This one question can change the way you think about your goals

 

So many of us focus on what we want to add to our lives. We want success, we want happiness or we want leadership.

We seek to achieve our desired goals by looking upwards. What/who else do I need to achieve my objective? What will help me climb to my goal, faster?

But, what if we have been thinking about goals in the wrong way?

I’m not saying goals themselves are bad, in fact the contrary. Goals give us a purpose “they are the oxogen to our dreams” and without them we would be unfocused and inefficient.

But, instead of looking at what we need to add, to achieve our goals, what if we looked at what we need to leave behind?

Extraction for goal getting

Much like exercise regimes which can be undone by unfocused actions (such as eating junk food), our goal efforts can be jeopardised because of unhealthy habits.

Think about it – how can you expect to be successful if you go to bed at night and think about how unsuccessful you are. It’s a limiting mindset, one that needs to be removed before you can reach your desired goal(s).

You are a product of what you add or extract, it’s simple math. You can add everything, you think you need to be successful but, it won’t get you anywhere unless you extract your unsuccessful habits.

How to rid yourself of goal limitations

1.Self awareness

The absolute worse case scenario is that, you are limiting yourself and you don’t even realise.

“I can’t go for that job because of XYZ”, becomes the norm….you close doors on yourself.

Spend time monitoring your thoughts. Do you step away from opportunities because of lack of confidence? Do you negatively speak to yourself? If so, all of these habits are crushing your goals.

2. Actively push past limits 

There is nothing wrong with help. In fact, it’s activity encouraged by the most successful out there. Behind every billionaire business success is a coach. Coaches remove negative thought patterns and actively open doors that you can’t see.

3. Weakness workshops 

When you have a good understanding of where your weaknesses lie put time and effort into removing them. Obviously, what you do will depend on your specific limitations but setting time aside to work on them is crucial to clearing the path towards your goals.

Productivity myths, crushed

Productivity is a complex art

Productivity is, in today’s fast paced world, the key to our success. If we don’t get our work done, fast, to a high standard, someone else will.

So, how are we going to get everything done AND sleep?

It’s not difficult to understand why productivity hacks are attractive to the modern worker. There are some amazing productivity tricks, supported by science, which I’ve written about here but the internet is noisy some not so great “productivity hacks” are creeping into the workplace..

To make sure you’re not making your work day even longer, here is a list of five, not so helpful productivity myths, that you should forget;

1.Pressure is conducive to productivity

Nope, just no. Stress is exceptionally harmful to our bodies and minds. Decision making is less effective, we are less likely to perform at our best and increased exposure to cortisol (stress hormone) significantly undermines our happiness. So if you have a habit of justifying your last minute organisational skills because you “thrive under pressure”, it’s time to stop living this lie.

2. Knock out the menial work first

Starting with the “busy-work”, has the same effect as scrolling through social media before a work day – it kills momentum and productivity. Scientists suggest that you should always start your day with your most difficult, most important because this means  you tackle challenges when you’re at your most creative and prepared.

The strategy should be; Jump straight into the top priority on your list and when you’re ready to take a break, switch gears to the lower-impact tasks.

3. Breaks will kill your productivity

Wrong. Breaks actually increase your focus. A study by the Federal Aviation Administration found that short breaks lead to 16% boosts in focus. Better to work for 90 minutes at a time with short breaks in between then to just power through and hope for the best.

4. You need to be inspired to be productive

Unless you are the next big thing at the Tate Modern, I don’t think you can pull this one. Momentum creates motivation. Take action right away and once you are totally connected with your tasks, that’s when you’ll get your much lured after hit of inspiration.

5. Last but not least – multitasking is beneficial

This only gets a short note because I’ve written about this fallacy before. Multi-tasking is not a productivity hack, in fact, it kills your productivity and standard of work, so please forget this bad habit for good.

 

Your network is your net-worth

 

A strong network is like money in your bank, or so they say.

Porter Gale, in her recent book Your Network is Your Networth  explains that networking is a new beast and that we need to forget our old networking traditions to survive. The old, stuffy lunches and sterile evenings at business gatherings are redundant. We’ve now entered a new technological era in which networking can (and has) become more focused, efficient and importantly, enjoyable.

Porter, even goes as far as suggesting that

Your ability to build a network of authentic personal and professional relationships, not your financial capital, is the most important asset in your portfolio.

Why is your network your net-worth?

Less job security 

A 2010 Deloitte survey found that nearly half of all employees say a loss of trust in their employers will cause them to look for a new job.

Between 1999 and 2010, the share of workers who said they were satisfied with their job dropped from 59 % to 25 %. The reality is that no matter how much you like your job or your company, you can, at any given time, be forced into unemployment.

Workplaces guarantees are a thing of the past and in this climate its important to recognise that the best path to job security, is yourself.

Look internally for job safety, don’t make silly assumptions that others will take charge of your career.You need to build your skills-sets, networks and understanding of your field, independently.

Technology 

Technology has accelerated networking, reduced the degree of separation between contacts and revolutionised the way we connect.

We can find niche online communities (eg. contract lawyer surfers) at the click of a mouse, making new relationships a group request away.

Referrals are king 

Combining both points 1 and 2, employers are utilising tech advances to secure new posts particularly through referrals, which is great news for those connected but detrimental to the un-connected, un-employed.

A piece by Riju Parakh in the New York Times stated,

Big companies like Ernst & Young are increasingly using their own workers to find new hires, saving time and money the trend, experts say, has been amplified since the end of the recession by a tight job market and by employee networks on LinkedIn and Facebook, which can help employers find candidates more quickly and bypass reams of applications from job search sites like Monster.com.

How to build your network in the new era of networking

1.Network strategically 

It takes focus and intention to build a solid professional network. Connecting with Ben because he shares your sense of humour, is obviously a good reason for friendship but professionally, adds little to no value.

A very interesting point raised by Barbara Annis and Associates in their White Paper, Solutions to Women’s Advancement, is that women’s failure to network strategically is one of their biggest career pitfalls.

While men network for transactional reasons, women will network for relational reasons. That is, men will network to obtain something, while women network for relationships and connections.

Preparation is key – identify who you already know and then, who you need to know, to help you reach your career goals.

2. Create a diverse network 

Research from University of Chicago Booth School of Business on this topic confirms the importance of a diverse network.

Indeed, it might not be who or what you know that creates advantage, but rather more simply, who you become by dint of how you hang out—the disadvantaged hang out with folks just like themselves, while the advantaged engage folks of diverse opinion and practice.

3. Leverage networking gains

Asking for favours actually helps you to build a stronger, more reliable network.

Step 1 – identify the right people, those who have power and influence and who would be willing to recommend you.

Step 2 – build and nurture relationships of trust.

Step 3 – leverage the relationship by always being willing to help others and ask for assistance when you need it.

Another interesting point raised by Forbes contributor Bonnie Marcus is that women are less likely to ask for favours.Their hesitancy to ask puts them at a distinct disadvantage to men who use their relationships to gain visibility and as such advance their careers.

4. Create a networking habit

A small but important point – schedule one day per week to network. If you don’t schedule time each week, your default behaviour will be to not go.

Always make it a strategic networking occasion. By intentionally building on your “power network” you won’t get home and feel like you’ve wasted your time.

5. Focus your social media towards your networking efforts 

Many of us leave social media to millennials and in doing so, are at high risk of being left behind.

The key to social media networking is, strategy. You need to cut through all the noise. If you don’t know what you’re doing on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter you’ll be left with a network you don’t know, entirely irrelevant to your career aspirations.

Keep a close eye on your social media network, could (or would you) send a private message, to a person in your contacts list because it could make a mutually beneficial networking occasion? If the answer is no, than discreetly delete or ignore their invitation to connect. You need to operate online, in a focused and targeted way. The point is, that the number of contacts in your online network, is not nearly as important as the quality.

 

Three types of happiness

 

We all seem to be aiming for the same thing “happiness”, but what actually is happiness?

The pursuit of happiness is a ubiquitous human quest.

We all desire the same emotional state of, blissful contentment, but, what takes us to this state, is different for everyone.

Happiness is a complicated topic, with no universal definition it’s impossible to define but, just having an understanding of what happiness looks like for others, helps us to better shape our own unique version of this concept.

There are three distinct ways to view and asses happiness;

Hedonistic Happiness

The most common understanding (and approach) to happiness is “feeling good.” This is Hedonistic happiness which constitutes the seeking of pleasure and avoiding of pain.

Whilst Hedonism is a common approach to happiness, it should be noted that most of society take a moderated approach otherwise they may indeed look like Keith Richards now, in their 30’s.

The disadvantages of Hedonism are that it’s hits are short-lived, leaving people in a never ending chase, much like a drug addict.

Two key philopsohers had contrasting thoughts on how Hedonism was best used. Epicurus argued that the key to hedonistic happiness was moderation. Whilst we might be tempted to live a lavish life for a year and then return to our less lavish state, Epicurus argues that this will make us less happy than if we just lived moderately all along – chasing simple pleasures.

John Stuart Mill instead argues in his work Utilitarianism, that some pleasures are higher than others and we must first enhance our own intellectual abilities and then, actively select pleasures most likely to advanced our own happiness.

Eudaimonic Happiness

Eudaimonia means “flourishing”and is the idea of having a purposeful life rather than a lavish or explicitly pleasant one. The idea goes back to Socrates and the Stoics and was also the foundation of Aristotle’s virtue ethics.

More recently,the idea was given a psychological reboot with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. A person who has reached the top of the pyramid and is self-actualised, and self-transcendent, can be said to be living a Eudemonic life

The difficulty with Eudaimonia, as opposed to other forms of happiness, is that it seems to require a lifetime to get right – what constitutes a flourishing person, and how you can reach your potential is a life-long journey. Learning solely, what your potentials are is an art, in itself.

Obviously, by its very nature, the hierarchy of needs can only be journeyed by those reasonably financially able. Hence why, philosopher Martha Nussbaum has written on how the Scandinavian countries, with their generous social programs that assure people’s basic needs are fulfilled, are best able to allow their citizens to flourish.

Evaluative happiness

Evaluative happiness is also very open to individual choice. This idea is a lot more simple. It involves social scientists asking people on questionnaires to rate their happiness on a gradient from 1-10.This happiness hinges on “life satisfaction” and the reaching of individual goals.

Given that it can be measured very simply and being perception based, doesn’t make assumptions about what will and won’t make a person happy (each to their own after-all) it’s the gold standard of well-being metrics.

There you have it – there is certainly more than one way to be happy. How do you measure your happiness? Which school of thought relates to you?

Creating your own reality; the power of imagination

 

The world is an increasingly complicated place. That’s primarily down to the rapid rate of technological advancements, disrupting human environments and creating realities far beyond the wheat harvesting imaginations, of our ancestors.

Whilst our environment is ever-changing – the human mind takes a while to adjust. In fact, our mind’s make short-cuts, in an attempt to assimilate, with ease, the noisy world around them. They most commonly do this, by taking something complicated and internalising it as a story. This method makes the complicated, more accessible.

Statistician and author Nassim Taleb calls this the narrative fallacy, which describes our mind’s inclination to weave different facts, into a simple narrative, so that it can easily connect things. This simple finding, powerfully explains how we use imagination to create our own reality, in the following ways;

1.Imagination sells

If we primarily understand complexity through narratives, then those who imagine can inspire the world’s outlook.

Simon Sinek author of Start With Why, rose to fame, for his findings on what goes viral in marketing “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”.

Indeed, the quality of the story you tell about yourself influences how people see you, how customers are loyal to a business and the quality of the story you read, determines whether or not you choose to buy into it.

2. Imagination builds the future

What took us from the wheat harvesting society of our ancestors to the technologically advanced society we live in now? It took imagination. Imagination is the mother of discovery.

Before we push anything forward we have to have a vision of what we want “forward” to look like.

We often (myself included) build our own future based on what we already know around us. But, how would we get anywhere, different without the power of imagination? It’s a powerful tool which has shaped the world around us.

3. Imagination moulds reality

Imagination not only moulds our own reality but it moulds collective reality. In his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, historian, Yuval Noah Harari, argues, that based on our current knowledge, it appears the primary differentiator between humans and animals, is the human ability to imagine things and then collectively treat them as a part of reality.

In philosophy, this is known as intersubjectivity. A few examples of intersubjectivity are corporations, ethical systems and ideologies. None of these collective beliefs are tangible. They only exist because someone imagined them, we collectively choose to believe in them and then created systems in accordance with those beliefs.

In essence, so long as our prepositions do not lie outside of scientific laws, there is no reason why we can’t build some sort of concrete reality, based on our own imagination, if we can convince others to buy into our supporting systems. 

The imagination is a weapon far more powerful than any other skill of our brain. Its where knowledge and creativity harvests and it propels civilisation into different, more complicated, realities at alarming speeds.

So long as you keep imagination alive, your horizons are, in essence, boundless.

The game changing habit of acceptance

 

Not to be confused with “resignation”, acceptance is a game-changing habit many of us actively seek to avoid.

Before explaining acceptance, I will first describe non-acceptance – it’s a skill so deeply ingrained in our minds – that my accounts of its characteristics are likely to resonate with you.

Non acceptance

Non acceptance is re-framing unpleasant feelings such as loneliness, unhappiness, disappointment or boredom and rationalising them to a degree where they are no longer accepted.

The harm is that you never fully take responsibility (i.e deal with) negative feelings. We walk around with catalogues of unprocessed emotional experiences because of our inclination to re-frame or distract.

But, what happens when we slow down and actually have to be alone with our emotions? It’s a sure recipe for unhappiness and/or disfunction. Everything rises to the surface eventually.

Acceptance

Acceptance, is a golden tool allowing you to take responsibility for your emotions. We shouldn’t be afraid of the “quiet”, i.e us verses our feelings. By embracing our feelings head on, we have a better understanding of ourselves and avoid later unhappiness.

Experiencing negative emotions is the catalyst for coveted positive states, such as a growing inner confidence

Just remember the opposite of acceptance has high risks for our future mental health. Being unwilling to experience negative thoughts, feelings, or sensations is often the first link in a mental chain that can lead to automatic, habitual, and critical patterns of mind becoming re-established.

So instead of being selective about what you do and don’t experience in your life. Here is how to practice acceptance;

How to practice acceptance

  1. Mindfulness (as a whole)

Mindfulness, is a deliberate thought process, encouraging you to operate in the space between emotions and reaction.

By taking an objective view over how you feel, at any one time, you can understand whether you are avoiding, or accepting an emotion, before deciding how to process it.

2.  Acceptance is an active process

Acceptance is an active process – we are more inclined to hide from unpleasant emotions. Every time you practice acceptance toward something, you create and strengthen neural pathways in your brain, facilitating ease in the future.

Start to practice compassion towards yourself when you experience negative emotions – it’s not an easy thing to do but you are sure on your way an emotionally healthy life. Unresolved emotions lead to future unhappiness.

3. Develop better coping mechanisms

A by-product of actively bringing acceptance into your life is strengthening your coping mechanisms for unpleasant experiences.

It also gives you the key life lesson, that you will be okay after a bad experience and that you can “handle it”.

Freedom of response; the last of the human freedoms

 

If you can choose your response, to any given situation, you are essentially free from influence.

This powerful, influence-free position sounds impossible to reach. It sounds like a superhero quality.

However, all it takes is one decision. One decision to take responsibility over your response to life’s situations and instead of playing the “victim” role, of reactivity you play the “leader” role, of proactivity.

The freedom of response

Jewish, Psychiatrist Victor Frankl imprisoned in the death camps of Nazi Germany, wrote profound material on human response, which he titled ‘the last of the human freedoms’. Frankl found, that despite the horrors he had endured, his basic identity was intact – he still held the freedom to choose how his life experiences were going to shape him – this was the freedom of response.

In a much more diluted form, it’s not difficult to see how taking responsibility, over our responses, is life changing. We move the power from external circumstances to ourselves. For example, our own irritation toward a colleagues competitiveness could be changed to empathy – empathy is far less burdensome to our minds and additionally, may allow us to find a resolution to our perceived problem.

Enacting your freedom of response

It is surprisingly straightforward to develop your ability to choose your responses: all it takes is a simple decision and commitment to implement, intentional change in your life. There are however, a few habits that enhance your ability to choose your responses;

1.Mindfulness

Taking responsibility is fundamentally enhanced with mindfulness. Mindfulness teaches you to observe the space between stimulus and response. By operating in the “space” you are more objective and deliberate when you choose your response. Am I clouded by emotion? Do I feel anger or am I hurt?

2.Listen to your inner dialogue

Many of us feel helpless to external circumstances – this mindset is not conducive to freedom of choice over response. Helpless dialogue sounds like this

“They make me so angry” as opposed to “I’m not going to put too much energy into my reaction over them”.

“I have to” or “I choose to”

Being aware and changing the way you speak to yourself can enable you to choose your response more efficiently and not feel helpless.

3. Be aware of where you focus your time and energy

This is from Steven Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Effective People. We all have a ‘circle of concern’  – the things we care about –  for example (traffic, appearance, what he or she said) –  and then a smaller ‘circle of influence’ – the matters within our concerns that we have actual control over.

Choosing an appropriate response to any given situation is all about understanding what you do and don’t have control over. Ideally, anything you do have control over, you want to respond in the most valuable manner and anything outside of your control you need to learn and practice, to accept.

When you are proactive and responsible, you focus your efforts and attentions in your circle of influence.

4. Be true to yourself

This postcard caption has two valuable benefits

  1. Making any real change in your life requires commitment. Don’t read this, practice it for one day and then go back to being an emotional landmine. The idea is – stick to it and show yourself you mean business. The harder you try to focus your daily habits on being self aware – the easier it will become to have clarity over your reactions and more deeper – what you want out of life.
  2. Develop your personal integrity. Choosing your response, requires you to dig deep into your values and decide what you will and won’t stand for. For example, your toxic co-worker, are they insecure requiring empathy or are they harmful requiring hardline boundary setting and/or distance. How can you make any of these decisions without having a good idea of your values?

5 tips for dealing with toxic behaviour at work

 

I’m hesitant to use the phrase “toxic person” because sometimes, the people in question are great, “normal”, people with a solid group of friends/family who love them (social proof) but something happens to them in work (usually stemming from deep seeded insecurity) that makes them not so loveable and more, toxic.

Behaviours that are, undermining, spiteful, rude, conniving or otherwise negative are toxic. The worst part is that you can’t escape the toxic person. You have to sit through meetings with him or her. They are there in the lunchroom, bathroom and working space.

How do you deal with their toxic vibes?

Try some of these tactics

1. Take charge

Know your boundaries and make sure they are defined to those around you, especially the toxic person. Yes, you might not be their favourite person after you have a direct chat about negative behaviour but do you care? The best thing to do is address the situation head on as kindly as you can – and if that’s not a viable solution then check out the next four tactics.

2. Personal power check

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.-Eleanor Roosevelt

Stop giving toxic people your head space. We can’t control how people act, but we can 100 percent control over how we react to them. This is no easy task, but when you obsess over what someone else is doing, or overthink their motivations – then you are blind to a resolution – you have become too emotionally involved.

Take the emotion out of your management of toxic people. You can’t control them. Obsessing over them will only drain your energy and good vibes, take your personal power back.

3. Distance yourself

Following on from the last point – make a conscious effort to withdraw from the toxic personal emotionally and mentally. Headphones? use them.

If you can change your physical location – or if an opportunity arises to do so, then grab it. The less contact with the person the better.

4. Let them “show themselves up”

This is, step back and let them take the centre stage, exposing their toxic behaviour for all to see. No need to draw attention to these things if you see it – you can be sure others do too.

5. Professional positivity

Bottom line is, you must give him or her the respect they deserve in their professional position otherwise you are in no position to request the same.

One step further is meeting their negative behaviour with positivity.

Uplifting, positive, behaviour is good for the room – which is being drained by the toxic person and importantly it’s good for you too. Being positive, is a sure fire way to drown out negative behaviour.

Also – its incredibly satisfying to remain on a high, positive horse, when faced with adversity.

 

 

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