Doing verse Being

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” ― Bernard M. Baruch

Our lives are ordered by the things that we do. The activities that we undertake and the results or outcomes that are achieved.

We have developed our learning and development programs for children to reflect this. Kindergarten is a place of play and happiness, being in those moments of play and companionship. This changes as children start the education journey. Tasks, activities, and results start to appear from year one and by the time children enter secondary school education; they are completely focused on the doing tasks of goal achievement, SATs, exams, graduation, etc.

As adults, we are driven by the need to achieve; to get that result; or goal in front of us. Work-related; relationship related; lifestyle or even socially. Everything around us seems to be focused on “Doing” rather than on “Being”.

So what is the difference?

Doing – the act of making something happen through your own action. doings: things that someone does: things that happen

Being – the state or fact of existing or living; existence or life. fundamental or essential nature

There is nothing wrong with “Doing”, after all, we spend most of our lives in “Doing mode”.

However, take a few moments to read the following list and see what it does mean in the context of why it is important to be more aware of “Being mode”?

  • Do you find it difficult to stay focused on what is happening in the present moment? Does your mind wander off? Do you get distracted?
  • Do you tend to walk quickly to get to where you are going without paying attention to what you are experiencing along the way?
  • Do you get to the destination without realising or remembering how you got there? Often, it is when you drive a car and you get to your destination and do not remember the journey.
  • Does it seem as if you are “running on automatic”, without much awareness of what you are doing?
  • Does it seem as if the day has flown past and you can not remember what you have done?
  • Do you rush through activities without being really attentive to them?
  • Do you get so focused on the goal you want to achieve that you lose touch with what you are doing right not to get there?
  • Do you find yourself preoccupied with the future or the past?

So what is the “Being” mode?

The full richness of the mode of “being” is not easily conveyed in words—its is best appreciated directly, experientially and personally. In many ways, it is the opposite of the driven–doing mode and if often unique to each individual. The “Being” mode is not devoted to achieving particular goals. In this mode, there is no need to constantly to monitor and evaluate (“How am I doing in meeting my goals?”).

Instead, the focus of the “Being” mode is “Accepting” and “Allowing” what is, without any immediate pressure to change it.

Simply put, it is trying to live by the adage “living in the flow” or “live moment to moment”, whilst at the same time taking the time to recognise and observe that you are. Imagine as it were you are in an activity – say reading an e:mail. Instead of just reading the e:mail and responding to it; take a moment, just a moment; to reflect on the e:mail, the context of the message and the person who sent it. Chances are you will respond differently to the message than if you just read and responded. This is the “Accepting” element.

“Allowing” arises naturally when there is no goal to be reached, and no need to evaluate where you are in trying to achieve the goal. This also means that attention is no longer focused narrowly on only those aspects of the present that are directly related to goal achievement; in “Being” mode, the experience of the moment can be processed in its full depth, width, and richness.

What can help you develop a “Being” mode of thought?

Yoga can help. So too can meditation. For me, I use Mindfulness; being consciously aware and trying to be present. The various practices within Mindfulness are easily adaptable for everyone. Whether it is mindful walking; a body scan; befriending or the simple 3 minute breath exercise; there is a practice there that can help.

Go on give one a try and let me know how you get on. For reference to the various practices you can try, go to the following website for some free examples:

https://laww.silvercloudhealth.com/mindfulness/

I leave you with the following quote.

“Do not let the memories of your past limit the potential of your future. There are no limits to what you can achieve on your journey through life, except in your mind.”

Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

In the Beginning there was….

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” ― Aristotle

In the beginning, there was…..

A raisin.

“A what? What on earth are you going on about?”

Let me explain and it will all become clear.

One of the first; possibly the most basic of all mindfulness practices, is called the Raisin Practice. It is the first practice in the eight-week mindfulness programme written by Doctor Mark Williams that I completed a few years ago (a link to the book and programme is at the end of this blog post if you want to find out more). You can use a raisin, or you can use some chocolate – though that tends to get very sticky and messy as you have to hold the chocolate for a while! It is a fantastic and simple way for people to be introduced to the world of mindfulness.

So what is the practice and how can you do it yourself or with others? The Raisin Practice is a mindfulness exercise that requires you to focus your mind on the present moment using all your senses – what you can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. The idea is that by focusing all your attention on the raisin, you help to bring your mind into the moment and train it to notice the present.

A favorite of children’s lunch boxes, handing these out and using them with adults in a mindfulness practice can sometimes come as a bit of a surprise. The technique may sound simple, but being still and present can be hard, especially with such a small thing as a raisin.

I am going to be holding an introductory session on Mindfulness; being held via video skype; to a group of work colleagues. I will be using the Raisin practice as the basis for the session. So how on earth am I going to do the exercise?

I plan to have a colleague hand out the raisins and then follow the steps below:

How do you practice the Raisin meditation? Before you begin, find a quiet spot where you can sit down and relax. You might find taking a few deep breaths will help you loosen the body and bring your mind to the practise. Once you’re ready, pick up the raisin and hold it in your hand. The next steps follow your senses.

1. Look at the raisin. Really concentrate. Let your eyes roam over the raison and pick out all the details– the colour, areas of light and shade, any ridges or shine from the crystalised sugars of the fruit. Before moving onto the next step, close your eyes, as this can heighten your other senses and help you focus.

2. Touch the raisin. With your eyes closed, place the raison into the palm of your hand. With your fingers explore the raisin’s texture. Is the skin waxy? Are there any edges? Is it sharp? It is soft or hard? Does it feel bigger that what you saw? Sometimes it can feel bigger.

3. Smell the raisin. Bring it close to your nose (don’t stick it up there!) and breath deeply. Concentrate on any scents and fragrances you can detect. Does the raisin smell sweet? Or perhaps earthy? Has this triggered your taste buds, saliva in your mouth or made your tummy grumble? Do you notice any other smells?

4. Taste the raisin. With your eyes still closed, place the raisin into your mouth. Notice how your hand instinctively knows where to go. Don’t chew yet, just spend some time concentrating on how the raisin feels on your tongue. Turn it over in your mouth and feel it’s texture on the roof of your mouth.Take a single bite into the fruit. Don’t swallow it yet. Focus your mind on the sensations just released into your mouth. How does it taste? How does this develop as the moments pass? How has the raisin changed? Do the smaller pieces of fruit feel different? Can you taste sweetness? Caramel? Any bitterness?

 

5. Finally, hear the sounds you make as you chew the raisin. You might hear the crunch of sugars; the motions of your jaws; the movement of your tongue as it helps you to maneuver the chewed raison and finally swallow it. Do you feel the remains of the raisin as it starts to travel down your throat?

Now take a moment to notice how your whole body feels. The calmness. The stillness of the moment.

When you are ready, start to awaken your mind. You might want to move gently, slowly open your eyes and take a few deep breaths.

With the meditation exercise now complete, you can carry on with your day. You will notice though a deeper insight into the day.

As mentioned at the start of the post, the link to the Book, “Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world” is below. I have recommended this book to numerous people and they have found it of benefit, by following the audio guided eight week mindfulness programme. Check it out at:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mindfulness-practical-guide-finding-frantic/dp/074995308X/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Finally, as always, I leave you with the following quote.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”  ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

…. Namaste ….

Are you feeling Life-Tired or lebensmude?

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.”  ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Monday’s and the start of the week can make people feel worried, upset or even depressed at the prospect of the week to come. I came across a phrase recently that really struck a chord with me. The phrase is:

LEBENSMÜDE  or Life-Tired. It is a German phrase that struck a chord with me.

We believe ourselves to be firmly attached to the effort of daily life, but some of our behaviours attests to something more; an occasional longing to give up our hold the life we lead. When this happens, we suddenly feel low; possibly distracted from the task at hand; even possibly wanting to give up and walk away from the situation. This could be the work environment, a situation at home or even something to do with friends or family.

For many people these days, this feeling can be complete almost overwhelming. Almost like a tidal wave of doubt and angst suddenly hits you. I am sre we have all felt this at some stage.

Some turn to drink. Others to drugs. Some feel anxious and try to run away. Others, even start to feel depressed. You may turn to sport or exercise, but for me, I turn to my thoughts and feelings, expressed through Mindfulness. Having practiced mindfulness now for coming up to three years, it still amazes me, how a simple breathing exercise or a mindful walk can change my whole outlook. Even a brief loving, kindness meditation can work wonders.

I am currently going through a four week mindfulness programme , sponsored by the place where I work. Part refresher; part to help me develop as a mindfulness coach at work; we were encouraged to read an article on how to be more mindful at work. In fact almost every one of the ten tips, not only apply to work. But also apply to re life you live. They include four of my favourite tips:

Be Consciously Present
Mindfulness is about being aware and awake rather than operating unconsciously. Be aware of what’s going on around you and what’s going on within you.

Be a Single-Tasker
Multi-tasking is trying to do two or more tasks at the same time or switching back and forth between tasks. Nobody can actually multi-task. In reality, your brain is madly switching from one thing to the next, often losing your train of thought in the process. Why not try single-tasking by trying to do one thing at a time.

Mindful Reminders
I, like most people who’ve undertaken training in mindfulness, appreciate the benefits of mindful living. Unfortunately, I keep forgetting to be mindful!  I have to use a reminder. In fact, it is the bracelet I wear next to my watch which I bought when I started practising, as my physical reminder. What is yours?

Cultivate Humility
Humility comes from the Latin “humilis”, meaning grounded. Humble people have a quiet confidence about themselves and don’t feel the need to continuously remind others of their achievements. I have come to feel humble as part of my journey through my mindfulness practice.

It is also useful to have a sense of fun and pleasure as well. Maybe even useful to have this word, lebensmude,  to hand on days when it feels as if nothing will ever work out.

In the meantime, I leave you with the following quote.

Don’t exist.

Live.

Get out, explore.

Thrive.

Challenge authority. Challenge yourself.

Evolve.

Change forever.

Become who you say you always will. Keep moving. Don’t stop

Brian Krans

 

If you want to check out the article on 10 ways to feel mindful at work, go to:

https://www.mindful.org/10-ways-mindful-work/

Stress and the pressures of life

“The reason many people in our society are miserable, sick, and highly stressed is because of an unhealthy attachment to things they have no control over.” ― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

I have been silent for a while.

Not in the speaking sense, but from a blog posting perspective. Life and mostly work have been the focus for the past month. A major transformation programme got to launch position and from that day on, it has been full on. Not just for me, but for a whole group of people.

The teams involved have been working long hours, resolving issues as they came up. As someone said “Fixing the wings, at the same time as the plane was flying”.

This put a huge amount of pressure onto everyone involved, me included.

Some people reacted to the stress and pressure by going silent. Some by shouting and swearing. Others still, looked like they were carrying the world on their shoulders. Everyone was impacted in some way. I, too, felt the stress, but, I feel I dealt with it in a slightly different way.

I became more focused; but at the same time, more focused only on the moment at hand; rather than the whole situation. This is part of the mindfulness training and background that I have developed over the past few years. Experiencing “present moment awareness” and only the “present moment”. It is one of the cornerstones of Mindfulness practice and it is something that you can use, not only in a formal manner, but also day to day, even moment to moment.

So what is Present Moment Awareness?

So often, we let the present slip away, allowing time to rush past unobserved and unseized, and squandering the precious seconds of our lives as we worry about the future and ruminate about what’s past. Present-moment awareness involves monitoring and attending to your current experience rather than predicting future events or dwelling on the past. In effect focusing all your attention on the “now”. The present moment is all there ever is. If you don’t believe me, let me give you another premise.

I will do a follow-up article on some of the steps you can take to develop present moment awareness, over and above formal Mindfulness practice.

How long is “now”?

Ugghh? What on earth is Martin banging on about now?

Well, according to a number of studies, it is approximately 3 seconds. Yep, 3 seconds. Whether it is giving someone a hug (I would not necessarily recommend that at work), through reading an e: mail marketeers latest e: mail to you extolling the virtues of xyz; different studies suggest that “now” or the present moment is about 3 seconds in length. In fact, we go through life perceiving the present in a series of 3-second windows. Outside of that timeframe, we then start to either use memory as an aid, or we start to store what is going on around us in short term memory.

Part of my mindfulness awareness, is that I can not change the past, nor can I impact the future. I can only exist in the present moment. Neither can I influence the actions of others, or correct the mistakes that other have made. In addition, I am not responsible for the outcomes of others.

Does this make me more detached? Nope. In fact it helps me increase focus on the present activity and helps me deliver the task at hand. It also helps, as I am more calm and for those around me, that can help them as well.

Nope. In fact, it helps me increase focus on the present activity and helps me deliver the task at hand. It also helps, as I am calmer and for those around me, that can help them as well.

So being present is literally, as short as 3 seconds. I would not advocate using that as a reference when being at work, but I would say, that recognising life is lived in the present moment, is key to dealing with the stress of life.

If you would like to read the article on e: mail marketing or the article on hugs, which both reference the 3 second effect, check out the following links.

https://www.digitaldoughnut.com/articles/2016/march/your-marketing-email-has-only-3-seconds-to-capture

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2011/01/hugs-follow-3-second-rule
In the mean time, I leave you with the following quote.

“I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.” ― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

What exactly is a Work Relationship?

“…there are people who try to look as if they are doing a good and thorough job, and then there are the people who actually damn well do it, for its own sake.” John D. MacDonald, Free Fall in Crimson

Further to the first article, I wrote “Work is a relationship” on the nature of work and the relationship we have with it, I got some interesting and thought provoking feedback:

“It is strange that work is so often NOT seen as a relationship.  Even though we hear the words ‘The Psychological Contract is strong (or broken)’.  The Psychological contract (whatever its state) is a relationship.  There is something in our culture that seems to want to keep the word ‘relationship’ off (or even under) the table.

Maybe it is time to wake up to the fact, there is more going on in the workplace than we have been acknowledging  in many instances!”

I completely agree that the idea the working relationship is often ignored.  If you consider that on average you spend over 50 years working and the majority of your waking week is spent at work (on average over 40 hours plus);  its importance is so often missed. People often refer to “employee engagement”, but it is more than this; much more. If you disagree, please feel to comment.

Where does the level of personal engagement come into it?  Like all relationships, is it the level of commitment to deliver; often in challenging and difficult situations; versus just turning up?  Is it commitment, or is it engagement built on trust? This got me thinking about what is the “work relationship”? What are its key characteristics? Is it, in fact, any different from a personal or social relationship?

I want to see if the work relationship is a fallacy or is in fact real. Also, what is your understanding? I believe the following are elements that go to make a “work relationship”:

  1. Having common Values – nor necessarily the corporate ones, but a sense of belonging to a common set within the workgroup
  2. How you get along with each other – how you work, talk, engage, and interact with each other
  3. Respect each and every person – consistent and truthful respect, is the glue
  4. Emotional Intelligence and Responsibility – this is a separate topic in its own right 
  5. Empathy, Compromise, Patience, Flexibility, Acceptance and Openness – speaks for itself

  6. Simple kindness – to one another and to oneself
  7. Mental flexibility – to deal with the stress of the work environment
  8. A sense of humour – laughter, fun, affection and connection
  9. Conflict – how you manage and handle conflict. In addition, how you learn through conflict
  10. Trust – that you support each other for the highest good
  11. Finally, something unsaid; a feeling; an untold emotion. Or to use a phrase, “Je ne sais quoi” – an indefinable, elusive quality,

I think the list is pretty comprehensive, but if you feel that there are other aspects that need to be added, please feel free to comment.

In addition, it would be interesting to see if there are differences across the generations. For instance, is there a stronger work commitment for those who are Generation  X (born between the 1960’s and the 1980’s)  than Generation Y (those born between the 1980’s to 2000)?  For those that are Generation Z (2000’s onwards) who are just starting to enter the work world, what is their perception?

I aim to follow up on the work relationship elements in subsequent posts, as well as the difference across the generations and would appreciate your insights and feedback.

Finally, I believe the general world of work is changing. And it’s changing fast. It’s rare that a week goes by without new evidence proving this. The World Economic Forum believes a ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ is imminent, and that the role of humans in the workplace will change in favour of smart machines and automation. Something, I’d like to follow up on as well.

In the meantime, I leave you with the following quote which really struck a chord with me.

“Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.” Thomas Merton

 

Work is a relationship

“Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.” Studs Terkel

Like it or not, but work does define your life. I know some people will argue it does not, but for many of us, it does, We spend more time working than ever before. We have moved way beyond the 9 to 5 Monday to Friday work life of our grand parents. According to one survey, we are working over 42 hours per week. Our culture has become an “always on” one. We are travelling further and working longer than ever before.

However, it is not just the amount of work that we are doing, it is how we are now engaged in the world of work that I think is important. What often gets ignored is that just like the personal relationships we develop, we also develop a working relationship. I don’t mean with the people at work, I mean with the work itself. For many of us, the type of work that we do, also impacts how we engage in a broader sphere.

For some people, putting on the uniform or suit in the morning is like putting on a suit of armour, ready to go to battle. For some, work is about being authentic and consistent. For others, the focus is trying to help and support others around them. I feel that work defines us in so many ways. Ways we sometimes forget.

I worked for a long time for a US technology company, called Hewlett Packard. When I applied to the company it felt as if I was joining a special group of people. The work was hard, the hours were long and the level of commitment expected was high. However, in those early days, I did not feel at all that I was just part of a work machine. Perhaps that is a rose-tinted view in hindsight, but I don’t think so. I felt that I could grow, develop and enjoy myself. I felt that I was recognised both as an individual, as well as for the contribution that I made.

Leap forward in time and I don’t think the world of work is the same. Many people I know that work in many different companies and work environments are mentioning to me a similar set of questions, along the lines of: “How am I recognised as an individual”; “Work does not hold the same meaning anymore”; “I feel I am not achieving what I set out to do”; “How can I help make a difference?”  “What does work mean to me now?”

Perhaps it is an age thing? I don’t think so. Perhaps it is a perception thing? I am not sure. What I do know is that for the vast majority of us, what work we do defines us and the relationship we have with work also impacts how we interact with the world.

I came across a really interesting infographic on the changing dynamics of work. You might want to check it out here.

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/274388

I leave you with the following quote.

“People are more difficult to work with than machines. And when you break a person, he can’t be fixed.”  Rick Riordan, The Battle of the Labyrinth

Dealing with difficult discussions?

““Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.” ― Socrates

In the world of work having difficult conversations, whether it is with your boss, a co-worker or a customer, are an inevitable part of management. How should you prepare for this kind of discussion? How do you find the right words in the moment? And, how can you manage the exchange so that it goes as smoothly as possible?

What the Experts Say
“We’ve all had bad experiences with these kinds of conversations in the past,” says Holly Weeks, the author of Failure to Communicate. Perhaps your boss lashed out at you during a heated discussion, or your direct report started to cry during a performance review; maybe your client hung up the phone on you. As a result, we tend to avoid them. But that’s not the right answer. After all, tough conversations “are not black swans,” says Jean-Francois Manzoni, professor of human resources and organisational development at INSEAD. The key is to learn how to handle them in a way that produces “a better outcome: less pain for you, and less pain for the person you’re talking to,” he says. Here’s how to get what you need from these hard conversations — while also keeping your relationships intact.

Change your mindset
If you’re gearing up for a conversation you’ve labelled “difficult,” you’re more likely to feel nervous and upset about it beforehand. Instead, try “framing it in a positive, less binary” way, suggests Manzoni. For instance, you’re not giving negative performance feedback; you’re having a constructive conversation about development. You’re not telling your boss: no; you’re offering up an alternate solution. “A difficult conversation tends to go best when you think about it as a just a normal conversation,” says Weeks.

Breathe
“The more calm and centred you are, the better you are at handling difficult conversations,” says Manzoni. He recommends: “taking regular breaks” throughout the day to practice “mindful breathing.” This helps you “refocus” and “gives you the ability to absorb any blows” that come your way. This technique also works well in the moment. If, for example, a colleague comes to you with an issue that might lead to a hard conversation, excuse yourself —get a cup of coffee or take a brief stroll around the office — and collect your thoughts.

Plan but don’t script
It can help to plan what you want to say by jotting down notes and key points before your conversation. Drafting a script, however, is a waste of time. “It’s very unlikely that it will go according to your plan,” says Weeks. Your counterpart doesn’t know “his lines,” so when he “goes off script, you have no forward motion” and the exchange “becomes weirdly artificial.” Your strategy for the conversation should be “flexible” and contain “a repertoire of possible responses,” says Weeks. Your language should be “simple, clear, direct, and neutral,” she adds.

MY HELPFUL TIP: Rather, I use a technique I picked up as part of a retreat. It is called “Pause, Reflect, Act”.

When I find myself in a stressful situation or in a discussion at home or at work, there comes a point where you get caught up in the moment, diving into the words and not recognising the context and flow. That is when this technique comes into its own. I say the words in my head. You might have them written down on a piece of paper. You might even count the fingers on your hand. Whatever works for you.

That split second pause before you answer is just enough to give yourself a moment to reflect on “am I reacting to the way someone is saying something. AKA, I am feeling threatened / rejected / lost / alone / whatever” or what is it I want to communicate.

Do I remember to do this all the time? No. Does it help when I do? Absolutely. Is it something I have shared at work and at home? Yes. And it has helped.

This technique, along with regular mindfulness practice has certainly helped me to create a more integrated life. I know I still have many “life boxes that I manage”, but they are far fewer than I had before and I certainly feel that life is a road easier to travel.

I leave you with the following quote.
“Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.” [Address at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, Johannesburg, South Africa, 23 November 2004]” ― Desmond Tutu