How to cope with modern day uncertainty

uncertainty

Modern society is plagued with uncertainty from market crashes and Brexit, to the day-to-day turbulence of most white collar professions, nothing is known. This might be fine if we were not lumbered with a now redundant brain disposition, gifted from our ancestors, meaning we feel an overwhelming sense of caution and fear, when in unfamiliar territory. Obviously, we see the benefits of this brain mechanism for our cavemen ancestors. However, now it simply serves to cause grief and hinder our business in a world where uncertainty rules and important decisions must be made every day with minimal information.

So, it’s time to beat our vulnerability towards uncertainty

Why?

The most successful people are able to override this mechanism against fear of uncertainty and shift their thinking in a rational direction. This process requires emotional intelligence (EQ), and it unsurprisingly follows that 90% of top performers have high EQs and they earn an average of $28,000 more per year than their low-EQ counterparts do.

To boost your EQ, you have to get good at making sound decisions in the face of uncertainty, even when your brain fights against this. How on earth can you do this? Well, read below to find proven strategies that you can use to improve the quality of your decisions when your emotions are clouding your judgment!

1. They quiet their limbic systems

The limbic system responds to uncertainty with a knee-jerk fear reaction of fear. Fear inhibits good decision-making. People who are good at dealing with uncertainty are wary of this fear and spot it as soon as it begins to surface. In this way, they stop their judgement from being clouded at the most crucial moments. Once they are aware of the fear, they can objectively remove all of the irrational thoughts that arise. Allowing them to focus more accurately and rationally on the information before them. Throughout the process, they remind themselves that a primitive part of their brain is trying to take over the rational part. This allows them to stay in the game by telling their limbic systems to “Shhhhh!”.

2. They stay positive

Positive thoughts quiet fear and irrational thinking by focusing your brain’s attention on something that is your ‘happy place’. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention. When things are going well and your mood is good, this is relatively easy. but, when you’re stressing over a tough decision and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, this can be a real challenge. In these moments, think about one time in your life that made you immensely happy, no matter how small. No matter what it is, so long as you focus on the positive.

3. They know what they knowand what they don’t

When uncertainty makes a decision difficult, it’s easy to feel as if everything is uncertain, but that’s never usually the case. People who excel at managing uncertainty don’t lose perspective on what they know and what they don’t know. They gather all the facts they have, do their best to recognise what they don’t know. Identifying as many of the unknown things as possible takes away their power.

4. They embrace that which they can’t control

We all like to be in control. But this desire for control can backfire. Living in today’s uncertain world means you have to know when to let go. Successful people live in the real world. They don’t paint any situation as better or worse than it actually is, and they analyse the facts for what they are. If they don’t know something, they fess up to it and they don’t let themselves live in hear of it. Don’t be afraid to step up and say, “Here’s what we don’t know, but we’re going forward based on what we do know. We may make mistakes, but that’s a lot better than standing still.”

5. They focus only on what matters

Some decisions can make or break your company. Most just aren’t that important. The people who are the best at making decisions in the face of uncertainty don’t waste their time getting stuck on decisions where the biggest risk is looking foolish in front of their co-workers. When it comes down to it, almost every decision contains at least a small factor of uncertainty—it’s an inevitable part of doing business and of life. Learning to properly balance the many decisions on your plate and decide which ones actually matter allows you to focus your energy on the things that do matter.

6. They don’t seek perfection

Emotionally intelligent people don’t set perfection because they know there’s no such thing as a perfect decision in an uncertain situation. Think about it: human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure, and you end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently, instead of enjoying what you were able to achieve. This downward look at all of your outcomes will burst your confidence. So always look at the positives after your decisions and don’t strive to do the impossible.

Proven tactics to handle any challenge at work

challenge

It’s normal to feel nervous when taking on a new and unfamiliar challenge. Whilst feelings of anxiety are uncomfortable, without them we do not grow.

The butterflies we feel attacking our stomach turn into our seeds of success. So, the next time you think of running away from a daunting, professional challenge think twice –  because that situation could fast track you to your goals.

1. Take some time to get used to the challenge 

When you are first confronted with a new challenge, it can all seem daunting. You panic, you can’t think straight and you might even start sweating. This is ultimate panic mode. The only thing you want to be doing, when panic strikes, is taking a step back. So, take a break, a walk or ask for some time to think things over. Whatever you do, you must take time to grow accustomed to the problem. Once the initial shock wears off your creative mind will come into action but this can only happen if you give yourself time.

2. Cut to the heart of the issue 

What exactly is it that you have to do? Break down the problem, to such an extent, that you can explain to your mate at the pub. You should boil it down to the bare bones so that there is absolute clarity over what you have to do. Keep asking questions to really get to the root of the problem. Explaining the problem to others is a proven way of resolving the problem for yourself.

3. Put things into perspective

No matter how awfully terrifying the challenge in front of you may seem, you may rest assured that someone else has been through the same thing. It is important to realise how your situation compares to the rest of what you are doing, and how bad it really is compared to all the good things in your life. Plus, think about all of the even bigger challenges ahead. If you can handle this you will reap the rewards, so sit tight and start to embrace the wild ride.

4. Divide the challenge into smaller pieces

That one big challenge you’ve just been confronted with is usually a combination of smaller challenges that require small steps and easy solutions. Write everything down. Break the challenge into small chunks. Under each chunk, write your proposed resolution. As you go through these steps you’ll slowly turn your focus to the solutions instead of being obsessed by the problem.

5. See the positive 

This challenge has been bestowed onto you, to allow you to grow. You are very lucky to have this kind of professional development in your path and you should do your best to make use of it. The most successful people in life, take on challenges like most of us take on tea or coffee during the day. These challenges and scary situations are what allows them to reach new peaks of success. So, don’t hold back and do your best. Your future self will thank you.

 

Three ways to keep your cool at work

boredom

Remember how you feel during work, when you get a rude email from your boss, or when your co-worker undermines at a meeting.

Now, remember how you feel, if you face these irritations, during a particularly tough work week. Albeit, small irritations they are just about enough to push you over the edge when combined with everything else you’ve experienced during a certain week or even day.

There can be any number of road bumps in your day. And, these bumps don’t care about timing, or if you’re feeling particularly stressed or upset. Your first instinct may be to get angry, to snap, or to react. But, if you’re a respected professional, you can’t afford to do this.

There’s always a better way to handle bad moments and using your temper, is not one of them. You have to relentlessly remind yourself to keep a level-headed outlook when it comes to your job.

It might sound easier said than done but if you know you have a process, for when things get too much, it will prevent you from a reaction that could potentially ruin your carefully crafted reputation. So, next time something gets to you, try one of these three simple techniques for staying cool, calm, and collected.

1. Ask yourself how important it is

When our blood pressure rises, we lose perspective. Nothing else matters, apart from that one grievance that seems to have just turned our world upside down. So, you really need to be very quick to ask yourself; will I care about this in five years? Usually, the answer is almost always a definitive no. In fact, you will have moved on from this by next month. So when you feel your anger rising, give yourself some perspective.

2. Don’t take anything personally

You might think that everything is personal. But, if you really look into why other people do the things they do, it’s never because of you and always to do with them. Negative behaviour is deep seeded, so if you think someone is going out of their way to attack you, then it’s probably because they’ve been attacked by another colleague or it’s their insecurities or, it could be down to a whole heap of other possibilities.

There are times when you may feel like a curt email or snappy comment from your boss has something to do with your performance and there may be times when this may be the case. But more often than not, the people you work with have their own issues and stressors that influence how they’re interacting with the world—things have nothing to do with you.

3. Don’t feed your negativity bias

We are all susceptible to something called negativity bias, which means that the bad events of the day are more memorable than the good ones. But, just because it’s your natural, genetic, tendency to dwell on the negative – doesn’t mean that you can’t overcome it and reverse it.

You can choose to focus on the minor frustrations of your day—or, you can choose to focus on seeing the positives. Even if something went terribly for you, focus on what you got from it and how you’ll be better next time. Try to channel your angry or frustrated energy in another direction. Use your frustrations to fuel your goals.

Work will never be free from annoyances, but you’re always in control of your reactions to them. Don’t let negative emotions tear down all of your good work. A good reputation takes years to built (even decades) and can be torn down by an ill temper or snappy remark, in just a few moments. If you do your best to maintain perspective and not get bogged down by your daily stressors, you will live a happier life, be well-respected and have a fruitful career.

Beat the January blues with these happiness hacks

stress

Happiness impacts everything you touch. If you’re feeling down at work, you simply won’t have the motivation you need to reach your targets. Instead of struggling through your work days and annoying your family when you get home with your persistent moping, inject some much-needed happiness into your life with these foolproof happiness hacks.

Exercise

Getting your sweat on, releases endorphins throughout your whole body, ridding you of your negativity and generating a mood filled with happiness! Studies have shown that exercise can help to alleviate depression. The best time to hit the gym is first thing in the morning to get your pump on before you start work. Think about it, is that extra hour in bed doing you any favours? Instead, wake up a little earlier and start your day right.

Turn on a lightbox

Light therapy is an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this can be a major cause of January blues, but even if it doesn’t, experts agree that it works to treat symptoms of most major depressive disorders as well. So whenever you’re feeling blue simply turn on the light box for 30 mins to an hour and feel instantly better. To feel its full effects, use it daily.

Go outside and walk

Starting to feel down? Head outside to take a walk in the closest nature you can find. Science research shows, again again, that spending time in nature helps to relieve symptoms of anxiety and phycological stress. When you feel your mood taking a downward spiral, simply step outside and bring yourself back to the surface.

Citrus scents

Citrus scents, such as orange, lemon, and grapefruit actually draw out positive chemical reactions in your brain. Not only this but they help to relieve symptoms of stress. If you want a quick uplift at work put a few drops of citrus essential oil on your pressure points. You can buy already made mixes at any health shop. You can also mix the citrus injection

Buy flowers for yourself

A team of Harvard researchers found that keeping fresh flowers at home does successfully keeps away anxiety and negative moods. People in the study also felt more compassionate toward others and they felt a boost of energy and enthusiasm at work.

Take microbreaks

Research shows that people who take short microbreaks at work, to break up their work day, for example, to watch funny videos online, get a high emotional payoff and report feeling more energetic and happy with fewer negative emotions. This is a great way to boost your mood in just under a minute. Cat memes anyone?

For even more helpful tips read CNN Health’s blog, on happiness hacks, here.

How the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen can revolutionise your work

Kaizen

Kaizen, which translates roughly to “good change,” is a Japanese productivity philosophy, used by the likes of Toyota, in their famous Toyota Production System to promote serious organizational change. The philosophy is that constant and continuous, improvement is conducive to big, long-term advancements. The Kaizen mantra is that “everything can always be improved.”

Kaizen and Market Leadership

Toyota famously embodied the Kaizen philosophy in their production warehouses. They believed that all employees should have an input into Toyota’s self-improvement, so much so, that any worker on a production line can stop the line at any time to address a perceived problem, correct an error, or suggest to management a better way to do things with the object of waste reduction and increased efficiency. The results of Toyota’s production system are phenomenal, resulting in their rapid market domination and high-profit margins. Toyota began offering instruction in the methodology to others most notably non-profit organizations with the goal of improving their efficiency and increasing their impact. After three months of working with Toyota SPB, a disaster relief organization based out of New Orleans reported that their home rebuilds had been reduced from 12 to 18 weeks to 6 weeks. Further, construction industries reported that after employing the Toyota method (Kaizen) construction errors had reduced by 50 percent.

Why Kaizen works

Kaizen means that nothing is ever seen as a status quo – there is a continuous, collective force to improve everything which results in small, often imperceptible, changes over time. These incremental changes add up to substantial long-term advancements, without having to go through any radical and often risky, innovations. It’s a much safer and employee-friendly way to instill changes that must occur for a business to be truly competitive.

How to implement Kaizen

Notably, Kaizen is a philosophy, as opposed to a methodology meaning that it can be implemented in various ways from employee suggestion boxes to more rigorous employee inclusion methods such as Total Quality Management.

The most effective way to implement Kaizen is to understand the core elements of the Japanese production system, which can and has been, successfully applied to any work environment.

Much of the focus is on reducing “waste” and this waste can be identified in the following ways;

  • Movement – moving materials (or people) around before further value can be added to them

For example, moving people to different locations for meetings when it can be done virtually or having databases of information which take time and effort to get into (such as contact details) when these could be printed and put on a wall.

  • Time – spent waiting (no value is being added during this time)

For example, enforcing prompt meetings and properly organized calls where non-attendees are reduced.

  • Defects – which require re-work or have to be thrown away

This has a lot more to do with effective delegation than employee incompetence. If a junior had been briefed properly than re-works should be eliminated – if not then it’s a hiring system failure.

  • Over-processing – doing more to the product than is necessary to give the “customer” maximum value for money

This can range from adding too much detail to presentations/document designs – streamlining decision making lines.

  • Variations – producing bespoke solutions where a standard one will work just as well.

For example, creating new documents when you could use a precedent.

For more information on Kaizen read this insightful blog by MindTools.

 

3 easy steps for instant motivation at work

Monday. 9am. You vs computer screen. Motivation = zero. You are most definitely not winning. The thing is, do you care? Maybe not in that moment. But, you will. Here are some tips to get yourself out of that slump and motivated.

3 Easy Steps

Step 1 – incentivise

Think about how great your weekend was. Think about how valuable it is to have a work-life balance. Think about how non-existent your work-life balance will become when you haven’t completed enough work for your upcoming deadline. Think about what will do once you have finished – that beer after work or that extra –  unstressed – hour you could spend with a loved one. Then, think about how the only useful thing you could be doing with your precious time whilst at work, is work.

Step 2 –  reason

Think about why you are at your computer. Yes, there might be a moralistic reason to your work but you also like your salary, don’t you? Imagine life without your salary. Then imagine life with your salary. It’s a quick and simple trick to get those fingers moving.

Step 3 – end game

This can go one of two ways. For this step to work you really do need to like your career. You have studied, trained and/or jumped through hoops of fire to get yourself where you are. If you are unhappy you need to admit this – feeling unmotivated through dissatisfaction with your career is your gut begging for honesty and cannot – unfortunately – be remedied by a self help guide you have googled on the internet. If this resonates with you then think thoroughly about whether a career change is best. Career coaches can bring you valuable clarity if you are unsure, for more information click here. For those of you happy in your career, focus on the end game. Your career has many steps and the only way to reach the next one is to keep your eyes on the prize. Just like your favourite athlete you need to adopt a winning mindset to bring home the gold, read more about this here. Don’t give your employer a reason to hire someone else over you.

Image curtesey of Vic on flickr Vic – flickr the image has not been amended.

By Leila Mezoughi

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