (and, yes, that’s exactly how I felt when I completed the race)!   It made me stop and wonder, “What have I learned about myself through this experience?”. It gave me the ability to see who I am BEING when I undertake a certain task. After all, I am a Human-Being and not a Human-Doing. I can ask that question of myself anytime during the day now, and guess what? I can gauge it against any ideal I set for myself. Who are you being today? This instant? Is it who you want to be?

 

2.       JOY, THE SECRET INGREDIENT TO ‘STICKING WITH IT’:

I started my jogging regimen earlier in the year while visiting family in London. I started with just 3 miles initially, with the intention of gradually ramping up each week. The jogs were “lovely”, as they would say in England. I would run alongside the river in Brentford and make my way through some residential roads and across a few parks. The diversity of the scenery and the occasional greeting from passersby felt wonderful. Then I came back home to Philadelphia and started jogging at a park close to my house. There was a problem, however, as the park only had a one-mile loop and doing the same loop again… and again… and again… became tedious. I started finding myself not looking forward to doing it and the monotony began to get to me. The London experience offered more variety, more interaction with people and better scenery; simply put, it was a more pleasurable and joyful experience. But guess what? I had the opportunity to provide myself that same experience in Philadelphia. I made the decision to find a trail that offered me similar experiences to those in London. A scenic route, more interaction with people and a much longer trail was just what I needed. I liked it so much that I couldn’t wait for the weekends to come so I could go for that long jog. Making it a pleasurable experience allowed me to stick with it to the end. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I have decided to regularly continue with smaller jogs along the same trail, even though I am no longer training for a race. What activities do you dread and how can you inject joy in to them?

 

3.       THE POWER OF BELIEF:

As mentioned earlier, I was never a long distance runner. But I have also never been hesitant to challenge myself, either. When I first considered doing the Love Run last year, I thought it was at least worth the try. “What is there to lose?”, I asked  myself. Worst case scenario, I would not be able to complete the whole distance. Best case scenario, I would be able to complete the run in a ridiculously short amount of time. Instead of trying to predict what the outcome would be, I decided to just go for it. Once I started training, I knew I would be able to complete the run and the most likely scenario would be one that resided somewhere between the worst and best case scenarios. Had I not had the belief in myself to at least try and give myself the chance, I would have robbed myself of both the joy mentioned in point 2 as well as the learning in point 1, not to mention the satisfaction of achieving a goal I set for myself that ultimately links to my health and well-being. I chose to keep a growth approach and to look at the activity as one of opportunity and possibility, which is what allowed me to meet my goal. How do you choose to believe in yourself?

 

4.       YOU HAVE THE RESOURCES WITHIN YOU: 

The fact that I had never in my life been a long distance runner meant that I could easily have given up and pretended that I did not have it in me to run a half marathon. But due to the power of belief, I was able to convince myself that a long distance run was possible. What resources did I need in order to accomplish this task? It turns out all I needed was myself. Yes, I had to read up on how to train and to consult with some experienced runner friends of mine. However, when it came right down to actually training and running and completing the race, it took my own resourcefulness and abilities to get it done. No one could do it for me. No one knew my circumstances or abilities better than me. It was solely up to me as to how I would tap into my own resources physically, mentally and emotionally to accomplish what I did. I trained physically; emotionally I kept my morale high and the joyful jogs helped; and mentally I was focused on my goal. I called on these resources of mine and they were there. Now that I have started tapping into them, they will only grow stronger. I created my own path to complete what I set out to do. What resources and strengths can you call upon for the important things in life?

 

 

Had I not been able to learn from my experience and discover the version of myself I wanted to be to accomplish my task, had I not learned to enjoy my training regimen, believe in my own abilities and tap into my strengths and resourcefulness, I would not have been able to achieve what I set out to do. The fact that I was able to do all of this not only allows me to view life with a “can-do” attitude, the experience also adds to an abundant reservoir of positive experiences in my life. Experiences I can draw from in times of need. What activities allow you to live life at the next level, extraordinarily? If you would like to learn more about how to bring concepts like these to life for yourself, then contact me to find out how I can help transform your life from one of ordinary to extraordinary.

 

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Moving to a North-of-Neutral State

If I were to ask how you viewed your overall well-being, what would your response be? Okay? Normal? Fine? Great? We tend to view things along a continuum such as from abnormal to normal or from good to bad. We also tend to think that the mere absence of something abnormal or bad is a sign that things are alright. For example, the absence of illness is viewed as a sign of health or the absence of mental illness is seen as a sign of mental health. Is this actually the case, though?

 

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”[1]. Corey Keyes, the positive sociologist has concluded that the absence of mental illness does not equate to the presence of mental health[2] and that the two are not part of the same continuum.

 

It can be deduced from the above that fixing what’s wrong or just getting rid of the bad doesn’t always result in the best possible outcome when it comes to the human condition. It merely takes us from the state we are in to a ‘neutral’ state.

But what if we had the ability to go even farther, to go north of a neutral state? What takes us from neutral to north of neutral requires a different set of actions and behaviors, most of which are as accessible to us as the food in our fridge.

 

Elevating oneself from an ordinary, or neutral, state to an extraordinary one requires one to tap into their talents and abilities. It takes one getting back in touch with their passions in life and discovering what makes life worth living. It requires one to draw from their own strengths and character traits such as perseverance, humor, patience, creativity, grit, etc. It involves the use of all of the above across multiple domains of one’s life – self, family, community and work. This is what leads to the good life, not just a life of ‘being’ but rather a life of well-being and one of happiness.

 

Moving north of neutral and becoming extraordinary also involves having a sense of purpose in life. Being able to see oneself connected to something larger than their own self - whether it be religion, charity, community involvement, etc. - results in fulfillment and an increased sense of well-being and happiness.

 

Through science-based interventions and methodologies, Positive Psychology – the science of human flourishing – helps individuals reach a north-of-neutral state in life. Focusing on what’s wrong in addition to what’s right and discovering what’s best for you helps to build a life of flourishing.

 

If you would like to move to a state that’s north of neutral and unleash the possibilities that a life of flourishing has in store for you… if you would like to tap into your inner resources, talents and abilities… if you would like to be able to get back in touch with your passions in life and see yourself connected to your dreams and experience an elevation from ordinary to extraordinary… contact me to set up a free one-on-one session so I can help you get there.

 



[1] Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948. The Definition has not been amended since 1948.

[2] Introduction to Positive Psychology, Heffron & Boniwell, pg:8.

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