Two types of cheese with corn on toast – what makes you feel appreciated?

My daughter was terribly excited about making me breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day. It was all her idea and she was very decided about it. When the day finally came I let her loose in the kitchen under the supervision of my partner.

With an enormous smile of pride on her face she served me two types of cheese with corn on toast.

Perhaps it’s the makings of a new craze in breakfast. It might even dethrone the famed avocado and feta smash. Or not.

It doesn’t really matter. What mattered was she made a genuine effort to show me that she loved and appreciated me.

Science shows that feelings like gratitude and appreciation set off a cascade of feel-good neurotransmitters in our brain. It feels good to do good. It also feels good to tell others that what they did made you feel good. And it feels good to hear that what you did made someone feel good.

It’s an all-round win:win really. Whether you’re showing appreciation or feeling appreciated.

The problem is that sometimes we don’t always, or easily, recognise when someone is trying to show us they appreciate us. That’s because we all have different ways of showing we care – be that words, gestures, actions, gifts, quality time etc (Gary Chapman, 1995). And if the way we show appreciation doesn’t line up with the other person, things can easily go awry.

What might start out as a genuine effort to do good or be kind could be completely misconstrued.

If I was judging breakfast in terms of the avocado-and-feta-smash-trend, then my daughters innovative and novel take on breakfast might seem completely outlandish and something café society isn’t quite ready for. But looking at breakfast as the results of some incredibly creative thinking on the part of a little girl working with a poorly stocked fridge and her sheer determination to make mum breakfast in bed – well, this leads one to an entirely different conclusion.

What’s useful here is stepping outside of our own world view when it comes to what we define as “good” and simply stepping back to observe the intention behind someone’s words and actions.

Then recognise and value that for what it is.

If we all did this just a little more often at work, we might even have better working relationships with those around us.

Think about someone you work with.

What opportunity do you have to tell or show them you really appreciate them?

 

For more information refer to:

The Neuroscience of Gratitude

https://www.whartonhealthcare.org/the_neuroscience_of_gratitude

 Giving Thanks can make you feel happier

https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

 The Five Languages of Love, Gary Chapman 1995

Switch on your right brain

Everyone has different things they do to help switch from work mode and wind down. My partner gave me this 6000-piece puzzle for my birthday last year and I absolutely love it! I often find myself sitting in the evening sorting pieces, matching colours and slowing working on one part or another. It sounds a little strange, but it really grounds me and the sense of satisfaction I get when I place a piece is positively extraordinary. My partner and I can spend hours working on it together too. I know, I know, some people head off to swanky restaurants to hang out, but we prefer the quieter time the puzzle affords us together. Quietly working away until one or the other fits a piece, then we share this lovely moment of excitement as we acknowledge we now have “one piece less to go!” The awesome thing about doing something like this is that it helps you switch on your right brain, the side of the brain responsible for seeing the whole picture, for immediate sensory experience and creative problem solving. And you can feel it too, as you start to completely immerse and absorb yourself in the exercise and “see” how things fit together.

What do you do to switch mindset or relax on your own or with your loved ones? We’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions.

 

 

Strengthen Your Core to Support Your Spine

Many of us sit slumped in chairs for long periods of time. This gradually starts to weaken the core. When this happens, we also lose essential support to help the spine stay upright and in a healthy position.

This video demonstrates a simple technique you can engage periodically through the day to re-build your core strength and start to support your spine again.

We teach loads of simple practical techniques like this as part of our Wellbeing & Mindfulness Sessions. If you’re interested to know more, we’d love to hear from you.

Moving Through – The Secret to Resilience

Moving through

I’ve had an utterly disastrous week. No one major thing, just a confluence of small setbacks which, as they piled one on top of the other, have tested my resilience.

It started on Sunday night with an acerbic email from my ex which left me awake most of the night worrying about lawyers, settlements and finances. So, I started the week somewhat stressed and seriously sleep deprived.

By Tuesday I had dropped my phone in the toilet. Yes. In the toilet. And no. Don’t ask. I have no idea how. No amount of drying, waving, patting or hoping was going to bring that baby back from its shitty demise.

Needless to say, my Wednesday was consumed by the painful process of getting re-connected with the modern world.

Thursday, I got locked out of the house with no handbag, no wallet, no phone. Grrrr.

Then my date for the evening cancelled on me. Mmm. Disappointing.

By Friday I thought surely its done. What else could happen right? But no. Those little frustrations just kept rolling on in.

When I went to drop the keys back to the agent. The office was closed.

When I went to drop my shoes to get repaired. “Sorry back in 15 minutes” read the sign.

When I tried accessing my invoicing system. It was offline. Aaaaah.

By Friday night when I really did think it was all done. I poured myself a glass of wine ready to deflate and chillax. No no no. Even that was too much to ask. The glass of wine slipped through my fingers shattering into what seemed like thousands of tiny shards across the kitchen and through the hallway.

Seriously!

When things like this happen, most of the time, we deal with it and move on. It’s when lots of them come flying at us that we start to feel stretched, pushed and tested. And this week certainly has tested me –physically, mentally and emotionally.

Yet what I found, was that in each moment, when something difficult transpires, we have a choice.

When I heard my phone plonk in the toilet bowl I could have yelled and cursed the gods. Or, I could take a breath in and a breath out and calmly fish it out, quietly dry it off and go to bed hoping it will work in the morning. When it didn’t, I simply rescheduled some meetings and got it sorted out.

When my friend pulled out of Thursday night at the last minute I could have got pissy and flustered. Or I could simply course correct and zip to the markets to buy some food, drop into a yoga class and come home to make myself a lovely meal and enjoy some peace and quietude.

When the glass shattered – yes I did say F*******k! Then I took a breath in and out and quietly got down on my hands and knees and cleaned the floor.

As I did I managed to smile to myself as I recalled a conversation I’d had with a student earlier in the week. She’d been away on holidays and come home to her fridge turned off and a ton of rotten food. She was going home after our class to clear it out.

“We can approach the crappy tasks in life with a sense of annoyance and frustration or we can choose to do them with sense joy and gratitude. Go home, crank the music and clean the fridge with joy” I said.

Kneeling on the kitchen floor at a point where I could laugh or cry, it was the moment to swallow a dose of my own medicine.

So, on my hands and knees at 9pm on Friday I cleaned the kitchen floor and chose to think of all the nice things that happened throughout the week.

On Wednesday, Amy the sales assistant at Vodafone had been positively extraordinary. She went over and above to get me a phone, to set it up and even helped me with my wifi too. I walked out fully functional and completely reconnected.

On Thursday when my friend cancelled, it created an opportunity to go to a yoga class instead. I focused my practice that night entirely on my mind set. On each inhalation, a positive affirmation. Each exhalation, a deliberate letting go of the negative self-talk.

Then on Friday morning I got an unexpected phone call. Suava and I had recently been on a training program together. She called to share some good news. When she finished her story she turned around and asked me to brag about something awesome I’d done this week.

I sighed deeply. “Oh Suava, it’s been a hell of a week. I don’t think I can answer that.” Then I paused. I took a breath in and a breath out and said “Actually despite the fact it’s been such an awful week I’ve done my best to work through it. So, I’m going to pat myself on the back for remembering to breathe. For staying calm. And moving through.”

We often mistake resilience for strength. Feeling a need to stand rigid and strong in the face of the storm. Weathering it like a cliff face naked against the thrust of the ocean.

We grit our teeth and tough it out.

This is not resilience.

Over time the cliff erodes, changes shape and gets worn down. Rocks crumble and crash to the ocean floor. As mere humans, we do the same thing. Eventually we too crumble and crash.

Resilience is the ability to more readily come back to equilibrium when we feel stretched and stressed.

Rather than standing in rigid confrontation with the eye of the storm, we effortlessly bend and adapt. Move fluidly through the experience a little more like bamboo. Accepting each experience and emotion. In each moment mindfully choosing how we wish to respond.

The best tool we have available to help us do this is our breath.

Each time you stop and take a purposeful breath in and a deliberate breath out you are finding your moment of choice.

To scream and yell and fight it. To swim against the tide.

Or.

You can choose a different response.

To move through it. To swim with the tide. Accept what has happened with a calm quietude. Mindfully choosing how you will respond now. And now. And now. And now.

Knowing this too shall change.

So, when the tide flows against you, breathe in and out. Fully posses your power to make a choice and move more fluidly through the rough patches.

If you’re interested to know more, let us know. The M.A.D. team would love to help.

With love and gratitude from all of us at M.A.D. Mindworks.

Happy International Yoga Day!

The Possibilities of Yoga are Infinite

International Yoga Day is a lovely reminder of the beautiful unifying force of this ancient and enduring practice. While I am unable to participate in some of the larger celebrations today, I will be celebrating yoga in my own small ways throughout the day.

Perhaps you can find a little yoga in your day too?

MOVE & BREATHE: My day has started with a simple flowing movement practice focussed simply on breathing and moving. It’s left my heart feeling full and my gratitude flowing freely – this is the discipline of yoga, the intentional practice we engage in on a regular basis.

It doesn’t have to take long or look like some frightening pretzel-like shape. It can be as simple as standing and breathing purposefully for a few moments before you step into your morning shower.

CONNECT: As I move into my day I’ll be running a workshop with a team focussed on tapping into the power of positivity. We’ll be examining how this can help us strengthen and deepen our connections with each other, as well as our resilience – this too is yoga. While it might not look like a regular yoga class, this purposeful focus on fostering balance and cultivating certain qualities to connect with oneself and the world around us is, in many ways what yoga is all about.

FEEL: By later this afternoon I will be attending my daughter’s school assembly to see her receive a special award, heart beaming with the pride of a mother. This too is yoga. Traditionally known as Bhakti yoga, it is the conscious practice of love, service and devotion. The role of parent naturally predisposes us to those practices where we honour and nurture a love for something much bigger than ourselves and we can tap into this in all spheres of our lives.

A little yoga while scooting. Why not?

 

OBSERVE: When I sit down to dinner with my daughter and some friends tonight, we will go around the table and share something that happened during our day for which we are grateful. This too is yoga. The deliberate, mindful cultivation of conscious feeling and observation.

So next time you say something like ‘oh I can’t do yoga, I’m not flexible enough’, I encourage you to think more broadly and deeply about what this ancient practice really can be.

You might just find you’re already a yogi.

You just didn’t know it.

Happy International Yoga Day.

With Love and Gratitude from the team at M.A.D. Mindworks.

Dimensions of Wellbeing

Foster abundance, energy and vitality

Today is World Health Day and a great opportunity to reflect on our wellbeing.  Although it’s a complex concept with many layers of meaning, if you ask most people they’d all agree that their health is important to them. Without good health, it’s much harder to live life to the fullest.

What’s exciting is that wellbeing is starting to be taken far more seriously in the workplace and there is also more and more serious research into the topic from the health sciences to the field of positive psychology.

I like to think of wellbeing as fostering abundance – of energy, vitality and zest for life.

A simple way for us to examine our wellbeing to consider

  1. Are we healthy of mind?
  2. Are we healthy of body?
  3. Are we healthy of spirit?

These are deeply entwined and interrelated with each impacting on, and shaping the other. And for each person, our relative emphasis on these dimensions will inevitably be different. Moreover, what helps one person foster wellbeing in each of these areas will look and feel different to another.

What matters is that you have a balance across all these areas and a variety of tools up your sleeve to help you promote your overall health and wellbeing.

Below are some simple tips for fostering wellbeing.

MIND

  1. Schedule some reflection time – do you start your day booting up your computer and diving straight into email? Each morning for the next week, see if you can start your work day in a different way. Perhaps give yourself 15-30 minutes of quiet reflection time, thinking about the most important tasks you need to achieve, the relationships you want to foster, and the impact you want to have on others in the process. Give yourself an opportunity to focus on what matters most.
  2. Notice the substance and quality of your thoughts – we spend a large part of our day on autopilot and often miss some key opportunities in the process. Periodically throughout the day, take some time to notice the sorts of things you think about. What does the dialogue inside your head sound like? Do you give yourself grief about stuff? Are you preoccupied with small trivial matters? In particular, can you tune into the negative self-talk and rewrite it to be more positive and self-affirming?
  3. Pause – It seems that the pace of work is more and more frantic with each month that passes. We bounce from task to task, meeting to meeting, without much, if any time to think. When you move from one task to another can you stop and take 3 deliberate slows breaths? Give yourself a little mental space.

BODY

  1. Increase your incidental  movement – when it comes to physical wellbeing there’s loads of focus on exercise, and rightly so. But we don’t always have time to hit the gym to bring some movement into our day. Can you expand the way you see ‘exercise’ and look for ways to bring more incidental movement into your day? What opportunities do you have to move more where you are? Can you go for a walk and talk with a colleague, take the stairs, or jump off the bus or train one stop early?
  2. Release tension – we hold a lot of our stress and tension in our bodies. Consider when you’re annoyed or tense what happens to your hands or shoulders or jaw for example.  Can you take a moment to notice the tension you’re holding onto in your body right now? Where it is? What can you do to ease that tension a little? Open and close your hands or roll and relax your shoulders or soften your jaw.
  3. Foster abundance and vitality – our lives are made up of a series of gentle habits. We get home from work, perhaps pour a glass of wine or flop onto the couch to put our feet up. Many of us spend time watching TV or engaging with multimedia. Can you carve out a new habit somewhere in here and opt to make a different choice today? Perhaps you’ll take a walk after dinner or skip the TV and read a book, go into the yard to play with the kids or opt to take a bath.

SPIRIT

  1. Connect with someone – social connection and a sense of belonging are absolutely vital to wellbeing. We come across people all day long, but how often do we take the time to truly connect with them, ask them more than the requisite ‘how are you’ and then take the time to really listen to their response? Is there an opportunity for you to connect more meaningfully with someone today?
  2. A little kindness – it feels good to do good. All the research tells us this. So why not create an opportunity each day to do something small for someone else? It could be a simple as lending an ear or stopping yourself from interrupting to allow them to finish their thought or giving them some positive feedback.
  3. Be generous – like kindness, all the research points to the feel-good component of being generous. And being generous doesn’t have to be with money or things. Are there opportunities for you to be more a little more generous with your time or with your words? Can you find and share the positive in someone or something or bring a little extra energy and enthusiasm to your next meeting? These are all ways of sharing a little something with others and being generous.

World Health Day is a wonderful reminder for all of us to bring our health and wellbeing into conscious focus more often. It can start with bringing one small thing into your day.

Feel free to add and share your own ideas to the list we’ve shared here – we’d love to hear your suggestions!

From all the team at M.A.D. we wish you well!

Get Energised!

Use this breathing technique to generate energy and focus

This recorded breathing practice focusses on extending the inhalation.

When you extend your inhale you activate the Sympathetic Nervous System which has an energizing effect on the body and creates greater mental alertness.

When you listen to the audio recording focus on cultivating a comfortable and soft breathing cycle.

This is best done in the morning as you start your day or at any point in the day when your energy and focus wanes.

Be mindful not to strain or force the breath.

NOTE: DO NOT USE THIS TECHNIQUE if you are asthmatic or prone to respiratory problems.

This is a serious wake-up call

Gender Bias - an insidious force in our society

Gender Bias – an insidious force in our society

I was all psyched to tell my daughter that we were going to have the first female President of the United States. Now I have to face the reality of a misogynist, violent racist taking over the most powerful and influential office in the world – and elected by the very people he despises, dismisses and maltreats.

This is a devastating day for all women everywhere.

We must never forget how hard our mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers have fought to forge out a path of equality for all of us.

This is a bitter reminder that we still have a very long way to go to attain the status of true equality. A devastating signal that unconscious gender bias is a powerful and insidious force operating at every level and in every corner of our society.

That female leaders are held to impossibly different standards to men is illustrated in this painful example today.

How could the most qualified candidate in American history lose out to the blustering incompetence of an egomaniacal reality TV star and failed businessman? The answer lies in those deeply ingrained gender biases and expectations that sees strong, capable women being torn down not just by men but by their own gender.

I hope that all self-respecting women and men take this as a serious wake-up call today and use this as a springboard to consider how we can address these deeply ingrained biases to build a better, more equitable and more positive society for everyone.

Make Your Meetings Matter.

Meetings Matter

Meetings Matter

When it comes to meeting matters, well it’s a pretty abysmal state of affairs in most organisations. Unproductive meetings have been estimated to cost the US economy around $37 billion each year with around 15% of an organisation’s collective time spent in meetings. People routinely multi-task and 22% of participates send an average of three or more emails every 30 minutes in meetings. No wonder senior executives rate more than half of the meetings they attend as ineffective.

I saw this in action recently in what was unequivocally one of the most profound displays of poor meeting etiquette I have ever seen.

This marathon meeting started over an hour late. The meeting location wasn’t even firmed up or communicated until after the meeting was scheduled to start. It got completely side tracked for the first 60 or so minutes with participants bouncing around topics that were completely out of scope. Attendants popped in and out as they pleased, regularly zipping off to another meeting part way through. Most had laptops and were openly doing other things while the meeting was going on. One attendant not only flagrantly spent most of their time in their phone, they would periodically tell other attendees to check their phone too because something urgent was there they had to check. As a result the conversation kept circling back over old ground and it was incredibly difficult to move things forward.

“All care and no accountability” is how one colleague described it post the event.

I’ve worked in many places where meeting culture is dismal. Places where meetings never start on time and in spite of your best efforts, people routinely rock up completely cold, entirely unprepared for the task at hand. Inevitably large chunks of the meeting time are wasted getting everyone on the same page, primed and ready to contribute when they should have arrived ready and rearing to go.

Other organisations I work with describe themselves as having “a meeting culture”. A day of back to back meetings is considered normal and the bizarre practice of nominating people to go to a meeting in your place is common along with double booking your time. A mentality of feeling like you’re missing out if you don’t go seems to underpin much of this behaviour along with a sense that if you receive a meeting request you’re automatically obliged to accept it.

What all of this points to is an abject lack of the critical things that make meetings effective.

The not so small matter of meetings is that they really do matter. When done well – by all involved – they are dynamic forums that drive real engagement and progress around the stuff that matters most.

Meetings create the human connection that underpins the collaboration required to effectively analyse, solve, generate, and decide.

They have the potential to be powerfully productive – driving engagement, cultural change, productivity, continuous improvement and innovation.

To make them really effective we need three key things

  1. Preparation
  2. Presence
  3. Accountability

And these are precisely the things that are lacking in so many organisations and work cultures today.

The good news is that this can be easily addressed through asking three simple questions:

  1. Have you done adequate Preparation for the meeting?
  2. Are you prepared to be fully Present for the entire meeting?
  3. Do you have a real contribution to make for which you will hold yourself Accountable?

Consider the next meeting in your calendar. Unless the answer is yes to all three of these questions then I suggest you don’t go.

Then consider the next meeting invitation that pops up in your inbox. If the answer to these questions is unclear – take the time to check in and clarify with the meeting organiser.

  • What preparation are they expecting from you? (this should be specific and very clear)
  • What level of presence and engagement are they looking for from invitees? (the answer should be 100%).
  • What contribution are you expected to make? (just being there doesn’t count).

If the meeting organiser can’t answer these questions, then I suggest you decline the meeting.

In a workshop I ran recently this was a genuine revelation to all in the room. Firstly, the idea of declining a meeting was jaw dropping for most. Secondly the idea of taking ownership and calling the meeting organiser to ask these simple questions seemed rather daring. And finally the empowerment that comes with being able to decline attending a useless, ineffective, poorly planned and run meeting, was like a lightning bolt for most in the room.

Now, consider the next meeting you are about to schedule.

Can you step back and do more than generate a calendar invite? Can you take the time to Be Prepared, Be Present and Be Accountable?

Be Prepared

Be crystal clear on the intent and purpose of the meeting.

And no, let’s get this straight right now, information sharing or providing updates is not a good enough goal for a meeting.

Find a deeper reason to bring people together – one that uses their time productively, establishes real engagement, builds momentum and drives tangible outcomes.

  • Are you looking to; engage people around a new idea or change, gather inputs, assess outcomes, generate solutions or make a decision?
  • With that in mind, consider the structure that will facilitate this outcome.  What agenda or series of discussion items will achieve your aim?
  • Most importantly take the time to think through the interactions you are looking to facilitate. How will you engage people during the meeting? How do you expect them to engage with each other? What tools will support this engagement?

Foster Presence

Be clear on the mindset and energy levels required from you and your attendees throughout the meeting.

There is research that shows a more critical, even negative mindset and grounded energy is better for assessing and analytical tasks while a more optimistic, open mindset and higher energy is great for idea generation, innovation and solution generation.

  • What time of day will be conducive to the required mindset and energy?
  • How will you shape and influence the energy in the room through your presence and facilitation?

The trend of sending emails while in meetings is on the rise. Yet we know from the research that multi-tasking simply doesn’t work – attention is split, things get missed and neither task gets done well.

  • With this in mind, what will you do to ensure you are fully present during the meeting?
  • What will you do to invite your attendees to be fully present during the meeting?
  • Do you need to give them a few minutes to settle in?
  • Should you establish some explicit expectations around phone use and call out multi tasking?
  • Is it worth checking-in at the start to see what’s on people’s minds so you get a clear picture of what’s pre-occupying people and may detract from the meeting or derail it altogether?

Drive Accountability

One of the greatest misconceptions out there is that the only person responsible for the success of a meeting is the person who organises it.

It’s all care and no accountability right? Sure I’ll accept your meeting invite. Sure, I think I need to be across that area. But it’s your meeting in the end. I’ll attend. I won’t do any preparation. I’ll rock in late. I’ll check my phone and send emails while I’m there. I might throw out the odd question. Then I’ll leave and bounce off to the next meeting.

No. No. No. No. No.

The sooner we can get everyone in a mindset where we are all accountable for the success of a meeting the better.

You might organise, chair and facilitate the meeting. But I am accountable for my part in that meeting. I come prepared and ready to contribute. I am present and focussed and attend fully to my colleagues during the interaction. I make a meaningful and positive contribution to the interaction and am accountable for my role in generating and driving an outcome.

With this in mind, when organising a meeting consider:

  • Who is equipped to help you analyse, solve, generate ideas, and make decisions? Focus on the movers and shakers who make things happen. Leave the rest.
  • What is the specific contribution to you want them to make? Be clear on this and make sure they are too, and well before the meeting.
  • What preparation do they need to do to be able to make a real and meaningful contribution? Make it clear that coming prepared and primed is a non negotiable and essential to whatever analysing, solving, generating or deciding you’re doing in the meeting. Be comfortable to call it out when people rock in cold and unprepared  – even cancel or postpone the meeting if that makes your point.
  • How will you hold people accountable to come prepared, be present and be accountable for making a meaningful contribution?

If you can’t answer these questions about your own meeting, then I suggest you cancel out of the calendar invite and go and do some more thinking before you schedule an hour of 5 or 10 people’s time.

Meeting matters can be awfully frustrating.  But meetings really do matter. So why not make them engaging forums where everyone brings their best, connects with each other and is primed to make a meaningful contribution. The meeting might just be more productive too.

For more insights into how to make your meetings matter, contact us as M.A.D. Mindworks.

Katherine Mair, M.A.D. Creator

www.madmindworks.com

katherine.mair@madmindworks.com

For related sources see:

https://hbr.org/2014/05/your-scarcest-resource

http://www.businessinsider.com.au/common-meeting-mistakes-2014-11