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.

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

Have a Mindful Day.

Choose Your Own Path Into Mindfulness

Choose Your Own Path Into Mindfulness

Wondering where to start with all this mindfulness mumbo jumbo?

It’s really rather simple. Here’s some suggestion for fostering mindfulness in your day:

MORNING

  • Waking – take 3 slow breaths before you get out of bed.
  • Bathroom – look in the mirror and make an affirmation or set an intention for your day.

“Today I will bring positivity to all I do.”

“Today I will find humour in frustrating experiences.

”Today I am confident and in control.”

“Today I will listen with an open mind.”

“Today I will take the time to connect with those around me.”

  • Eating – tap into your senses. Take the time to sit down to eat your breakfast. Chew slowly. Pay close attention to the taste of your food and the smell of your morning tea or coffee.

WORK

  • Getting started – sit down, take 3 slow breaths before you open your computer. Repeat your affirmation for the day.
  • Emails & Calls – switch off your email alerts and even turn your phone to silent. Schedule set times to check your emails and phone so you minimise distraction and maximise focus.
  • Meetings – commit to be there early or on time today. Can you listen to others without judgment, criticism or preparing your response. Just listen.
  • Between activity – pause and take 3 slow breaths before you shift from one activity to another, one space to the next. Consciously commit to let go of what you’ve just done and commit your full attention to what you are about to do.

EVENING

  • Transition – harness your commute to switch modes from work to home. Breathe in. Consciously breath out any preoccupations, to-do’s, and negative self-talk. Visualise them dissipating with your out breath.
  • Dinner – reflect on the food you have and where it has come from. Consider all the people and processes that brought it to your table. Cultivate a sense of gratitude.
  • Wind-down – lie on the couch or in bed. Place one your hand on your chest and one on your abdomen. Feel your hands rise and fall as you breathe in and out.

Mindfulness is simple. You can practice it in an endless array of ways that aligns to who you are and what’s important to you.

But it isn’t easy to switch off “doing” mode and move into “being” mode.

That takes practice.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

www.madyoga.com.au

Mindfulness Makes an Impact in the Classroom.

How can you be more present with what you do?

How can you be more present with what you do?

It’s inspiring to see just how much research has started to emerge about the impacts of mindfulness in both the work and educational settings. This article from the Garrison Institute provides some fantastic insights into how teaching teachers to be mindful has real impacts on their ability to provide emotional support, but also their overall effectiveness in the classroom.

Much of this relates to self-regulation. Mindfulness practices cultivate an ability to self-monitor and then to self-regulate. When we do this we foster and build greater Emotional Intelligence and the ability to respond to situations and others with less reactivity and greater equanimity.

It makes perfect sense that if we can be more present in a situation, then we are better able to control our reactions and manage our responses to that situation. With this comes an enhanced ability to connect with others, along with improvements in the overall quality of our interactions, and the outcomes that result from those interactions.

To explore how you can adapt more mindfulness tools into your classroom or workplace, contactus@madmindworks.com

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator

Reconsidering The Rule of Thumb.

The Last Judgment by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.

The Last Judgment by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.

We all rely on them. In fact we all use them unconsciously every day. Heuristics are mental short cuts that enable us to ease cognitive load and make decisions more quickly. It’s the ‘rule of thumb’ that helps us to deal with whatever comes our way each day pragmatically and often quite efficiently.

The problem is when we rely on these mental short cuts all of the time and without some form of conscious and periodic check-in to confirm and test our assumptions, the pragmatism and efficiency of the ‘rule of thumb’ can be quickly overridden by the ‘Halo’ and ‘Horns’ effect.

These are cognitive biases that develop when we take an experience or series of experiences with an individual, group or type, and apply that more liberally across the board to that person, group or type as a general ‘rule of thumb’.

I think yoga is insightful and enlightening so I assume everyone who has any involvement in the yoga industry is also insightful and enlightening (the Halo effect).

Mary-Anne was late a couple of times, so I think of Mary-Anne as someone who is always late (the Horns effect).

Such perceptions are tantamount to making judgments. We apply them to situations and others, but we equally and as frequently apply them to ourselves.

They are screens or barriers, the layers we fold into and over a person, situation, and ourselves. They drive the stories, explanations, and justifications we feel compelled to tell about our circumstances. They add weight and gravitas, but also bring burden, preoccupation, even suffering.

In the end, these judgments prevent us from taking a situation or interaction on its individual merits and seeing someone or something as it really is. Including ourselves.

According to Yogic Philosophy, when we engage in this process of applying a ‘rule of thumb’, of making and projecting our judgments, we are essentially giving expression to the Ego and open the way for wrong understanding. We are fundamentally confusing our perceptions, projections, fears, beliefs and attachments (or expressions of our Ego) with the more stable and enduring essence of our true nature.

In the end it prevents us from coming to a circumstance with equilibrium – being able to enjoy the good for what it is and without desire for yet more, but also being able to accept the not so good with an equal sense of abiding non-attachment.

Every now and then, when I take a long walk I do a simple exercise. I simply become aware of the thoughts racing through my mind and notice how many judgments I am making – of myself, how I compare to those walking by, of others, what they’re wearing, or how they’re acting …

It’s an excellent exercise in mindfulness. Simply becoming aware of the judgments we are making in each moment all of the time.

And the wonderful thing is, once we become aware of these judgments, we are now empowered with the opportunity to re-assess the assumptions, patterns, or heuristics that drive them and re-consider whether they are really making things easier or if we are simply creating our own preoccupations, angst and suffering.

Next time you go for a walk, you might consider the judgments ruling your state of mind.

Katherine Mair

M.A.D. Creator