Do you find yourself pulled between your personal desires or responsibilities and doing what needs to be done for your business or career?
In the early 2000’s while managing over one hundred and fifty staff spread across more than forty-one thousand square kilometers, (without Zoom or MS Teams) I was introduced to the concept of work life balance, and I began instilling the idea with the team.
It sounded like a great theory at the time, especially with early mornings and late evenings after driving from location to location to visit team members. But with hindsight and knowledge backed by personal experience I came to understand that to obtain true work life balance, a 50/50 split, was not only impossible but trying to achieve it was creating unnecessary stress… kinda defeating the purpose.
In the world we woke up in today, things are vastly different than twenty years ago, we can access work from personal devices, and connect with team members across multiple time-zones with the click of a mouse and more of us are choosing to work from home making it so much easier for our focus to be hijacked by less important and often trivial distractions.
This can have a detrimental flow on effect on our productivity, relationships and performance as we unconsciously relegate the things that matter the most to the ‘I’ll get to that later’ list.
In the leadership programs we run, there is a fun and often tormenting activity we do where participants are forced to let go of the things they believe are important to them in order to get to what really matters most…
One by one we witness managers and leaders letting go of their gym memberships, their barista brewed coffee, their nightly glass of wine, their entertainment subscriptions, their hobbies, and even personal freedom is sacrificed as they narrow down to the one thing that matters most to them.
Do you know what 98% of participants declare as their most important thing, what they couldn’t live without? It’s Family!
If you find yourself doing things that are not important, or chipping away at outdated processes, maintaining unproductive habits that take you further and further away from what matters most to you or heck, you may still be trying to achieve the impossible 50/50 work life balance, you know, feeling guilty at home on the days when work needs to be a priority and thinking you’re in the wrong, or your reputation will be ruined, when personal and family commitments impact your work.
It doesn’t have to be this way, you can equip yourself with cutting edge tools to help you navigate the demands of the day, increase productivity, and focus on what matters.
I know it can be painful doing things that are not working for us and at the same time not having the knowledge to push back confidently and intelligently on the things that negatively impact our well-being, relationships, goals, values, and time.
Before learning or sharpening the tools that will help you do more of what matters… you may want to first understand the 6 most widely experienced derailers I see people from all walks of life struggle with.
After 20+ years of diving into the fields of human potential, mindset and neurobiology and psychology combined with 1000’s of hours coaching I noticed common traps we all unwittingly fall into when it comes to getting to the things we really want to do or spending time with the people that matter most.
If you are like me and want good results, I have no doubt that you know that to achieve results and perform at our best we need to be confident in our decisions, efficient in our thinking and productive with our time.
This is easier said than done because no matter how hard we try to be productive and do what matters, there always seems to be people, situations, notifications, and that pesky inner voice that have the potential to distract and derail us.
Derailer #1 - The People Pleaser
What I have noticed both within myself in the past, and with coaching clients is the first issue we face. To put it simply, we want to please everyone.
Being a people pleaser and not being able to say no effectively leads to doing things not aligned to our goals or doing things to keep other people happy or maintain an unhealthy peace.
Derailer #2 - Wired to Avoid Change
The second derailer comes from our neurobiology - we are wired to avoid uncertainty.
This innate need to feel safe can slow down or even prevent decisions from being made. This leads to procrastination because we’re afraid to make a start or do things differently. We end up fighting against anything that takes us away from homeostasis, clinging to how things are or how things were, wired to stay in the safety of an outdated way of being.
Derailer #3 - Unhealthy Habits
We can look to biology to understand the third derailer. Derailer number three is our unhealthy well-being habits draining us of the energy we need to get things done.
Our energy is derived from the type of food we eat, how much we move, and the quality of our sleep.
These are all important factors that impact energy levels and our ability to do what matters, often giving preference to an easy task (think Netflix, gossiping or social scrolling) to match our low energy levels.
Derailer #4 - Misaligned Identity
The fourth derailer is a psychological one. When our subconscious identity is not aligned to the work we need to do we will unconsciously sabotage our efforts.
When who we assume and believe we are is not aligned to who we need to be to get the work done we end up going in circles often reverting to our old ways.
If you want to dive a little deeper into the power of your self-image, grab copies of Gay Hendricks book ‘The Big Leap', Chip and Dan heaths Book 'Switch' or Maxwell Maltz book ‘Psycho Cybernetics’.
The deeply held beliefs you hold about yourself create a protective system that can sometimes lead to us sabotaging our efforts to focus on what really matters.
Derailer #5 - Unsupportive Environment
The fifth derailer is an environmental one.
You can't be productive if your physical, social, or mental environments are unsupportive.
To set yourself up for success in this area be sure to create an uncluttered space dedicated to the work that needs to be done. Ensure that you are socially supported by engaging in a coach or buddy to cheer you on and hold you accountable to delivering on your objectives.
It is equally important that you create a supportive mental environment by choosing narratives that support your outcomes such as telling yourself things like:
In essence you’re giving yourself a pep talk to override any beliefs that suggest you don’t have the time, energy, or capacity.
Remember: Your mental attitude will always influence you output.
Derailer #6 - Distractions
And sixth most common thing that derails us is distractions, and wow… the world certainly has turned up the volume on distractions and shiny objects, stealing our attention away from what’s important.
Distractions big or small such as noise, notifications, interruptions from other people or pets, regularly checking emails or your phone. Anything that takes you away from what you are doing are the biggest derailers of productivity.
These unwanted intrusions on our time slowly eat away at any hope we may have of consciously integrating our work with our life.
Believe it or not distractions are the easiest to fix when you know how to set boundaries for yourself and for others. If you'd like some easy fixes to help you deal with distractions grab yourself a copy of Nir Eyal’s book ‘Indistractible’
Getting Back On Track
What’s interesting about these six common derailers is that we can overcome all of them by overcoming the first one.
Once we know how to say no in an enlightened way, we begin to help ourselves and others to let go of the things that no longer serve us and to focus on what’s important.
We can set boundaries for ourselves to create healthy well-being habits, we can set clear limits and expectations as to the person that we want to become, we can say no to the things in our environment that get in the way of our best performance, and we can deliberately put measures in place to ensure we are not distracted from what matters most moment to moment.
It’s up to you to get yourself on track and more importantly, stay there. The tools are available in books, podcasts, and courses.
The first step is to determine what really matters to you, what’s your priority in any given moment then check to see which of the derailers are present.
We know that knowledge alone doesn’t do a darn thing, so if you want support to kick any of your bad habits, outdated self-beliefs or fixed mindset to the curb…
I’m opening up my diary to 6 people who are yet to experience Blue Chip Minds Coaching and who want to get back on track to join me for some complimentary 1:1 time in a 30min get me back on track session.
So… what stops you most often?
Drop me a line, I’d love to hear what derails you and how you plan to get back on track.
Here’s to you doing more of what matters.
Contributed by Georgia Ellis
One simple, affordable and effective way to cultivate a High-Performance culture and team.
Contributor: Maurice Schill (Founder & CEO of JuJu)
The appeal of High-Performance Teams (HPTs) has never been higher. Especially in our highly competitive world where the competitive edge now comes from how well teams can work together.
Big companies like Google spend millions of dollars on programs, training and experts to help their teams access the highest performance levels. Then they spend millions more on designing environments best suited to HPTs.
These companies continue to hire the best, retain the best and get the best out of their teams. Better results, better products, more innovation and higher profit margins, which all lead to…
You guessed it, even more money for them to spend on developing their teams and environments.
This is leading to an ever-growing gap, making it harder for small and medium businesses to find a competitive edge when it comes to their people.
It's fully understandable that this can be a little disheartening. However, not all hope is lost.
The truth is you don't need millions of dollars, sleeping pods, ping pong tables or free lunches to get the most out of your team. Most of these are actually just gimmicks or PR stunts.
According to separate research conducted by Gallup, BCG, and OCTanner, it turns out that what matters most to people is who they work with, and how appreciated they feel.
Leveraging this insight, small and medium businesses can regain their upper footing by investing in the relationships that exist within their teams. The good news? It doesn't require a large coin purse.
Although there a many things businesses can do to improve the strength of relationships at work, there is one specific approach that is often overlooked.
Why appreciation is essential to cultivating HPTs
It's all based on human psychology. One of our deepest, most ingrained desires is to be appreciated and valued. It helps us feel like we belong, and that what we do matters.
When people are appreciated they show the best versions of themselves, are more resilient to stress, and more likely to go above and beyond for others. All of these factors are important drivers for creating High-Performance Teams.
Appreciation is also a form of feedback that reinforces good behaviours. When done correctly it can help create a small and constructive feedback loop, essential in cultivating a High-Performance Team.
How you can effectively appreciate your team
Although a thank you is a good start, it won't deliver the expected results.
There are 4 behaviours to effective appreciation you must apply.
1. Be Genuine
We have an uncanny ability to sense when people are not being real with us. When we express appreciation from a place where we don't really mean it, we actually do more harm than good.
It builds distrust in the relationships.
Properly expressing appreciation means we have to make the other person believe that we mean it.
When you say "thank you" to someone for a job well done you leave a lot of room for misinterpretation.
The solution: Tell them why their action or words meant something to you. How did it change or impact you?
Use this formula to ensure you express appreciation genuinely:
By going through this exercise you also force yourself to find a reason you actually appreciate that person
2. Get Specific
The more detailed you can get in your expression of appreciation the more meaning it has. You want them to know exactly what it is you appreciated. So focus on being clear and precise.
If you tell them...
"Thank you so much for that great presentation, it really helped me get clarity on what I need to do next."
... they may believe it's genuine, but won't know the details of how their actions helped you. Therefore it has no meaningful context.
To get specific ask yourself:
It may be something like this:
"Thank you for that great presentation, I really enjoyed how you broke down our complex marketing strategy into easy to follow steps. It really clarified what I need to do to make sure our new website fits with the overarching strategy."
Now, they believe you, know exactly what they did well, and how it impacted you positively.
When expressed like this, appreciation is much more potent as it helps connect their reality with the impact they've had on other people - which in turn creates meaning in their life.
Yes, it takes a bit longer and might take 2 minutes to write out instead of 10 seconds, but the impact is so much greater.
3. Tailor Your Approach
Every person has their own preference around how they like to be appreciated. In fact, there are 5 languages of appreciation you can use.
Knowing what your team's preference is, makes a huge difference. When you use the wrong preference it may be that the person doesn't even recognise that you are trying to appreciate them. So, all your efforts have gone to waste.
Here are a couple of examples:
Being aware of what these preferences are within your team will make a huge difference to them and how likely they are to perform at the highest possible level.
Here is a tip: We tend to express our appreciation the way we would like to receive it. Pay attention to how others are expressing their appreciation, which will give you an indicator of what they might like.
4. Be Timely
Lastly, and just as important as the last 3 behaviours, you have to express your appreciation for what they did in an appropriate time frame.
I recommend trying to keep it within 24 hours, however, this is not always feasible. Make sure to do it ASAP.
Waiting until your next meeting or catch-up might be too late. You have to let them know when it's still fresh in their mind.
As humans, we are wired for instant feedback and gratification. The longer you wait, the less rewarding it becomes for them.
Go out and try it!
When you start applying these four behaviours in how you communicate appreciation, you won't just become a better communicator and leader, but will also inspire and educate your team by proxy to engage in similar behaviours.
The first couple of times might feel a bit weird to you. That is simply because you are not used to it. Remember, it's not about you, it's about making the other person feel valued.
So, now it's your time to apply this.
We’ve all been there. The looming deadline. The high stakes work. The pressure mounting. The finish line and our chances of getting there are touch and go. But we rise up to the challenge, not only hitting the mark but smashing it out of the park.
As we breathe a sigh of relief we say to ourselves, ‘Never again’.
But soon we find ourselves back there again.
Well in a word, stress. Or more to the point, our complicated relationship with stress. We NEED stress...the good kind that is. It drives up productivity allowing us to achieve beyond perceived limits. The challenge these days is that the story of stress in modern society often only highlights the bad. Anxiety, burnout, poor motivation, are all horrible negative elements that occur when we become over stressed.
So to discover which stress is good and which isn’t, we need to journey back in time and dig into the history of stress. This history lesson will provide a really useful framework for developing individuals and organisations that thrive under pressure.
The birth of stress
Stress as a term has only been around since the early 20th Century and was coined by the “Father of Stress”, Slovakian Scientist Hans Selye when he was testing a hypothesis on ovarian hormones using rats as the test subject. Selye discovered that no matter what substance he substituted for the ovarian hormone, the same reactions happened in the rats. It wasn’t the substance that was instigating the reaction. It was the situation. The situation set off a chain of reactions and those reactions were the same no matter what substance was used. Eventually the rats would die from the sustained stress of the situation.
Two sides to every story
Selye defined stress “as an organisms unspecific reaction to any kind of external demand.” He also defined stress as both positive and negative. Positive stress was named ‘eustress’, based on the Greek word ‘Eu’ meaning good and negative stress was labelled ‘distress’, inspired by the Latin word ‘Dis’, meaning bad. Distress can lead to anxiety if the stress is too high but on the flip side, can also lead to boredom if the stress is not enough.
Yep, you read it right. Low stress is also a negative stress.
The current narrative on stress highlights the negative. When we think of the word stress, we instantly are drawn to our own negative experiences. Stress is bad. That’s what we know, that’s what we believe. But unfortunately it is only half the narrative. To help guide us, we will use a powerful framework to understand the thinking that occurs when we are placed under stress. It is within this framework that we can start to negotiate the necessary mindset, skill sets and coping strategies to turn the tide on stress.
Situation and Self
Inspired by Dr. Selye’s work, Dr. Richard Lazarus and Dr. Susan Folkman developed the Transactional Model of Stress. In this framework, stress ‘is the result of a transactional process between a person and the environment’ (Peifer, 2012). When an external demand (challenge/pressure) is placed on an individual, a certain process is followed. The first assessment we make is whether or not the situation is a threat. If a threat is perceived, we make a second appraisal. Do I have the strategies to cope with this situation? It is this key decision that shapes the stress path we choose. If we believe we don’t have the ability to cope, the stress is perceived as negative stress or distress. If we believe we have the ability to cope, we perceive the stress as eustress and this creates the opportunity for optimal performance.
The demands of the situation meet our skill level and we rise to the challenge.
The work flows out of us effortlessly.
We connect disparate ideas.
We lose all sense of time and feel deeply connected to the work
We are uber productive.
We enter an optimal state of consciousness that psychology calls ‘flow’.
Flow - the antidote to stress
Coined by Hungarian Psychologist, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, flow is an “altered state of consciousness in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” It is an optimal state of experience and performance. In flow, people feel great and their performance is elevated. It boosts both morale and productivity.
So how much more productive can you be in flow? How about up to five times?
In a ten year study by McKinsey and Company, 5000 high performing executives operating at their peak reported being up to five times more productive when in Flow. This number varied from person to person but on average executives felt that their output dramatically increased when in a flow state. The challenge however, was that these executives also self reported only being in Flow about 10% of the time. As well as driving up our performance, Flow is one of the only times where five of our most potent neurochemicals are released in our brain at the same time. These neurochemicals enable us to connect disparate ideas, focus intensely, feel really good and connect deeper with other humans. As the Flow Genome Project, a world leading authority on Flow Science, state in their definition of Flow, “we feel our best and perform our best.”
Making friends with stress
Stress is required for Flow to show up. Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi listed nine dimensions of Flow and one key Flow dimension is called the Challenge/Skills ratio. This refers directly to stress. Stress is the demands or challenge of a situation. We need to increase/decrease the demands of task to a point that is suitable for our skill level. If the demands are too high, our anxiety rises. If the demands are too low, it promotes boredom. Finding the Goldilocks spot, where it is just right, helps drive our attention into the now. Cortisol, aka the stress chemical, is released and this helps us focus with more intensity. Cortisol enhances selective attention in the brain which filters out superfluous information and tightens focus on the task at hand. We become better at blocking out information that doesn’t enable us to achieve our goal and we become deeply immersed in the task at hand. In an age of distraction, this capacity to deeply focus on demanding work is a modern day superpower and it enables us to reach a peak state of performance. It enables us to be more productive and to feel our best.
Strategies for building a better stress relationship
Contributor: Steve Brophy
Back in 2011, Bradley Cooper starred in the box office hit movie “Limitless”. The plot follows Edward Morra (Cooper), a struggling writer, who is introduced to a nootropic drug, which gives him the ability to fully utilize his brain and produce optimal performance.
Have you had days where you wished you could fully utilize your cognitive abilities just like Coopers character?
The thing is, few of us realize that there are people out there doing just that… and it doesn’t involve taking a “smart pill”. Ordinary people like you and I (and some extraordinary athletes) are already tapping into this altered state of consciousness.
Over the past decade, Silicon Valley executives like Eric Schmidt and Elon Musk, Special Operators like the Navy SEALs and the Green Berets, and maverick scientists like Sasha Shulgin and Amy Cuddy have turned everything we thought we knew about high performance upside down.
Imagine a life that required less grit, no more working hard to create productive habits, and dismantling the 10,000 hours theory. From studies conducted across a number of fields and headed by Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler, Co founders of the ‘Flow Genome Project,’ there is a surprising short cut to obtaining optimal consciousness. People across different industries are learning how to harness rare and what used to be controversial states of consciousness to solve critical challenges and outperform the competition.
Flow is the optimal state of consciousness, a state of mind in which you are able to perform at your peak, separated from time, focused solely on the task at hand.
Also known as being "in the zone", it's a state of consciousness that in the past has been difficult to reach and maintain. Most commonly it is experienced by athletes performing high-adrenaline, extraordinary feats of endurance, strength and concentration in sports like mountaineering, rock climbing, surfing, kayaking and so on. In these extreme situations, they are able to get into 'flow' or 'the zone' which enables them to survive and thrive even in the harshest and most demanding of conditions.
Until recently, flow has been inaccessible for those outside of these extreme scenarios, leaving them unable to reach this advanced state of consciousness. However separate research conducted by Dr Joe Dispenza and the Flow Genome Project Founders is showing us that we can access this state and tap into its benefits in the workplace.
“A flow state is a state of consciousness which you feel at your best and perform at your best”
By using MRI and brain scanning techniques, and analyzing what it is that athletes do to enter this state, Kotler has reached a great understanding of flow. While Dispenza has been using brain scans to better understand Gamma brainwaves, which is linked to being in flow and how the brain (when in gamma or flow) produces a super levels of awareness and consciousness along with a heightened state of wakefulness.
Now, by adopting the right habits, altering your behaviors, and adopting a growth mindset, you can access flow in your day-to-day life, unlocking enormous potential at work.
How to tell if you’re in a state of flow according to Kotler and Wheals book ‘Stealing Fire’:
1. You feel no sense of self (Selflessness)
2. Time dilates and dissipates (Timelessness)
3. The activity flows magically (Effortlessness)
4. You feel tapped into inspiration and information (Richness)
“Information richness is a feeling of a high resolution download of realization and possibility that seems to emerge from the world around you” Jason Silva
While there are a number of different methods you can use to prime yourself for an optimal state of consciousness, here are 4 of the most accessible ways to reach flow.
1. HAVING CLEAR GOALS
Understanding WHAT you are doing and WHY you are doing it is critically important. Knowing exactly what you need to achieve at the present moment allows your mind to be free from distractions and helps to unlock greater focus on your current task, and get into flow.
2. SERIOUS CONCENTRATION
Blocking yourself from the outside world – distractions like your phone, social media, gossiping, can help you move into the state of flow. Limiting the number of things your attention is divided between allows greater concentration and maximum attention directed towards what you are trying to achieve.
3. SKILLS/CHALLENGE BALANCE
There is a range between difficulty and simplicity of a task in which the capability of the brain can be unlocked. Too difficult a task leads us to disengage and try to escape the task out of a kind of primal fear. If it is too simple, then we disengage due to boredom. Only between these two, when doing a task that stretches you slightly beyond normal, is the possibility for achieving flow possible.
Meditation sharpens your mental abilities, but by learning to produce more gamma brain waves, you will use your brain in its greatest capacity. It can be as simple as putting on your headphones, listening to relaxing music. And then, when your brain and body are relaxed and blissful, focus on love and compassion. Neuroscientists believe that people can train themselves to produce more of the gamma frequency and it is believed that focusing on compassion and love is one way to do this. It makes sense when you look at elite athletes,– they love what they’re doing, and they’re immersed in what they love – so gamma is a natural state of consciousness for them!
While there are a number of different ways you can maximize your ability to enter flow, these four tips are a great place to start… and great way to tap into your limitless potential.
Contributor: Georgia Ellis, Founder of Blue Chip Minds.
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