4 warning signs that you’re too busy

I’m too busy at the moment… there I said it; guilty as charged.

I’ve not posted on my blog for almost THREE months! So what’s going on with me when I neglect to do the things that are supposedly my passions.

Of course given my love of learning I have distilled some lessons from my recent bout of busyness and wanted to share them with you all.

Here are four things to look out for that may indicate excessive-ness in your life:

Not hearing your little voice

shhh2There is a term in leadership speak called “weak signals”. This is meant to represent those little voices in your head or fleeting ideas that are easy to ignore or overlook if you are not actively open to or listening for them. Busyness crowds out your mind and reduces your ability to pick up on these weak signals. Often it is these weak signals that have the perfect answer to wicked problems or complex conundrums. And there is the problem; just when you need a breakthrough idea your are too busy to see the answers that may be just outside of your conscious thinking.

How to hear your little voice: Try BE-ing time, stillness, non-engagement with stimulating activities. One clear example of BE-ing time that I’ve into my day is non-gadget/entertainment time. If you go on public transport no doubt you could survey all the passengers and see that 75%+ will be “consuming” media of some sort on a tablet, phone or laptop. Lately whilst on the tram I just let the tram bounce me along, sitting upright with good posture doing absolutely nothing. I’m not judging anyone else or thinking I’m all zen or anything I’m just letting my thoughts come and go. I do this for 5-10 minutes and then let my thinking settle on whatever is coming up for me in the day ahead. What I find is that my little voice gets heard during this time. Often without trying to get an answer I will know what to do when I enter the busyness of my work day.

Meaning-less-ness

When work (life) is dry and you start to question what is the point of it all, it is a sure sign that you have loaded yourself up with a bit much or that you have not got the time to do the things that nourish you (a bit of fun stuff). little mostIt has been proven by all the psychology-type folks that small consistent rewards lead to increased happiness and wellness more than massive long term goals realised. Meaning-less-ness comes about when we deny ourselves of the little things that make a big difference to our everyday wellness. You need to know what these are (they differ for different people) and make room for them consistently. This of course means saying “no” to some other things.

One example for me is a breakfast not rushed. Getting up a bit early, grinding my locally roasted fresh coffee beans and making my morning brew on my beautiful Italian espresso machine is a small daily luxury I share with my partner and family. Other examples for me are meditation, yoga… what are yours and are you consistent?

I also need to be a sloth sometimes (see next point).

Lack of sloth-ness

slothSloths, I think, get a bad name. Just because they sit around and don’t do much they have become synonymous with laziness. Well I put it to you that a little bit of laziness is not a bad thing. Today for example much to my surprise I got up after midday! I’ve been working a lot as well as doing some volunteer work, plus the kids  etc etc… Scheduling in a “do nothing day” I think has merit. Ironically it is on these days that I end up doing what I love (like today, I’m blogging about doing nothing  haha…)

Plan and execute a sloth day soon! You have my permission.

All talk-no action

When what you say you stand for and your actions are not aligned, this may indicate that you are not living your values. Busyness to the point where the things you hold dear (passions) do not get into your actions means you may need to take stock of what you are prioritising. For me right now I’m coaching a few clients, consulting full time and doing some volunteer work. This leaves little room for much else apart from family; professionally I’m not blogging and my project to deliver online career videos has stalled. I CAN’T DO EVERYTHING (as much as I want to).no action

I don’t think this sign is “bad” as long as you have a level of awareness around what is important to you and at least over the medium term you have a plan to ensure your priorities change to be better aligned to your values. For me that means reducing my consulting to 3-4 days/week and then putting time into other professional pursuits. The challenge is to not talk about this but to action it..!

What about you; where are you all talk no action?

Recently a relative of mine kept going on about a certain political issue, discussing all the ins and outs of what it means for society in Australia. This person has the brains, time and enough money to professionally do something about this issue. So one day I challenged this person saying “you talk a lot about this issue, why don’t you do something; talk is cheap”. To his credit he did :-)

I hope this helps you on your way in your work and life; I enjoy sharing, it gives me a little bit of meaning knowing my readers are reading :-)

 

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Finding career contentment; five simple steps to job satisfaction

The first task in career management is not to consider what job you want. Instead of looking outward you need to look inward… at least at the start.

The five steps are in order; they step-by-step take you toward career contentment and job satisfaction. Enjoy the read and I welcome feedback.

Five steps to career contentment

1. Quickly learn why you work, what you’re great at doing and how you need to work to be at your best

This step is often skipped as it involves doing something that does not come naturally; introspection. Taking stock of the things that drive your life, behaviour, attitudes, opinions is like a fish examining the water it swims in. These things are often invisible to us and influence us without our awareness. And that is the whole point of this first step, self-awareness.
To do this you need specific tools and where possible a person to help (mentor, coach, trained manager or other professional trained in psychology or a similar discipline).

You can of course do-it-yourself by sitting down and going through what’s important to you, what you want (don’t want) from a job but the problem is you won’t be able to see your blind spots. Solution; take a psych test or two. There are a few around but I use the DISC assessment and a motivators test. Let me know if you want to take these tests and I’ll send you a link. They are quite well priced at $90 for the two tests and give you some juicy insights into what you are best suited to be doing and what your motivators are. Or you can Google around and find some freebies (they’re out there).

2. Career MoSCoW, direction not details

Once you’ve got a handle on what drives/motivates you the next step is to assemble a list of MUST have, SHOULD have, COULD have and WON’T have career attributes.
Doing this allows you to see the elements that are not negotiable for your career. For example some people MUST have a steady and predictable work environment whilst others enjoy change and new challenges. Sometimes knowing what you WON’T have in your career plan is easier as a starting point, so start there if that works for you.

Once you know what you need from a career I encourage you to hold your goal lightly. By that I mean take it as a guiding direction as opposed to an absolute definate specific job or role. Now this may go against good goal setting principles but start with the direction then narrow in on the specifics. Be prepared to adjust the specifics but rarely should the overall direction change. I’ll elaborate on this in a minute.

3. How to make room for new; first steps

Say you know what you want to do but are not able to change. Often this is because you have filled up your life to the brim. There is no room or space for anything new to come into your life. I use the analogy of a house with all your stuff inside it. To re-plan your career you need to take everything out and then only put back in the essential things, leaving room for the new change that you want to see in your life.
I firmly believe that you cannot have it all, making choices is part of making a great career for yourself. It works the other way too; if you want to be there for your children and be a global consulting partner at a top-tier firm… maybe there is a choice there?
So make a choice about what you are going to go for, but do so fully aware of what you have to give up in pursuing that goal.

4. Action learning, experimentation; persevere or pivot

PLAN-ACT-REVIEW. Treating a career like a series of experiments rather than a fixed decision is a healthier and more realistic approach. Make a plan, do something, then review the results. This is the approach I adopt with all my coaching clients, it works and is proven to provide feedback as you learn, zeroing in on what is right for you in work/life. You will not get it right first time and for some people the journey is longer than others in finding work that suits them best, but by experimenting you will get there faster.

 

I like to use the persevere of pivot approach. Create an experiment to test what you assume to be true (your hypothesis) about your career path. Collect data as you conduct the experiment. Once the experiment is over (best to limit it to a few weeks at the most) sit down and consciously decide do I persevere with this track or pivot to another trajectory. Use the data you have collected to support your decision. This helps sort out the facts from the feelings (both are inputs into your decision). Then repeat until you are on track and in the right place/job/career. Simple but effective. Here is an example…
Say you assume that you want the job of a Project Manager. Your hypothesis is that you are suited to the pressure and responsibility of delivering outcomes for project sponsors.

By conducting a mini-experiment to commit to a small project you discover that you thrive on and perform well under pressure. BUT the “down-side” is you need to be onsite and lose your ability to work from home. Both pieces of data are then used for you to make an informed decision re your suitability to be a PM.

5. Enjoying the journey, adapting your style, self-management

Now as you move toward you career objective you do not have to delay satisfaction until you arrive. It is important to learn to enjoy the journey (as most of the time you will be in transition). To do this you need to learn to adapt your style in the short term. In the DISC psych assessment you are provided with how much you are currently adapting your natural work style and if it is sustainable (too much adaption for too long drains you = burnout).

The other aspect is self-management; by getting to know yourself you will be better equipped to deal with any short term stress caused by your job not being the best fit for you. There are many elements to self management (emotional control etc.), have a browse at some previous posts that will help you enjoy the journey towards your ideal career.

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6 ways to reduce your job satisfaction

There a six common factors that are said to provide you with improved job satisfaction. I both agree and disagree with these being important. Let me explain what I’m getting at; I’ll go through each factor explaining what it means and why its important but then I’ll issue you a warning about how each factor can be abused.

Money; do you earn $100k? Apparently that’s the point where we can meet our modest needs and have a bit left over for rainy days. Its the tipping point for happiness returns (after $100k you don’t get much  happier). The key here is how much is enough? $72k a year is my enough and I’m reducing my needs more and more; the result… MUCH more satisfaction because I’m not chasing more all the time; I’m un-gearing my life. Take the time to calculate out your ‘enough’ and agree to stop equating more with better.

Be in FLOW. Flow is defined as the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. WOW I want some of that! Being in flow on the job is as close to professional nirvana as you can get ;-) My take on this is that people take the idea too far and start to expect flow in all tasks; they want flow. Problem is, flow just comes and cannot be contrived. Sure you can set yourself up to do interesting and appropriately challenging work but longing after flow is just another manifestation of the ego wanting to be in pleasure and sets you up for disappointment when everyday isn’t ‘awesome’! I suggest you try on a beginners mind instead. Can you remember back to when you were a beginner at something; that strange mix of awe and interest in the unknown. Any tasks can be rewarding if you approach it with beginners mind. Approaching every task as if you are doing it for the first time is something I practice a lot, try it.. then look to balance the new with old enjoying both as a beginner.

Flexible work arrangements; what use is more free time, what are you going to do with it? Think of this in terms of your role and what you’re currently signed up for in life (dad, partner, provider). People want to have it all but some things are less compatible if you try to do them concurrently. I’m a dad which (for me) means I don’t spend weekends working. A single professional keen on working at Partner level in a big 4 consulting firm will need to consider the amount of “free” time they will have whilst on this track. For me being a partner is mutually exclusive to my current role as a dad; but that’s my take on it, others will make different choices.

Recognition; what are we seeking when we ask for recognition. For me personally I don’t look to others to pat me on the back; be careful of needing too much of this, seek to find intrinsic satisfaction of the curious beginner.

Stability; change is the only constant but most people mistakenly assume (and sub-consciously seek) a stable work environment; !!NEWS FLASH!! there are no more jobs for life. Accept and expect change as part of every role you ever take, don’t be rigid in your thinking and attitude, it will always been seen as a negative by managers looking to shape their business in response to market pressures.

Advancement; your ego always wants more, because more is better, right? What about an “ambition-less” career? Being assertive is great, plan-do-check is a great motto to actively progress how you add value in the workplace BUT the politics and gaming that some people get involved in I think is where it gets ugly, wasteful and directly works against the job satisfaction of those around you. If you are a deft politician and add value by navigating through all the noise of a complex situation too assist resolution of issues, then great. BUT if you playing games with people’s psyche please don’t.

The sure fire way to boost job satisfaction

My takeaway monologue ;-) … have your internal self and ego under control, look at the role you play in life and then be realistic about your capability as you experiment your way through life, pivoting and/or persevering to find work that allows your interests and abilities to meet the task at hand. Hold what YOU want more lightly than how important other’s needs are to you. Be more self-less and less greedy, lower your have-to-haves and find satisfaction in the little things. Set goals but do not obsess, be career assertive over the long term. We always overestimate what we can do in the short term and underestimate what we can do in the long term. Learn to delay your needs and work on a longer time frame enjoying the journey and ride that work life provides.

Please forward this to people in need of a job satisfaction boost :-)

cheers

Niall

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How I survived two days of HELL

 

There are two things that completely unhinge me. A threat (either physical or psychological) to my family and someone wrongfully accusing me of a hurtful act. When both of these happened to me last week it took me to what I call my personal hell. This mental state is probably common amoungst us all and we all have our own individual triggers that take us there. So how did I manage to continue to function as all this unfolded. What did I learn about self-management to navigate out of hell and get on with things.

Here is my list of survival techniques:

1. feel the temperature rising: know you are getting emotionally heated, understand that this is affecting you, do not try to kid yourself that you are ok. You are not, you are fragile and emotional; knowing this means you are dealing with it and have a level of regulation and self-management. To ignore it risks it building up like water behind a dam; which can burst and cause all sorts of trouble for you and those around you. Once you are aware of the situation you can start to gauge how close you are to “losing it”, hitting out or behaving badly. For me I felt emotions rising up to the point where I needed physical distance from the source of trouble. Although I did say some things that I now regret I managed to limit my loses in terms of upsetting those around me. Talking to someone often helps you say out loud how you are going and allows the issue to become more objective.

2. SELF-CARE: be gentle on yourself. In my hell everything I was solid on tended to be questioned. But I did not judge myself to be “bad” I simply accepted that this is part of being human. “Shit happens” and it is happening to me now, is what I said to myself. With my emotional self under attack I engaged deeply in my intellectual work (consulting), this was great and used a part of my brain that had capacity. I did manage two coaching sessions as well but this took more energy then usual. My advice if you are in your hell is to do activities that keep you engaged in life but do not draw too much energy. Sitting around drinking beer would not fall into this category.

3. your can’t “fix” this: in my Hell all seems hopeless but I know I must pass through a point of total not-knowing-ness to reach a point where I can start to navigate a way forward. Think of a frog holding onto a rock in a raging river. To continue on life’s journey he needs to let go of his safe place and enter the flow of the stream (ups, down bumps etc.). For me I know that to move out of hell I need to let go of my safe rock and enter back into the unknown. I monitor myself and the situation waiting for the time where I see signs that it’s time to plan a way out, this always is preceded by me having to let go of something (something about myself that I’ve been holding onto too tightly).

Lessons from HELL
Going through my personal hell I learnt some of the deepest insights into myself; what I consider as my most cherished values/beliefs. The take way for me is to know and live by my beliefs but hold them lightly and don’t take things so seriously. Holding onto anything too tightly restricts how you can be apply it in the chaotic stream of life and in the end only makes you suffer. Does this mean my values have changed after I come back from hell..?

… not sure..?

Stay well everyone :-)

Niall

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The one habit that as much as I try I cannot break

Some habits are so much part of us that we find it almost impossible to give them up, break or change them.

There is one habit that is blocking me being the most useful person I can be. And the more I consider human development and the psychology of workplace performance the more I am convinced that we should all try to loosen the grip this habit has on us.

In this post I outline my journey in wrestling with this habit and how my limited success has produced such staggering results that I’m now super motivated to spread the word (this blog being but one attempt to do this). Read on to learn more.

The habit I spend almost all my time working on is “selfing“. Or saying this in another way “making everything that goes on in my life being centered around my self and how happy, satisfied and in control I feel.” To be even more blunt SELFISHNESS is the ultimate habit that western society, the media, self-help books, wealth creation evangelists and marketers all emphasis as the sole purpose and end game for humans. You can have it all, be safe, happy and content if only you owned, experienced or had <insert product or service here>.

But this post is not about anti-consumerism it is about how I fell for this happiness trap. If only I could have/do/be…. then everything would be ok! I’ve climbed to the top of a few mountains only to be unsatisfied with the view and I think a lot of people are the same. Striving, climbing pushing themselves to be in control of their world making their self feel safe and satisfied (even if only for a fleeting moment) only to be disillusioned when they discover the emptiness of what they were chasing/grasping at.

My approach has changed recently to one where I seek to know myself not so I can have more happiness but to enable me to notice and then forget my self and then get on with what needs to be done rather than worrying about what I’m going to get out what I’m doing. Of course this is an almost impossible objective (to forget one’s self; be selfless), but nonetheless it is a worthy and noble life goal.

Most of my coaching clients have problems that almost exclusively come from them wanting something that their self sees as necessary, but could be argued is not appropriate for the current situation (their wants are extra and in the way). My job is to help people see past their self and objectively view a situation, know what needs to be done and then consider if they need to play a role. Usually we do the opposite and first consider what role our self will play in the situation and then consider the problem or issue. This me-first approach is backwards and  has created lots of issues for me and my career; nowadays I have a little faith that being self-less will work out better in the long run. And it seems to be working out…

Ah… I hear you all asking ” this is all great Niall, but how do we become more self-less?”.

Well stay tuned, I’m putting together a little e-course thingy that will help spread the word and help you all out on your journey. Email me if you want to stay tuned on this program as I’ll need to run my ideas past some people prior to going public.

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3 things I do that stop me getting “old”

I thought I’d share some tips for fighting off the inevitability of old age. Of course I’m posting this not as a narcissist but as a coach helping you to be an effective human right up until the point you call it quits and become worm food. Being 46 years young I’ve hit the point where my education plus world experience can be put to its best use from a work/life perspective. BUT… to keep myself in tip-top shape requires the adoption of certain habits that stop the decline (physical, mental) that comes with getting older.

So here are the three things that have made a significant difference to my ability to do good work. Significant is defined as “doing this resulted in a step-change (as opposed to incremental improvement) in my effectiveness”.

Meditating

The spiritual aspect of meditating aside, this practice has allowed me to witness myself stuffing up my own life. With the self-awareness that meditating provides I have been able to see how I get in the way of my own success, how I should spend more time getting my own shit together before I try and fix others. Working in the field of human performance I’ve been exposed to most theories and practices on self-improvement and I can say nothing comes close to meditation as a self-development tool. The reason people find it hard is because it is not a linear experience. What I mean by this is it is not like going to a one-day workshop, reading the course notes doing the self-help exercises and “voila!” you are a better person. Meditation is best described using the metaphor of walking in a misty rain. You do not notice you are getting wet but after a while you becomes soaked to the bone. Most people want to get a result quickly (tip a bucket of water over their head), but meditating does not work like that; its a slow burn benefit program. I sit daily for up to 45 min and have been for 6 years and have now reached the point where it is central to me being the best human I can be.

Brain-training

It has been proven that you can teach old brains new tricks. To maintain my brain’s abilities and work on the functions of my brain that under-perform I use scientifically researched neuroscience brain-training. Working out my brain is not only fun but has big payoffs in terms of quickness and flexibility of thinking under pressure. It keeps me sharp even on my “bad” days. I’ve never endorsed any service provider but in this instance I would recommend you look at Lumosity as a place to try some brain-training and explore the world of neuroscience. I spend about 5 minutes a day keeping my brain sharp and the website prepares what your brain needs to improve by creating a daily workout (very cool).

Yoga

Yoga gets you back into your body, grounds you and connects your psycho-spiritual self to your physical body. It integrates the mind-body-spirit with one aim; to help you be a more “in-balance” person, not be swayed and perturbed by life, improving your ability to take things as they come to you. Yoga makes you more resilient physically and mentally. If you have never been to yoga and think it is for hippies, well think again; its very much mainstream and is used by elite athletes, business people and of course hippies. I do a little yoga daily and attend a class 1-2 x per week. It is like a mini check-up, showing me where I’m out of alignment, constricted, blocked or weak.

What about you?

I think you should consider how you will maintain your awesomeness as you age. The above three things are my current things, you will have yours. You may paint, power-walk, do Tai-Chi, bushwalk, line-dance as your practices to maintain your effectiveness in work-life. But the one thing I would say is that these activities should be done as self-care practices and not recreational “fun” forms of entertainment (although you may have fun doing them, that’s not why you do them). What I mean by this is that these activities should be essential to your lifestyle and be done irrespective of whether you “feel” like it. For me I do not need convincing of the value of these activities. I just “know” they are good for me and support all the things I’m trying to do in my life. Therefore if I don’t do these practices I’m letting myself and the world down by not being at my best through making a small investment of time/effort.

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I’ve crossed to the other side, why don’t you join me?

As I grow more grey hairs and look back on my own personal and professional journey more and more I see a divide. This divide is like a wide rushing river. I’m on one bank looking across the river. From where I stand I see life as an adventure, a jungle gym as opposed to a ladder. My attitude is one of curiosity and desire to help others; this is in stark contrast to the people on the other bank of the river. They are self-involved, obsessed with controlling life and getting more security, safety, wealth and assets. I’ve been on that bank, I’ve hand millions of dollars of debt against a large portfolio of property in the hope of being able to retire early and live the ‘good’ life. I’ve been so into what I wanted that I missed decades of life due to being overly invested in a future happiness at the expense of being present and experiencing the richness of the present.

Don’t get me wrong, wealth, money etc. are not ‘bad’ it’s just overly obsessing past the point where we have enough (how ever much that is) causes us to become too self-centred and in the end makes us unhappy (as we will never have enough as long as this mindset persists).

Now all of this may sound a bit overly metaphorical but let me assure you this shift in my perception that moved me to the other bank of the river has had a profound affect on my personal and professional life. I now deeply believe that everyone has an obligation to raise their consciousness above their own selfish desires and start to look at what they can do to live more sustainably. Sustainability means not wrecking everything around you as you go through the world and living so that you balance the social, economic and environmental aspects of living whilst providing for yourself and dependents.

All my work, this blog and how I raise my kids is fuelled by the mission I’m on to live sustainably and help others realise that really we have no choice but to navigate our way to the other bank of the river. How each individual gets there is going to vary as much as there are people in the world. For me I discovered a path via meditation for others they work in nature, change careers or take a sabbatical from work to study philosophy (this is what my sister did). It does not matter what your path is and I’m not here to judge you or your life but to simply point the way to the other bank where I know we all need to be in order to be the best humans possible.

Good luck on your journey, be well.

Niall

 

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Lunch with the $6 billion Project Manager

On Sunday I had lunch with the CEO of a major infrastructure project. They had just closed one of Australia’s largest ever project finance transactions. Given that I’m currently putting together some soft skills training on negotiation I couldn’t help but ask…

“What do you think were the most critical soft skills you used to negotiate and close the deal?”

We all negotiate our way through life so I strongly suggest you read on to hear the answer the CEO gave and don’t forget to check out my little summary video at the end of the post that takes you through some of the themes in more detail:

50% hard/50% soft skills

To negotiate you need the hard skill (what to do and when) but the deal gets done using the soft skills, BOTH are critical to success. The CEO said that there were teams of people handling the various aspects of the deal but as the Lead she was responsible for managing the timing of who to bring in and when throughout the negotiation process. She said “you never know when you have to come back to the table” so bringing in the hard-nosed negotiators to early or too frequently can be harmful to the partnership that has to function after the negotiation is complete. In short it was her job to balance the mix between hard and soft skills.

Patience, patience, patience

This was emphasised over and over (it really was repeated three times). And if you check out the dictionary it seems appropriate:

“state of endurance under difficult circumstances”

So understanding the “long distance” nature of negotiations (especially mega ones) is the mindset of negotiation masters. Of course to be patient requires high levels of emotional intelligence and all the associated dimensions (perceiving, using and managing emotions). See the video at the end of the post for more on this.

Actively seeking out the other party’s “why?”

If you come to the negotiation table with only your agenda, failing to consider and make every attempt to know why the other party is entering the negotiation, then you increase the risk an inferior outcome (or no deal). Now this may sound trivial and obvious but think of the last time you had to negotiate, did you ask the other party about their why or just assume you knew it?

“Of course they just want the sale”

“This person is stalling on purpose, they are not ready to implement!”

“Salary is the main issues here…

There are things you can do to learn the other party’s “why”. One is to use coaching and facilitation techniques; these are key soft skills and fall into the “art” of negotiation rather than a hard skill. Ironically I don’t advise you actually use the word ‘why?’ as it is too direct. I suggest using ‘what‘, ‘how ‘and ‘tell me more‘ type of questions and think of yourself as a criminal investigator getting clues to solve a murder mystery.

Think partner not bargaining adversary

During our conversation the CEO mentioned a quote from the book ‘Lean In’ (by the COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg) that helped her during the negotiation. The story goes that when Sheryl was looking to be hired by Mark Zuckerman they were negotiating salary. Sheryl mentioned to Mark that he was hiring her as a negotiator and that this would be the last time that they would be sitting on the opposite sides of the table; next they would be partners in the business and that he would not respect her if she did not push for her full worth. This story reenforces the point that after a negotiation you need to have respect for your new partner AND a healthy working relationship. To me this says you need a soft (skill) touch as you move to close a deal whilst sometimes taking a hard line (don’t be a push over).

 Closing comments and further e-learning

To summarise what I learned from my lunch with the $6 billion PM I’ve put together my thoughts into this little 3 minute video; check it out! Also I’m needing some help from my readers to review an upcoming e-learning module I’m creating on this topic; more details are in the video. Please share this post or the video with people who you think may benefit.

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3 statements that cause most of life’s dramas

I went to a BBQ on the weekend and caught up with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in 15 years. The last time we met was in our 30s. He had married since and taken a corporate role. I asked him what he was up to and whether he was still into his poetry and literature.

The responses I got during our subsequent conversation included three two-word statements that are (in my opinion) the cause of most of life’s dramas.

In my coaching I see these statements come up all the time and I immediately challenge my clients when I hear them because every time I do we have a much-needed conversation re what is blocking them from being fully effective. In the space of a 5 minute conversation I heard him say he “had to grow up and earn more money”, you know Niall when you get married you “need to get a job that pays more” and finally finished with “you know you should really…”

My response to each of these statements was the same.

“Who says You have to, Should or Need to do anything!?”

 In other words who is this person (in your head) telling you all these things and why should you listen to him/her?

Your self-talk is the key to understanding the conditions you put onto yourself and your life. These conditions are “conditioned” into us by societal norms to the point where they become immutable beliefs. For example:

“Sooner or later you have to Grow up and get a real job where you earn six figures…

“poetry is a hobby not a career, you should get another more useful degree”

“I have to put my kids through private schooling”

Now I’m no different, I have a big basket of “should”, have to” and “need to” lines of self-talk going but more and more lately I’m catching myself in the act and challenging myself on exactly what I need to be doing in any given moment.

Put simply I’m living more consciously as a self-aware, “choice-full” person rather than being a slave to automatic reactions from conditioned self-talk.

 

Breaking the cycle

The gap between you receiving a stimulus (sound, sight, taste, touch, thought) and you responding (acting) is the space I work in as a coach. It is this gap in which choice resides that we as humans have ultimate power (no where else do we have control, only in the moment of choice). The key is knowing you have a choice and structuring your life so that you maintain enough space in your mental processes to leave room (a gap) where choice can be present. That’s half the challenge.

The other half of the challenge is to boost your self-awareness, live more consciously so that you see your “gap” being bigger and bigger to the point where you become lighter and less weighed down by all the non-essential conditioning you have taken on. The conditioning is still there but you are not its slave. In my coaching work I create a space where that gap is opened up for a period of time and I ensure you become aware of your conditioning by “playing back” to you what you are saying to yourself. By me highlighting your conditioning you are no longer under its spell and have created choice. This is cool and for some people quite enlightening; it also creates hope.

The other do-it-yourself technique to improving your self-awareness is mindfulness and mediation; which I’m a big fan of as a core life skill. Very small amounts of this produce huge returns. Try sitting still for a few minutes per day and check out my recorded webinar on exactly how to do this if you are interested.

That’s all from me for now, please comment and share this people who may need it  :-)

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Why you need to work part-time

Since the industrial revolution we workers have been following the employment model advocating a 40-hour week. In Australia getting agreement on a cap of 40 hours work/week took 93 years (1855 until 1948).

So I’d like to point out the obvious; guys we’re not in 1948 anymore and this 40-hour work week model is way out of date. I think the next shift is underway (and may take another 93 years) towards having a “portfolio” of work activities rather than one 40-hour / week job.

I don’t mean to say there aren’t flexible work options out there but I think you would agree part-time professional work is very hard to find. I’m not talking about working at a café or bookkeeping here (no offense) but 6-figure middle to high-income roles.

During our mid-life we all start asking questions of ourselves and the world. It may not lead to a crisis but we start to look for a different mix of things in life that align with our changing values (at some point we realise life/work is more than earning a big income).

Most people I talk to would give up a day per week of work to pursue activities that add meaning to their life or at least allow them to explore other interests outside of their chosen profession.

This does not mean they aren’t committed to their work but allows room for a person to explore and widen their perspective. Google gets this allowing people to work one-day per week on their pet “project”.

Recently I have been trying (very hard) to create my work portfolio with a mix of professional consulting and coaching/blogging. So far I would give myself a 4/10 score. But I am persisting because I truly believe this is how I can best serve others. Too much time consulting and I lose touch with what nourishes my soul (heart), too much time away from the corporate world and I feel my intellect (head) is being under-used/wasted. What about you, what’s your story..?

Close you eyes for a sec and try this visualisation:

Imagine you have re-structured your work life, imagine what it would be like to work a four-day week; exploring other things or generally unwinding and spending more time on nourishing pursuits…

What immediately comes into your head? Write it down. Any of these come up..?

“that’s selfish”

“that would never work in my company”

“I can’t afford to”

“if only…”

“that would be great BUT…”

This self-talk points to your source of “unhappiness” (blockers to fulfilment) in your current work/life portfolio. If you are currently frustrated and/or unsatisfied at work maybe all you need is some time out every week to help reset and reconnect back to what nourishes you. Don’t know what nourishes you…? then you definitely need to consider a re-structure of your work and maybe give me a call ;-)

Please forward this on to people who may benefit, thanks.

Niall

 

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