Guess What I’m Feeling?

“I waddled into my new classroom. My legs were shaking, and I was pretty much gasping for air. I pushed myself to the front of the room. The teacher asked me a few questions, but I just couldn’t answer them. I mean I could, but the answers were swirling around my brain and I just couldn’t catch them. I pulled my hoody over my head as far as it could possibly go. I wish I could shrink down to the size of an ant or run as fast as the speed of light so I could just get out of this classroom. Even if I can’t run as fast as the speed of light, if I did run out of the classroom do you think they would even notice if I was gone?”

Written by Misha Kalesiko, aged 9, Year 4.

My daughter recited this to me last night. She wrote it in class as part of an activity they were doing around emotions and expressive writing. The task was to choose an emotion or emotions and describe or express them, but without using the actual word.

I was quite awestruck when she shared this with me. Not only was what she shared beautifully written and expressed, she had committed every word to memory.

More than this, it impacted me powerfully for two other reasons.

Just yesterday, I had been running an online workshop during which we talked about techniques to manage and express emotions, and build emotional intelligence and emotional maturity. Key to this is our ability to accurately label and express what we are feeling. The simple exercise that my daughter did in class is a wonderful way to expand our emotional vocabulary and find ways to express our emotions.

On a more deeply personal level, this moved me profoundly. What my daughter wrote was a poignant account of the feelings of an introverted child who self-identifies as shy. It is a powerful reflection of the emotional landscape she traverses when she is at school where struggles to learn.

My daughter and I are both dyslexic. We both wear corrective “blue” glasses to assist us with our perceptual processing. My daughter, since starting school has found formal learning difficult and has come home feeling dejected and down because of her perceived inabilities in the classroom.

Yet, yesterday and for the very first time, she came home, and of her own accord, announced she had something she wanted to share. She sat tall, lifted her head high, and shared her beautiful piece of writing articulately and with confidence. She proudly stated:

“What I wrote was really good Mum.”

My heart welled with pride, and a deep sense of joy, to see her finally, and independently find a place in learning where she can feel so good about herself and her abilities.

By the way … can you guess the emotions she was describing?

With gratitude,

The M.A.D. Team

Puzzling Times

I’ve often mentioned my love of jigsaw puzzles. Last night my partner and I finished a 6000 piece jigsaw puzzle representing one of the greatest masterpieces of the seventeenth century, Las Meninas  painted in 1656 by Don Diego de Silva Velazquez and now housed in the Prado Museum in Madrid.

As we put the last piece into place, my partner and I looked at each other with a twinkle in our eyes as a soft smile spread across both our faces. We stepped back to admire and enjoy the beauty – not just of the picture in front of us – but all the countless hours of quiet attention and effort we had put into piecing it together over the past two years.

And no. It’s not perfect. Our dog chewed on two of the pieces and three others are missing. Suspected ingestion by said canine. But even these imperfections I see with pride. They form part of the story of building this thing together.

What I felt was a wonderful warm sense of achievement and pride. But it was a quiet version of these emotions. A deep, anchoring feeling of satisfaction.

This experience also illustrates the importance of something called “savouring” – the act of stepping back and really being in the moment to enjoy or relish something – whether that be the moment of completion, the sense of achievement, or appreciation of oneself or another for efforts made.

Last night my partner and I sat back and savoured in all of these senses.

We reminisced about the day I opened the box and started sorting the pieces. Something that seemed an insurmountable task at the time. We laughed about the day my partner went to Bunnings to buy the wooden board to put the puzzle one. It was so big he couldn’t fit it in the car so he had to return to the store to have it cut in half. We remembered working on passages of the puzzle where we were convinced that we didn’t have all the pieces.

We also acknowledged one another’s efforts. My partner cracked the hardest parts of the puzzle through his consistent, calm countenance. Something I simply do not posses. Without his efforts the dog would not have formed, and the large monochromatic passages where every piece appears to be the same, would never have unfolded. They are all the result of his patient persistence.

We recognised the team effort too. Because we both have different strengths that we brought to the process. While my partner saw the puzzle in terms of the form and shape of the pieces, I have an acute eye for colour and texture. My close attention to these details meant I was able to sort and organise the pieces. A laborious step essential before any placement of pieces was possible.

So it seems one small project can bring so many meaningful experiences, lessons, insights and of course, rewards and results.

I share this story today because it’s a lovely reminder of the many, varied, and small things we can do to bring calm, channel our focus, and also create some sense of stability and structure, especially when we find ourselves in particularly puzzling times.

In particular, it’s a great example of the power of defining projects and working towards goals.

When we define and then work towards a goal, no matter what that goal is, we create the opportunity for ourselves to feel a sense of progress as well as that wonderful sense of achievement that comes with completing a project, achieving a goal, or working on something in partnership with someone over a period of time.

We are living in puzzling times amidst a pandemic with no easy end in sight. There are few tangibles to give us concrete answers to navigating what are truly unprecedented events for us in our local communities, and as global citizens.

What my puzzle reminds me of, is the importance of finding things to focus on and creating projects to build towards, in spite of the difficulties that surround us.

By creating our own tangible goals and objectives – no matter how small – we are establishing the opportunity to put in place more concrete, actionable strategies that can help us to deal with the uncertainty and ambiguity around us. This also helps to anchor, ground and calms us.

When we identify things that we can focus on and work towards, quietly putting each puzzle piece in its place one at a time, we find ourselves moving forward too, one step at a time.

Strangely enough a picture begins to emerge. One that we’ve created. Our own story.

What picture are you creating?

With gratitude,

The M.A.D. Team

Getting Set to Work Remotely

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

As I see more and more of my clients asking their people to start working from home with the unfolding global events, I can’t help but ask myself how well equipped are we to transition so suddenly to a remote working environment?

So much of the work we do at M.A.D. Mindworks is to help leaders and their teams find ways to be more present, more connected, and more effective. Some of the simplest things we can do in this space is to spend time together. 

To take the time to get to know each other, understand that we all have different ways of thinking and working, and better harness strengths from the diversity around the table.

Much of this can be seriously compromised in remote work settings.

Tools like email are already over-used and horrendously abused. This becomes rampant in remote work situations. While in many ways it is understandable and makes perfect sense, it provides food for thought and pause for caution as we ready ourselves to move into a remote working situation, suddenly and en masse.

The tendency to use email for all communications is often driven by our desire to get something done, driven by our own agendas and timeframes, and because it suits us, enabling us to hit send and pass the proverbial ball to someone else along ethernet.

This can be relatively harmless when the message is simple, black-and-white, and fully fact based with clear easy actions and unambiguous next steps.

It becomes highly problematic when the situation is more complex, more emotive, or has the potential to insight different interpretations, different reactions, and different perspectives -all signals for the need for exchange, discussion and dialogue.

What happens when we mis-use channels like email is that we often set of an interminable email trail, unwittingly offend or trigger tension and conflict, waste precious time, and often generate more issues or create even more work than we solve or get done.

Below are some simple tips from the M.A.D. team on maximising your presence, connection, and effectiveness in a remote work setting:

Check your tendency to default to email

Each time you open an email take a moment to pause and ask yourself;

Photo by Kal Visuals on Unsplash

 

  • Is what I am about to send best delivered via email?
  • Is there a back-and-forth or exchange of ideas required?
  • Could this be dealt with more effectively through a real time conversation?

 

 

Leverage technology that facilitates real time video conversations

With the plethora of apps available today that make it easy, not to mention free, to have video calls, it seems there’s no excuses. And no, worrying about what you look like on camera doesn’t count!

I regularly use these channels to connect with clients. In fact, I have several coaching clients I have never met in person and all our ongoing engagements are facilitated via video-based apps. These forums approximate as closely as possible in person presence and connection providing us with critical non-verbal information that we need consciously and unconsciously as human beings in order to connect and communicate most meaningfully.

Stay focussed and engaged

Some of us are more adept than others at working alone and in isolation. This is simply a function of our core preferences and tendencies and how different people thrive in different environments.

For those of us who prefer a lot of human contact when we work, the prospect of working remotely and at home can be daunting. This brings with it challenges around staying focused, feeling energised and maintaining our motivation and drive. If this sounds like you, there are loads of things we can do to combat this.

  • Start your day with a focusing routine – This might look something like sitting down with a tea or coffee and reviewing your key priorities for the day, taking five slow breaths before you dive in and get started, or simply taking a moment to focus and presence yourself.

Photo by Jane Palash on Unsplash

  • Make time for virtual coffee – You could also include scheduling a mid-morning coffee catch up with a colleague where you both stop work and dial in on a video call to have and informal catch up over coffee.
  • Exchange experiences via group chat – Leveraging group chat forums where you share photos, videos, and other dynamic materials with your teammates throughout the day can also create a sense of energy, engagement and fun.
  • Reach out and ask for help – Most critically if you find yourself really struggling it’s super important to reach out and let someone know that you need a little help.

If you’re looking for more ideas on how to maintain your presence, focus, connection and effectiveness as we embark on this sudden transition to remote working, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d love to have a conversation!

Let’s get loud!

For a cause that’s near and dear to my heart I must say this Friday please ‘Let’s get loud!’ for anyone with hearing loss and who could benefit from the programs at the Shepherd Foundation.
My tiny nephew Andrew, whose now just 3 years old, was born with hearing impairment in one ear. Early detection and early intervention programs like those offered by the Shepherd Program were absolutely amazing in assisting Andrew in his development. My nephew adores music, loves to sing, and already is a budding musician. All testament to the amazing the programs offered by the Shepherd Foundation!
Every year 1 in 1000 babies in Australia are born deaf and hearing loss is the most common disability among children.
So let’s get loud this Friday 18th October and help The Shepherd Centre support families of children with hearing loss.
Of course you can share your LOUDEST images of support via social media using the hashtag #LoudShirtDay and tagging @ShepherdCentre and @LoudShirtDay on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The Underrated Art of Listening

I’m one of six kids. In the pecking order, I’m number four. Technically I’m a middle child. Yet, not only am I sandwiched between four brothers, I even had to share the middle position with one of them!

Growing up was chaotic to say the least and those who shouted loudest or fought the hardest usually won. The prize…well, the first piece of pizza, the most chips, the front seat of the car…the usual stuff kids bicker and banter about.

In this environment, what I learnt was to speak up and speak out. To stand up for myself. To argue my point of view or justify my position. Holding my own against four brothers was no mean feat and I regularly joke that I had the princess well and truly knocked out of me by the time I stepped into the big bad world.

And I got very good at holding my own, asserting my view and articulating my arguments.

In an environment where there were so many of us, vying for whatever we needed in that moment – be that airtime, attention, treats or sweets – what we focused on was being heard, arguing, forcing our point of view and talking over the top of each other.

What I was absolutely woeful at, however, was listening. We all were. In such a noisy space, there was never a pause or a moment of silence. Just lots and lots of noise.

This realisation dawned on me when I was about twenty. I was participating in a tutorial at university. I was so caught up formulating what I wanted to say, that I completely missed what was actually being said by someone else in the class. I wasn’t listening at all.

And this is a dangerous inner world to indulge because it very quickly degenerates into a one-sided conversation – with myself! Not only was I formulating a very one-sided, and potentially very limited, view of the world, I was cutting my nose to spite my face. Without having fully heard and understood what the other person shared, how could I effectively participate in a full and dynamic conversation? What value would my response have, if it did not fully appreciate, encapsulate, and respond to the other persons ideas or point of view?

This was a vividly formative moment in my life. It was the moment that I first recognised that I was an absolutely terrible listener. Second, it was the moment I decided that I was going to learn to listen.

Ever since then, I have put in a concerted effort to really listen. To be fully present and give the person my full and undivided attention. To try to receive whatever it is that they share without judgment and without being busy inside my head formulating what I want to say in response.

It’s been challenging, because if you’re used to talking, being quiet isn’t such a comfortable place. Moreover, just because I wanted to become a better listener, didn’t mean I was good at it or always got it right. And I still need to put in a concerted effort to listen.

When I met my partner, I showed him the DISC model of Behaviour Styles and we shared some insights from a simple assessment. He ticked an item that went something like “I like to listen”. He was shocked and surprised to see that I had not ticked the same item. I had to explain, that while I really do like to listen to people, the way I’m built and the way I was raised, does not naturally predispose me to listen first and speak after. Rather I’m more inclined to shoot from the hip and just keep talking.

What emerges here is the classic difference between introverts and extroverts. Individuals with extroverted tendencies show an inclination to talk through, or verbalise, their thinking. Those with introverted traits on the other hand, may prefer to fully think things through before sharing their ideas or opinions.

These different modes of thinking and working create the fast chatter that comes from one side, often with people talking over one another, and the silence of the pause on the other side. Those who prefer to talk, find that silent pause excruciatingly uncomfortable and can’t help but fill the space with, well yes, more chatter.

Those inclined to introversion tend to be more naturally reflective. They fundamentally like to listen first, to observe and absorb what it being said or shared around them. Then they like to sit with that for a moment while they process and formulate their thinking. When they do finally decide to speak, they tend only to speak up if they truly believe what they have to say has legs and is worthwhile sharing.

These are admirable qualities that form the backbone of great listening. And the people I have observed most closely through the course of my career, and sought to emulate, are the more introverted individuals who do exactly this.

I find the dynamics of introversion and extroversion fascinating and fundamentally believe that we have tipped the scales in our working world too far towards the extroverted scale – valuing primarily those who speak first, dominate the conversation, or assert their views most powerfully and forcefully. This leaves little or no space for the more measured thinkers and listeners in the room. It also means, if we indulge, and ultimately reward, these behaviours too much, we may be missing some of the best ideas in the room, ending up with a very one-side and potentially limited, view of the world.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic!

With Gratitude,

The M.A.D. Team.

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.

 

 

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.

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.