I am not too stupid, I am just grieving

Grief is limiting your power. As a high performer, it will be very frustrating to lose your ability to walk the extra mile. Get some ideas how to get through the grieving season – quickest.

“He doesn’t do what I tell him”, the leader complains. “It’s not a hard task… and still the result is poor.” Frustration is all over the place and the deadline is moving closer. A conversation about the situation of the employee starts – and all of a sudden a new story unravels. The team member went through a major loss lately. Emotional chaos and inner turmoil are limiting the ability to perform at best. While the leader is talking about all of those information, a new perspective on the situation evolves. The work is not yet done, but as the frustration leaves, new solution scenarios come up.

If you have gone through a major loss in life, you probably know how it feels not to be at the peak of performance. Details get lost. Deadlines seem insignificant. Colourful job tasks fade in grey.

It is a time when the focus of life shifts. And while some work is very helpful to keep a routine in life, one should not strive for high performance in order to kill the pain inside. Grief is real. Grief is painful.

Did you know that your brain cannot distinguish between the pain of a broken leg and the pain of emotional loss? Pain is processed the same. And you would not work with a broken leg one day after the surgery. Equally, you need to give yourself a bit of grace and rest when walking through grief.

For business people and high performer, this topic is important twofold:

  1. If you are a leader and your team member walks through grief, you need to know how to react.
  2. If you are a high performer walking through grief at any stage of your career, you need to know how to handle that situation.

Here are some thoughts

Tell people that you are grieving

You don’t have to say more or give details. But let your boss, colleagues and team members know, if you are walking through a tough time. “If I may seem absent at moments, it is not because I am not interested, but I am having a hard time at the moment.”

As a leader, you don’t need to help or say anything. A simple ‘I hear you’ is enough.

Go to bed early

If days are awful, make them at least short. In addition, you will need more sleep anyways as grief is taking a lot of energy. Especially if you are continue working … this is not the time for long office hours. Take your rest and you will get through this time quicker.

As a leader, be aware that rest is contributing to recovery. Take your team member out of heavy-fire-situations. Even if that person is requesting to work extra hard – coverage of pain through work is prolonging the healing and might end in burn out.

Have mercy – with yourself

Especially as a high performer, you love being productive and get stuff done. And exactly that skill is limited by grief. So you are not only grieving, but in addition, you feel like being useless.

The immediate reaction is to try to perform again – so that there is only the grief and not the feeling of uselessness. Unluckily, this approach is not successful. Your soul needs some time to let go and say goodbye. And it needs your mind and body to do that. You are one whole human being – and you cannot grief partially and work full-speed partially.

The ‘quickest’ route through grief is facing-the-giant wholeheartedly. Focus on the grief. Write, speak, weep. Whatever needs to be done. You will make it through. And once that time is over, you have your power back for high performing. Promised.

Give and it will be given to you – the Paradox of Gratitude

Surprisingly a thankful heart benefits the thankful person the most. Although people will be smiling and happy when you express your gratitude towards them, you will be feeling this warm and comfy emotion of happiness, too. It is you who feels the joy and calmness resulting from a heart of gratitude.

I am always astonished of these paradoxes of life. Though I am giving, I don’t lose anything. Even more – I am winning. Winning friends, good relationships and a heart that is at peace.

Give, and it will be given to you.

Jesus [Luke 6, 38a | The Bible]

This principle can even be found in the bible. It seems to be one of these deep truths in life that it true for everyone regardless of age, culture and gender. The effect of expressing gratitude is deeply rooted within us. When we are truly thankful, it is us profiting the most from that state of heart.

As we are heading into the christmas season, it is a good moment to pause and reflect on what you are thankful for. Interestingly the effect of gratitude is only working, when thankfulness is expressed unconditionally. It’s when thanks is given freely, without expecting anything in return, that the true power of happiness and inner peace is released.

Having that in mind: Whom do you want to say “thank you”? Which people in your life – family, friends, colleagues, clients – need to hear that you are thankful for their support, help, work or just being there?

Get practical and write a WhatsApp or christmas card. You will be surprised how happy people will be hearing an honest ‘thank you’.

If you have thanked people in your life, reflect for what you are thankful for in your life. Say thanks to the universe, God or whoever you attribute your blessings to. Health, a home, your job and your family are only partially in your hands and when you see blessing in your life, it’s a good moment to be thankful.

Merry Christmas.

My life is f***ed

When bad luck is piling up, it is easy to get lost in despair. Losing sight of the blessings in your life, will leave you empty and defeated. Get inspired how to handle those moments.

Emptiness. Thoughts are running and yet there is no precise idea. Every inch of my body is hurting. I have fought. Argumented. Given my best. And yet: didn’t win. And then again, it doesn’t really feel like ‘not winning’ but rather losing. Losing 100%. While my mind is still spinning, this feeling of failure is creeping in. The emotional journey is hitting fast forward button and all of a sudden I am convinced that I am a failure. The failure in person.

From a lot of talks I know that this vicious cycle is quite common to many people. It is invisible. It starts slowly. It intensifies when energy level is low. And then it drags all emotions down and sucks up all energy, hope and vision of a person.

It can hit you in your educational journey, family life or business endeavour. It can hit you for a few minutes or follow you over weeks. It can affect your smile only for a day or your whole life for a season.

So, what can be done when sensing that emptiness or when you are in these moments of despair?

Very often the emptiness starts due to one or two moments that didn’t go well – e.g. an argument with someone or a hope didn’t materialize. Because a strong emotion is connected to these moments, our brain tends to focus on these occasions much longer than on others. This in turn leads to increase of the bad emotion and the start of the vicious cycle.

In order to escape this cycle – at any stage – you need some strategies. Here are some proven ones.

When certain parts of your life are in turmoil it is helpful to actively focus on other areas of your life. Your life doesn’t consist of that one educational path or that one relationship or the one deal you didn’t win – although your brain is telling you that this is THE ONLY PROBLEM.

Write

Take action and write down everything you can be thankful for. Especially in the area you feel defeated. Yes, the one relationship didn’t have an awesome moment – but what about all other relationships!? Yes, the one teacher gave you unfair feedback – but what about all other teachers!?

Start reminding yourself that you are more than your feeling of emptiness. You are more than failing in a moment.

While writing you will feel stress leaving and calmness settling in. Your brain is forced to think proper sentences and put your thoughts in order. That’s why journaling is such a great tool when your emotions are spinning.

Move & Create

Once you are calm, it’s time to check what you need in order to recharge. Most likely, movement should be involved, independent of how you are feeling. Maybe you meet some friends and just relax with them (but don’t start the vicious cycle again by complaining about your problem). Or you get some creativity started by writing, cooking, baking, drawing … creating something. Creating requires concentration and new thoughts – shifting your focus actively.

Think & Decide

Once you are recharged you can go back to the moment of despair and check if you need to change something in your life. Maybe you really need to change your path. Or maybe you just need to learn how to deal with the situations you are in because these moments won’t change even if you change your studies / relationship / job.

A pinch of energy

Use your finest memory to regain strength during the day and relax even under pressure. Get mentally strong to conquer your toughest days.

English chitchat mixes with french laughter while the chinese lady next to me is writing text messages in her beautiful font. I am in the middle of Germany and yet surrounded by the world. This is a moment I cherish – being just another art piece in this international patchwork. I am smiling when I think back at that moment – and instantly I am relaxing. Suddenly, life seems brighter and better.

Having these moments of relaxation during the day is important. It strengthens your resilience and energy level during the day. And it is that energy, that you need to be at your best. Being inwardly strong so you can cope with failure easier, smile at the client even under pressure and handle challenging tasks smoothly.

The technique that is used in the first paragraph is called “visualization” or sometimes referred to as “inner balcony”. You use this technique by recalling your favourite places, situations and people. While thinking of that very moment, your brain experiences the same emotions (or lets say: dopamine-rush) as you experienced when you were in that moment. Your brain doesn’t care whether it is actual happening or if you run through a memory – it will react. And you will get the relaxation, happiness and stress-detachment you need.

What is your favourite memory to indulge in?

A compliment a day keeps burnout away

They are doing an experiment: walking to people and tell them that they are beautiful. The result is captured on video and the faces are stunning. Everyone smiles. Shy. Proud. Happy.

Watching these clips even makes me smiling. Seeing happy people resonates within me and I get happy, too. Can you relate? When we smile during the day all of the sudden the tension of a moment is gone and life seems easier.

What if we could use this effect at work?

Last week I could see this effect on my colleagues, too. I actively looked at my colleagues’ reaction when I had the chance to speak support, hope and encouragement in their lives. They all smiled.

Getting in contact with someone who has good and honest intentions for us opens our hearts and gives us a moment of relaxation. Having those moments at work gives back energy and people can progress in their day more energized. All that is needed is you. This one person that is watching out where to spend the next honest compliment or the next story of hope.

Let’s do a challenge this week: Find one person a day that smiles because of you.

The cycle of success

Add more components of what you love doing in your workday and your job will become easier. With you feeling lighter and more joyful, your clients and colleagues will be touched, too. This is how you start a positive cycle of success…

“For my job I like getting up in the morning”, my friend smiles. Four years ago he quit his studies. Low motivation and missing focus led to bad grades and slowly to the conviction that he was on the wrong path. Still, giving up on a lifestyle that is socially accepted and getting on a perceived lower track isn’t easy on the ego. Today he is happy with his daily tasks. Consequently, his joy and power transfers on his clients and colleagues, leading to success in business which nourishes the positive feelings towards the job. “When you love what you do, success is inevitable”, he says with a broad smile.

When you love what you do, success is inevitable

Experience

Is your cycle of “I love my job and my job loves me” working?

What is happening for you when reading this question? Do you even believe that there is a job constellation for you in which you would actually love working? Or are your already there?

Independent from which angle you are looking at the cycle-question let me give you a few questions to reflect on. Take some time to think about each one and take notes of what is running through your mind. These moments of reflection are healthy to become aware of your status quo. Sometimes life rushes by and without noticing a year passed and you didn’t live intentionally and with purpose. But it is in your hands to add components of what you truly love to your workday and thereby keeping the cycle of success spinning.

What did you like doing when you were a child? – Reflect and write down what comes to your mind. This questions assumes that you have been doing things as a child that felt natural and joyful to you. Maybe you won’t do exactly the same things today – but you might find tasks that use the same skill that you have trained as a kid.

With what kind of people do you like spending your time? – The answer to this question might also be: no people at all. That’s totally fine, too. The important thing is that you know what you like and find as many moments in your day that reflect your preference.

How do you recharge? – The idea of this question is simple: if you recharge while doing the work you get paid for, you will not leave your workplace exhausted but rather thrilled and excited. If you could add a few components of the aspects of how you recharge, you will have more power during the day and feel much happier at work.

How do you express thankfulness and love? – Usually human beings get happy when they can show their thankfulness to others. Therefore it is an easy exercise to increase your happiness during the day. You choose whether you need to give a gift, speak words of affirmation or clap someone on the shoulder. If you know yourself, you can activate these resources in you anytime.

Start your cycle of success

No matter how well your cycle of success is already working, you can keep it up and running by investing in yourself. Your personal well-being during the day and your mindset towards workplace situations are keys to your personal success. Start by integrating short components of your favourite situations and expand the timeframe to your energizing moments whenever possible. Soon you will see how your positivity and power will affect your colleagues and clients positively.

3… 2… 1… Reboot.

Every device needs to reboot every once in a while in order to install all updates and run smoothly afterwards. Same is true for human beings. Whatever your days are filled with – there need to be times when the routine stops and your body, soul and mind can reboot.

But how does an update for you look like?

Body – Often a change of location will support detaching from the daily hustle. Bringing your body physically to a different place will automatically give you new things to see, different smells to encounter and new sounds to hear. Whether that is the noise of a vibrant city, the calmness of the mountains or the fresh air in a park nearby – your senses will work with something new. Same is true for sporting activities – especially those where you have to learn something new. Get yourself out there!

Soul – Let’s call it “emotions” for simplification. Take some time and check on your emotions. What are you feeling when you are in your daily routine? Do you like what you are feeling? Do you want to continue to feel that way? Take some time to think about these questions and become honest with yourself. Even if you don’t like the “emotion-stuff” – as a human being it is part of who you are. Emotions are an indicator whether you are in a healthy state and whether you need change.

Mind – Everyone knows the moments when thoughts are just running through your mind and you can hardly find peace. The open to dos on the list, that upcoming meeting and the next deal ahead – they all require attention. Your mind is constantly powering. During a reboot find yourself some time to stop that rollercoaster in your head.

Here is an inspiration on how to do that: Start by writing down the most important things that you don’t want to forget. That helps you to get at ease to relax. Those things will not be forgotten – they are safe on a piece of paper. Then start in a meditation session. There are tons of apps out there to help you.

At first it might feel weird to actively go into reboot – especially for soul and mind. But by training relaxation and meditation you will soon feel how much pressure is lifting off – and how much more effective you will be when returning into your daily life.

How to effectively recharge

Give your body, soul and mind a break from the daily hustle in order to get new power and creative ideas for your life. Find in this article some inspiration on how to effectively recharge.

The warmth of the heated towel is wrapping me softly and I gently sink into the relaxation chair. I slowly breathe out. My eyes wander to the snow-covered mountains behind the glass front. The sun is just touching the tip of the granite giant before it settles for the night. My recharge weekend starts.

When was the last time you took time for yourself? Time solely dedicated for rewinding your body, soul and mind. Time unplugged from your daily rush and from your online presence lets your mind and soul settle. Overflow of information can be processed and while doing “nothing” your brain gets the chance to recharge for new creativity.

Let’s dive into some thoughts what could help you to relax.

Change places

As long as you are in your usual environment your brain works on autopilot and you don’t discover new things. You even stay on track what to eat or what to do at what time. When you change your place, your brain is forced to find new ways. You are in explore-mode. And automatically you will “forget” to think about your problems and stress factors.

Work out

Use your time off to move your body. Especially when you are in a job that rather requires thinking than moving, use your time well for some activity. Doing your favourite sport helps your brain relax. Or you find yourself a new activity that challenges you mentally in a different way as you learn new movements.

Let go

If you come from a time of great stress, take some time for your soul to calm down as well, e.g. by journaling or meditation. You probably know that spinning of your mind that continues although you are in the middle of paradise. In that case your soul and mind need some help.

Suggestion No. 1 if your mind is stuck on open to-dos: Take a piece of paper and write down all to-dos that are still bothering you and that you will solve after your return. Put that piece of paper away and tell your brain to relax. It has been taken care of; now it is a decision to lean back.

Suggestion No. 2 if you have trouble with people: Take a piece of paper and start to write a letter – to that person, to a friend, to the universe or to God. Whatever suits you. Write down all complaints, unfairness and bad situations. Let your soul be honest and write as graphic as necessary. Maybe you have to forgive or ask for forgiveness. Write everything down. For sure that letter will never be sent. Nevertheless, just by writing you will feel on how the pressure lifts. (Destroy the letter after finishing.)

Mindfully Relax

Allow yourself some hours – or days – of relaxation. Forbit yourself to work or think about problems. Just be. Look at a sunset, a mountain, the ocean … whatever relaxes you. Give your soul and mind time to unwind. Maybe do a mindfulness exercise by precisely answering the following questions: What objects do you see? What colours do you see? What sounds do you hear? How does the air taste? How would you describe the smell around you? Answering those questions draws your attention to the present. And in the present your body, soul and mind are in the same space. Your thoughts do not wander and you will feel alive.

The goal is to fully get into the present. Let go of the past for a while and don’t think about the future. Just stay in the present. It is the place where you fully recharge and get new power for the upcoming tasks. It calms your brain and by erasing all negative thoughts and stress, you are set into a state of new creativity. In one of the next articles I will share some ideas on how to use that state of mind and the creativity within to create a new vision for the time ahead. But for now: stay present and relax.

Happy Birthday, isn’t it?

If you take care that every year of your life is enjoyable you will have lived an enjoyable life in the end.

Birthday. Whether you like celebrating yours or not – most likely you will not forget the date when you turn a year older. Independent from all the rituals that you are following – or trying to ignore – the very date of your birth is present in your mind. And even if you are not much into celebrating your aging, every time you need to fill in your birth date in any form, you are reminded of the progress of time.

The days around the birthday are a good timeframe to pause your life and invest a few minutes into reflection.

Reflection of the past with all of your accomplishments, successes, losses and failures.

A sharp look at the here and now.

And an inspiring envisioning of the years ahead with so much potential for your dreams and hopes to come true.

Let’s have a look at these three perspectives and get some practical tips on how to actually invest in yourself during this time.

Reflection on the past

Let’s assume you are doing this on an annual basis, then you reflect only back on the last year. If you are at a major milestone of your life like 20th, 30th, 40th etc. birthday it might be worthwhile to take a longer timespan into account.

Take some paper and a pen, find yourself a cosy place and sit down. Calm down for a few moments and enjoy the very fact that you now invest in one of the most important people in your life – yourself.

You are the starting point

Start by drawing a person in the middle of the paper or by writing your name in the midst. You are the starting point – and from there the mind-map-style starts. Now start to write areas of your current life situation around you – you might want to circle them if you are a more creative person.

Here are some ideas: family, friends, job, sports, health, career, relationships, emotional well-being, social work, hobby

Take at least 4 areas of your life that you want to reflect on. And be bold. Take also those areas where you like to be more fulfilled or more successful.

How are you doing?

If you have defined your areas you want to focus on, write to each area what you liked during the last year. Where have you been successful? What did you achieve? What made this area of your life special in the last year?

If you are unfamiliar with writing stuff about your life on a piece of paper, you might want to start by taking a few notes and the further you get start writing sentences. Add to each event or bullet why it is on your list and how you currently feel about it.

When you are done with positive things, start to write down also the bad experiences. What didn’t work out? Whom did you lose in your life? Where did you fail? Be honest to yourself and admit how you are feeling.

Side note for business people: Emotions are valuable indicators where you are currently at - and if you need change. Admit when you are feeling sad, frustrated, angry, disappointed. Although it is uncommon in the business context to talk about feelings, it is a real asset when you check on your emotional well-being every once in a while. If you are happy on the inside, it is most likely that you will display the happiness on the outside and be even better in your business tasks at hand. Unluckily this is true vice versa. 

One year on a piece of paper

Now look at your mind map. How do you feel?

Since this is a practical guide and not an entertainment text, I just take the freedom to ask you again: How do you feel when you see your past year?

What would you like to take with you into the next year?

What served you until today but now needs to leave? Say goodbye to these habits / situations / emotions. It’s just the right time.

Here and Now

Take a moment to be proud of yourself! You just revisited the last year, showed gratitude for your successes, looked at some unpleasant moments, said goodbye to a few things. For your soul it’s like the clearance of the basement. It isn’t the most entertaining thing to do but it creates room in your mind for new things. Well done!

I can see you smile. That’s good.

Let’s dive into your future.

Envisioning the future

A new year lies before you. How do you want to use it?

Check on the categories of your mindmap again. Which category should stay and which one(s) leave? Is there any other area that you want to add?

When you are done with setting the scene, write to each area what you would like to achieve. Which area should be your focus on? Where do you need growth? What area do you enjoy most?

I like to encourage you to get a little crazy and visionary in this moment – reality will settle in soon enough. Write down all the things you like to be doing. What makes your heart leap?

Remember, you are the game changer of your everyday life. Take your annual pause to reflect the past year and adjust your priorities to make sure that the upcoming year will be enjoyable.

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.)