How to Push Yourself Without Crashing

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Hi, I’m Christine, and I’m a recovering overachiever.

As is my good friend Mandy Lehto.

A couple of weeks ago, Mandy invited me onto her fabulous Moxiecast, her feel-good show over on iTunes. Such an honor to be one of the people to whom she has spoken.

Anyway, in our conversation, we jammed on how it’s possible to achieve success in a self-caring way.

Listen to it here!

We talk about what prompted me even to try to achieve what at first felt like the holy grail of having a good business and a great life.

We talk about what self-care means. (No, it’s not sitting on the sofa and eating chocolate the whole time.)

Some of the key ways to enable it.

And how to notice when you’re getting off-track of yourself.

Hope you love listening as much as I loved chatting!

Keeping It Real: A Manifesto

What If Everything You Thought You Knew About Professional Success Was Wrong?

Guess What: It Is

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-15-22-56Keeping it real?

There’s a worldwide agenda to do just the opposite.

Keeping it real is intuition, faith, trust and letting go. Keeping it real is understanding what success means on your own terms and having the courage to run after that.

Keeping it real doesn’t mean flaky, lightweight, vague or unmeasurable. And it certainly doesn’t mean dreaming at the expense of doing.

Keeping it real is getting things done informed by your biggest dreams, aspirations, goals and creative urges.

Business titans like Sir Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos keep it real. Zen monks too.

A person who keeps it real gets things done, but does it in a way that doesn’t come at the expense of what they truly cherish and value.

Keeping it real isn’t something you accomplish. It isn’t a destination you arrive at, it’s the journey itself. It’s a practice, an art.

Keeping it real is the art of listening to the quiet, clear voice emanating from your soul and answering “Yes”. Go ahead and listen. You’ll hear it. The voice reminding you what makes YOU feel authentic, happy and free. The voice reminding you of the unique value that YOU alone can bring to this world.

Now, how will you answer that voice?

How will you start to pay attention to the way you turn up for that journey and how you keep yourself well, alive and thriving on the road? Not just in any superficial sense of that sentiment. But in a way that sets you up perfectly in mind, body and spirit?

Coming soon, I’m going to be sharing my Keeping It Real Manifesto. Regard it as the set of words that are going to shake you out of whatever current complacency you’re in and into a new conscious awareness of how you turn up for work and indeed live your life. To make sure you get first sight of it, make sure to sign up here.

Why Wellbeing at Work isn’t Working and How it Can

50529631 - tired woman runner taking a rest after running hard in countryside road. sweaty athlete after marathon training in country road.

Over at City AM, William Turvill and Hayley Kirton wrote a compelling piece on current stress rates among bankers in London. Talking about recent research by MetLife, they report:

“40% of financial institution decision makers think their job is extremely stressful, with two-thirds (67 percent) considering resigning in the next year if their stress levels do not improve.”

The problem is of course not confined to the City. We can blame Brexit or whatever and, sure, that’s causing deep uncertainty and upheaval. But, from the perspective of my coaching practice, stress at work has been begging us to pay more attention to it for quite some time now. Global markets, the emergence of hand-held technologies, and the mushrooming of ways via which people can be accessed are all contributing to people blurring the boundaries between life and work. We’re becoming a culture that expects itself always to be on.

And companies know there’s a problem. In response to which, they’re hiring wellbeing experts with the aim of bringing coping skills and strategies on a whole raft of fronts. Mindfulness, for example, has become popular with some businesses running meditation sessions during lunch hours. Resilience coaching is teaching folks how to build their mental robustness. One to one talk therapy is available for many via their private health care providers.

What’s not to love?

But here’s the worrying bit:

It seems not everyone who could benefit from the support on offer avails themselves of it.

70 percent of those surveyed by MetLife believed that admitting to problems would damage their career prospects. And only 18 percent said their organization had a positive attitude to mental health issues.

A big concern, of course, is fear of reprisal.

Talk to people, and you’ll hear them list out the possible consequences of being out about being stressed. Lower performance ratings, smaller bonuses, poorer promotion prospects all get cited. And, with up to 20,000 job cuts looming in the City, the biggest fear of all is of ending up on the redundancy list as an easy way of being sidelined.

As any good coach, therapist, Occupational Health or HR person will shout at this point, the issue is that there’s still an enormous mental health stigma in the UK. That, of course, extends way beyond the realms of work. It’s still too easy not to understand, to marginalize, or – worse – to poke fun at people who for whatever reason are suffering from any mood or behavioral disturbance.

But while there’s a massive need across the board to do whatever we can to remedy this, I don’t believe it’s the whole answer to improving the take-up of wellbeing investment.

Instead, I advise business clients who are intent on creating wellbeing within their businesses to take a big step back, and reframe their approach to the challenge in the following four ways:

Four reframes to transform the ROI of your business’s wellbeing spend

From individual to cultural

The initiatives for which you’re currently paying are great. Don’t stop the mindfulness classes, or fire the coaches, or whatever. They can all, of course, bring immense help to the smart people who have for a moment lost their mojo or worse, and are willing to be open to the support.

But at the same time, take an honest look at how your culture creates illness rather than wellness. You know the kind of thing. The jobs that have conflicting reporting lines. The CEO sending emails at all hours of the day and expecting an immediate response. The boss finding it necessary to interrupt their worker’s thinking time with a, for them, urgent request.

These set ups and behaviors perpetuate stress. If you’re serious about wellbeing, you’ll change them. You’ll think instead about the kind of attributes that contribute to a healthy culture, and you’ll begin a program of bringing them to life.

From remedial to proactive

In writing this article, my trigger was concern about stress and how to fix it. And for many companies, the thing that prompts them to buy in wellbeing support is the same.

And, of course, if you have a stress at work problem, address it.

But what if you changed your paradigm away from trying to address illness, and towards creating wellness.

What if you didn’t look at things through the lens of trying to bring all the people in your business up to some average level of health and functioning? What if you dared to think they were worth supporting to be at the top of the wellbeing distribution curve and to develop within your business the kind of healthy environment in which your people could thrive?

How would you you focus your wellbeing budget in that scenario?

From intervention to strategic issue

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to consider wellbeing as a soft, nice-to-have in your business. Something that has no strategic importance to its performance.

I say this for several reasons.

First, people are in general becoming sicker.

All of which says to me that the costs of healthcare provision from both public and private sector are set to increase, putting possible strain on taxes and premiums alike.

But beyond the cost, there’s a huge business benefit to organizations whose people are well.

We’ve known for some time that employee engagement correlates positively with business results. Now, it turns out that wellbeing does too. Put simply, people who experience themselves as being in a positive state of wellbeing, and are engaged in their work, do extraordinary work for their companies.

Which to my mind is all the argument you need to put wellbeing on your company’s executive team’s agenda.

From being focussed on employees to starting at the top

Change starts and ends with leadership. Without the buy-in of the people at the very top, you kid yourselves that sustainable organizational wellbeing is possible.

And I don’t mean lip-service buy-in. I mean heartfelt buy-in.

Actions talk louder than words ever can.

For that reason, I advise senior business teams to review their own individual and collective wellbeing ahead of, or in tandem with, any other wellbeing activity that’s going on.

You’re at the top of your game, or you should be.

You wouldn’t expect Mo Farah to turn up for a race on a few hours sleep, weeks of multi-tasking and a diet of fags, pizza and endless cans of diet Coke. Why are you expecting yourself to be able to pull epic shit out of the bag when that’s exactly what you’re doing?

So, as you’re approving the budget for the next set of mindfulness classes, turn the spotlight on yourself and your leadership colleagues and ask, how well are we? How ready are we really on any given day or in any given week to do our absolute best? And how do we think more holistically about our own health and wellbeing in a way that means our performance is not just optimal, but sustainably so?

Moving forward

In the next weeks and months, wellbeing is something I’m going to be writing and saying much more about. Sign up here for updates to make sure you don’t miss out on the conversation.

 

Photo credit: Copyright: lzflzf / 123RF Stock Photo

“My Boss Needs it Now” and Other Bullshit Excuses that Keep You Stressed Out

9735424 - frowning angry business man looking at time on watch

It’s frustrating.

When I suggest to many executive and entrepreneurial sorts that stress is something they can manage, they begin to tell me how difficult that is for them.

“Ah, but, I run my own business,” they say. “I have to stay in the thick of things.” Or…

“My company’s culture is very cut and thrust. I always have to be plugged in or else people will think I’m not a team player.”

“The CEO works 24/7. He emails me at all hours and expects me to respond.”

“I have to attend all the meetings that get put in my diary because I need to be involved in lots of things. (Even if that means I’m starting work on other things in the evenings.)”

The Great Coping Mechanisms Myth

They often then ask me to give them some coping mechanisms to deal with the physical and mental stress they start to feel because they are so overwhelmed with everything they’re supposed to be doing.

Now, look, there’s a whole internet full of coping mechanism stuff out there. But I figured some time ago that, if I was going to do a great job as a coach, and not just play a game with you, I’d help you see how flawed coping mechanisms by themselves are at the end of the day.

Of course, there’s some value in teaching yourself mindfulness practices or in learning deep breathing techniques.

But, practice them from the wrong mental mindset and they’re not going to change much.

You see, a lot of the “dealing with stress” thinking that’s out there, takes as its starting point the premise that stress is an outside-in job. In other words, stress is something that “happens” to you as a result of things going on in your environment. More pressure from clients. The 2 am email from your boss. A downturn in the market.

And it’s not as if these things aren’t real. Of course, stuff happens to us. But our ability to stay healthy, resourceful and well in the face of stuff that goes on is as much, if not more, down to the stories we’re telling ourselves about them.

How Our Meaning-Making Minds Often Screw Things

Humans are meaning-makers. Our cognitive function is what sets us apart from other animals.

Unless we begin to practice non-judgement, we rarely see situations in a neutral light, but imbue them with story and meaning.

And often we engage with stressful situations, NOT from the place of seeing them as neutral, BUT from the stories we’re making up about them.

I recently had a client who kept their mobile by their bed, just in case their CEO, who traveled the world and worked 24/7, emailed or called. He’d sometimes be woken at 2 am with some urgent request or other and get onto it right away. He felt he had no choice – that was what his job demanded – but it was impacting his ability to turn up and get through the day.

When I helped him unpack the stories he was unconsciously telling himself, they went like this:

“If I don’t respond right away, the CEO will think poorly of me. (And if he thinks poorly of me, I will get a poor performance appraisal and may over time be fired.)”

I asked him first how okay it really was for him to set himself up as being so indispensable, and he said it wasn’t. It was great to be well thought of by others. But it wasn’t helping him feel good about himself.

I also challenged whether his assumption about the CEO was true. He didn’t know. He conceded that it may not be. That it may have been he himself who’d made that up, based on his own insecurities.

In time he stopped having his mobile on and allowed himself to sleep during the night. If there was an urgent email from the CEO or anyone else for that matter, he’d deal with them during the hours he was productively awake. In time, he began to see such email with more equanimity and feel less pressure to jump hoops to impress others.

Which helped him feel a lot more in control, and, paradoxically perhaps, to perform more at his best.

How to beat back the overwhelm

Often, a key starting point in helping yourself beat back the sense of pressure and overwhelm is to get curious about the stories you’re telling yourself about the situations in which you find yourself.

What are your assumptions?

What are you believing about yourself in them?

And then ask, “Is this true?”

This is the second post in a series of posts about stress and overwhelm and how high performers can tame them for their advantage. Next up, we’re going to be looking holistically at the challenge of overwhelm in our lives and how to move beyond it. To make sure you don’t miss it and more insightful posts, be sure to subscribe.

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Is Your Busyness Making You Ill? (Check these tell-tale signs)

Ever have that feeling of never being on top of things?

You know, that always tired state that never seems to leave you. Work feels like a race in which you’re only just keeping up, and if you dare to look ahead you see there’s a marathon in front of you that, if you want to stand any chance of completing, you’re going to have to run at a sprint.

The thing is that you’re normally a good performer. You get results. And till now you’ve enjoyed being in the cut and thrust of everything that goes on around you in business. This heaviness your feeling makes no sense.

So you go along with it all, running on empty, putting the hours in, fuelling yourself with coffee, telling yourself you can survive on the few hours of sleep you’re getting.

You think, this is just how it is. Everyone feels this way, don’t they?

But has it ever struck you that the fatigue you’re feeling isn’t something to battle, but something to listen to?

Here are 10 signs that it’s time to step back and reassess.

10 signs your busyness is heading in the wrong direction

The other thing that’s useful to be aware of is that it’s not always easy to spot or indeed to acknowledge to yourself when you’ve gone beyond the kind of stress that makes you thrive. There’s controversy about the scientific correctness of the boiling frog story. But whether it’s myth or reality, the metaphor of the frog who will jump away from a pot of boiling water, but stay in a pot of tepid water and not notice when the heat rises, is bang on for how stress affects us.

So how do know if it’s time to take action? Well, here are some tell-tale signs.

  1. You’re spending more and more time at or on work. Whether you work from an office or from home, the hours you’re putting in are increasing. And, let’s face it, you never were the nine to five type anyway.
  2. You’re spending more and more time thinking about work. Even when you’re supposed to be eating with your partner or family, or hanging out at the cinema with a mate, you find your mind locked into work problems or challenges. Maybe you’re straying onto your smartphone too much at these times too.
  3. You’ve dropped some of your social interests in order to make progress on work projects. The after work beer with the friend on a Wednesday. The regular Thursday night date night you promised your other half. The fitness goals you set yourself in January. Whatever, they’ve been relegated in favor of the things on your To Do list.
  4. You’re having problems dropping off to sleep. Your mind stays active after you put the lights off and pull the duvet over your head. Maybe your heart feels like it’s beating just a little too fast and you can hear it pulsing in your ears.
  5. And, speaking of heart rate, you’re noticing that your heart is beating just a little too fast, in general, these days.
  6. You wake up tired and need caffeine or other stimulants to help you jump-start and get through your day.
  7. You’re reaching for more snacks, and carb-based fast foods than you know deep down is strictly right for you.
  8. You’re gaining weight – even if you have kept your gym habit going. Which is hellishly frustrating right?
  9. You’re becoming less tolerant of pretty much anything. The queues for coffee drive you crazy – why can’t these baristas put a little speed into things?
  10. Most worrying of all, you’re feeling less and less capable of producing the kind of great performances you used to put in. Which in turn is making you feel way less confident about yourself.

Why you should give a shit about busyness

It’s part of today’s way of life to always be doing something. Whether that’s landing a major deal, delivering a great workshop, or catching up on Facebook, we’re tuned into something for much of the time. Often more than one thing at a time, and often at times, like the early hours of the morning, when we really ought to be sleeping.

But while it might be super cool to be and look busy, it’s not cool to silently make yourself ill. Did you know that left untamed, the pressure you put on yourself can lead to conditions like depression, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and heart attack? And according to The American Institute of Stress, even in the short term, stress can weaken your immune system and make you feel way less good about yourself.

Of course, stress is a wily creature. Each of us has a golden mean where a certain amount of it enables us to feel alive, invigorated, and engaged in a productive way. Too little and we find our energy and mental sharpness don’t quite rise to the occasion; too much and, as much as we may push against it, we slow down and our performance isn’t as slick as we’d like.

But the tipping point for you and for me are almost certainly very different.

Take back your own power

One of the big consequences I see time and again of getting to a point of being over-busy is that stress starts running your life.

You start out with ambition and clarity and resolution. In other words, you are running your show. The direction for your life and work comes from you.

But when stress takes over, things flip.

Without you even realizing it, you start to give over to other people’s demands. Your inbox takes high priority, engaging with your social media stream something you can’t miss. Your calendar gets populated by other people wanting your presence.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

And, the first step is to see that you have power and to take it back. You get one shot at this life.

Sure, you want to be successful. But do you want that at any cost? And is the way you’re going about things right now sustainable for you in the long term?

Taming the overwhelm monster

The whole busyness thing is something I’ve been seeing more and more of in my work recently. I’m going to be sharing in some coming posts more about how you as a high performer can manage things more to optimize stress more for yourself and claim back your wellbeing.

Make sure you don’t miss it by subscribing here.

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