Employee engagement has become a topic of much focus in the corporate world. Many organizational and human resource experts have invested multiple hours and dollars to create a culture of engagement in the work place. This might seem outside the realm of the small business owner (for this article we are defining a “small business” as those companies with more than 1, but less than 50 employees). In addition to understanding what employee engagement is, it is important for small business owners to understand why it is necessary for them to take steps to develop it within their business culture.
What is meant by employee engagement? I might be easier to describe what it is not. Employee engagement does not mean employee happiness or satisfaction. An employee might be happy and satisfied while at work, but that does not mean that they are engaged. Being happy or satisfied does not mean that they are working hard or productively and operating on behalf of what they know is best for the company. When an employee is truly engaged, they are emotionally committed to the company for which they work and are compelled to offer more of their capability and potential. And what is the return on investment for a small business owner to put the time and finances into developing a culture of engagement? Engaged employees provide higher quality service, which leads to, improved customer satisfaction which results in, increased sales and profits.
So how does one create a culture of engagement? Here are 5 simple entry points to get you started:
The new year offers a fresh start and an opportunity to create new dreams and aspirations for ourselves. For many, this comes in the form of “New Year’s Resolutions”. Resolutions are typically framed around areas of our life that we feel need to change. When thinking through a resolution, the language of “should’ or “must” typically comes into play; “I should try to get the gym more often…”, “I must get some control over my spending habits….” This type of language calls forth our inner disciplinarian and most of the time, fails to be inspiring or motivational. Therefore, in 2018, I would like to encourage you to forego resolutions and instead focus on a more uplifting possibility to manifest change in your life:
Positive Affirmations:The word affirmation comes from the Latin affirmare, meaning to “make steady or strengthen”. An affirmation by definition, suggests that something exists or is true. Creating affirming and positive thoughts in our life is key to manifesting the experiences and feeling states that we want. According to Dr. Carmen Harra, “Affirmations do indeed strengthen us by helping us believe in the potential of an action we desire to manifest. When we verbally affirm our dreams and ambitions, we are instantly empowered with a deep sense of reassurance that our wishful words will become reality.” To include this powerful tool into your life, identify 3-5 positive affirmations that resonate with you and incorporate them into your daily life (check out Dr. Harra’s article for 35 amazing affirmatios that you can use: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-carmen-harra/affirmations_b_3527028.html). This could include taking time each morning to say them out loud, write them on sticky notes that you place around your living and work space so that you will see them often, record them as a voice memo on your phone so that you can listen to them. What ever works for you. The key is to be sure that you fully embrace the power of the idea and words in your affirmations.
Reflection on all that Went Well in 2017:This practice embraces positive psychology ideology which encourages the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives to cultivate what is best within themselves. Utilizing simple prompts such as “What am I most proud of from 2017?” or “What from 2017 do I want to encourage more of in 2018?”, or “The top 7 things that made my heart sing in 2017” can create powerful feelings of happiness and accomplishment. It is from this feeling state that we can make plans to continue embracing and developing positive experiences for the year to come.
Vision Board:A Vision Board is a fun and simple way to create a physical visualization of what you want to bring into your life. Visualizing the positive feelings and experiences that what we want helps create a positive energy that supports and guides their actual manifestation. If this sounds to “woo woo”, note that athletes have been trained in the use of visualization techniques for decades in order to improve performance. As explained by the “Make a Vision Board” website, vision boards can help you to:
Perfect Day Visualization:Take some time to think about what a “perfect day” in 2018 would look like. This should be something that is actually attainable, but a couple steps outside of what you typically allow yourself to enjoy. Maybe it involves using a flex day to sleep in late and spend the day lounging in your yoga pants binging on your favorite snack food and NetFlix show. Or maybe it is using a weekend or holiday to get out into nature and take a long hike with a friend or your dog. It could be identifying a time when you will finally enroll in a cooking class that you have always thought about. Think of all the details and feeling states that your “perfect day” would include. Document all this information in some form and then, set a deadline for when you will make that “perfect day” happen. Depending on what you plan, you could create 3-4 Perfect Days for the year. Getting in touch with the positive feeling states that you will experience on these special days will be a “pick me up” on the days are not so “perfect”.Word of the Year:This activity will help if you feel the need for focus and clarity. Frequently, if you make a list or complete a very open-ended journaling activity about what you do want in your life, you will see themes and patterns emerging. Once the theme or overarching pattern can be identified, “boil it down” to the one powerful word that encapsulates it to serve as your foundation for the year. Write the word down and have it in places where you can connect with it throughout the day as needed for decision making and grounding.
Possible word choices that may emerge are:
Consider this for a moment; all emotions and feeling states are created by how we react to our thoughts. As a business owner, I know that I want to feel happy and successful as a professional. What would I be thinking if I felt happy, successful, sure of myself as a professional? This is what I need to ask myself so that I can identify the thought! For example, if I felt happy and successful as a professional, thoughts that I would be having include, “I know what I am doing”, “I am great at this,” “I have something to offer that others want and value.”
Once I identify the thought(s), I need to realize that I CANNOT wait until circumstances changes to begin thinking those in that way. If I do not recognize this, the thought patterns I will engage with can resemble the following: “When I am successful, I will be confident that I know what I am doing,” “When things start happening, then I will know that I am great at this,” “Success will be the indicator that I have something to offer that others want and value.”
When we engage with our life in this way, we are coming from a place of lack. This type of thinking comes with a negative energy. Think desperation. How do you feel when you are experiencing desperation? What are the thoughts that accompany the feeling of desperation? Note the relationship between them. Everyone will feel desperation differently in their bodies (tightness in chest, hunched shoulders, burning in stomach, rapid breath, tension in brows, etc.). The energy associated with this feeling, no matter where it occurs in the body, is negative and uncomfortable. Think about a time that you were interacting with someone who was experiencing their own sense of desperation or intense wanting. You are energetically aware of it and on some level, it can feel uncomfortable or even repulse you. You may want to retreat from this person. Or, it may cause you to try to use your own positive energy to comfort this person and diminish their negative vibe which ends up emotionally and physically exhausting you. Point being, coming from a place of lack and desperation for circumstances to change DOES NOT support the process of manifesting what you want in your life.
What if instead, you were able to identify the thought(s) and feeling state(s) that you associate with a positive change in circumstances and embraced them right now? If the positive thought you want to believe is, “I am successful,” and the feeling state that would accompany this thought is lightness, smile on my face and in my heart, calm and sturdy feeling in my torso, then why not begin thinking and feeling that way right now? “Because I don’t have a change in my circumstances that tells me I’m successful at the moment and warrants those thoughts and feelings.” you say. To which I reply, “Chasing after the positive thought(s) and feeling state(s) from a place of desperation and negative energy will only make obtaining them that more elusive and unattainable.” A proverbial dog chasing its tail.
I invite you to bring this practice into your life and see notice what you are able to manifest. I’m not promising that it will be easy. Being in tune and aware of our thoughts and feelings takes time and focus. Start by noticing the thought patters that are coming from a place of lack. How could they be re-written to reflect abundance and positive energy? How will you patiently and lovingly re-direct your non-positive thoughts and feelings to those that better serve you?
As a coach, I support my clients in this process so that they can successfully develop thoughts and feeling states that better serve them in manifesting their desired future. Want to learn more about how partnering with me can serve you? Sign-up for a free 20-minute consultation to learn more.
Thoughtfully Emotional: 3 Ways to Engage with Your Thoughts and Emotions for Positive Personal Growth
The powerful relationship between thoughts and emotions or feelings is not always clearly understood. People often think that the emotions or feelings that they experience are caused by external events, situations, or the actions of others. The truth is, it’s what we think about these things that really determines how we feel. “Cognitive fusion” is the psychological term used to describe the overidentification we have with our thoughts that tricks us into believing that they are facts. Not being present and knowingly connected with our thoughts and subsequent emotional state, can lead to behaviors of suppression or buffering. These behaviors can then lead us to drink more, eat more, spend more, judge or doubt ourselves more, look outside ourselves for how we should be feeling more, etc.
As a trained Martha Beck Institute Life Coach, I was taught the importance of the thought – emotion relationship and it served as the foundation of our coaching framework. When I am working with a client, I utilize a variety of tools and questioning techniques to help them identify and engage with thoughts and feelings to move forward in positive ways. Below are three empowering practices to intentionally connect with your thoughts and emotions and ensuing behaviors:
Understand the Mind-Body ConnectionThe first thing everyone should do is become hyper-tuned in to how their body emotionally reacts to different thoughts and emotions. This can be done using an activity known as the Body Compass. Step one, is to find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably. Step two, think of a time that was very sad and unsettling. Not all-out trauma, but deeply unpleasant. Replay the thoughts and images and relive the feelings and emotions of that time. Then, note where you are feeling it in your body. Is there a tightness? Is there a pain or an ache? Note the feeling. Then on a scale from -10 (highly unpleasant) to +10 (highly pleasant), assign it a scale number (0 = “neutral” on this scale). Step three, think of a time that was incredibly joyful; i.e. deeply pleasant. Replay the thoughts and images and relive the feelings and emotions of that time. Once again, note where in your body you are feeling it. Then assign a number from -10 to +10 for that feeling. You have now “calibrated” your Body Compass. From here on, put it into practice whenever you are having a thought that is causing an unpleasant or pleasant emotional response. Feel into your body and be fully present and connected to the thought, emotion and feeling. Neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor in her book, My Stroke of Insight, explains that the electric brain circuitry for a thought, an emotion or an urge lasts only 90 seconds if it’s NOT reinforced, but just watched (2007). Using the Body Compass practice will increase your level of thought and emotion awareness. This will allow for a better sense of control of the behaviors that might result from your thoughts and emotions.
Become the Curious Observer of Your Thoughts:
This practice will help break down the cognitive fusion by helping you: 1. attach to the thought less, 2. believe it less and 3. recognize it is not a fact, but a thought. As stated by Deepak Chopra, “The goal is to be the observer of your thoughts and not let your thoughts control you.” When you feel a thought seeping in, especially one that is going to rate below “0” on your calibrated Body Compass (see practice number 1), do not suppress or ignore it, but NAME it. The following statement said out loud is very helpful for this, “I am having the thought that (insert thought).” For example, a thought that I had to acknowledge and work with so that it would no longer have the power over my feelings and emotions was “my worth is determined by others’ opinion of me.” That thought was very powerful and registered at about a -7 on my Body Compass. I began with, “I am having the thought that my worth is determined by others’ opinion of me.” Saying that statement out loud and naming the thought as only a thought, took away its crushing power. The awareness statement became even more powerful when I said, “I notice I am having the thought that my worth is determined by others’ opinion of me.” Now I was the one in control due to my perceptive noticing!
Compare and Despair:Do you ever scroll through your social media feeds and think your own life does not measure up? It's called “compare and despair syndrome”, and it can cause feelings of anxiety and even depression. The first step to deal with this is to note to yourself, WITHOUT judgement, “I am in the zone of compare and despair”. The next step in the practice requires you to analyze one of the people that you are comparing yourself to – the person that you think you envy. Next, write down all the thoughts you have for why you envy them. You can be as petty as you need. Unleash your “inner brat” – just remember to tell yourself “I am choosing to behave like a brat”. For example, I did this with another established professional coach. Here were some items from my list: they have a better website, they are always creating/posting professional things 24/7, they are always busy, they have a huge following, they are in multiple leadership positions, they are sought after by many people…. The list went on. When I reviewed the list, I started to feel exhausted. “How do they do it?”, I thought, “I don’t ever want to be that busy.” The trick to this exercise when you complete and review the list is to ask yourself, “Can I really have all that?” which most of the time you can answer, “Sure.” The next question to ask is, “Do I really want all of that?”, which in my case I answered, “No thanks. I am happy with what I have got.”
Want a coach to help you lean and successfully utilize these and other thought busting practices so that you can move forward with your dreams and goals?
Contact me at: email@example.com or 970-481-3528
An insight into the importance of understanding your stories and thought patterns to create the future you want.
This is my first official blog post for 2019. I personally feel that everyone is overwhelmed in January with new year content. Therefore, I decided to wait a month, until all the virtual and social media “noise” was tuned down before offering up my insights and empowering messaging. Besides, if you are like me, February is the “hump” month of winter and you need some inspiration to get you through to the promise of spring in March.
My topic for this month is gratitude. As a career and life clarification coach, I serve as a guide and support for individuals on a journey towards professional fulfillment. When I work with a client, I want to be sure that they understand that at the beginning of any journey, gratitude is a good place to start. But this is not just my personal perspective. There is a lot of focus on gratitude these days as a pathway to improve overall well-being.
Merriam-Webster defines gratitude as a “state of being grateful and expressing thankfulness.” A February 2017 blog post from the Positive Psychology Program webpage takes it one step further. “Positive psychologists contend that gratitude is more than feeling thankful for something, it is more like a deeper appreciation for someone (or something,) which produces longer lasting positivity.”1 In his book, Authentic Happiness, Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D. explains that “gratitude amplifies the savoring and appreciation of the good events gone by…” However you define it, having a sense of it and bringing a practice of it into your own life is important. If you want to assess where you are presently are with regards to your personal level of gratitude, you can find a copy of the best documented gratitude test developed by Michael McCullough and Robert Emmons here: http://local.psy.miami.edu/faculty/mmccullough/gratitude/GQ-6-scoring-interp.pdf
One of the most popular methods for establishing a practice of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. This practice requires that you document four to five things that you are grateful for in your daily life experience at least two-three times per week. You can go to Amazon and purchase journals that were specifically designed to inspire and guide you through this writing process. There are even apps for your phone to help you systematize the practice.
While gratitude journals are a good place to start (I have personally done it and have had my clients engage in it as well), there is another practice that I recently discovered that for me, took the experience to a whole new level.
When I would personally sit to document my three things/experiences that I was grateful for during my designated writing time, I would find myself really stretching and challenging myself to come up with something worthwhile, something new, something interesting, etc. Instead of being a positive and motivational experience, it became a mundane and almost dreaded task. Then one day, while listening to a podcast by the fabulous master coach, Brooke Castillo, I was introduced to a new way of writing what I was grateful for in my life and recognize the abundance that my life truly provided. The process was simple. Using the following sentence frame, “I want __ (fill in the blank) ___ and I already have that,” you create a list of 10-12 things that you want in your life and that you already have. For example, here are some of mine: “I want a healthy daughter and I already have that”, “I want to be my own boss and I already have that,” “I want a loving husband and I already have that,” etc. I was able to knock out 25 things that “I want” and that I “already have” in about 12 minutes. I am not exaggerating when I share that at the end of this writing experience there were tears of joy and gratitude for all that I had in this wonderful life that is mine. I just sat there, and in Seligman’s words, truly savored how delicious and amazing my life was. If there was an apparatus that could measure my positive energy at that moment, it would have been off the charts. And as you know, when you are a beacon of positive energy, all kinds of amazing things can be manifested in your life! But if you didn’t know that, check out my June 2019 blog post to learn more.
Till then, challenge yourself to identify ten things that you want in your life that you already have to elevate your gratitude and abundance energy levels.
Want to learn more? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-481-3528 or schedule a free 20-minute consultation
For the majority of my clients, the career clarification process is about much more than finding a job. It’s about connecting with their essential-self and finding a way to bring that connection into their professional and personal life. The process is emotional since it involves dreaming and goal setting which can awaken that part of our brain that fears the unknown or reaching beyond the “status quo.” One of my master coaches at the MBI during my life coach training shared the idea that “most of us prefer to remain in a known hell rather than venture into the possibilities of an unknown heaven.” It is for that reason that this work becomes emotional and why having the support of a coach for the journey is beneficial. This multi-part blog series has focused on the relationship between our thoughts, emotions and beliefs. We need to remember that the emotions we experience during any and all events in our life are NOT created in response to a situation, but in response to our thoughts about the situation.
In part 2 of this series, we introduced the “voice” in our head that we ALL have. We also stressed the importance of remembering that this “voice” is NOT who you are; you are aware of the voice and you are the presence that witnesses the voice, but you are NOT the voice. Knowing that is what allows you to observe what your inner “voice” is thinking; i.e. self-observation or self-awareness.
There are some common Thinking Traps (or in psychological terms, cognitive distortions) that the “voice” uses. We introduced Personalization, Catastrophic Thinking and Mental Filtering in the last blog. In this blog, we will look at three more.
“Should…” or “Must…” Thinking Trap:
You may have experienced situations when the “voice” is telling you that “you should do this…”, “should not do that…”, or “must do this…”, etc. The truth about “should” and “must” statements is that they are usually based on what we think others believe we should do, rather than what we truly want. They can cause us to make unrealistic and unreasonable demands on ourselves that are hard to attain and can result in our beating ourselves up and feeling guilty. Typically, we don’t even want to achieve them; the only reason we try is to please others. Some examples might be, “I really should stick with this accounting job since everyone in my family has always been in accounting” or “I must work-out 5 times a week or my partner will think I am lazy” or “I shouldn’t pursue that art degree because that’s what irresponsible people do.”
To successfully work through this thinking trap, question whether the thing you are telling yourself you “should” or “must” do is really in alignment with what you want or need to do to connect with your essential-self and create a feeling state of happiness. Ask yourself, “Am I doing this for my own betterment or to please someone else?”
“All-or-Nothing” Thinking Trap:
This distortion, also known as “black-and-white thinking,” sets an unreasonable rule in which any outcome less than perfect equates to awful. It occurs when a person cannot see the “gray” areas in situations. It can cause a person to become stuck between two extremes which makes it hard for them to compromise with others or make a decision since other emotions and feelings that exist in between the extremes are not considered.
For example, a person that fails at something new and therefore thinks that they are a total failure without recognizing that they may just need additional practice or that they could learn from that event for future improvement. Let’s look at an example of this during a job interview as described in the April 2015 blog post by CBT Los Angeles:
During the interview, you are caught off-guard by a question, and do not answer it as well as you would have liked. If you view this experience through the lens of all-or-nothing thinking, you are likely to discount your performance during the other 95% of the interview and think that it was “horrible” and a “thorough waste of time,” triggering feelings of disappointment and shame.
To work through this thinking trap, take steps to begin acknowledging the “shades of gray” in situations and experiences. Use positive self-talk such as, “That one interview question caught me off guard, but the rest of my answers were solid.”
“Jumping to Conclusions” Thinking Trap“
Jumping to Conclusions” is a thinking trap; that causes us to make irrational assumptions about people and circumstances. This can result in creating a negative conclusion about something even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support that conclusion. Rather than looking for evidence that will bring us to a logical conclusion, we set our sights only on our own devised negative conclusion and then look for evidence to back it up. For example, a person might avoid attending a social function because they have convinced themselves that they will not have fun or that the experience will go badly for them. That person than focuses on every story or possibility of what could or has gone wrong for others at a social event.
This thinking trap can also take on the form of “mind reading” where we assume that we know what someone else is thinking or what their intentions are. Examples of “mind reading” thoughts: “That person doesn’t respect me because I don’t have a college education like they do,” or “They obviously don’t like me otherwise they would have invited me to coffee the other day.”
To successfully work through this thinking trap, you must begin questioning whether other explanations or possibilities exist. Challenge your thinking and acknowledge that the conclusions you have developed are not based on facts or concrete evidence, but rather based on personal feelings, opinions and biases.
“Thinking traps” can trap all of us at one time or another.
If you want support to identify and overcome “thinking traps” during your career and life clarification journey, let’s connect. email@example.com -or- 970-481-3528
Last month’s blog explained the Fallacy of Control and how it can impede an individual’s ability to rationally navigate life’s situations and experiences. This month, we will explore some of the “Thinking Traps” that we can all fall victim to and that can get in the way of our attaining or career and professional growth goals.
Meet the “Voice”
This visual provides an insight into the power of our thoughts and how they can impact our day-to-day experiences.
The majority of us live in a constant state of reactivity, being pushed and pulled by the thoughts and emotions we experience. It can feel as though we are controlled by a “voice” in our own head; a “voice” that worries about everything that can go wrong, criticizes us for everything we do wrong, and makes us feel guilty or angry about everything that went wrong. This “voice” provides an instantaneous interpretation of every situation. Typically, we don’t question the “voice”, just like we don’t question our breathing. It is part of our unconscious operating system. When we tune into the “voice” and its message(s) we feel and act based on the “voice’s” interpretation of our situation.
We all have that “voice” in our head. The important thing to remember is that this “voice” is NOT who you are. You are aware of the voice and you are the presence that witnesses the voice, but you are NOT the voice. Knowing this allows you to observe what the “voice” is thinking. This is called self-observation or self-awareness. This is the first step to increase your sense of control; becoming aware of the “voice”. Then you can “listen” for patterns or stories that the “voice” tries to tell you. There are 10 common Thinking Traps (or in psychological terms, cognitive distortions) that the “voice” can subscribe to. In this blog, we will look at three of them.
This thinking trap occurs when we have a mental filter that focuses only on negative events or outcomes and completely ignores or overlooks all of the positive experiences in our life. When the voice is speaking through this thinking trap it is pointing out all that is negative in our life and creating an overall negative perspective of the world. To overcome this cognitive distortion, you need to develop the habit of looking for the good within situations or experiences and practicing daily gratitude.
When this thinking trap is in action, the voice is telling us that we are the cause for all that goes wrong in our life. We end up blaming ourselves for everything that didn’t turn out the way we expected and tend to live the life of a victim of circumstance. To successfully work through this thinking trap, question what part you played in the outcome and how you might not be entirely to blame.
This thinking trap drives us to look at an experience or outcome in a way that completely blows it out of proportion. It can occur in two ways. While we are experiencing an unexpected event or when we are considering an action or experience and we begin to identify all of the things that could go wrong. This leads to intense anxiety and sometimes failure to commit or move forward with a necessary action or decision. To begin conquering catastrophic thinking, examine your thoughts and ask yourself if things are truly as bad as you are making them out to be and/or acknowledge that the worst-case scenario that you are creating in your mind and reacting to is not reality, just a thought.
In the next blog, we will continue to explore the common thinking traps that we all experience at some time and strategies for conquering them.
If you want a coaching partner to help you better understand and conquer the internal “voice” that is keeping you from manifesting the career and life you truly want, reach out via email or phone: firstname.lastname@example.org -or- 970-481-3528.
Navigating the career clarification or transition process can be overwhelming. This is a time when it can feel like your life and even your future is out of your control. In this multi-part blog series, I will share insights and coaching tips on how to feel more in control back during this process.In this first blog, we will examine why we why can feel out of control of our own lives.
The FallacyThere are two components to what is known as the Fallacy of Control:
Locus of ControlIn psychology, the fallacy is called the “locus of control” and defined as the “degree to which we do and don’t believe we have control over the outcome of events in our lives.” The person who believes that they can (or should be able to) influence all events and outcomes in their life is said to have a strong or dominant internal locus of control. At the other extreme is the person who believes they have no control over most everything that happens. They are said to have a strong or dominant external locus of control. You can measure where you fall on the locus of control continuum by taking the Locus of Control assessment.
Both extremes can be emotionally unhealthy. The goal is to establish a balanced locus of control with a realistic view of what you do and don’t have control over. The truth is that there are certain areas of life that you do have control over and some you do not. When you are aware of what you can and cannot influence, you can develop more realistic expectations which will help you stop feeling stuck, powerless, or out of control. You will know how, where and on what
to focus your effort and what you can let go or not beat yourself up about.
As a trained life coach and a certified holistic narrative career and life clarification professional, I help clients identify where a control fallacy might be impeding their ability to move forward or successfully obtain a life or career goal. This process is guided by the OneLife Tools Becoming Empowered & Proactive in Your Career & Life Choices model. Through the use of reflective questioning, Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Mindset interventions and tools, I can help clients in the initial coaching stages break free from limiting thoughts and behaviors to obtain the career and life that they truly want and deserve.
Contact me at 970-481-3528 or email@example.com to learn how I can support your career or life transition.
Nikki Stansfield is trained as a professional coach and loves to support anyone who wants to intentionally create something meaningful within their professional lives.