Archive for the ‘ Inspirational ’ Category

Wandering The Navajo Pollen Path

Annual events such as birthdays, holidays, or the New Year inspire us to re-orient ourselves as we ask some important questions: Where am I and how did I get here? What goals did I set what have I achieved or missed? Where am I headed and how will I get there? What have I learned and who has helped me? What I am grateful for and what would I like to change? Where did I struggle and where did I rise?

Three years ago, when I was emerging from great struggle and conflict into self-realization and growth, a dear friend introduced me to the Navajo Pollen Path, pictured below.

Navajo-Pollen-PathAccompanied by a ceremonial chant:

Oh beauty before me,
beauty behind me,
beauty to the right of me,
beauty to the left of me,
beauty above me,
beauty below me,
I am on the Pollen Path.
In the house of life I wander,
On the pollen path.

The Pollen Path symbolizes an individual’s journey through life and it is rich in myth and meaning. Originally created as a sand painting, it was used in ritualistic healing ceremonies during which community members gathered to support an individual on their spiritual exploit. Following their own footprints at the bottom of the image, the initiate passes by two guardians who usher the individual into the spiritual world. As the initiate continues up the cornstalk, which symbolizes sustenance, there are several points along way where pollen is sprinkled to germinate his growth. Within this sacred space, the individual experiences positive and negative forces and he encounters spiritual messengers, depicted as male versus female and representing the different energies of the sun and moon. These helpers arrive at a critical time when the individual’s path is dramatically struck by a bolt of lightning, electrifying his opportunity to either seek and accept help or be stalled on his journey. If he is brave enough to continue forward in the after-shock, the individual meets a dove at the top of the cornstalk, which symbolizes peace at the end of his path. He has reached spiritual enlightenment and is now free to follow his footsteps back to the beginning where he will be ushered once again into a new pollen path.

It is circuitous to remind us that our journey has many starting points, stalling points, opportunities for growth, and people in our surroundings who are there to help us in ways we often are not aware of until we emerge from the path stronger and ready to start again. The Pollen Path can be used as a reminder that struggle is a natural part of life and a necessary condition for progress. It can serve as a reminder to never take for granted the beautiful hearts and souls who have helped you along your journey, and it can provide a sense of purpose knowing that you might be instrumental to someone else’s growth.

Like many of you, I have reflected on my trials and triumphs from the past year and I welcome a fresh start at the dawn of the New Year. May you find what you seek in 2015! In the house of life you wander, on the Pollen Path. It’s a continuous journey—Make it a beautiful year!

Photo Credit: Pollen Path

About the Author: Sarah is a Professional Services Intern at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology, and her research is based on mindfulness. Contact: sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com. Continue reading

Streaming: The Future of Virtual Learning?

There is a revolution happening in the world of video games. It is called Twitch. It’s a website where gamers can directly stream footage of their game daily and provide voice commentary. Most also share their webcams in the corner of the screen and respond to chat either directly in the chat window or via voice. They generate revenue through subscribers who pay monthly ($5 on average) for special benefits (like being entered into giveaways) and donations. And it’s gaining so much popularity that Amazon purchased it for almost a billion dollars and was considered the fourth largest source of internet traffic in the US in early 2014.

Pewdiepie Playing Goat Simulator

So why is this important? Well, within the realm of learning, MOOCs have gained much popularity for providing content on the go at little to no cost. But the content is not flexible and other than forums, there’s no fast way to interact with the content provider, especially if you need clarification or have a quick question. It lacks the feel of communicating directly with a live human being. And virtual training/learning is great, but could be expensive and the scheduling might be inconvenient or infrequent.

video-blogging-300x224

In a sense, MOOCs are like YouTube, where people upload content and others view it. So what is out there for learning that is like Twitch? Currently, virtual training/learning and live video blogging comes the closest. But imagine if there were entertaining individuals streaming, for instance, a fun learning videogame or sharing some interesting but educational videos for just a half hour every night and providing witty commentary. And also answering questions out loud on the video as you ask them in the chat window. And providing free giveaways for both subscribers and regular viewers.

How-To-Video-Your-Way-To-Success

There are technology platforms already in place to enable this type of streaming to occur. And there are many people who would benefit from this type of content. And for the streamers, there is revenue to be generated through subscribers. I believe that this will be the next big learning platform to take off once more people start taking advantage of this technology, particularly when more of the YouTube generation starts to enter the workforce.

What are your thoughts? Would this be something that would interest you?

Image Credit: 1 | 2 | 3

Managing Your Mind

Doorway to Consciousness

Before you can effectively manage your career, relationships, home, hobbies, and the pursuit of your dreams, you’ll first need to master the skill of managing your mind. Yes, it is a skill. Yes, it can be learned and strengthened through the practice of meditation. Essentially meditation is mental training. Mindfulness—my preferred form of mental training—is the practice of focusing on present-moment experience. As simple as it sounds, it certainly is not easy! Mindfulness is learned experientially and getting a firm grasp on it takes time, but not as much as you might think. In this popular TED talk, Andrew Puddicombe explains it best:

The mind is the seat of consciousness, the realm of all mental and emotional processing, somatic sensation and perception, and the intricate combination of moment-to-moment experiences we call life. That’s where it all plays out, in your mind. Knowing that, you can see why a calm and well-functioning mind is the foundation for health and happiness.

How can mindfulness help? Focus. Blanchard consultants and coaches will attest that in order to sustain learning after training, focus is key. Without focus the untrained mind is like a puppy, distracted by anything that moves. Training a puppy takes energy and discipline. The process can be frustrating and it won’t work without consistency and patience. Mental training is similar. In its natural state the mind is like a puppy, running in circles and sometimes colliding with walls because it can’t stop. Frantic mental activity perpetuates stress, anxiety, pain, and struggle. When we lack focus, we lack control over our experience. We cannot always change the events that occur but we can change how we experience them. Mindfulness is a way of redirecting attention and thus acting with greater intention and less struggle. It starts with noticing what you are experiencing in the present moment and simply observing without judging it—Sort of just sitting with it rather than reacting to it. Mindfulness is the space between stimulus and response.

mindfulness_poster_UK

A common misconception about mindfulness, as Puddicombe explains, is that “people assume that meditation is all about stopping thoughts, getting rid of emotions, somehow controlling the mind. But actually it’s…about stepping back, seeing the thought clearly, witnessing it coming and going.” Did you know that we spend nearly half of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re doing? Astounding! Cognitive neuroscientists have shown that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind, and an unhappy mind is an unproductive one. Instead we can choose, in any moment, to sit with reality by mindfully bringing our attention back to here and now.

TNH_Meditation

Looking for an introduction to the practice of mindfulness and how it can improve your wellbeing? Here are some resources to get you started:

Mind full, or mindful? The choice is yours.

About the Author: Sarah is a Professional Services Intern at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology, and her research is based on mindfulness. Contact: sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com.

Pent Beneath Fancy Knot

To the one pent beneath fancy knot,

pent behind fancy knot

pent behind fancy knot

It is curious to look at your affair
Catching you gaze toward heaven
Each afternoon seeking fresh air
Petitioning social network for leaven
Numb cheek now fermenting                                                        

Who could rejoice with thee now?

Fatigued, slipping into some ancient chat
You lie back in whispering waves of mocha
Toes banked in lukewarm grains of sand
Swimming in ocean’s of caramel bliss
Careless of the call you just missed

 

Pent beneath fancy knot

Ulysses’ alarm, pale reason to depart
Returning home at sundown—eyes half shut
Visions of Marla—the happy stray mutt
Once proud royal, mourn the day left behind
Slumber to the door—the angel’s tear has descended
You slide softly and silently into your favorite spot.

 

Still pent beneath fancy knot

 

by J. Diamond Arnold

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant and Learning Media Producer at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, at lynda.com.

 

 

The Amazing Girl Who Was Not Allowed To Say “Can’t”

Please watch the following video:

2014-08-15 10_11_46-Jen Bricker 5 min.mov - Google Drive

Video Credit: BBDS Talent

Jennifer believed she could do anything as long as she put her mind to it. And the same is true for anyone else.

Are you facing a challenge that seems too difficult to overcome? Try thinking outside the box, or ask for a second opinion. But be persistent and remember that sometimes a few falls are necessary before you can fly.

So remove “can’t” from your vocabulary and motivate yourself to stick to it. You may surprise yourself with how much you can achieve!

Boldness Be Your Friend

The past couple years for me have been nothing short of a bold adventure dotted with opportunities, seen and unseen, to face my fears. Head on. And I don’t regret a second of it. I previously earned the nickname “safety cat” (a light-hearted play on “scared-y-cat”), but I have learned to embrace a maxim put forth by the great playwright and poet:

Boldness

Fear is such a primal force. It does funny things to the brain. Fear works its way into the psyche and hijacks all reason and logic. It can be gripping and paralyzing, or rousing and electrifying. It can prevent you from thinking clearly and cause you to react without will or succumb to danger. When I was younger, I had a terrifying recurring dream when distressed that I was drowning in deep water. Dozens of times I have watched myself in this nightmare desperately struggling at the water’s surface but slowly sinking into a murky abyss. It was absolutely horrifying, every single time. Every once in a while, when I’m swimming around in fear surrounding some new challenge or perceived barrier, it sneaks in again and haunts my slumber. Naturally I’ve developed an irrational fear of being in deep water and therefore, I have never been comfortable in the ocean. Drowning is a powerful image of fear, so imagine my reaction when my brother approached me about getting scuba dive certified on vacation in the Virgin Islands! Knowing that he also harbored some anxiety around the idea of breathing from an air tank underwater, and not wanting to discourage him from challenging his own fears, I agreed to do it. I managed to say something like, “that would be fun for us to do together,” while in the background my brain was completely freaking out!

Fear2

Fear is powerful, but it is not absolute. Although the brain’s course of translating fear-inducing sensory information into a behavioral response is largely an unconscious process, neuroscience has shown that we can learn new ways of reacting to fear-inducing stimuli. So how did I do it? Well, it was basically a matter of diving right in! I chose to be bold.

My brother and I signed up for the PADI Open Water Diver certification course, affiliated with a reputable dive shop in St. Thomas, and completed our e-learning modules. Then there we were on day one, all geared up with BCDs, tanks and regulators, and ready to begin the confined water dive skills portion of our training, and my brain started freaking out again. “All you have to do is breathe through your mouth and everything will be fine,” I told myself. “That’s crazy, you can’t breathe underwater, don’t do it,” my brain fought back with me. With my heart pounding, I submerged and instantly hated it. “Go back to the surface and rip your mask off so you can breathe through your nose like normal,” my brain shouted at me. “Just try to take slower, deeper, more controlled inhales and exhales,” my yoga teacher self told my brain. My chest was tight and I felt like I couldn’t get enough air no matter how hard I tried. “I’m suffocating…This is horrible…I hate this,” my brain cried out in panic. I struggled through the entire morning, dreading the impending open-water dives that afternoon.

”Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” – Helen Keller

Facing your fear is often about taking calculated risks and learning how to handle them. I chose to override my instinct to give up on diving, but my internal argument continued during the boat ride out to our first dive spot. “50 feet down is a long way…What if your regulator doesn’t work and you suffocate? What if you can’t clear your mask and you breathe in some water and choke on it? This is really scary. You don’t have to do this,” my brain tried to convince me. “Look here, amygdala, you’re not winning this time,” I answered back. Standing on the edge of the platform at the boat’s stern and heeding my brother’s advice from earlier that day, I rehearsed what was going to happen. “Walk yourself through it,” he said, so I reminded myself that I was in control and I stepped out into the ocean. We carefully made our first descent to the ocean’s floor and began our first underwater exploration!

Sarah

Diving_SarahWhat a mystical experience it was to be floating freely through the abyss, not struggling and fearful, but literally and figuratively buoyant. I fell in love with diving that day! More importantly, I gained an enormous sense of confidence in my ability to overcome the greatest obstacle to pursuing my dreams: fear.

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

How many times have you allowed fear to speak louder than reason or passion and missed an opportunity to challenge yourself and take a chance on growth in your personal or professional life? No one is immune from fear and it serves its purpose in warning us of potential threat, but it need not hold you back. You can still explore, try new things, step into the unknown, and know that you are in control even if you’re anxious. You can likely recount your own vivid tale of standing at the edge of whatever it is you were afraid to do, then taking that giant leap forward and feeling the rush of pure joy and pride afterwards. Revel in those moments and soak in the strength of resilience that you build when you do choose to face your fears. The first step is choosing to do it. The next step is going out and doing it. Share your stories below.

Boldness be your friend!

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” -Dale Carnegie

About the Author:

Sarah is a Professional Services Intern at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is also pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology and her research is based on mindfulness. You can reach her at sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com.

Flow to Success!

Have you ever become so engrossed in a fun task that you lost track of time? Then you’ve experienced the concept of flow. Developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it describes the state of mind when you reach the perfect combination of task challenge and personal skill:

Flow_Senia_Maymin

Click the image below for a simple demonstration of flow (use the mouse to move and remember to return when you’re finished):

Flow_logo

The creator of this simple game used Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow to develop the game elements. Since you can decide when to move further, you are always in control of both the level of challenge and skill, meaning you can always keep yourself in a state of flow.

Now think about your direct reports and their tasks. Are they in a state of flow? If not, is it due to the task being too difficult, or the direct reports not having high enough skills? Or perhaps the challenge isn’t increasing proportionately with their skills? And think about your own tasks. Are you in a state of flow? Why or why not? What can you do to improve your workplace and encourage more flow?

It’s clear that employees can become more engaged and productive, while constantly developing and growing, by applying this simple model to the workplace. So the next time you’re at work, try adjusting the level of challenge to match the level of skill. You might be surprised to find how much fun you can have while in flow!

Image Credit: 1

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