Ask! Thought-provoking!

“What is the favourite question when starting a feedback session?”, curiously I throw this question into the discussion. We are having a chat with several mentors working with their mentees for quite some years now. “What rhetorical phrase works well for you?”, I continue. I don’t get an answer straight ahead but rather an “uff, good question. I think I have never thought about it.”

I smile. As a coach there is no bigger nor better compliment than “that’s a good question”. Being thought-provoking is the key element in coaching – and throwing a question into a discussion that cannot be answered right away feels awesome.

But aside from having fun in asking good questions, the thought process that is triggered by a good question is so valuable! People start thinking new thoughts, walking on new path and getting a new perspective. A thought-provoking question can inspire your friends / team / colleagues / boss.

When was the last time you asked a thought-provoking question?

Even as the youngest team member you can influence a whole discussion by asking a good question. For sure you have to put some thoughts into the creation of a valuable question – just a plain “why” helped you when you were a 2-year-old toddler.

Therefore, let me ask you this: Which question made you think intensely? What did you ask that made your boss/team go “uff, good question“?

I am looking forward to read your thought-provoking lines.

Forgiveness in the corporate world

“If I forgive, I am the weaker person”, my colleague argues. “When there is negative energy within me, I need to act on it”, another points out. Somehow the discussion how to react on insults in our daily lives increases in its intensity. I cannot recall how we hit the the topic but somewhere along the line I recommend simple forgiveness when being wronged.

Forgiveness.

My colleagues are puzzled. Their faces shift from disbelief to pure disgust and back to curiosity. How could someone even think of such a solution for a conflict at work!?

I admit, based on my personality type I am very seldomly the first one to act in a peaceful forgiving way. But when the rush is over, the day comes to an end – what is going to happen with the inner wrath? Do you just go to bed and keep it?

This picture might help: You take a shower daily – otherwise you start stinking. Same is true for your soul and mind. If you keep the wrath within, no wonder you speak and act stinky (towards your family, friends and colleagues.)

Ouch!

So what can be done? In the following sections potential actions are described. Each one will help – but you choose whether you use them. Try them when you are alone. Nobody needs to know. But the effects will be visible.

The list is not complete - and I would love to read in the comments how you work with situations where you have been wronged during the day. 

Change your perspective

Think about the situation again. And assume the other person had a positive mindset, doing everything in his/her best attitude. How would you interpret the action in that new light?

Write it down

Journaling is key in working out emotions. [get inspired on this here: https://consultinginhighheels.com/2018/10/30/pen-and-paper/]

Write down everything that is on your mind – the situation, how you felt, why the other person is a jerk. Everything. You will see, it will clean your mind. (You are welcome to throw the paper away. Or burn it. If you feel like it.)

Speak

This method might sound strange at first – but it is helpful. Envision that person and actually SPEAK that you forgive. It wires something in your brain – and since you hear yourself speak, the narrative in your brain changes. You stop the story of “that jerk” (and I guess your family will be quite happy not to hear about that negativity again.)

Am I a leader?

Leadership starts with self-leadership.

Being known for values, having a vision for one’s life, being self-confident and caring about others are a good foundation to build on.

A leader is someone whom people follow.

Many years ago I heard this statement in a leadership coaching. And it hit me. I was troubled. If this was true, it wasn’t so much about me and my qualifications but rather about other people to see something in me worthy to be copied and followed.

It put me to thinking. Whom do I follow? And why?

Leader display values

People I follow have clear values and they express their values in every moment – especially when it is getting tough.

Lets take honesty. Everyone can be honest when it doesn’t cost anything – but what about being honest when it actually costs you time/money/privileges and no one would notice if you lied!?

What about friendliness and value people. Monday, 10 o’clock in the morning, sunny skies and clients meeting – easy to smile and be friendly. But what happens on Wednesday night, damn tired and stressed out!? How do you act towards your team after an exhausting day!?

Leaders have a vision for their own life/career

Leaders can communicate effectively what their vision is. They know why they are doing their job, share their rationale for their decisions and inspire others with their life.

Leaders are fun to be with

Usually, it so much fun to be with them. From what I have been seeing in people around me, leaders tend to like themselves. They are comfortable who they are. They are aware of their strengths, weaknesses, flaws and genius ideas. And this self confidence creates an atmosphere that is just compelling.

Leaders see the life/career of their followers

It’s not the most important part but if a leader wants to win my heart, he/she must see my stake in the whole endeavor as well. If this part isn’t given, the person might be a strong inspiration for me – but not a leader I am following.

Coming back to the question of the beginning: How can I determine whether I am leader? First of all you probably have followers that somehow let you know that you display certain trademarks that identify you as a leader.

If you are yet too young to have people following you or you are not sure whether there are people seeing leadership potential within you, start working on the named characteristics.

Start by answering these questions for yourself: Which values do you live? Which value could be added? How would you know that you have lived the value? Do you have a vision for your job? Why are you doing what you are doing? Do you like yourself? And last but not least: in whom do you see leadership potential that you can help to unfold?

Road to recharge

“I need a break! I am exhausted!”, the mind signals. You know these moments when you are overwhelmed by life. With these 4 powerful steps you will get to your peaceful place.

Too many to-dos, tasks, responsibilities. The week has been crazy again and a break is desperately needed. But how to find peace? 

Truth is – although you need some peace and silence, the thoughts keep rushing through your head, leaving no space to truly recharge.

With these 4 powerful steps you will get to your peaceful place. 

1. Take the decision to calm down 

First and foremost this decision needs to be taken. Are you ready to calm down!? If so, find a silent cosy place, sit down and breathe. Take a pen and paper with you.

2. Put aside your inner hustle

Put all thoughts that are now spinning to paper. All those to dos you fear to forget. Take a note and assure your brain that they will not be forgotten. They are safely stored on the piece of paper and you can relax.

3. Become mindful

Breathe. Inhale deep through your nose, fill your lungs and your whole tummy and exhale through your mouth. Inhale again. Notice how the air is filling your corpus. Feel how your tummy expands. And let the stress leave with the continuous flow of air.

Continue breathing.

4. Recharge

While you sink into mindful breathing start thinking what you are thankful for. Who is in your life you highly value? What talents do you have?
What have you accomplished you can be proud of?

When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in.


Kristin Armstrong

Stay in the attitude of gratitude for a while. Feel how stress lowers and new love and vision is rising for those who are most valuable to you.

When you feel ready you slowly get back into your daily life. This exercise can be done daily in 10-15 minutes. Or you start a whole day or vacation with these steps in order to leave any stress behind.

Finding passion

If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

I love my job“, the young lady smiles to me. We just got to know each other and while sharing our current work environments, she smiles, speaks enthusiastically and beams. You can tell: she. loves. her. job. “This hasn’t always been the that way”, Alice continues. “After my first graduation, I tried to fit into my workplace, lost the job, was unemployed and tried to find something suitable for my educational background. But actually I didn’t want to work in that area anymore.”

I guess, a lot of people can relate to Alice. For some reason you choose your studies and start working in your job. You try to fit in but somehow the days pass by in a meaningless stream of unfulfilling tasks. Every morning it’s getting harder to get up and get going. You just feel that you are not doing what you want to be doing.

One day I was wondering when I had the best times of my life“, Alice adds to her story. “It was in school and in my year abroad. And then I knew what I had to do: find a way to get back into school ministry and work with kids. Fast forward: it is what I am currently doing. I become a special type of teacher for which I need my professional background. And now I have the third time the best time of my life.”

I love the focus, determination and courage in Alice story. Coming from a time of unemployment, getting finally a job again, one could think to just be thankful and live with the unfulfilling but rent-paying job. But instead setting the focus on a potential solution, be determined to change one’s future and to be bold enough to walk the talk – thats an inspiring and truly life changing attitude.

If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

Emanuel James “Jim” Rohn, Author & Motivational Speaker

Focus

What are you focussing on in your job? My bet: you rather speak about the bad things than on the positive aspects. This misbehaving colleague. That nasty client. People tend to focus on the problem than on the potential solution. And with this focus the problem even becomes bigger. And I get it: it so easy to speak about the negative things – because they are there. They are real and they influence your emotions.

But what if you wouldn’t spend so much time on describing the problem to everyone around you and rather think about a solution!? Turn your focus away from the negativity. Start describing the changed situation to yourself. How do you feel? With whom do you work? What tasks do you do?

Those questions are not easy and they might take months or even years to be answered – but nevertheless, take the effort. Search for your sweet spot. Look for the role and position you were meant to fill in.

Determination

How intensely do you desire change? How much longer do you want to stay in your complaint-corner? Do you really want to change your focus?

To be determined

– having made a firm decision and being resolved not to change it

Dictonary

Determination is needed for any change. You need to be convinced that you want to be in a different position/mindset/state in the years to come in order to leave your status quo. You need to find the next steps that will lead you to your new place. At this point you don’t need to know everything about your destination but rather having the firm decision that you do not want to stay where you are right now. Are you determined?

Courage

Are you ready to leave your status quo? This is the moment when your heart starts beating. “What-ifs” start flashing through your mind. Without knowing the outcome you need to take your first step. And that takes courage.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.

Mark Twain

Your change might require to move to another city, quit a job, get out of certain relationships and live through financial insecurity. Are you brave enough?

I can still recall Alice smiling face. Smiling with focus, determination and courage. Inspiring.

Empowered by Laughter

“Laughter is fireworks for the soul”, they say. Enlightening this powerful resource at work, will make your day easier.

London. I am in a pub with colleagues. One of them just shares a hilarious story. Everybody laughs. A good laugh. A freeing one. Times flies, stories being shared and as soon as I am inhaling the rainy fresh air of the night, I am feeling energized and reloaded.

What a good laughter is capable of. Its amazing.

I should laugh more. Especially at work. This thought creeps slowly through my mind and I am realizing what has been missing the past weeks. A strengthening, energizing laugh. Running from meeting to meeting, creating tons of slides, squeezing in emails and calls just took too much attention and power.

But actually, when is it easy to laugh at work?

Recalling from experience it is easiest when I know “why” I am there. Working with purpose, knowing there is a goal I am heading to and I am enjoying the ride – with colleagues having a similar mindset.

Let’s take a closer look.

Laughing because you have purpose

I sit in a room full of inspiring motivated people. Everyone is sharing one’s story. Everyone is quite honest. Even with hopes and fears. One cite of a well-situated woman strucks me at heart. She seems to have everything. Being healthy, living in a wealthy environment in a spectacular scenery, having time and money for travelling … the whole package – but she admits the absence of meaningful work and purpose in her life leaves her desperate and empty. And hence, with less laughter than she’d like to have.

My life is nice. But nice isn’t enough.

A lady

Her statement resonates within me. I’m a big fan of living my life outside the comfort zone. Only in a stretch situation I am one step closer to my goal. Although this stretchy moment can cause some fear, the joy that rushes in when I have grown, mastered an obstacle and overcame fear leads to a massive smile and satisfaction.

Where are you just playing „nice“? Remember: you are missing out on a good hero’s laugh.

Laughing because you have people to laugh with

Is it just me or is a day easier when you are with the right pack!?

Luckily I get to work with great colleagues a lot – some becoming friends over time. And I see there is a certain dynamic when a good mix of people is together. Even if a task is hard to manage, a tight timeline needs to be met or a client is getting crazy – with the right team you can handle everything and feeling energized despite stress.

If you haven’t found your tribe yet, continue searching. Some people are meant to work together. In the meantime invest in your mindset and become the best colleague you want to work with. [You might get some inspiration in this classic book from Dale Carnegie (1936) which is used in all US elite universities in the general curriculum: How to win friends & influence people]

Colleagues are key. Make yours laugh today.

Thanks at this point to all my colleagues who are laughing with me. I feel blessed and privileged to have you in my life. 

Rewind your mind

Burnout doesn’t hunt you down overnight. With the right routine for your mind you stay mentally strong even through tough times.

Would you leave your phone uncharged for a day? Would you miss a session of brushing your teeth? Some things are so implemented in your routines that you even feel unhappy when you are not able to follow them.

And those routines are good. They keep you physically healthy and able to perform.

You have routines for your technical equipment, your car and apartment. You know how to take care of your body. But did you ever think of routines necessary for your soul and mind?

You might get some inspiration in the next lines for selected routines.

Daily

Every evening you take off the dirt of your daily hustle by following your beauty routines. But what happens to your soul? What happens with all the stress, joy, unfairness, decisions etc. you endured during the day? You need to care for it and deal with it, too.

In the western hemisphere, many children are raised with the evening prayer – your parents sit down at your bed and you tell each other the highs and lows of the day and thank God for his goodness. But when growing up you often leave this “childish” evening ritual. What if this evening moment is as useful for your mind as brushing your teeth for your body!?

As an adult you could get back to this daily routine. By writing down three situations, you are thankful for or list the situations that have been unfair but which you want to forgive, you rewind your mind.

For sure, this daily routine doesn’t have to be in the evening. Using 10 minutes of meditation in the morning also cleanses your mind and you are ready to start the new day. It does not particularly matter when during the day to reset, but rather the consistency in doing so. This daily routine will help you gaining a crisp and clear focus to what is important to you by cleaning up the ‘noise’ which is subconsciously going on in the background in your head and keeping you distracted.

For more inspiration on daily routines a separate article is coming out soon.

Weekly

Remember the lines in the song Manic Monday!?

It’s just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
‘Cause that’s my fun day
My I don’t have to run day

The Bangles

A lot of people feel this way. On Monday, we talk about what was going on at the weekend and latest by Wednesday, the first colleagues ask what is planned for the upcoming two days off. So in terms of work and leisure time you are aware that there is a certain structure. How can you use this structure to become mentally strong?

Once a week you should try to see the world from a different angle – from a mountain top, off a horse’ back, reading a book or in deep conversation with someone having a different worldview to regain creativity and views of differing perspectives. Put your mind in an uncommon environment and challenge your mind to get out of the routines’ thinking. Also put your body in a different motion – if you sit a lot during the week, go outside and move yourself.

Having problems in leaving the week behind, get some inspiration in this article: https://consultinginhighheels.com/2019/02/25/road-to-recharge/

Monthly/Quarterly

Depending on your own flavor, take ½ day each month or a weekend per quarter to get out of your routine life. Especially when you are overwhelmed with stress and sorrows you need to put a “stop” to that and walk away! Even if it is only a few hours in your local sauna or a long walk in the woods. Get away! Physically – and step by step mentally. You weren’t made to continuously live in anxiety and stress. Give yourself a break and just be yourself.

Visit a new city. Go to that museum. Watch an opera or concert you’ve never did before. Challenge yourself and get into adventure. Your brain will love it! You won’t be able to even think of your life back home.

At the same time your mind will be very thankful for this offsite. Your brain will show gratitude by recharging power, and hence, overflowing with creativity, joy and new ideas.

Further ideas on how to unwind on a regular basis will be posted shortly.

Yearly

Are you happy? Is your life worth living? Do you do what you want to do? Very often, these questions arise at the natural break of New Year’s Eve. Or they hunt you down at your birthday. And even if you put this inner need of reflection aside, latest on the next full decade of your age, you will have to reconsider. So, what can be done?  

Here are two thoughts:

It is good and healthy to evaluate your life once a year. 

But what if you chose proactively a dedicated time in the year to evaluate your choices, wishes, friendships etc. shaping your journey instead of being overwhelmed at certain dates? It will give you more freedom to celebrate the annual anniversaries and you have a clearer view on your priorities in life since it is not connected to an emotional filled date.

The evaluation will be shorter if you took care of your mind and soul during the year. 

If you live your life with a daily routine of thankfulness, forgiveness and positivity, you will not have to readjust too intense on your annual mind-stop. You might even be thankful for all the positive choices you took and regret will diminish.

Inspiration on how your annual mind-stop could look like can be found in an article soon to be released.