Posts Tagged ‘ Psychology ’

The “L” Word—Is It On Your Mind?

In his closing remarks at yesterday’s company meeting, Ken Blanchard shared Covey’s four basic needs which underlie human fulfillment: to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.

 “The need to live is our physical need for such things as food, clothing, shelter, economical well-being, health. The need to love is our social need to relate to other people, to belong, to love and to be loved. The need to learn is our mental need to develop and to grow. And the need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution.”
Stephen R. Covey

The “L” word—the BIG one—is legacy, the story of you and your imprint upon the world. It’s been a repeated topic of conversation in my spheres lately, as it should be in yours. Visioning is central to the success of organizations, teams, leaders, and individual contributors because it creates a dialogue around the meaning and value behind the work that we do. Your legacy extends far beyond your career into your personal and professional relationships; your family or community involvement and recreational activities; and in your moment-to-moment everyday experiences. What kind of legacy are you building, and where do you even begin? Covey reminds us that life is short, so ask yourself:

  • What makes life worth living? What’s missing?
  • What do I need to learn? To unlearn?
  • How will I be remembered?
  • What do I dream of?

These are big questions—Give yourself time to develop honest and deeply rooted answers.  It can be tempting to dismiss dreams as unattainable or impractical, but dreams stem from a place within each of us that British philosopher, Alan Watts, calls “the deep, down, basic, whatever there is.” In this inspirational video, Watts talks about the human need to feel significant and connected to something greater than ourselves:


There is nothing trivial about finding and giving voice to your purpose in life and however you frame the concept of legacy, the story is yours to write. In another moving video, The Real You, Watts talks about the idea of waking up and finding out who you are. An individual’s sense of self is a complex, idiosyncratic, and exquisite answer to the venerable question: Who AM I?

Before you can build a meaningful legacy, you first need to have a clear picture of who you are and what gives value and purpose to your life. Because your identity defines how you see yourself belonging in the world and relating to others, it is fundamental to creating your vision, living your dreams, and leading others to do the same. In Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the peak is self-actualization—the human need for self-fulfillment and striving to achieve one’s highest potential. This is a process of continual learning so you can always seek new ways of infusing energy and creativity into your everyday events.

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Self-development is profound work but it doesn’t need to be intense. A variation of Covey’s four basic needs overlays learning with laughter because we can’t be serious all the time. That’s also why one of the founding principles of The Ken Blanchard Companies is to have fun! On your journey of life, never forget the gift of child-like wonder—not in the sense of immaturity or naivety, but rather of being curious and light-hearted along the way. As you think about who you are and most importantly the unique story you are leading, remember that life is short. Keep the “L” word always in mind.

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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.

John Muir Had It Right

Spring has sprung! Has the urge to go outside and bask in the sunlight or stroll through the park become so strong that you can no longer ignore it? You know the feeling…you’re sitting at your desk or around the conference room table, and through the window you see clear blue skies and can think of nothing else except escaping the office and going outside to play—run, surf, cycle, whatever—as long as it involves breathing fresh air, you’ll be happy. Maybe the drive is deeper and what you crave is not just ditching the daily grind, but truly immersing yourself in the wonders of wilderness and spending some time in a pure and natural environment. Admit it, we’ve all been there, but what is it exactly about the call of the wild that is so irresistible? Why do some people feel so compelled to connect with nature?

JM_walk with nature

The answer lies in evidence that it’s not only good for your body; it’s also good for your brain. In a series of behavioral science studies, researchers demonstrated that spending time outside on good weather days, particularly in the springtime when it’s warm and sunny, can positively affect memory, mood, and openness to new ideas that leads to creative and flexible thinking styles. Another key finding is that people who spent more time indoors experienced the opposite effects of their outdoor counterparts. So if you’re struck with spring fever, then it would behoove you to get outside and scratch that itch!

Decades before environmental and cognitive psychologists began studying the mental health benefits of spending time in nature, John Muir (1838 – 1914) himself advocated the now substantiated claims of increased mental clarity and reduced fatigue through stimulation of the senses in the great outdoors. This legendary Scottish-American naturalist and conservationist is affectionately called the Father of National Parks and is the beloved founder of the Sierra Club, one of the foremost organizations dedicated to wilderness preservation. An eloquent writer and speaker, John Muir’s inspirational message is crisp and clear: In order to be whole with yourself, you must first be one with nature. If that statement rings true with you, then find out how much you emulate this iconic environmentalist and renowned nature-lover by taking the Sierra Club’s quiz: How Muir Are You?

JM_beauty and bread

An explorer at heart, I have long admired the work of John Muir and I often dream of traveling in his footsteps. When I entered my doctoral program four years ago, I quickly learned the lifestyle fate of all graduate students: goodbye sunshine and social life; hello Friday night dates at home with my laptop. Determined to succeed and hopeful that extrinsic motivation would help carry me through, I dug in my heels and set a goal that when I finally finish the program someday, I will reward myself with an epic backpacking adventure! Living in Southern California, I set my sights on thru-hiking the majestic John Muir Trail, a 211-mile long journey in the High Sierra back country which passes through Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks, and ends at the top of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States (elevation 14,497 feet). Although I have not yet earned the grand prize, the mountains have been calling me and every once in a while, I must go!

JM_break away

During my second year of graduate school I joined a group of 8 hikers who climbed Mt. Whitney, and I remember one of my companions asking what in the world I had in my pack that made it heavier than everyone else’s when we weighed in at the portal. I’m sure I’m not the only hiker in history to foolishly load her pack with journal articles and books to read at camp after a day of grueling high-elevation trekking, but I certainly would not recommend it. Not only was I too exhausted to concentrate on reading, but more importantly I found that my mind was more drawn to simply sitting and being than engaging in any sort of academic exercise. Although my body was weary at the summit, my mind had never felt so awake and open and free! I wanted nothing more than to just sit and be, to listen and smell and feel, to observe and appreciate the raw and captivating beauty and energy of the environment all around me. If you’ve spent any time in the wilderness, then like John Muir, you know exactly what I mean. And if you haven’t…what are you waiting for???

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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 contact her at sarahmaxwell@kenblanchard.com.

 

Be the Gazelle

There is much to admire about the gazelle. She is a beautiful creature—delicate and graceful yet agile, fast and resilient. What makes her truly remarkable is her unique ability in response to a life-threatening situation to literally just shake it off. You’ve probably seen a similar National Geographic video: a gazelle is grazing with the herd when she suddenly becomes the target of a ravenous cheetah’s hunt. One second she’s foraging and the next she’s running for her life. Instantly her heart is pounding and adrenaline is racing through her veins as survival instincts take over. Watching this scene you can’t help but think, “this is NOT going to end well,” but the cheetah unexpectedly gives up. When the gazelle realizes she’s no longer being chased, she slows to a halt and waits to ensure that she is safe. Then something incredible happens: she starts shaking and quickly her entire body erupts into convulsion. Her nervous system is physically discharging the excess energy and arousal that it no longer needs. Soon she’s bounding off across the plain…time to get back to the herd.

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Have you ever had an experience in which you were faced with some kind of threat (physical or psychological) and as fear creeps in, you start trembling uncontrollably? I will never forget the moment when this happened to me two years ago. I was faced with an absolutely overwhelming situation that I didn’t know how to handle and suddenly it started–I began shaking and I couldn’t stop! It’s a very strange sensation. I felt completely helpless until I realized what was happening and thought to myself, “yes, be the gazelle.”

Self-leadership is predicated on self-preservation and it comes down to being adaptive. We must be keen to what’s happening around us and prepared to react appropriately to any trial. Evolution has made it difficult for humans to simply shake off the physical and emotional effects of trauma, but we all have the innate capacity to organically restore our own inner balance. Absorbed negative energy can be detrimental to our health, making us inefficient and more vulnerable to future stress.

What are you holding onto that’s preventing you from returning to the herd? What is keeping you in place, at risk, or in peril? Life is tough. You never know if a cheetah is lurking in the bushes waiting to attack. The next time something confronts you, terrifies you, or chases you to the point of exhaustion, don’t just collapse and surrender. Get back up and shake it off! Let go of whatever you’re carrying around that no longer serves you. Shake off the fear of failure, the anxiety of the unknown, the soreness of the sprint, the ordeal of a near miss. Don’t let a setback paralyze you. Shake it off and move on.

In the midst of challenge it’s easy to lose sight of the beauty before us. Look to the horizon…the sun is still shining and the grass is still growing across the plain, so get back out there and enjoy it! Be the gazelle.

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 the study of mindfulness. You can contact her at sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com.

Leadership: How to Adapt and Survive

Remember the T-1000 in Terminator 2? The bad guy who was made of liquid metal and could take on the appearance of any other person he met? What made him such a formidable enemy was that he could adapt to any situation. Don’t have a weapon? He’ll just turn his entire hand into a sword. Avoiding detection? Melt and become the floor. Crying baby? Morph into the mother and gently mimic her voice to soothe the baby.

Ok, maybe that last part didn’t actually happen, but who knows what could have transpired if the T-1000’s agenda didn’t involve constant destruction. Really, he could have accomplished almost anything. And that’s the point… he was flexible (both literally and figuratively). And great leaders are that as well (in the figurative sense, of course, unless we’re talking about yoga instructors).

adaptability

But most people do not seem built for this flexibility. By the time we’re ready to lead, we have shaped a certain identity that is already filled with characteristics, beliefs, and behaviors that are not easily changed, thus giving psychologists a reason to study personality. But you are more adaptable than you think.

Imagine you are in the crowd at a sporting event with your favorite team squaring off against its greatest rival. All your like-minded friends are there with you, cheering on your team and jeering the enemy. What are your behaviors? Now imagine you are with a potential client on an important business meeting at a coffee shop. Now you’re with your family at your favorite vacation destination. Now a romantic date with your significant other. Did your behaviors change? But you are still just yourself with your singular identity. How is it possible that you can exhibit, in some cases, such jarringly different personalities?

Different Faces

The answer is simple. Think of yourself as having varying quantities of various qualities. And, depending on the situation, you adjust the dials on some of those qualities to construct different personalities. But what’s empowering is that you are manually changing your behaviors. You are in control of who you display, because you can choose to see, for instance, the romantic date as actually the sporting event. This may not go over so well with your significant other, but then again, it may go over wonderfully. You really don’t know unless you try! And all it takes is a quick change in perspective.

So essentially, you have hundreds of different personalities living inside of you and you decide who comes out. Go out and try a personality you don’t normally use in a situation. Why? For the sake of becoming adaptable! Because learning and practicing adaptability can take you from a good leader to a great leader! And being more adaptable can benefit both you and those around you. Unless, of course, you’re the T-1000.

T-1000Image Credit: 1 | 2 | 3

Unhappy? Focus on the Present

Do you find yourself unhappy a majority of the time, especially in the workplace?  Perhaps it’s not the environment or the job, itself.  It could be a simple matter of your focus (or rather, your focus on too many things at once). 

Psychologists at Harvard University recently completed a study to find out how people felt by looking at what they were actually doing.  The researchers asked the participants what they were doing at random times of the day and how they were feeling.

Based on the responses from approximately 2,200 people, it turns out that happiness may not necessarily be linked to what people are doing, but rather their level of focus on the activity they’re participating in at the time. 

In other words, if I’m at a theme park (I am a big fan of roller coasters, mind you), my level of happiness might be less if I’m too busy thinking about my unpaid bills, or that big client presentation coming up on Tuesday.  My level of happiness would likely increase if I were to simply enjoy my experience and stop thinking about the future and/or past.

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense.  Most of us spend too much time at work thinking and worrying about other things.  It could be all the different tasks and requests that we have to fulfill, or we might be thinking about our kid’s baseball game which happens to be at the same time of a very important meeting at work which we cannot miss.  All of this causes stress, which certainly doesn’t give us a happiness booster. 

This research matters now more than ever, especially because of the age we live in.  Technology has given us great tools to share knowledge, but at the same time, it has given us more distractions.  If you take a walk through the downtown area of any major city, you’ll see exactly how few people really live “in the moment.” 

Here’s an activity: Whether you’re at home or at work, try focusing on just one thing.  Block out the rest of your thoughts and concentrate on completing the task at hand.  When you’re done, reflect on how you felt while you completed the task.  Do you notice a difference in how happy you were, or how stressed you might have been?

The full study was published by Science Magazine, which you can view here.

Now that you’ve read through my posting and have focused on it the entire time, tell me how happy you are.  Leave your comments!

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